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Are You the Doer or Are You the Self?
Mark: Dear Ramji, at last, a message from me. Sorry it took so long. When I received your letter, it was instantly very clear to me what you had to say. I could have said it myself but I didn’t. I was too much overwhelmed by worldly considerations to see that I had slipped into an old jacket. Instantly I knew you were absolutely right, as always. Your words put me on the right track again and showed me the right way of thinking. So that was that.
But instead of giving an immediate reaction, which would only be coming from my mind, I thought that I would like to see how it would work in my daily reality. So I decided to give it a try, to take time to think it over and practice it and then tell you how it really is. It worked. To give up the dream was the easy part of it. Giving up my preferences, however, was (and is) much more difficult.
Thank you for what you wrote to me. I like your love, even the tough kind. It is obviously clear, straight and helpful. It is the only real way to see and be. And you picked out very precisely the weak points, the contradictions and the wrong standpoints. I can see the truth and also the humor of it. As I said above, it was easy to give up the dream.
I realized that my monkey had escaped and run away, visiting some old friends. What I had to do was to take control over my thinking again, point it towards the real and not allow my thinking to get hooked up with wrong aspirations and attitudes. It was nice to realize that.
Knowing what I know, I am always capable of being the master of my universe, as long as I am in control of my thinking and pointing it in the right direction. I have to admit that it is still not so easy for me to give up my preferences. Some things I like more than others. It’s a pity it is not quite possible for me to see AND FEEL everywhere the beauty and grace of God. I have to practice. I have faith.
Then you said to “leave God out of it”. That was difficult because how could I do so if I am God?, I thought. But that is a game with words. I know what you mean. It threw me back on myself, the only thing left.
Ram: You are correct. I meant that you should take responsibility for yourself and not rely on some outside force.
Mark: And then you say, “God has done everything for you he/she is ever going to do – he/she created you and gave you five senses, a mind and an intellect.” It made me lonely for a while. There I was, out in the immense universe with nothing to depend on but myself. But it also made me so powerful because it directed me toward my own responsibility.
Then I came to a point that took more time to think over. I am still not quite ready with it. That point is, if there is nothing to gain or lose in the outer world, then you need not do anything. But why do I have all these possibilities, these fine five senses, the mind and the intellect?
Ram: It is correct that you need not do anything. Everything is happening automatically on its own whether or not you do anything. Do you do your thoughts? Do you do your feelings? Do you, Mark, make your body move? Do you breathe or digest your food? If you look carefully you will see that there is no doer, no Mark. You will see that activity is completely impersonal, driven by universal vasanas, and that none of it has anything to do with who you really are.
It is, however, possible that you are not ready to realize this fact. That is fine. I will accept your idea of yourself as a doer and will answer your question in this way. You say, “…why do I have all the these possibilities, these five senses, the mind and intellect?” And I say simply to enjoy your self in the form of the world. Who said we are to make use of them to get something we think we don’t already have? In a non-dual reality there are no possibilities. There are only actualities. Our equipment is meant solely for the purpose of appreciating what is. This does not mean that you cannot act. It does mean, however, that there is no intention or craving behind your actions, that there just a response, an appreciation, a celebration of what is. There is no sense that one is working to accomplish something. The scripture says that the self is already accomplished. If this world and you are the self, then you are already accomplished.
If you don’t accept this idea and you think that you are supposed to use your instruments of experience to gain possiblities, I say fine, go for whatever you want. But answer this question: Will getting what you want, actualizing the possibilities, permanently complete you? You can only answer that you will feel temporarily complete – until the dissatisfied part of your mind comes up with another possibility to exploit. Or let’s put it this way: Why is what is actual, what you already have, not good enough for you? If you were satisfied with who you are and what you have there would be no thought of possibilites.
Mark: And what is wrong with trying to make the outer circumstances more suitable for oneself? And what is more suitable? I know it does not matter to the self.
Ram: Why are outer circumstances not suitable as they are? One only tries to change outer circumstances because one is uncomfortable with oneself. If you get in the habit of changing outer things to make yourself feel good, you will never be happy. You will just reinforce your idea of yourself as a dissatisfied person, a doer. So the more you do, the more you will try to do.
If you know it does not matter to the self, then why does it matter to you? Are you the self or are you Mark? You can be Mark if you want – it is your choice – but you should know that Mark will never be satisfied – because Mark is just an identification with the vasana that is playing in the mind at any time. There is no actual Mark. If there were, and if karma were capable of fulfilling a person permanently, then I would say pursue possibilities, although there is absolutely no guarantee that the pursuit of any possibility will turn into the actuality that the wanter, Mark, wants.
You can work for years to attain something and never attain it. You can work for years and eventually attain what you want and then discover that you don’t want it. You can work for years to attain something, get it and immediately lose it. What you want is in time and the one who wants it is in time, so how much lasting satisfaction is going to be achieved by chasing possibilities in this world?
The real question that this discussion points to is: Who are you? Are you whole and complete or are you incomplete and therefore a doer, a Mark? At some point you are going to have to give up on Mark if you want to be permanently satisfied. In Vedanta this letting go of the self-concept is called jnana karma sannyas, the renunciation of the doer, Mark, by knowledge. The knowledge that results in the abandonment of action as a means of fulfillment is the knowledge (1) of the fact that one is the self and (2) the nature of karma, i.e. that it is not capable of giving fulfillment.
Giving up doing alone is not enough, because the doer and the vasanas remain. If you give up the doer, the vasanas arise and fall and eventually disappear – because there is no one there to reinforce them. The self has no incentive to chase things in the world, because it is already satisfied with itself. But if the self is deluded, it thinks it is incomplete and a doer, it will always believe in the pursuit of possibilities.
So at some point you are going to have to start thinking of yourself as the self, not as a wanter, a doer, if you want freedom. Yes, in reality you are already free, but attachment to the idea that one is a doer is a bondage like no other.
Mark: But is there no Good or Bad to do in this world if there is nothing to do? What is Good and Bad?
Ram: There are judgements in the mind about oneself and the world, but the doer has no substance, no self-nature, and the world also has no self-nature, so you cannot say that either is good or bad. If you argue that in a non-dual reality the world is the self, you cannot say that the world and the doer are good or bad, because in fact they are just luminous awareness. Good and bad are just statements by unenlightened people about their likes and dislikes.
Mark: I came to the following conclusion: you can do anything you want as long as it does not create damage to other people and to your own (path towards) self-realization. But while you do that, be fully aware that it is just a game in the world, not providing you with happiness, not helping you on the path of self-realization, or enlightenment. There is even the danger of getting mixed up with this worldly stuff and getting swallowed by its temptations. Or is this an attempt to justify again my clinging to the world?
Ram: It looks like an attempt to justify your clinging. Here is why: if you are on the path to self-realization, would you put energy into things that will not result in self-realization? If you are going for self-realization, you are going for a clear mind, not one that is concerned with karma and its results. Or put it this way, the result that you are trying to create is a calm mind. A calm mind, one that sees things clearly, will never be swallowed by temptations. If your mind is not clear, your desires will seem reasonable and you will pursue them, thinking that they will lead to more/better/different happiness or less unhappiness.
Mark: You see, Ram, your words were very well addressed and also appreciated. My monkey is in his cage again, but he still needs a little education. We will work on that.
Ram: Well, the above discussion is a good lesson for your monkey. Tell him to study hard. We will see if he gets it.
Mark: This is enough for now. You know how I am doing. And while I was not writing to you, I was very often talking to you in my mind. That also helps me. Thanks.
I hope and expect you are alright.
~ With love, Mark