How could the Buddha actively teach
if he ‘taught’ total passive inaction?
One day, Siha the general approached the Blessed One [the Buddha] and spoke to him thus: ‘I have heard it said, venerable sir, that the ascetic Gautama [the Buddha] is a teacher of inaction, that he teaches his doctrine for inculcating a life of inaction, and in that he trains his disciples. Do those who say so, venerable sir, truly report the Blessed One without misrepresenting him? Is their assertion in accordance with his doctrine, so that their statement will not give cause for reproach? We certainly do not wish to misrepresent the Blessed One.’
There is indeed a way, Siha, in which one can rightly say of me [the Buddha] that I am a teacher of inaction; and there is also a way in which one can say that I am a teacher of action. I do teach people to be inactive in regard to evil conduct in deeds, words and thoughts; I teach inaction in regard to the multitude of evil, unwholesome qualitites. But I also teach people to be active by way of good conduct in deeds, words and thoughts; I teach action in regard to the multitude of wholesome qualities. There is also a way in which one can rightly say that I am an annihilationist. For I teach the annihilation of greed, hatred and delusion; I teach the annihilation of the multitude of evil, unwholesome qualities.’ (VIII, 12; extract)