Chris Burke

There is something I have been contemplating lately and I wonder if you could help. It is basically this: How can I make effort and not be the doer? Bhagavan says we need effort, yet prarabdha deter- mines what happens, so how can my effort change anything? It’s a little confusing, could you clarify?

Om shanti.

IN the first place, all the saints and sages have told us that it is wrong to imagine oneself the doer. There is an Omniscient, Omnipresent Divine Power that has created this universe and controls it. We are simply infinitesimal specks of dust blown about in this manifested whirlwind of Divine Consciousness. Until we realize that there exists this One Immortal Divine Consciousness and “Thou Art That” we must continue to make effort.

Prarabdha Karma is the seed of past actions sprouting as destiny in the present. It concerns the body and its actions. Everyone feels that almost all actions require some effort. So we must say that it is prarabdha that induces us to make the effort and also this effort itself again produces more karma, more births and more action. As long as we mistakenly identify ourselves as individuals, karma will exist. But the question is ‘Are we the body, are we an individual?’ If we experience that we are not the body but the Self, then alone do we become the actionless actor, the witness transcending body and mind, the non-doer.

Bhagavan says that the work of spiritual effort, of turning our minds inward, is the only freedom we have. Everything else is destined. However hard that is to swallow or imagine, the truth of the statement will be understood only when we transcend the limitations of the body and mind, and for that effort is required.

The Maharshi exhorts us to overcome the mistaken notion that we are the body. Karma is for the body, and the work that the body will do in this life is already determined when we enter into this world. He said it like this: “All the activities that the body is to go through are determined when it first comes into existence. It does not rest with you to accept or reject them. The only freedom you have is to turn your mind inward and renounce activities there.”

So this is where, as sadhakas, our individual freedom lies – “turning the mind inwards and renouncing activities there.” This is the effort, the spiritual effort, recommended by Bhagavan. This is the freedom for which we must apply effort.

But ‘How can we make effort and not be the doer?’ you ask. It is not unlike other spiritual paradoxes: ‘We must destroy the I to know the true I’ or ‘The mind must destroy itself by the mind’ or in this case, ‘Only by effort can we attain effortlessness’.

It amounts to this: as long as we think that we are this mind and body, it is not possible to perform action without the sense of doership. So we are instructed to dive within and realize our True Nature. It is the fruit of that effort alone which ultimately allows us to do action without the sense of doership. As long as the sense of ego persists, we must enquire, ‘Whose is this ego?’ ‘What is it?’ ‘Who am I?’ This is the only way to experience that state of effortless and choiceless awareness, or of not being the doer.

So we must perform our required duties in life and perform them well, with detachment, and as much as possible fix our mind on the Self. That effort should be our sole objective in life. Then, by the Master’s grace, everything will fall into place and we will experience perfect freedom and joy as the non-doers of actions. That is what Bhagavan tells us.