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Is There a Doer or Not?
Questioner: There is a question that keeps coming up, and I would like to ask you regarding the koshas. It seems to be that for most of my life I really thought that “I” was this doer, this ego, without any differentiation. At some point this year it started to become more obvious that, while this ego exists, with its continual desires and fears, as it drives these it also perpetuates more of the same – but that is all it is. Then one day, as you beautifully put it, the fan is off. It is still rotating, but no longer being driven.
It’s like an entity within (not wishing to sound deluded or schizophrenic), and its way of doing things hasn’t changed at all in the whole life so far, even if it likes to get very specific about people, places, etc. it’s an absurd agenda; either way it makes no difference and either way the produced entity is just a self-fulfilling, useless thing, just spinning on its own axis.
I kept going with this inquiry for the last months until it started to completely unravel, taking me back to my birth almost, at least a point where it may have started. To say “before birth” would also sound deluded, but it was always there, even before any idea of succeeding or failing had any context, a foggy feeling like being covered in something and because of this looking to get a response from outside – almost any feedback from anywhere to then just be able to say, “I exist!” Yet – I did/do exist, no different then and now – so why the effort?
That’s where it just starts to unravel. The fact that once having made a splash in the world it “becomes” something, which wants more and more of the same, still gives no justification as to why there was any need in the first place. The koshas in this context appear to me to be there, even the bliss sheath, as there are moments of real lasting bliss, and even when these pass and the memory remains, there is also a knowing that these were temporary.
All that is left is a pleasant “all engines stopped.” I don’t know how much longer I have to live, but at the age I am now, it feels like life will continue, but “I” won’t, and it does not matter. There is nothing left to do from that point of view. I know I need to play the game while alive, the game is the same: go to work, do the dharma that is there. Yet time seems to have just stopped. It is so strange yet so wonderfully logical, faultless. Please let me know with full frankness if this deluded or needs a course correction!
There is a particular sentence which I don’t know exactly what you mean, and I’m not sure if I’m interpreting it correctly. You say: “The answer to why the doer was spinning in the first place is simple: it was ignorant that it existed apart from what it achieved from the fruits of its mindless actions. And this doer, oddly enough, is actually you, ever-present awareness – although you are not it. The continual inquiry it did gradually bring about its own death, meaning that your identification with it stopped. There was no need for all the doings in the first place, but you didn’t know that ‘in the first place.’”
James: This is one of the most inspiring, elegant emails I’ve received in recent years – a beautiful description of moksa, so you are not mad and no course correction is required. How can there be a course correction unless you are the doer, which you clearly aren’t insofar as it is clear to me that it is clear to you that it is just a mechanical object known to you, a function in you, existence/consciousness? Furthermore, it’s still spinning, but the power is off, which was caused by your dedicated Self-inquiry. You need to give yourself a nice pat on the back for sticking with it. “The power is off” means that you are aware than you are not it, that recently you became aware that you are the knower of the doer, i.e. the Self.
The answer to why the doer was spinning in the first place is simple: it was ignorant that it existed apart from what it achieved from the fruits of its mindless actions. And this doer, oddly enough, is actually you, ever-present awareness – although you are not it. The continual inquiry it did gradually bring about its own death, meaning that your identification with it stopped. There was no need for all the doings in the first place, but you didn’t know that “in the first place.” If you had known it, you would have been born enlightened.
There is one mistake. “You,” meaning the doer, don’t have long to live, because you are already dead, meaning that the one that knows that the doer is dead – the real you – doesn’t die, because it was never born. You are existence/consciousness, the one that objectifies the doer. It may take a little time to shift your identity completely to your limitless identity – existence/awareness – owing to the habit of identifying with the doer, but the event you are describing should be enough to convince you that you are the Self insofar as there is only you, consciousness, plus the doer. If the doer isn’t you, then there is no option but to claim your real identity.
The other clue to your moksa is the statement that “the koshas appear to me to be there.” The “me” in your statement is not the doer; it is you, awareness.