Skip to main content


The sages and scriptures tell us, "You are not the doer." Specifically it is Lord Krishna who counsels his disciple Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita to act without the idea of doership. This is the basis of karma yoga or the path of selfless action. Millennia later the sage Ramana Maharshi echoed this teaching.

What does it mean to act selflessly?

That you are to sever identification with the various roles you play in life. It is the student who studies, the spouse who supports his family, the human that eats, breathes, sleeps, etc. But you are none of these. You are merely the witness, the overriding consciousness associated with a certain body and mind that thinks certain thoughts and moves through life performing various actions. So you are spirit.

But what of this body, what of this role you play? Who is controlling it? Certainly not you, since you are merely the witness. God? But God is omnipresent, so you are God. A force/energy/presence? Merely another name for God. Let's not get lost in the semantics. What this notion of doership brings up is the concept of free will versus determinism.

Determinists like Chapman Cohen would say that "if we knew the quality and inclination of all the forces bearing upon human nature, in the same way that we know the forces determining the motions of the planet, then the forecasting of conduct would become a mere problem in moral mathematics." In other words, where you begin in life - who you were born to, what genes you carry, the time in which you were born - determines the next stage of life, which determines the next, and each action and thought is like a domino setting in motion the next.

Strangely this fact is not at odds with the notion of free will. What most people believe when they assert, "I am free," is that they are under no external compulsion to act a certain way. You are free to do something you wish to do, and not made to do said thing by someone holding a gun to your head.

But if your wishes are determined by your environment and upbringing, is that really freedom? Does the person who has never been exposed to ice cream, never seen, tasted or even heard of the dessert, get a craving to have a hot fudge sundae? No. He is not free to have a hot fudge sundae in that this is not an available option in his life; but if moves to a neighborhood with McDonald's and tastes a bite and wishes to enjoy a whole dessert for himself, he can do so, since "it is a free country" after all. Provided of course he has two dollars.

So the concept of one's not being the doer has a deeper significance. Not only are you not the body and mind that goes about daily life, but rather the witnessing consciousness merely along for the ride; moreover, even this body and mind are not the doers, in that they are under compulsion to think and act not by some external force but by the preferences they have developed over the course of their experience, modified by personality and genes. So there is no doer. At the level of the body and mind, we can say that there is doing. But at the level of spirit, there is only being.

So Vince Vaughn had it right when he said: "Be there." Of course he was talking to his car (in Dodgeball) but applied to one's own life it makes really good advice.


Popular posts from this blog


I was watching the TV show Naked and Afraid last night as I sometimes do. The show teams together two strangers, a man and a woman, who attempt to survive on their own for a period of 21 days in some remote and isolated region. Some of the locales featured include the Australian Outback, the Amazonian rainforest and the African Savanna. The man may have a military background, or be an adventurist or deep sea fisherman. Sometimes he's an ordinary dude who lives with mom. The woman is a park ranger or extreme fitness enthusiast or "just a mom" herself. Sometimes the couple quarrel, sometimes one or both "tap out" (quit) in a fit of anger or illness. It is satisfying to see them actually make it through the challenge and reach their extraction point. The victors are usually exhausted, emaciated, begrimed and bare ass naked. 

Even more satisfying, at least for me, is the occasional ass shot, snuck in at strategic intervals to boost viewership, of course. It's co…


In my days in the working world, doing the traditional 9 to 5 thing - although when I was a teacher it was more like 10 to 2 and 6 to 9; and as a doctor it was often 6 to 6 - I saw how easy it is to fall into the traps of so-called civilized life. I'm talking about modern vices. Things like drinking, smoking, drug use, promiscuity, and a diet of processed food, with or without animal flesh.

During my senior year of high school I decided it was necessary for me to abstain from these five vices. Each day that I didn't 1. drink alcohol, 2. smoke cigarettes, 3. do drugs, 4. eat meat, and 5. have sex or masturbate, was a day lived in the right direction. The direction of purity, divinity, wholesomeness, God consciousness. It was a way of distancing myself from my more earthy peers, who even at the tender age of 17 were indulging in many of these fleshy pursuits, and on a daily basis. I had soccer teammates who smoked a pack of cigarettes, getting their fixes before school, between …


I hereby proclaim that June is meditation month. And July and August and some of September too. For me at least. During the hundred days that comprise summer, give or take, I have taken it upon myself to "assume the position" for approximately one hour each day, usually divided into two 30-minute sessions. During this time I sit in front of a candle flame, let my breathing subside, and with it my mental activity, and literally count the seconds.

The reductive tendency that is emblematic of science has penetrated schools of meditation, and there are many, each of which advertises its particular breed as, if not being the best, at least boasting novel or specific benefits not found in other forms of meditation. 

For example, there is mindfulness, which is the monitoring of thoughts. There is concentration or focus, as on an object or the breath. There is transcendental meditation, which uses the inward repetition of a phrase, or mantra, to "allow your active mind to easily …