You Are Not the Doer

Watching Puja
November 17, 2021

We are that supreme self having an experience of being human. We gain confidence and integrate our perception of living presence into our everyday lives by following the upsurge of wisdom in the heart. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi




I was wondering whether you could talk a little bit about what Ma says about how we’re are not the doers? Are we not the doers because we are God doing whatever we are doing?

We are that supreme self enacting all these roles. So we are not individuals. We are not people doing something.

We are God's experiences of people doing something, God's experiences of something called a human doing something, living a life. So God is the actor playing all these roles, or this alive aware reality, self aware reality—if you don't like the word God, that's fine—is playing all these roles which are manifesting as experiences out of its own awareness and energy.

So on one level, we're not the doer because there are no individuals. There are no people, there are no humans. There's just God playing all these roles, like some giant holo deck.

On the other hand, nothing is actually happening.

And one of the other things, Ma said, which is also a teaching in so many of these kinds of traditions, she said, if you can understand that nothing happens, then you are very, very lucky. This is almost a direct quote.

If you can understand that nothing happens, you are very lucky. If everything here is a production made of the light of awareness and energy, then there actually are no worlds. As she said, what worlds, what countries?

One time one of her principle disciples got really fixated on saying that something in India was the same as something that came from her country. She was from Austria, and Ma was like, what country?

And this woman got very flustered and frustrated. She got kind of angry at Ma for being so insistent that there was no country. Ma refused to have an ordinary conversation with her at that moment. It pissed her off.

And then Ma said, “Why are you angry?” And Atmananda said, “I don't know.” And she said, “Well, people who don't know shouldn't be angry.”

So Ma just took her and wrapped her around her finger like this and wouldn't let her go. Anyway.

The word in the Trika tradition for what is actually happening here is appearings, so not appearances like something fake, but appearings—things that appear within the mirror of consciousness and energy that have no substance. They don't exist in the way that we think they do, but they have existence in that there is actually awareness and energy and wisdom here.

Those things actually exist. They're not really things, but there are real experiences of that supreme self happening here. It's just that they're not solid objects and separate objects here or worlds or people.

So in that sense, there is really no doer because nothing's happening. Nothing is happening in the way we think it is.

What's actually happening is that ubiquitous, continuous self is just constantly producing entertaining experiences for itself.

This supreme self has what's called svatantrya. Svatantrya means total freedom of self expression. It can do anything at any time for absolutely no reason in a state of utter spontaneity and playfulness.

So far from being punishing or locking anybody into anything, the idea of grace and of God's freedom is paramount in Trika. So as both Ma and Abinavagupta said, the supreme self, or the self or reality makes the impossible possible, but also the possible impossible.

And that means it can basically make anything happen, anything at all, spontaneously and for no reason, including causing someone to wake up, who was just some shlub who never did a speck of practice, or causing whole worlds to disappear or appear.

So there's just like Ma said of herself—and she was an emissary of the self—she said, I never do anything except for kheyal. So kheyal is improvisation, she said, I don't do anything unless I feel spontaneously moved to do it.

Sometimes people would come and want to be healed and she would heal them. But other times she'd just say no. And the only reason that she gave was, I don't have the desire. I don't have the kheyal, I don't have the impulse to do it. I'm not moved to do it.

This kheyal is very important. It's kind of Ma’s version of talking about svatantrya, the spontaneity and total freedom of self expression. Although she did say, what freedom? There's no freedom. Not because she was bound, but because really, it isn't really even about that on a certain level.

But she was magnifying to us a very essential quality of all of reality, which is a sense of improvisation.

We get locked into patterns as an aspect of the artistry of the creation. Art becomes recognizable through pattern, and we are that. But there's also chaos, and there's also the unexpected.

Let's bring this down a little bit to our everyday lives. All of us, every person here, including me, has patterns that we would rather not have. Right? Difficult patterns that we would rather not have that seem very persistent and painful.

But if you really organized your desire 100% with an upsurge of utterly unified desire for that pattern to go away and you express that completely without any distraction, which is very hard to get into that condition, then you would have this powerful sword slicing through that karma.

I don't think it happens very much in human life because unfortunately, even the karmas that we revile, we are also attached to. Part of the reason we're attached to even our painful patterns on some level is because we can't imagine what we would be without them.

There's like patterns that we've had our whole life, even if there are patterns of illness or patterns of temperament or patterns of experience that are painful for us, we have identified with them. And so now we think if we get rid of them, we don't know who we're going to be and we're afraid of what's on the other side of that.

So, even if we cry and moan and ask God to save us and talk to our friends and go to therapists and all this, there's still something held in reserve. And this is why it takes so long for these patterns to change, because instead of changing them very swiftly with Kali’s sword of absolutely unified desire and intent, 100% sincerity and not lack of hesitation, we do everything with a bit of distraction and a bit of hesitation and a bit of doubt and etcetera.

So we're always doing everything incrementally instead of […] Right? And that's just the way of life. Ma said, coming and going, the thing will be done.

However, every now and then, maybe once a lifetime—who knows—we do as practitioners have that utterly unified desire, intent without hesitation, without reserve, and then miracles can happen. I'm talking about this from personal experience.

As many of you know, that I used to have Crohn's disease and I had it for 15 years. It was really very badly impacting, my sadhana. And I just in that magical time, had this absolutely unified desire to get rid of it so that I could be a practitioner, be a better practitioner. And I expressed that desire to wisdom, doing a certain ritual for a number of weeks and the Crohn's disease went away and never, ever came back.

That is to me, an effective—that unification of intent and desire and expression without any hesitation. But other times I've tried to do that again, and it hasn't really worked. Because I didn't even follow through with it because I already realized I don't really care about it that much.

I have gluten allergy so I kind of tried to do it with that, but I was like, I don't actually care that much that I'm allergic to gluten. It's not really that big of a deal. So I couldn't really work up the desire and intent that would have been necessary to do anything about that.

How do we integrate this idea that there is no freedom? I'm not sure how to apply this sense of God being the doer into everyday practical application.

Sure, but first I want to backtrack a little and make sure we're understanding what Ma said about there is no freedom. What she meant was that freedom—if we have a concept of freedom, it becomes our new ground. Like I'm going to be free.

So she didn't mean that we're unfree or bound. She was just saying, we need to throw out the whole axis from freedom to unfreedom.

I'm going to get to what you said about the doership, but I just want to make sure we're clear on this because it's so easy to kind of fall into conventional ways of thinking about this. And this is one of those places where Ma’s experience and how she related it is really more thorough than Trika Shivism or Dzogchen.

She is really, to my mind, the last word on anything. And although she doesn't say things that are in conflict with the traditions I've practiced in, there are certain points in which she just blasts the whole thing out of the water and goes that extra bit that the traditions don't go. So this is one of those places.

We can make a mistake talking about freedom, thinking it means our individual freedom, we can do whatever we want. What is meant in the tradition is that we can express ourselves freely, but that that self expression is motivated by a spontaneous upsurge of creative impulse.

So it isn't I decide to do something and I'm free to do that thing. It's that we have actually let go of a lot of those structures of decision making and cognition, and we are just immersed in livingness, and we're responding to it. And the impulse to act or to do something is just happening, and we're yielding to that. We're just doing that.

So when you get to the end of the day, it's not even on an axis of freedom or unfreedom. And this is why I think spontaneity or improvisation is a much better way of talking about svatantrya.

Kheyal is just a better word for what is happening everywhere and how we get in sync with that. It's more that you're feeling everything and you're feeling the flows of everything and the wisdom and everything is happening, and you're just responding in a way that's informed by wisdom, by clarity, by compassion.

But you're not thinking about it, you're not having a sense of individual freedom. In fact, I would say it's more of a sense of following and like how we do improvisation.

If we do improvisational music or dance or improvisational slam poetry or whatever it is that we're doing—there's that sense of like intent full on whole body energy, mind listening and jumping in to follow. But the following also includes your own creative impulse.

But it really is something outside of the track between freedom and bondage, if that makes sense to people who have done improvisation. So there's really not a lot of words for it. But Ma said kheyal, this form of improvisational music, so that's one part.

And then the doership on an everyday level, this has to do with how continuous is your felt, lived contact with presence, with the wisdom and presence or guru—whatever it is, whatever form you're relating to.

So when we don't have contact with that or very rarely, or we have intermittent contact with that, then we are going to have to use our minds in a conventional way, relying on our best open heartedness that we can muster, our devotion and our following the precepts of our traditions, getting help or getting advice from people who have more contact with that than we do.

So ordinary mind, ordinary decision making, informed by whatever openness you have and your understanding of the teachings and whatever your sadhana has brought you, that's where you're going to be. There's no other way to proceed.

But when you have more continuous immersion in living presence, in wisdom, then those kinds of decisions—it's almost like they are just happening. There is no making of the decision. They are just happening.

Like, for instance, myself, that is how I'm living a lot of the time. But then there's other times when I'm not doing that because I have karmas that are interfering with that. For instance, particularly around housing.

So what do I do then? I consult divination. I basically give over to whatever tool I have to consult wisdom directly, but in a more ordinary way because I'm not being fully immersed. Do you understand?

So I think this relates to we use the tools we have at whatever stage of awareness and presence we're in. The thing is to just remember to use the tools. You have a lot of tools and the thing is remember to use them.

This gets to not compartmentalizing. Many, many people—this is probably the norm—even very good practitioners, practicing lots everyday, practice for a long time—they still set their practice and their teachers and the view aside, when they go to make certain kinds of decisions, like buying a house or their job or what to do with their kids schooling or how to relate to their spouse or whatever it is.

Then practice, view, devotion, teacher goes out the window. And it's not conscious. It's just “these situations call for another way of doing things.” They don't. They actually don't.

I don't know if I ever actually make a decision in the sense you're talking about anymore. Even if I'm getting help from divination or prayer or meditation, I'm still yielding to my best contact with Ma or wisdom and following that.

These traditions are thorough. There's no compartmentalization.

So what I would say for all of you is whatever situation you're in, no matter how mundane, try to feel for what wisdom is telling you. And it's not necessarily coming from the outside.

We use external teachers and externally learned view to help us. And that's great. Because in these traditions we aren't proud. We just use whatever we need to use. We don't say this isn't high enough or this is too low or something. We use whatever we need to use.

But there's also that up surge of wisdom from the heart, which you can learn to consult also. And many of you know how to do that. But then you don't follow because you think certain situations just—I have to use my rational mind and my normal planning and decision making apparatus, or I don't feel safe. But then you're just digging those karmic groves even deeper.

It is possible to live entirely following the felt sense of wisdom. It's possible to live entirely that way. That's certainly how I want to live.

Sometimes I have no idea what I'm doing because there's big areas of my life at this point where it feels very comfortable and I'm just sort of in the zone.

But then there's some other areas where, like housing, I still have impacted Karma. And then there's sort of like Karma operating, and then there's me following the wisdom as best I can through whatever means I have and the two don't match.

Like this part is all worried and this one […] but I just go this way. And sometimes I have no friggin idea what I'm doing, but one thing that I can hold on to is I know I'm following wisdom to the best of my ability, even if I do a crap job at it, I am absolutely trying my hardest.

And this is the way I've just chosen to live. This is actually what the tradition teaches us to do—is to not compartmentalize and try to develop your felt sense of guidance in whatever form and try to follow that.

Thank you.

You're welcome.



Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.