Who is the doer?

From the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati

There is a universal force which is compelling one to move, to act and to think. Everything is happening spontaneously. A person thinks he is doing the action. However, if he goes a bit deeper, if he is a bit honest with himself, and if he puts aside his ego, then he will realize that he is not doing anything, but the things are happening. He is only identifying himself with the action and thinking, ‘I am doing it’.


There is an analogy about a man inside a train, running along the aisle with his luggage on his head. Someone asks him why he is running, and he replies, “I want to go faster and get there quicker.”

The involvement of the ego is so great that one identifies with each and every thing that is happening in life, with every commotion and every emotion, with everything that one is doing: one is happy, one is unhappy; one is great and one is not great. Where is this ‘I’? If this ‘I’ is everything, where is the universal force? This universal force controls everything within the body. The digestive system is not under one’s control, because if it becomes constipated one does not know how to relieve it. One cannot even remove constipation. For a headache one needs aspirin. How can one say that things are under one’s control?

If one is the doer, the actor, the perpetrator of an action, then one should be in control of each and every thing. One creates the headache and one removes it. One has a fever of 101, 102, or 103 degrees, one can let the fever come and throw it off. One is angry and says, “No more.” Who can do that? No one can do it, because one is not in control of the happenings in the body and outside the body, from before birth, in life and death and after death. The scheme is there, the plan is there, and one just has to participate in it.


The most important wisdom is that life is a combination of the three gunas. While performing his duties, an ignorant person continues to think that he is doing them, whereas a yogi thinks that prakriti is getting everything done. Prakriti is the executive. The syllable pra is the prefix, which means ‘intensity’, and kriti means ‘work’. Prakriti means the doer, the executive. The body, senses, mind and intellect are the instruments of prakriti, but the moment one says that one is the doer, one is bound by the laws of karma. It is said in the Bhagavad Gita (18:16):

Tatraivam sati kartaaram aatmaanam kevalam tu yah;
Pashyatyakritabuddhitwaan na sa pashyati durmatih.

Now, such being the case, the person of perverted intelligence, who looks upon his self, which is isolated, as the agent, he sees not, owing to untrained understanding.

The three gunas are continuously interacting, although only one is overriding the other two. When sattwa prevails in an individual, tamas and rajas are suppressed. Some individuals in society may have complete control over the gunas, but they are exceptions. In such cases, the individual is not a victim of the spontaneous interaction of the three gunas. They work as his servants, according to the dictates of his will. He becomes the master and the three gunas are at his command. A yogi is in reality a master of the three gunas. He gets the ability to expel and employ darkness, ignorance, passions, actions, ambitions, purity and enlightenment. They come to him at will, when he wants, and do not come when he does not. It is said in the Bhagavad Gita (5:14):

Na kartritwam na karmaani lokasya srijati prabhuh;
Na karmaphala samyogam swabhaavas tu pravartate.

Neither agency nor actions does the Lord create for the world, nor union with the fruits of actions; it is nature that acts.

The yogi has given up all idea of agency. He treats the body as an instrument of God that is given to him for the fulfilment of His purpose. He attributes all activities to the divine actor within and escapes from the bondage of karma. He is freed from the wheel of birth and death. It is said in the Bhagavad Gita (14:19):

Naanyam gunebhyah kartaaram yadaa drashtaanupashyati;
Gunebhyashcha param vetti madbhaavam so’dhigacchati.

When the seer beholds no agent other than the gunas, knowing that which is higher than them, he attains to My Being.


The Bhagavad Gita evolves a new technique or tune on which Lord Krishna harps from the beginning till the end. He says, there is a faculty, a mood of awareness called drashta, or the seer. It is not the doer, enjoyer, or sufferer. Drashta is one who is not subject to destiny. He is the one who is always aware of what is taking place. This faculty of awareness is unmanifest in an ignorant man, but manifest in a person of wisdom.

When a person says, “I am suffering”, or “I am enjoying”, it is true. But, at the same time, he is aware of the fact that ‘he is enjoying’. This awareness is a special privilege to man, and is not to be found among animals. The faculty to witness consciousness has to be evolved by separating the witnessing consciousness from the personality. It is a new technique that Lord Krishna has evolved.

Purusha is not an actor, he is not the doer but he is a force, like electrical energy. He is the force behind, but he is not karta, the doer, nor bhokta, the enjoyer. He is just the drashta, who sees the whole game.