Doership and personal responsibility

Q. Is the standpoint of the Vedanta man not the doer? If so, where does his/her personal responsibility begin and end? (from Quora)

A. Individual man is a doer (and an enjoyer) so long as s/he identifies themselves as such, thus reaping the results of their actions. If the presumed – seemingly independent – individual knows that s/he is in essence the supreme Knower/Actor, that is, pure Consciousness, then actions, enjoyments, happen, but s/he does not claim any of that: any response comes directly and spontaneously from Consciousness.

Bear in mind, though, that it is not Consciousness itself which acts, rather it is behind all actions: ‘It is the hearing of hearing, touch of touch, mind of mind’, speech of speech’, etc. (Ke Up, 1-2) as their background or substrate.

‘Mind alone – when ignorant – is the cause of bondage and mind alone – when enlightened – is the cause of liberation’ (Amrita Bindu). M.

1 thought on “Doership and personal responsibility

  1. Hi Martin,

    This is an important question, which many Neo-advaitins fluff. If I may add to your reply . . .

    When advaita says you are not the body / the doer / the enjoyer, it is saying that you are not ONLY (the apparently separate) body / doer / enjoyer, but you are consciousness and all that appears in consciousness. There is no separation. The mind has mistaken the consciousness that is aware of the body / mind / world to be associated with just this body / mind.

    With jnana, the mind is radically de-conditioned from this ‘I’-thought, such that personal selfishness cannot arise. Then any acts are impersonal, for the good of the world, as Krishna said to Arjuna. That is the advaitic context in which personal responsibility has to be understood.

    Nisargadatta summed it up:

    “A man who knows that he is neither body nor mind cannot be selfish, for he has nothing to be selfish for. Or you may say he is equally “selfish” on behalf of everybody he meets; everybody’s welfare is his own. The feeling “I am the world, the world is myself” becomes quite natural; once it is established, there is just no way of being selfish. To be selfish means to covet, acquire, accumulate on behalf of the part against the whole”

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