To Do or Not To Do

Satsang with Marisa 6.27.17

“One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is wise among (people).”  Bhagavad Gita, 4.18

Marisa: Eaden thank you for guiding the meditation last night. One of the questions that arose was about how to assimilate the teachings between the right actions of karma yoga and the notion that there is nothing to be ‘done,’ as the self is not a ‘doer.’

IMG_6030Eaden: As a jiva (human being), there are two seemingly contradictory perspectives taking place simultaneously – doership (action) and non-doership (non-action).

For most, the doer (jiva) is known, while the non-doer (true self) is hidden.

One key to understanding this relationship between action and non-action is the concept of superimposition – when one thing is placed upon another. Vedanta uses the metaphor of “the snake and the rope” to teach about the concept of adhyāsa – superimposition.

A thirsty traveler walking in the twilight, mistakes a well rope for a snake. Seeing the apparent snake, the traveler freezes in fear. A person nearby notices the problem and says to the traveler, “take it easy my friend, that’s just the well rope.”

Identified as the jiva, we think we are this body, mind, sense complex but sensations, emotions and thoughts all come and go within us – awareness. We were here before this present thought arose, we are here during this thought and we will be here long after this thought passes. The same applies for sensations and emotions.

The subtle internal objects of sensation, emotion and thought come and go but the self, the ever-present witness, is all pervasive, unchanging, and action-less. Essentially, the jiva is an apparent doer, apparently taking action (karma), within awareness (the non-doer).

Another metaphor that can shed light upon the concepts of superimposition and doer-ship, is that of a movie. The images on the screen move but the movie screen and the light of the projector remain constant. So here we have both action and in-action simultaneously occurring.

The images on the screen are a projection of light (you-consciousness) shining through karma (the jiva’s past action), creating a holographic story called me and my life. In this movie making process, we become entranced with the movie of our lives but often fail to notice the light of self (consciousness) that makes it all possible.

When we identify with the image (jiva and experience) we suffer inadequacy and limitation, when we identify with the light (true self) we are limitless, meaning unaffected by life experience.

So then why act? If we are all pervasive, objectless and actionless awareness, why do anything at all?

Once we realize who we are (self knowledge), we then have total freedom to act or not act because our fears and desires have been rendered unbinding, settling our karmic bank account. However, until this freedom (moksha) is obtained, action and it’s results, matter a whole lot for the jiva.

Vedanta, per the Bhagavad Gita, recommends that seekers of moksha, steady the mind first with Karma Yoga, and then practice other transformative yogas: Bhakti (devotional) Yoga, Yoga of Three Gunas, and Jnana (knowledge yoga).

Yoga (action) prepares the mind for the assimilation of self knowledge – that we are whole, complete and good, that we are limitless, conscious, existence.

When the light of consciousness shines upon the jiva, doing (sensing, feeling and thinking) happens, so we might as well do right per dharma and make a contribution to the field of existence. Why? One, because we’re here, two because we’ve received everything we value from the field and three, living by dharma leads to a happy, good life.

I hope this helps Marisa.

With gratitude and love,


Another Satsang called, “Why Practice, What’s the Point?” delves deeper into the benefits of dharmic doer-ship.

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