Lojong Slogan #59: Don’t Expect Applause

 It’s interesting that this slogan is #59, the last in the series. This slogan is about doing things for the approval of others. It’s about doing things in order to be seen, to be visible. That is not the way onto the path. When you follow the Tao, the flow of life, you do not worry about reactions to what you do. If you meditate, you put in the time on the cushion actually meditating. You don’t worry about the outcome, about when you will collect a prize for your devotion. If you practice yogasana, you spend the time doing the work, performing certain movements over and over, experimenting with different ways of moving your body. If you are a dancer, or a poet, or a musician, a sculptor, a doctor, lawyer, lama, Indian chief, it’s the same. You work to acheive certain abilities or insights or create certain things. Sometimes you are rewarded for that hard work by people and institutions that are outside of your control. When you are applauded, it feels great, it is vindication and recognition. And to the extent that you have worked hard to acheive certain ends, you should absolutely accept that applause.
But you should not expect it. Because often what you consider to be your very best efforts will go unrewarded. You may have the best idea, but no one really wanted to go in that direction. Maybe you suggested something that someone else presented as their idea. Or maybe the world was just busy with other things and didn’t see that great thing you just did. No matter the reason, when this happens you will inevitably feel resentment and anger seep into your thoughts. It’s certainly a very human reaction. The thing is, when you start to seethe and stew about the recognition you didn’t get, you will get so caught up in your anger that you’ll stop doing the work that you thought would bring recognition in the first place. You will be diminished by your inability to move on and continue to work. In the words of marketing guru Seth Godin:
“To play a beautiful song for two people or a thousand is the same song, and the amount of thanks you receive isn’t part of that song.”
In the yoga community there is a popular quoatation from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois: “Practice and all is coming.” That’s really a yogic version of this slogan. Do your work, practice, practice, practice. And then practice some more. “All” is coming, but it is not for you to decide what the “All” is, nor when it will arrive. That is not your concern. Your concern is the work. The Bhagvad Gita also expounds this idea.  The calmness of the mind is called Karma-yoga. (2.48) Working to the best of one’s abilities without becoming selfishly attached to the fruits of work is called Karma-yoga. (2.50). One is given the power and the ability to do one’s respective duty in life, but one is not free to choose the desired results.