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[A reference, say, to Ch.2, Shloka 7 of the Bhagavad-Gita would simply be given as “(2 – 7)”

without mentioning the Bhagavad-Gita.

You may want to keep a copy ready on hand.]



5. Doer-Experiencer


To the questions: “Who is the doer?, “Who is the experiencer?”, the common answer turns out to be neither the Self, nor the non-Self. Either way advaita is contradicted. Pure Consciousness can neither act nor experience. Matter is inert. What acts or experiences is a complex of the Self and non-Self. It is Jiva, a complex of Consciousness and matter. “The discriminating people call that Self the enjoyer when it is associated with body, organs and mind” (Katha U. 1-3-4). This ‘association’ itself is because of one’s own nature (variously designated as ‘prakRti’ or ‘sva- 19 bhAva’). Even when the Upanishad says “The Self is to be seen” (Br. U. II4-5; ‘AtmA draShTavyaH’), it is not an injunction for us to ‘do’ something in the form of ‘knowing’, because the Self is beyond ‘knowability’ as an object; ‘it is meant mainly for attracting one’s (Jiva’s) mind towards Reality’ (“para-vidyAdhikAra-paTithAH” : Shankara in Br. S. Commentary of III-2-21) – that is, turning one’s mind towards one’s own natural state (‘sva-rUpa’). One’s own ‘nature’ (sva-bhAva) has to be contended with in order to gain one’s own ‘natural state’ (sva-rUpa).


The empirical Self, that is, the PP, that is, the soul who has identified with the BMI, is therefore the doer and the experiencer. It is he who enjoys and suffers. It is he who is subject to pleasure and pain. And it is he who thinks of himself as the doer and experiencer.


[Note by VK: When I was a teen-ager, I remember to have asked this question “Who is then the doer?” to my father, once after his Gitaclass to his contemporaries, which I had the good fortune to attend. The cryptic answer he gave is still fresh in my memory: “The doer is he who thinks he is the doer”. Does it make sense now? I leave the answer to the reader].


Advaita is clear however that this doership/experiencership is not natural for the soul. For if it were so, then there would be no liberation for the soul. ‘If agentship be its very nature, there can be no freedom from it, as fire can have no freedom from heat’ ( “kartRtva-svabhAvatve hyAtmanaH .... auShNyAt” : Shankara, Commentary on Br. S. II–3–40). The states of being an agent and an experiencer are conjured by ignorance and so devolve on the soul only in its state of ignorance, that is, only when it is wrongly identifying with the BMI. Shankara further elaborates it in his commentary on Br.S. II – 3 – 41: “During the state of ignorance, when the individual soul is blinded by the darkness of ignorance and cannot understand itself to be different from the assemblage of body and organs, it derives its transmigratory state, consisting in its becoming an agent and experiencer, from the behest of the Supreme Self who presides over all activities and resides in all beings, and who is the witness (of all) , imparts intelligence (to all) and is the Supreme Lord”. (‘avidyA-vasthAyAM ... kartRtva-bhoktRtvalakShaNasya samsArasya siddhiH’).


The non-participating, ‘un-knowable’, ‘non-knowing’ Witness is deep within as the IP, the Atman, the unchanging Self. He is the silent, immutable, all-pervading, motionless, self-existent Consciousness. He is impersonal. He is disassociated from the doings of the GuNas. He is the inactive non-doer and Witness. He is like the Sun who is said to illuminate the whole world while he actually does nothing to illuminate. Just he is – and the illumination takes place! The concept of the two Selves -- or two poises or roles of the one Self -- and a consequent grand design of a triple Self, is an essential contribution of the Gita to the understanding of the eternal Upanishads. In order to explain this grand design to ordinary people different masters give different illustrations. Vidyaranya's Panchadasi gives a beautiful analogy in its sixth chapter. The analogy that Vidyaranya gives and sustains throughout his work is so graphic that no presentation of the Self as adumbrated in Advaita Vedanta can be complete without mentioning Vidyaranya's analogy. Incidentally this analogy exploits both the ideas – that of ‘reflection’ and that of ‘limitation’. Imagine an empty pot. Even though empty, it encloses space (AkASha). We may call this enclosed space, the pot-space. This is not different from the universal space which is outside the pot -- except that the pot-space is space enclosed or conditioned by the material of the pot, whereas the universal space is unconditioned. Now fill up the pot to the brim with water. The pot-space has vanished. We only see water now but in the water we see the universal space reflected. This reflection shows the sky, the stars or whatever there is in the sky or the space, like buildings, trees, clouds, etc. with all their different shades of colour. This reflected presentation of the outside space shall now be called ‘waterspace’. Important remark: Water-space shall not mean 'the space occupied by water' but shall mean the reflection, in the water, of the universal space, which is everywhere. Now the water-space hides the real space, namely the pot-space within and projects a falsity of an outer space, inside. This is the grand delusion in which we are all in. The water-space corresponds to the JIva (the individual soul) or the PP. It hides the presence of the pot-space within. The pot-space is the IP. Without the substratum of the pot-space there cannot be any water-space. We in our delusion think that the water-space is all there is. We forget there is a pot-space within. It is the real space. The waterspace is only a false projection of the reality. Without the substratum of the IP within, the jIva or the PP or what we think as our personality has no existence. Recall Shankara’s commentary on Br.S. I-4-22: “There is the vedic text (Ch.U.VI-3-2) ‘Let Me manifest name and form by Myself entering in the form of this individual soul’ which reveals the existence of the Supreme as the individual soul. And also there is the Taittiriya text (Aranyaka. III-12-7) ‘The Supreme, having created all the forms, and 21 then given them names, and having entered into them He exists there by doing all kinds of actions’ [‘sarvANi rUpANi vicitya dhIrah; nAmAni kRtvA’bhivadan yadAste’]. While speaking of the creation of light etc. the Upanishad does not make any separate mention of the creation of the individual soul, in which case alone the soul could have been different from the supreme Self and a product of the Self. [na ca tejaH prabhRtInAM ... anyaH tadvikAro jIvaH]”.


The IP is also called (15-16) kUTastha, the immovable, or the immutable, that which remains like the unchanging iron-piece (anvil) on which the blacksmith does all his hammering.


[Optional Note: kUTastha also means the top of a mountain which remains unchanged and undisturbed. kUTa also means the changeable universe amidst which the unchangeable remains fixed and is therefore called kUTastha]


The water in the pot is the mind or intellect. It is the reflection in our intellect of the Absolute Consciousness that generates the Jivafeeling, an individualised feeling, in us, of 'I' and 'mine'. On one side there is the IP or kUTastha and his immutability. On the other there is the action of the PP or JIva and its mutability in prakRti. Both these coexist. ‘They coexist as two contrary sides, aspects or facets of a supreme reality which is limited by neither of them’. But the existence of the PP is a reflected existence in our intellect and is therefore also called ‘chidAbhAsa’ (meaning: Shadow or reflection of Consciousness), whereas the existence of the IP is original existence. There is a mutual superimposition of attributes. The existence, consciousness and bliss of the IP is superimposed on the JIva which reflects all this to us as if they are its own. On the other side, the pain and pleasure that the JIva appropriates from the BMI are superimposed on the IP and we say ‘I am sorrowful’ or ‘I am happy’. It is because of this mutual superimposition, the PP itself, that is the JIva, is said to be a creation of illusion, as is asserted in verse VIII-52 of Panchadashi: “ChidAbhAsa, the reflected consciousness, partakes of the characteristics of both, the superposing intellect, such as doership, enjoyership etc. and the superposed Atman, which is consciousness. So the whole ChidAbhAsa is a creation of illusion.”


The Ultimate Reality, however, is the Supreme Self (the purushottama), declared by the Lord to be ‘different from the other two’. (15 - 17). This is the third of the triple personality. That is His supreme nature of existence. People foolishly think that the visual manifestation is all there is (9 - 11). They allow the water-space to hide the real potspace within and revel in the virtual glory of the water-space. But deep 22 within us, by clearing our minds of all its 'contents', -- by clearing the pot of all its water -- we must get to the pot-space, that is the IP. It is the substratum which makes way for all the actions of the individual Self. The actions themselves are because of the prakRti -- its three strands -- which in the analogy is the reflecting capability of the water-mind. BETWEEN THE IP AND THE SUPREME SELF THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. The former, stripped of the imagined adjunct of the body, is nothing but the Supreme Self.


Question: Does all this simply mean then that we have to identify ourselves with the IP all the time and keep thinking that we are neither the doer nor the experiencer? Is it not then a self-mesmerisation and nothing more?


Maybe. But it is not so easy. One has to prepare oneself probably for a long time before one is tuned into that kind of attitude. It is a long SadhanA that is involved. In fact the whole of the Gita is to prepare Arjuna for this ideal attitude. Our next post shall dwell on this part of the practicality of the whole process, as elucidated by the Lord in the Gita.

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© 2017 by V. Krishnamurthy