Questioner (Q): How is doership related to body-identification?
Acharya Prashant (AP): It’s very important. These are fundamentals. If you can appreciate them, you will never be misled.
When you are identified with the body, you are identified with the bundle of crying needs. Remember, the body has its needs; consciousness, too, has its needs. But the needs of the body are diverse and unending. Even in the last moment of your life, you still require to breathe, right? It might be your last moment, but you still need air. The needs of the body continue till death. And these needs are not at all deep, shallow but very-very widespread needs; I want this, I want this; little things, little but endless.
Much in contrast, are the needs of the consciousness. Consciousness has just one need actually – Liberation. And it’s a very deep need. You could take the need of body as the entire x-y plane. What’s the area of the x-y plane? Infinite. But the x-y plane has neither height nor depth. It has no existence in the z-domain. It’s just a flat plane, right? Flat and infinite. That’s how the needs of the body are.
Anybody here who has a count of the number of clothes he has used so far in his life? That’s how numerous our basic demands are. Every time you inhale, do you know the number of molecules you take in? How much is one mole? 6.023 * 10^23. Ten to the power 23, let’s keep counting the number of zeroes. With each breath, this is the number of those little things that you need, with each breath. The entire x-y plane is littered with your unending needs.
And what’s the need of consciousness? It’s not the plane, it’s the z-axis. It has no area at all. It just has an ambition. Want to reach, reach, reach and reach there or want to go deep, deep, and deeper than anything. There is an infinity in the plane and there is an infinity in the axis.
It shows that when you choose to serve the needs of consciousness rather than the needs of the body, you find that the needs of consciousness can come to an end. Even though the axis is infinite, but that infinity is somehow attainable. It’s a strange thing we are coming to, please see. That which you call as Liberation or Truth or in the usual language God can somehow be attained. The height of the z-axis can somehow come to a conclusion. That conclusion is called Liberation.
But the needs of the body are truly unending. If they are to end, the body will have to end; otherwise, they are unending. So, what does common sense say? Which need do you seek to fulfill then? The one that is actually unending or the one that can somehow be met and therefore, ended. Also, remember that even if you meet the needs of the body to a great extent, the unmet need of the z-axis will keep crying. Whereas the higher you go up the z-axis, the more distance you have created from the x-y plane. Therefore, the needs of the x-y plane will no more be relevant to you.
The needs are all there, at ground level, the x-y plane. And where are you now? At a distance of 40 light-years. What’s happening on the x-y plane doesn’t really concern you. X-Y plane, yes, it’s still clamoring: “Give me a little more food. Can I have one more t-shirt? Can I get a haircut, please? There is a new brand of toothbrushes in the market. The neighbors have just moved in and the woman is very attractive.” All these things that regular melodrama is taking place. Where are you? (points upwards) You can’t even really see what’s happening there. Those things are happening. I am on a spaceship.
That’s spirituality. Things are happening on the earth. I am on a spaceship. What’s happening on the earth? There is a volcano, it’s a volcanic eruption; there is a nuclear war; your wife or your husband ran away with someone. Where are you? You don’t even know. And even if you do know, you just peep downwards and say, “All that is happening on that speck of dust called the planet earth; it doesn’t bother me. I go up, up and up.” Getting it? Or you could be a scavenger on the x-y plane. What are you doing all the time? Scavenging. Can I get some food here? Poking into waste food baskets as cows and dogs do. Always looking for something to ingratiate you and always managing to find something or the other and yet never feeling fulfilled.
However, do remember that for the spaceship to be launched, first of all, you require a launch pad on that same x-y plane. So, that x-y plane is not useless. And now you know what is the rightful use of the body. What is the x-y plane all about? It is the dimension of the body. What do you use that x-y plane for?
AP: No, not even a launch pad; you, first of all, need a spaceship. Use that x-y plane to create a spaceship and a space station. The launchpad is there. You need a space station to be there. Maybe, various kinds of needs. Probably refueling can be done midway. Who knows?
Are all these pointers somehow enabling us to see what life is all about and what do we make, how do we make use of all these years that we supposedly have left? Are you able to see all that? Otherwise, it is just words. No Upanishad can benefit you if you do not see how it relates to your daily life. Is that becoming clear?
So, doership… doership is necessitated by the feeling of incompleteness. "I am not okay. I will have to do something." Now, it’s strange. Because we take pride in our doership whereas the stark fact is that doership is necessitated by our incapacity, our poverty, inner poverty that is, and our inner disease and hollowness. That’s what necessitates doership. If you are not feeling all right, you’ll have to do something. That’s doership. So, it’s not so much about the statement, "I am the doer." Honestly, the statement should be, "I am forced to be the doer."
A rabid dog is chasing you; a rabid dog is hot on your heels. Would you say I am the runner and gladly click selfies and broadcast them, and have an app that measures speed and duration, and all those things, and declare to the entire world how swift you are? Would you do that? You are not the runner; you have been forced to run. That’s what doership is about. That which you call as life is a rabid dog. It keeps chasing you all the time. And what are you doing? Running.
The Upanishad says, “This is bondage.” Your actions are not yours. You have been forced to act. The Liberated one indeed does appear to act. But he is not forced to act. His actions are sovereign.
There is a difference between jogging for fun and running to save your backside, right? However, it has been observed that those who run to preserve their behinds often set great records in running. In fact, all the great records belong to the ones who are running to save their backsides. And such people have inspired generations after generations of wannabe runners. And when you know that the only way to set a record is to have a rabid dog chasing you, then it becomes necessary to invent or manufacture rabid dogs.
That’s the question you must ask. Am I acting or am I being forced to act? And whenever you do something perforce, I don’t suppose you would want to call it freedom. If you say, you are acting on your own, ask yourself an innocent question. “Do you even have the choice not to act?” If you have the choice not to act, then probably you have freedom.
Choicelessness comes in only two conditions; either there is a dog behind you, now you are choiceless, you will have to run, or you are liberated. When you are liberated, again there is choicelessness. Because you are doing the one and the only thing that ought to be done. In your internal existence, you have no more options available. You are one now internally and therefore in your external world also, now there are no more options left. Internally one, externally one; no choices anywhere. But that’s the rare case.
Most people do not have choices, just because slaves do not have choices, just because beggars cannot be choosers. Clear? Just for fun, sometimes throw this question at yourself, “What if I do not do this?” There might be something that you supposedly do for your own sake. There might be something that you claim to do in love, right?
You have a very loving person in your life. Most of us have these kinds of illusions at some time or the other. So, let’s say you have a very loving person in your life and there is something that you have to do for him or her. I said, just for fun, ask yourself, “What if I do not do this?” And if the moment you ask this question, a chill rises up your spine; you should know that there is a problem. It’s not in your freedom or love that you are doing all these things.
Now you are a slave. A slave, probably not to a scary monster, but to a seductive princess. But nevertheless, a slave. A slave is a slave. How does the slave-driver matter? The slave-driver could be monstrous or seductive. Slave is a slave. The moment you think about disobeying if a warning rings in your ears: “How dare you?” Then you should know the fact of your life. Even before you have committed the act, the warning is already ringing. And what does it say? “How dare you?” You know where you stand.
That’s where most of our actions come from. You want to stop. Something or somebody shrieks in your ears, “How dare you?” and therefore you cannot stop, you’ll have to keep running. That is called doership. Rest is your natural state. But you cannot be at rest because you are terrified. So you keep running. “How dare you stop?” That’s the doership. And therefore, the scriptures scoff at doership.
Somebody has been put in jail and there he is asked to grind cereals. I don’t know what they do these days. But from the olden days, we read that the inmates had to do such things. So, there are these things that he does for ten years. And after 10 years, he is paid some money at the time of his release. And proudly he declares, “This is what I have earned.” Have you earned this? Technically, yes; really, no. Ten years, the fellow was whipped into labor. He didn’t labor. He was whipped to work. And if he would refuse, then the sound of whiplashes would resonate in his ears. Imagine whiplashes are reverberating. And then at the time of his release, he proudly counts the money and says, “Look, this is the great output of my blood and sweat.” Did you really do it? Technically, yes; really, no. That’s how we live.
We work a lot because we are so afraid that we will have to work. Rare is the one who works because work is his joy, work is fun.
“What else will I do if I will not work?” Is there somebody pressurizing you to work? No. Do you work because you have to report to somebody? Do you work because if you do not report in time, you will be scolded? No. “I work because this is my personal joy. I don’t work for somebody, I just work. I don’t work for a reason, I just work. I don’t work for a reward, I just work.” Rare is this person and such an individual is free of all doership, though he might appear to be engaged in intense work.
Work is something that the human condition cannot avoid, right? We work. Animals don’t work. No animal ever works. They just exist, right? Horses are galloping, cows are grazing, lions are chasing; you don’t call that work. Unless you domesticate an animal and subject it to slavery, animals don’t work. Birds are chirping, that’s not work. Rabbits are running about, that’s not work. Though a lot of action is there, but that’s not work.
Man is the only creature that works. You have to figure out where your work is coming from. Is your work coming from fear or is your work your joy? These are two very very different things, very different things. And when your work is coming from fear, it’s called doership. So, doership is nothing to be proud of. Never utter in your conceit, “I did that.” You didn’t do that. You had no option but to do that. You are pushed to do that.
See whether you can be somebody within who can find joyful work outside. I assure you remaining who you are, you will find work that reflects your inner mess. Your insides and your outsides always carry a symmetry. The way you are within is the way you are without. The kind of work that you do in the world is indicative of something very important within you.
So, I am not asking you to go and find great work. I am asking you to be great within. If you are great within, obviously, you will be doing great work. And if you are not great within, even if coincidentally, you chance upon great work, you will be a misfit. You will either spoil the work or you will quit or you will be thrown out. So, you have to start from within.
Be in a way, be such that great work comes rushing to you. Just as water comes rushing to the right levels, to the right places. Have you seen how that happens after rains? Water doesn’t settle everywhere. It settles only at the right places. And right places need not necessarily be the low places. Many conditions have to be satisfied. One thing is certain.
Water will not settle at conceited peaks. The ones who think too much of themselves will remain dry.