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What is non-action? What is it to not to act as the ego-self?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
15 min
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Questioner: There is a passage from the preface of Open Secret - “There is abandonment of a phenomenal center constitutes the only 'practice', and such abandonment is not an act volitionally profound by the identified subject, but a non-action leaving the noumenal center In control of phenomenal activity, and free from the fictitious interferences by an imaginary self.

Acharya Prashant: Beautiful. Lovely quote. Yes?

Q: So, my question is that what is Non-action?

Acharya: Action that you do not do. In your own calculation, with your own intellect, you are never going to abandon yourself. What Wei Wu Wei has described here is pure bhakti or it is Prem-yog or it is Guru-yog. What he is saying is - you will never be able to do it on your own. Let it be done. Now, let it be done is equivalent to let it be done by something else or somebody else. You will not be able to do it on your own. Such abandonment is not an act volitionally performed by the identified subject. Your own volition would never consent to it. Therefore, you have to just hand yourself over to something, somebody or may be nobody in particular. The difference is, Wei Wu Wei just says, “You do not do it.” Bhakti yog and Guru yog they go a step ahead and say you do not do it, let him do it. But both the methods, one thing is certain, it is not through your own personal volition that the abandonment is going to happen. Your own cleverness, your tricks, your methods, your processes, your ways, will be of no help. You have to let yourself belong to something beyond you. In the Buddhist way, it would be said, “you just have to let go of yourself.” You just have to belong to the flow.

Q: What is non-action? Can I know it? Am I acting or am I not acting?

Acharya: Placing something above your own desire. There is an actor within you that wants to act as per its own sweet will. Non-action is not about suppressing that actor and making it do nothing at all. Doing that which you do not really want to do. That is non-action. Non-action does not mean no action will happen. Non-action does not mean that action will not happen at all, non-action means action will happen but you will not decide the action. Somebody else will be in control. Somebody else will dictate the action. You will do not what you want to do, you will do something else. That does not mean that you will do the opposite of what you want to do, even that will be just good old self-centered action. Non-action is neither about doing what you want to do nor is it doing the opposite of what you want to do. Non-action is about doing what something ahead of you. Somebody beyond you. Something beyond you wants to do through you.

Q: It seems like it means going with the flow but as you told that love will be snatched.

Acharya: You will just go with your own personal flow. So, it’s not about going with your own flow. India in that sense has been very clear. Keep all this talk of the flow aside, do what your teacher tells you to do. That is non-action. You are the actor but you are not doing what your personal desire dictates you to do. You will not even say what your personal desire is. You will say, “I am dead” and dead ones don’t have desires. “I am dead, I am at your disposal tell me what to do.” Because if “I obey my own desire then where is the question of liberation. My own desire is always in the direction of bondage. Obeying my own desire will I ever come to liberation? No, not at all. So, I am dead. I am dead to my own desire. You tell me what to do, I will obey it blindly.” Now, that has led to a lot of corruption. That has led to a lot of exploitation as well. But probably there is no other way. India has been the land of the liberated ones, India has also been the land of the exploited ones and it’s no coincidence that these two have gone together. No land has produced more liberated ones than India and in no other land has there been more exploitation than in India. Count the number of exploited ones and India would top. Because when you are subjecting yourself to the will of the other there is always the heavy prospect of you being exploited. But there is no other way.

The only discretion you can have is to choose wisely. Do not choose the wrong one to surrender to. But surrender you must. There is no option. If you do not want to be exploited then just be careful in your choice of the teacher.

Even if you are not being taught, even if you are not with the teacher you still do surrender, don’t you? Then you surrender to your relatives, to your boss, to the police, to the laws, to your own desires, to the social systems. Then you surrender to all these things. You don’t want to be exploited just be very careful in choosing who to surrender to. Surrendering to the biological and social forces is dangerous, much more dangerous is surrendering to a false exploitative teacher. And if you are really lucky then you will get somebody worthwhile to surrender to. Otherwise, the prospect of liberation always brings with it the great probability of enslavement and exploitation, always. This is what you must tell yourself. Even if I am not surrendering to a person, am I not surrendering to the various forces and are they not exploiting me? I am already being exploited, am I not? Just that the exploitation by a person would be far more insidious far more incarcerating, far more poisonous but that does not mean that if I do not surrender I am already liberated. If I do not surrender then I am in the grip of body and society. So, exploited I already am. It’s just that the if I surrender wrongly to a person, my exploitation would amplify many-fold. That threat is there but that does not mean that if I do not surrender I am liberated. Even if I do not surrender, I am already exploited. So, now you have a more proper choice to make. Now, you can say I can either chose my continuing levels of suffering and exploitation or I can chose the prospect of liberation that comes with a great threat of enhanced exploitation. Now, it depends on your dissatisfaction with your existing state. If you are satisfied with the kind of suffering you already have then there is no need to run the risk of added exploitation. But if you feel that you just do not want to bear the suffering you have, then you will say fine, I will run the risk. If I surrender to the wrong one then my life is lost, at the same time there is the possibility of finding the right one. If I find right one then I am through. I will run the risk. No point suffering several cuts a day. I will enter the battle. Either I will win or I will perish.

You know what the trick is? The more you are sensitive to your worldly suffering, worldly and biological suffering, by which I mean suffering due to social and biological reasons. The more easy will it be for you to identify the right teacher. The more sensitive you are to your existing suffering the more sensitive you will be to freedom from suffering, is that not so? If you have only a little pain, very little pain, will it be easy for you to detect whether the pain still is or is gone? You have very little pain and somebody gives you a pill, how will you know the effect of the pill? The pain was so feeble that it will be difficult for you to detect whether is still is or is gone. But if you have intense pain then it will be very easy for you to detect the efficacy of the pill. You take the pill and you will immediately know whether the pill is virtuous or bogus. Your pain is so intense if it reduces you will immediately know.

Therefore, those who are really feeling suffocated in the world do not go wrong with respect to their choice of their teacher. They choose the right teacher. Even if they happen to land at the wrong place, with the wrong teacher, they will know that the pill is not working, why? Because their pain is very intense, when the pain is very intense you demand a real pill. When your pain is very intense then you will not make do for long with placebos and bogus pills. You will say no, no, no, your methods are not working. I have already tried for three months and my pain is very intense I can’t bear it anymore, give me something real or let me go.

Those who are not in much pain in the world, they are the ones who get exploited.

So, they would go to gurus as a thing of fashion. They are not very dissatisfied with their current life but they would want to visit an ashram or some guru or some teacher sit in some Satsang and participate in this ritual or that ritual. Why do they do that? To add to their trophies. You know my sugar mill is already doing fine, my kids are all well settled, all my three wives are beautiful but I thought why not try a bit of spirituality also. So, I went to Chhuttu baba and he say I will perform some Yajna for you just twenty lakh rupees. And instead of sugar crystals your sugar mill will start yielding diamonds. This fellow will be exploited because he has no real pain to began with. He has no real suffering to use as a litmus test. Those who has real sufferings find themselves with the real gurus. Those whose suffering is fake and feeble find themselves with fraudulent teachers. And it’s alright if they are exploited, isn’t it? That’s what they deserve. If they are exploited at least they will gain some real suffering and that real suffering will bring them to the real teacher. So the fraud teachers are doing a remarkable job, I thank all of them and probably myself also if I am one of them. How do I know? Only you can tell. There are so many popular ones going around in the market, I thank all of them. And I pray that their business thrives, the more you cheat people the more they will realize what pain is. Please give more and more pain to your victims, to the innocent ones who have, no, not so innocent ones, seemingly innocent ones who have landed in your trap. Please rob them faster. Strip them off even their skins. At least something will be genuine in their life, what? Suffering.

But all surrender, you can not do it on your own. You will need somebody outside of yourself and that is very-very bad news to the ego. We don’t want to just hear it. How many times have you heard somebody saying, “oh! I learn from my life on my own”? How many times? Innumerable times. And that’s what all the great teachers have taught, you can not do it on your own. The more you do it on your own, the more you will get entangled in your own web.

Anything else?

Q: Recently, I have written down a story that I …. and that I think really would correspond to this talking. The name of the story is - ‘reason why.” You look tired and hungry, said the Rabbit to its compassion. I am, replied the owl. Then why not eat and have your sleep? There is nothing to eat and not sleepy. Allow me, suggested the rabbit. I am available at your disposition. Then the owl said, “You, have you became a Buddhist or something? Yes, sighly answered the rabbit. ‘It is such fun.’ So, you offer yourself to me? “Deadly,” said the rabbit. With the rapt attention her nose twitching sacrifice his great happiness, sorry, not playing, why not? Ask the rabbit. Hurt, Buddhist like that don’t vet the appetite or taste good, snap doul, I prefer a rat.

Acharya: There has to be something to eat. The Rabbit represents the ego. Then the owl is hungry, when you are hungry, you don’t want nothing to eat. The rabbit is saying, “I become Buddhist, so I am - Nothing.” The owl says, “Sorry, not playing, people like you don’t vet my appetite at all because you offer me nothing to eat.” Once, the ego reduces to zero, is there anything it has to fear? Then it offers itself as sacrifice, like the rabbit is offering itself to the owl. And the funny thing is then the owl refuses to take the sacrifice because there is nothing left to be sacrificed. As long as the rabbit wants to avoid the owl, the owl will go after the rabbit. The moment, the rabbit is prepared to offer itself to the owl, that itself is an indication that the now there is nothing at all left to be offered. So, the owl says, “No, not playing.”

You see the curious nature of the whole thing? The more you try to save yourself, the more you carry death within you, yourself. When you are prepared to let go of yourself, death becomes disinterested in you. In other words, you try to save only that which is susceptible to death. All that you try to save is vulnerable to death and therefore is not worth saving. When you do not try to save it means you have now come upon something that death can not take away. So, death stays away. Death stays away and you are able to freely offer your body, take the body.

Owl says, “I would rather prefer a rat.” Do not think that owls prefer rats over rabits, but the owl is saying “I would rather prefer a non-buddhist over a Buddhist.” Now, if the rat too says, “Come owl take me,” then the owl would spare the rat as well. There is nothing there to take. “It’s not the body that I am after, I am the great death, I am after the ego and if there is no ego left to be taken then I have nothing to do with you. I spare you.” This is called deathlessness. The owl here is not the destroyer of the body, the owl here is the destroyer of the ego. The rat is attractive only as long as it has the rat ego. If the rat too stands up and offers itself to the owl, the owl will say, “Tuff luck, double whammy, it’s a bad night.”

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