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What matters more: the action or the actor? || (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
5 min
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Questioner: At one place you say, “To know your intentions watch your actions”. But at some other place you say, “Action does not matter, the actor does.” I see a contradiction here. Kindly clarify.

Acharya Prashant: When I say, “To know your intentions watch your actions”, I want you to be guarded against the hypocrisy of the Ego.

The Ego loves to carry images of everything, it lives in imaginations. It has no truth therefore all that it has is images. So it has images of everything, and obviously, it has an image of itself as well. So the Ego thinks: “This is how I am, this is what I want”, and it obviously carries a self-concept that is conducive to its own survival. That’s all the Ego wants. It wants to keep fattening. It wants to continue in time — survival is its aim.

So the Ego carries an image, and obviously, it’s a false self-image. How do we challenge this image? How do we know that this image is false? By seeing what is it that we are actually doing, how is it that we are actually living. And there we would usually find a gap, a dissonance.

We might keep thinking to ourselves that we are quite brave but then, we are forced to look at our life, our decisions, that is when we discover that there is hardly any bravery evident in our actions, in our choices. If you do not look at your life, you can happily keep imagining, for a long time, that you are the bravest one on the earth.

How do I discover that the Ego is living in deliberate falseness about itself? By seeing my choices, my actions. So I say, “Watch your actions.” That is where you will discover that you are living in falseness. Or you will discover that all is well about you. Fine! And then when I say that, “Actions do not matter, the actor does” what I mean to say is that when you are to decide upon an action, you have to be very careful about where the action is coming from. The action comes from the actor.

Why do we have to be mindful of the actor rather than the action? Because we are the actor. Because it is the actor that feels and suffers. The action is just a manifestation of the actor. The actor is the real thing. Why is the actor the real thing? Because all this discussion is for the sake of the actor. I am the actor you are the actor. The actor wants to understand. The actor is restless. The action is not restless. Action in that sense is an insentient, inanimate thing.

Actions have no sentience, no consciousness. The actor is sentient. The actor has consciousness.

The actor, we said, “suffers”. And because it is the actor that suffers, therefore all the emphasis has to be on knowing the actor.

So looking at action is obviously important, but you are not looking at action in order to know action itself. You are looking at action to know the actor. Looking at action and getting involved with the assessment of the action will not take you very far.

Action can be deceptive. The actor, to hide himself or to project a particular kind of image, can indulge in deceptive action.

We experience that every day. Don’t we? Somebody comes with a very broad grin on his face, the grin, the smile is the action, but that action is deceptive. You know very well that the person is not really joyful from the inside. He is smiling at you, but he does not even really wish you well. Therefore action, though insignificant in itself, is yet an important means to come to the actor.

The moot point remains this: you must know who you are.

We are the Ego-self and the Ego-self feels incomplete all the time, and therefore, it is mandatory for it to indulge in action. How can it rest? It cannot rest feeling incomplete, insufficient, problemed all the time. Therefore it continues to continuously keep acting. Therefore, the Ego is the actor.

And since we are the Ego, therefore to know ourselves is to know the doer. There is no way to know ourselves except by knowing the doer. And the doer is an invisible entity. How will you detect the doer? You cannot look at the doer with your eyes. All that you can look at with your eyes is the doing. Therefore, doing is important. You want to know the actor but the actor is invisible, therefore you must look at the action.

You must look at the action and that makes action important. But action is important only because it will lead you to the actor. Otherwise, action by itself holds little value.

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