You are not the doer of your actions; This phrase has been repeated multiple times in all forms of spiritual texts & also by modern day Advaita / Vedanta teachers. However, it is a difficult thought to even comprehend for seekers who have recently set themselves on the path of spirituality.
When King Janaka had a conversation with Ashtavakra, the Ashtavakra Geeta was born. This spiritual text speaks about the same philosophy at length. You may read it here – The Ashtavakra Geeta (Translated by Bart Marshall)
While trying to explore deeper into this concept myself, Here’s a simple conversation I came across on Sudhir Krishnan’s fan page on Facebook.
I am reproducing the same content in an un-edited fashion here –
”You are not the doer” is a very interesting verse that comes in the “Ashtavakra Geeta”. It is not an easy concept for people to comprehend when they first encounter it, or are new to the spiritual path. Let us see how the great sage Ramana Maharishi explains it.
A Disciple (D) goes to the Guru Ramana Maharishi (G) for Self Knowledge and the conversation is recorded as follows:
D: Sir, I want to get liberated.
G: You Are Ever Liberated.
D: How can you say that?
G: Why do you think otherwise? What binds you?
D: Today morning, I got angry.
G: Anger is of mind. You are not the mind.
D: Should I, therefore, not address the anger?
G: If you understand you are not the mind, will the anger arise?
D: What does that mean?
G: You tell me, how did you get angry?
D: My subordinate did not work properly.
G: So? Subordinate did not make you angry. Suppose you had no thought of it! That is you did not know this. Would you be angry about it?
G: So when a thought arose you were affected by that thought. Who “Took” that thought and built anger out of it?
G: Yes, Who is this “I” ?
D: Its Me. I got affected by the thought.
G: So what happened exactly? The thought came… and then what ?
D: I felt that could trouble my project.
G: Yes. So who is this “I” ?
D: The manager of the project.
G: That is a role in “mind”, do you get this?
D: Not quite.
G: Ok, Are you the manager ?
G: Suppose tomorrow you lose that post. Do you become non-existent?
G: So that means you are not the manager.
D: What Am I then?
G: We will come to that. But then, you are not a manager… you are playing the role of a manager! Isnt it ?
G: Similarly you are playing the role of a father, a son etc.
G: The roles you play are called Upadhis … Adjuncts. You are not defined by them.
G: So now, these roles are all mental. therefore they can get “Hit” by the thoughts.
G: Suppose all these adjuncts are removed. What are you?
D: I am Udai
G: That is your name. You have a name, you are not the name.
D: I am a man.
G: That is your body. You have a male body. An Adjunct. Please see. The body is only dead matter. You are alive so clearly you cannot be the body.
D: Am I not the body?
G: Right. You have a body, you are not the body.
D: But when there is pain in the body I am hurt.
G: Suppose you had no thought of it. Suppose you were under anaesthetic influence. Would you still be hurt?
G: So its the mind , right?
G: so you are hit at the mental level !
G: that is a role.
D: what role?
G: Inquire. Who is trying to “Reject the pain”
D: what is reject pain?
G: Pain is a sensation. Who is trying to avoid it?
G: That is something you are “Doing”, a “Role” you are “playing”. You can still be without trying to avoid.
D: how do i do that?
G: Pain sensation is there, dont do anything about it. neglect it. don’t try to do anything about it!
D: Neglect? Is that practical ?
G: Yes. (Sri Ramana Maharshi even got his hand operated).
G: so, that is a role too.
G: Lets come back to it. What are you sans all the adjuncts.
D: I dont know.
G: You cannot name it or describe it.
G: Anything you do is “playing a role”
G: Coz without doing it also you are.
G: So that “Doer” is a role you have intentionally picked.
G: That means, you are not the “doer” .
G: Anything you “experience” is yet another role.
G: remember the body pain example. The pain as sensation is there. Who “Owns” it?
G: The one who is trying to avoid it or “have more of it” is a role. You need not do either.
G: So that non-doer is You!
G: So you are not the doer / enjoyer.
D: Humm. Does that mean i should not act, do any work?
G: No. To recognize you are playing the role of manager and are not defined by manager … that is you are not manager but are playing the role of manager… do you need to stop being the manager?
G: but you need to recognize it as a role.
G: So, Dharmam (right) & Adharmam (wrong) belong to the role, who is the doer.
G: Similarly Sukham [happiness] and Dhukkam [unhappiness] belong to the role too.
G: when they are of the role … if you disidentify with the role … you are done.
Leave identification with the doer (karta) and Enjoyer (Bhokta.) Relax, Remain as Consciousness, and when ever identification with doer is identified, inquire who is doing, and relax into consciousness again!