The historical text chosen for this first issue of the Dharma.direct magazine talks of realiz[ing] the truth of “non-effort,” and thus approaching the highest fruition.
The three previous articles insist on practically caring for others, and on loving-kindness (mettā).
So you might ask whether such care for others is another distraction from the Buddhist goal, a trap of Māra (under the guise of wholesome action) to keep you in the push-and-pull samsaric game (i.e. the realm of objectives, reality not complying with your wishes, outcomes different from the objectives, dissatisfaction, cravings for other results, leading to the next iteration of push-and-pull, rebirth, re-dukkha).
After all, one of the strongest ropes of Māra is the desire (shared by many ‘spiritual’ people) to “be a good person”: people can be prevented from attaining Liberation ‘thanks’ to conceit (one of the ten fetters, be it for monastics or for lay people —māna / atimāna), moral superiority, clinging to their Oh!-so-great track records of “doing good”…
The solution to this apparent dilemma is both easily understood and hard to cultivate: take yourself out of the picture! Realize selflessness: your action isn't about you!
If you give to the homeless, you do so because this is what's appropriate in the situation at hand, not to add to your merit, not to be a good Buddhist, not even to be ethical nor compassionate… The situation certainly calls for compassion, and ethics, and the sharing of security (via the sharing of wealth, of kind words, or via a service —maybe calling social services…), but it's not about you (engaging).
In Chán, Ch'ing-yüan Wei-hsin (… … … …