Q.545 – How can I ‘do’ anything?

A: You need to differentiate between absolute and empirical reality (paramārtha and vyavahāra). In reality, you are Brahman, and the body-mind is just an appearance (name and form of Brahman). But this knowledge does not negate the appearance. The body-mind continues its apparent existence in the apparent world until the expiry of its prārabdha karma, when it ‘dies’. This means that its operation is governed by the ‘laws of creation’, or science if you prefer. (Of course, there is no creation from the absolute perspective.)

So the body has to eat, the mind has to perceive and make decisions etc. etc. All of these things are natural and lawful from the empirical perspective. The ‘decisions’ that you make are governed by the knowledge that you have acquired to date and the circumstances etc. I.e. No free-will but no predestination either. (Note that what I say on the topic of free-will are my own views and do not entirely correspond with traditional Advaita, whereas everything else I say endeavors to do so.)

‘Who-you-really-are’ does not tell the body-mind anything! ‘Who-you-really-are’ does not do anything, not even ‘observe’! If you want to split this into responsibilities, it would be the intellect – buddhi (making a discriminatory decision) that tells the automatic aspect of the mind – manas – to eat better. Mind and body are inert matter (subtle and gross respectively). It is ‘who-you-really-are’ that is the ‘animating power’. Hope this helps! Your question is really asking for an in-depth explanation of most of Advaita and that can obviously not be done in a couple of paragraphs. You will probably find the explanations of ‘Who am I?’, from ‘Confusions Vol. 1’ helpful. These are at sections 3.s.viii – x or, if you don’t have the book, I posted them at https://www.advaita-vision.org/pratibandha-s-part-5-of-7/ and https://www.advaita-vision.org/pratibandha-s-part-6-of-7/.  

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