Good, No Good
The Chinese Zen master whom the Japanese call Tozan presents this case: you see a frog sitting on a water-lily leaf; silently moving towards him from behind is a hungry snake. Do you interfere by driving off the snake with your stick, or even killing it? If you do this because you do not like snakes and are sorry for the frog, then you interfere with the great course of nature. If on the other hand you stand back, watching the snake devour the frog, then where is your compassion?
Now, the frog while it is alive is engaged in catching insects by shooting out its long sticky tongue. So if you interfere, it is bad for the snake, good for the frog, but bad again for the insects. If you don’t interfere, it is good for the snake, bad for the frog, but good for the insects. Should one follow the majority, two Goods versus one Bad? If you do, you will stand aside and watch the snake eat the frog alive. But why should the majority be better than the other case? Tozan sums it up by saying that the good and bad are mixed together like the currents of a mountain torrent, twisting and turning as it rushes along.
My teacher said that with the increasing clearness from meditation, a higher dharma stands out and the conflicts usually disappear. The Indian philosopher-yogin Shankara points out that all actions (and deliberately standing back is also an action) have some defective points about them. Even when you directly help someone, it usually means that you are not helping others at that time and place; sometimes they even feel aggrieved. He says that the only purpose of a so-called good action by a Mahatma is, to make it easier for the recipient to realise his identity with the Universal Self. The Mahatma’s actions are those of the cosmic purpose, and he is almost unconscious of them, and feels neither approval nor disapproval. But they create a little stir in the sleeping Godhead of others, beyond calculations of good and bad.