Raju the revolutionary, who was unjustly imprisoned in chains, when mocked by his captor for still using them to exercise (for his eventual spectacular escape), uttered the following defiantly — ‘You have every right to work but not to expect the result. Let not the result be your motive, nor your attachment be to inaction. I don’t care about the result. I will be moving towards my goal until my last breath. Load, aim, shoot!’
His remark reminds us of Cicero’s analogy of a focused archer, who taught that ‘the actual hitting of the mark is to be chosen but not to be desired‘. Yet, there is still the most diligent training, for letting fly a crucial arrow later. Doing the possibly best in preparation for execution of the task at hand is all that matter — even if the target is not hit later, perhaps due to unexpected wind or target movement.
Ironically, it is by not being too fixated on reaching the goal, but by being more single-minded on the process, that the goal is more likely to be achieved. If overly goal-oriented, the essential process for reaching the goal will be neglected. Being process-oriented also means there is minimum anxiety before letting fly the arrow, and minimum disappointment should the target be missed — since one already did one’s best.
Thus is there equanimous effort, free from attachment to success and aversion to failure. This is related to Stoicism’s laser-sharp focus on controlling what can be controlled, while being indifferent to (or undistracted by) what cannot be controlled, which includes the results of our efforts. With this attitude, there will be no needless worries and wasted energy.
To ‘load, aim, shoot’ does not just apply to usage of a rifle or arrow. These ‘steps’ apply to the Three Provisions (三资粮) necessary for every goal, be it worldly or spiritual, (not just for reaching Pure Land, before, upon or after one’s last breath). To ‘load’ is to increase Faith (信) in terms of strong confidence. To ‘aim’ is to focus on the Aspiration (愿) clearly. To ‘shoot’ is to have the actual Practice (行) of action (in thought, word and/or deed), that expresses the Faith and Aspiration (信愿) together.
How About Being A More Buddhist Stoic?