You are not the Doer! Part I / Bhagavad Gita XVIII.16
There in truth thus, the one who acts,
Who sees himself, indeed, as the only exclusive agent,
He sees, he perceives from an imperfect incomplete understanding
He sees not, the blockhead!
tatraivam sati kartaram
atmanan kevalam tu yah
na sa pashyati durmatih
Durmatis (m.) – fool, blockhead; 'Du' – to be burnt, to be consumed with internal heat or sorrow.
Krishna’s choice of the Sanskrit word durmatis, which is translated as either fool or blockhead, has always amused me. It gives the dialogue a very human touch. Here are the two greatest warriors in the world poised in the middle of Kurukshetra, a vast battlefield of opposing armies waiting to slaughter each other. Krishna is in the last moments of the Gita, his great ‘song’ of what-are-the-rules wisdom to his friend Arjuna — and the poet Seer Vyasa chooses the word ‘blockhead’ to emphasize the sheer density of our human ignorance to imagine that we ever do anything! There is only the One and we are That veiled in data-collecting vehicles.
The idea that we are not the Doer of our acts is presented earlier in the Bhagavad Gita III.27, Krishna says that all actions are performed by the gunas, the modes or qualities that belong to Prakriti, the matrix and our material Nature. Yet as long as our mind is confused and deluded by egotism (ahamkara), we continue in the mistaken belief that ‘I am the doer!’ In truth we are not the Doer. All actions are the product of Prakriti and whatever we do is merely the result of these modes working together, weaving upon the other modes, the ‘qualities (gunas) acting among the qualities (gunas)’ [BhG.III.28].
Swami Lakshmanjoo: “There is only one difference between an ignorant person and that person who is residing in the Parabhairava state [meaning who has Become the Oneness]. The person who has got ego and who is residing in the limited cycle of limitation, he always thinks that, ‘I have done this, I have done this.’ And the others who are residing in God consciousness, they say, ‘although I have done this, I have not done this. I am not the doer. The doers are the inferior cycles of organs. I am not the doer.’ This is the difference between the one who is residing in the Parabhairava state and the other one who is residing in his limited cycle of being.”
The Sanskrit word Prakriti is defined as primordial Nature, the creatrix, and is derived from the verb-root ‘kri’ meaning ‘to make, to do’ and ‘pra’ meaning 'forth' [J. Grimes]. The conceptual theory of Prakriti’s gunas (sattva, rajas, and tamas) is derived from Samkhya [pronounced San-kay]. The origin of Samkhya is elusive, but the influence of Samkhya is found in the Upanishads, Buddhism, Jainism, the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita. The Indian scholar K.K. Nair/Krishna Chaitanya says that even though Samkhya is “the source for the factorial analysis of action, it cannot be derived from any Samkhya text.” Samkhya literally means the ‘enumeration’ and perhaps the term evolved from seers gleaning a compilation of wisdom from many sources “as the perspective gained from the integration of reason and knowledge.”
K.K. Nair/Krishna Chaitanya: “The seat of matrix of action is the frame of body, life and mind…The instruments are primarily the motor organs but also include the sense organs…the various patterns of coordinated operation for the realisation of objectives…” Thus the body is the instrument of various activities and is presided over by ‘daivam’ meaning belong to the gods, fate or diving providence and “specifies the overall texture of the web of the world’s action which is woven from the strands that link specific causes to specific results.”
The ‘gods’ are the specific forces residing within our body. This is esoteric knowledge and scholars who are researching the Rig Veda have come to understand that the deities being propitiated in the hymns are not external deities, but rather the subtle essential modes of various powers that make up human consciousness. Our human body is a microcosm of the One. The human body is a data-collecting vehicle for the One who dwells in the Heart of all beings.
K.K. Nair/Krishna Chaitanya: Daivam means the vaster action of nature beyond the small illuminated circle, which is all that man, even with the greatest foresight can take into account in planning his action.” Unintended consequences abound and even the best of prophets often get it wrong. The fabric of the temporal illusory holographic matrix is interwoven, complex and interconnected. “When we select and stimulate a single strand of cause-effect relation for reaching our objective, we often forget that the strand is part of a fabric of great extension, both in space and time. The tensions on the other strands of the fabric may cancel, distort or reinforce the action on the selected strand.”
We are the Oneness, Veiled
The idea that we are not the Doer goes back into the question of Free Will, which I have explored in XVIII.61. The One needs us to create and enjoy our countless adventures in this manifested universe. The enigma and mystery of our origin and purpose drives us to further actions. If we knew that we are the One and thus the entirety of all, what would drive us to change and uncover new adventures in creativity and invention? Thus we remain Veiled and motivated.
The One has Veiled Itself as us in Time/Space to play in this temporal illusory polarity universe. We are in disguise ‘playing’ various roles, like Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage.” We are not here to give up everything, but to enjoy everything - and eventually, inevitably in Self-recognition, Remember that we are the One. Thus it is the One doing the actions as primordial Nature, Prakriti and her gunas, which is a mechanism comparable to a machine-like matrix. The One is the Doer. There is only the One manifesting through Its data-collecting vehicles — us!
This does not mean that we are not responsible for our acts, we are. We cannot blame the One for our mistakes. As we sow, so we do definitely reap. Our every act and thought is embedded in the holographic spirit body within which we move from one life to another, as we seek to fulfil our endless ‘I want’ desires impelling us to more adventures in time/space. Our spirit body is made up of the accumulated sums of our thoughts and acts, which form the warp-and-weave of us as ‘apparent’ individuals. Our self-generated uniqueness serves to both limit and expand us. We are whatever we have done, as long as we remain in ignorance that we are not the Doer!
Swami Lakshmanjoo BhG.XIII.30: “Oh Arjuna, I am just open-heartedly waiting for everybody to come and embrace Me and become one with Me. [There is] no fear, nothing, don’t worry about anything. It will come in its place as soon as possible, as soon as you like [to have] it. It is your liking. If you don’t like it, don’t like it. Still you are with Me.”
Liberation from the Veil occurs as we lift up our consciousness and conquer our ignorance with and by the Self, the God-within, who acts as our friend. [BhG.VI.5-6] Until we want to acknowledge the God-within us and reach similitude, a resonance with the God-within us, we are on our own. Indeed, you might say that the One has surely cooked up an amazing challenge, a superb beautiful and terrifying ‘play’ — and this awe inspiring, temporal illusory holographic universe is but one jewel in the vastness of Its Creation.
BhG.X.42: “I continually support this entire universe with a single fraction of Myself.”
Wise men do not grieve
Imagine looking at the world through the eyes of the Creator, the One. What would you see? In the Old made-for-television version of the Mahabharata, by B.R. Chopra, we begin to notice that Krishna is always smiling. No matter what is happening, Krishna is smiling! Obviously, as portrayed by the writers of the film, Krishna knows something we don’t. BhG.II.30: “The eternal inviolable Self, is in the body of all, therefore, Arjuna, you should not mourn for any being.”
BhG.XIII.29: The one who sees that all actions and deeds are done, performed exclusively by Prakriti, our matrix and material nature, and thus sees that he is not the Doer, that one sees.
Boris Marjanovic translates Abhinavagupta’s comment as, “The yogin who with firm conviction thinks – ‘It is Prakriti which acts and not me!’ – such a yogin, even if completely engaged in activity, in reality does not act…such a yogin is not a doer.”
Prakriti is the matrix, our material nature and her creative powers are termed shakti-maya in Sanskrit and consist of the three gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), the modes or qualities into which all aspects of the manifested temporal illusory hologram can the categorized. Seated within is the observer and experiencer, Purusha, which is sentient but inactive, and remains free, untouched, unaltered by any influence of the gunas. Purusha “possesses the power of consciousness and therefore, the presence of Purusha is necessary for the functioning of the intellect, the mind or any other modification of Prakriti.” [B. Marjanovic]
Both Purusha and Prakriti are eternal; they have no beginning and no end. “The union of Purusha and Prakriti is responsible for bringing creation into existence.” [ibid] Prakriti performs the action, generates endless variations of form, differentiated sense perception - but is unconscious. Purusha is conscious, and observes and enjoys Prakriti’s dance.
Samkhya and the Two Birds
The conception of manifestation being created by the union, one might say joint venture, of Purusha and Prakriti originates in Samkhya. The origin of Samkhya is unknown and as one Indian scholar puts it, “The origin of Indian philosophical systems is almost enveloped in darkness. Samkhya shares the same fate.” [P.Chakravarti]
Samkhya is critical of Vedic sacrifices, as Krishna is in the Bhagavad Gita; and may have been a reaction against Vedic ritual. Samkhya emphasizes knowledge of Purusha and Prakriti over ritual sacrifice. Unless and until we have a full understanding of Purusha as the observer and Prikriti’s gunas, we cannot hope to grasp the metaphysics in the Sanskrit texts.
In the Rig Veda I.164.20, there is a traditional parable tale thought to be the seed of Samkhya. “Two birds with graceful wings, close companions, embrace the same tree. One of them eats the same fruit. The other not eating, simply looks on, all the time.” [Translation by R.L. Kashyap] Here we see the metaphor of the two birds, one acting, doing, eating as the manifesting matrix Prakriti — and the other ‘simply looks on’ as the observer Purusha who doesn’t need to eat.
This story is also found in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad IV.6 and the Mundaka Upanishad III.1.1-3. The Mundaka Upanishad is the wisdom taught by the great Rishi Angiras to his disciple Saunaka. The Mundaka is densely packed with the highest wisdom-knowledge for Liberation and written in exquisite inspiring verse. It has become one of my favourite beloved Sanskrit texts; and I prefer the translation by Swami Muni Narayana Prasad to others, but reading multiple translations is always of value.
Swami Muni Narayana Prasad’s translation is lovely, illuminating and speaks of the two birds as fast-bound companions, one eating delicious berries while the other looks on. The bird that observes, Purusha, is said to be the witnessing ‘I’ and always remains “the same, changeless, is free from all attachments, unaffected by the inconstancy of the other.” This witness is the same in all of us. It is an apparent portion of the consciousness of the One observing — and is the God-Consciousness that “witnesses everything that takes place in the whole world, in all the worlds. It sees everything is taking place within Itself, as activated by Itself.”
Observing Prakriti's Dance
Life is the relationship between Purusha and Prakriti, the dance of the observer observing the observed, as Krishnamurti has said. Purusha is the observer, and Prakriti the matrix. Swami Muni Narayana Prasad feels that one is “meaningless without the other. In the absence of life, the existence of the self, self-enquiry and even the existence of God, would all be meaningless.” The two birds are perched in the same tree. God loves and needs us, just as we need and love God.
Swami Muni Narayana Prasad: “Every action that takes place anywhere in any of the worlds is but a part of the self-unfoldment of the one creative urge of this one Consciousness. Realizing this one dares not think of oneself as the doer (karta) of any action. The all-witnessing Purusha, the all controller (Isha), is the one doer (karta) of all actions.” It is only our ignorance, as long as we are Veiled in forgetting, that deludes us into thinking we do anything!
BhG. XIII.21: The Purusha (Spirit) abiding in Prakriti, material nature, enjoys and experiences the gunas, which are born from Prakriti, the matrix of material nature. Attachment to the products, the evolutes of Prakriti’s three gunas is the cause, source and instrument of rebirth into good and not good wombs.
Beginningless & Endless
Swami Lakshmanjoo: “Prakriti and Purusha are both beginningless and endless…all the objective world is produced by Prakriti. …Prakriti has made this for Purusha to taste so that he will be entangled in the wheel of repeated births and deaths. …She creates this for Purusha. As soon as Purusha gets awareness of Prakriti that ‘Prakriti is dancing for me,’ he will become mukta [liberated]. …As long as Prakriti is not aware that Purusha knows, she dances, she kicks him, she plays him, from one birth to another birth, from another birth to another birth, whatever she likes. …But as soon as Purusha becomes aware…then you will become jivan mukta [living liberated].”
BhG. XIII.22: The witness (upadrasta) in the body is the Great Lord (maheshvaras) and the Supreme Self (paramatma), the supporter, experiencer, and enjoyer.
Thus we learn that the Oneness dwells within us all, in the Heart observing and enjoying all. The Sanskrit texts say that once we realize the Truth of this ‘play’ and Recognize our Real Self as the One doing the creating, in that sublime astonishing moment of our awakening, no matter what condition of life we have been existing in — we are Free (Moksha), liberated from Samsara, the ocean of repeating death & birth. We are “not born again. [BhG, XIII.23]”
“Having reached this impermanent unhappy world…”
Swami Lakshmanjoo calls this earth plane ‘the plane of mortality.’ Krishna tells his friend Arjuna “having attained, reached (prapya) this impermanent and unhappy world” [BhG. IX.33], he should devote himself to the One. The translation by J.A.B. van Buitenen is thus: “Reduced to this passing world of unhappiness, embrace Me!” On a personal note, I remain puzzled by the verb prapya, meaning attained or reached. I wonder how or why I have ‘attained’ this impermanent and unhappy world; but as yet, frankly I have no resolution to my puzzlement. I only know that as Swami Lakshmanjoo says, all questions disappear when we are in the Oneness.
In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita XIII.22-24, Swami Lakshmanjoo again takes a rather blunt tone saying, “Anyone who fortunately understands what is Purusha and what is Prakriti, and what are these gunas by which I was kicked by, played by Prakriti, sarvatha (in whatever way), if he knows, if he comes to this understanding, then he remains away, he remains aloof from Prakriti. He does not allow Prakriti to touch him! …He is established in the state of Parabhairava and he is mukta [liberated].”
“Purusha is actually dependent on Prakriti…and he enjoys the three gunas (three gunas means just that worldly creation)…And as long as Purusha is attached to the gunas, the three gunas (sattva, rajas, and tamas), it conducts for him numberless births and deaths…because he deserves that. And he never gets away from this, this grabbing [i.e., attachment by which] he is caught.”
Swami Lakshmanjoo makes a distinction between the Purusha who is caught up into Prakriti’s performance and the one who is witnessing [Upadrashta], saying that one in above the entanglement and one is caught. “Upadrashta, [the one] who is witnessing, what is going on, what is this damn thing going on, [i.e., happening] to Purusha, and he is tossed [around] with Prakriti…He [the witness] sees, He observes, He witnesses…and He thinks how far [Purusha] is entangled by Prakriti…and He [the One, Parabhairava] is also existing in deha [body] and observing what is happening to that [Purusha]. Both are [there]; one is above that and one is entangled in Prakriti.”
V. Susan Ferguson
Bhagavad Gita, In the Light of Kashmir Shaivism, with original video, Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo, Edited by John Hughes, Co-editors Viresh Hughes and Denise Hughes; Universal Shaiva Fellowship, 2013.
The Gita for Modern Man, by Krishna Chaitanya; Clarion Books, Associated with Hind Pocket Books, New Delhi, 1986, 1992.
Life’s Pilgrimage Through The Gita, by Swami Muni Narayana Prasad; D.K. Printworld, New Delhi, 2005, 2008.
Mundaka Upanishad, with original text in Sanskrit and Roman transliteration; Translation with an exhaustive commentary by Swami Muni Narayana Prasad; D.K. Printworld Ltd., New Delhi, 1998.
The Bhagavad Gita in the Mahabharata, A Bilingual Edition, translated by J.A.B. van Buitenen; The University of Chicago Press, 1981.
The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Winthrop Sargeant; State University of New York Press, 1994.
Abhinavagupta’s Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Gitartha Samgraha, translated by Boris Marjanovic; Indica Books, Varanasi, 2002, 2004.
Origin and Development of the Samkhya System of Thought, by P. Chakravarti, M.A., Curator of Manuscripts, The Asiatic Society, Calcutta; Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1951, 1975.
Rig Veda Samhita: First Mandala, (Part 2), Sukta-s (122-191), Text in Devanagari, Translation and Notes by R.L. Kashyap; Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture, Bangalore, India, 2009.
The Sankhya Aphorisms of Kapila, with extracts from Vijñanabhikshu’s Commentary, edited and translated by James R. Ballantyne; Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2003.
Samkhya Karika of Ishvara Krishna, with Tattva Kaumudi of Sri Vacaspati Mishra; by Swami Virupakshananda; Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras, 1995.
Essence of the Exact Reality or
PARAMARTHASARA of Abhinavagupta
With English translation & notes by Dr. B.N. Pandit
Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers; 1991, New Delhi
A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy, Sanskrit Terms Defined in English, by John Grimes; Indica, Varanasi, 2009.
or comments about articles on this site:
Copyright© V. Susan Ferguson
Technical questions or
comments about the site: