Nomon Tim explores these two connected steps in the Eight Fold Path: Right Effort and Right Action.
Tim's talk notes:
Practice: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.
As Ven Sona was meditating in seclusion [after doing walking meditation until the skin of his soles was split & bleeding], this train of thought arose in his awareness: "Of the Blessed One's disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the effluents through lack of clinging/sustenance. Now, my family has enough wealth that it would be possible to enjoy wealth & make merit. What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?"
Then the Blessed One, as soon as he perceived with his awareness the train of thought in Ven. Sona's awareness — as a strong man might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm — disappeared from Vulture Peak Mountain, appeared in the Cool Wood right in front of Ven. Sona, and sat down on a prepared seat. Ven. Sona, after bowing down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, "Just now, as you were meditating in seclusion, didn't this train of thought appear to your awareness: 'Of the Blessed One's disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the effluents... What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?'"
"Now what do you think, Sona. Before, when you were a house-dweller, were you skilled at playing the vina?"
"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too taut, was your vina in tune & playable?"
"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too loose, was your vina in tune & playable?"
"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned (lit: 'established') to be right on pitch, was your vina in tune & playable?"
"In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune ('penetrate,' 'ferret out') the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme."
"Yes, lord," Ven. Sona answered the Blessed One. Then, having given this exhortation to Ven. Sona, the Blessed One — as a strong man might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm — disappeared from the Cool Wood and appeared on Vulture Peak Mountain.
So after that, Ven. Sona determined the right pitch for his persistence, attuned the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there picked up his theme. Dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute, he in no long time reached & remained in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself in the here & now. He knew: "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world." And thus Ven. Sona became another one of the arahants.
And in the Lotus Sutra we learn that the Buddha would later tell them, just drifting off into nirvana is an indulgence, that we can go much further as bodhisattvas and become Buddha's teaching and serving the suffering world.
• Right Action - also oriented around 3 great precepts
○ Not killing (nurturing life)
○ Not stealing (not taking what is freely given)
○ Not engaging in sexual misconduct (loving and wise sexuality)
Right Action is earlier in the 8-Fold path
• Right Effort
○ Preventing unwholesome mind states from arising
○ Overcoming (releasing) unwholesome mind states when they arive
○ Arousing wholesome mental states.
○ Maintaining wholesome mental states when they are present.
While Buddhism ultimately suggests a freedom beyond our conditioning in the meantime we are also conditioned beings. Our feelings and needs can drive us. And drive us even harder if we don't know what they are, and aren't aware of how underlying needs affect us - often so powerfully.
I want to borrow here from the psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Nonviolent Communication. Rosenberg spoke to the power of unmet needs. Here are a few quotes from him:
At the root of every tantrum and power struggle are unmet needs.
Criticism, analysis, and insults are tragic expressions of unmet needs.
Getting in touch with unmet needs is important to the healing process.
Self-judgments, like all judgments, are tragic expressions of unmet needs.
Peace requires something far more difficult than revenge or merely turning the other cheek; it requires empathizing with the fears and unmet needs that provide the impetus for people to attack each other. Being aware of those feelings and needs, people lose their desires to attack back because they see the human ignorance leading to those attacks. Instead, their goal becomes providing the empathic connection and education that will enable them to transcend their violence and engage in cooperative relationships.’
The feelings and unmet needs that underly wrong action using the NVC exercise around an unwholesome situation: a mistake, screw up, conflict, or other issue where we don't feel completely good about our choices.
Contemplation of some bad behavior - that you're willing to share about. We'll bring curious to what your feelings were and what the unmet needs below those feelings might have been and see if that casts light on the conditioning that was pushing you forward.
• Link to NVC inventories