Dissolving the Doer

Sundar Kadayam Uncategorized 21 Comments

Certain childhood stories are taking on an entire new, deep meaning when I look at them today. One such story, below, was brought back to my memory when a friend recently shared this online.

Hindu mythology is replete with amazing stories. One such source is the epic known as Mahabharatha (pronounced Mahaa Bhaarathaa). This epic is the setting that witnesses one of the ten incarnations of the preserver deity Vishnu, in the form of Krishna. This epic is also the background in which flows forth the scripture known as The Bhagavad Gita (literally The Song of God). This story, below, which I reframe in my own words, is also one such, said to be sourced from the Mahabharatha, though I cannot confirm this myself. Veractiy of the source aside, the story and its message is what I’m trying to share here.

Arjuna, the greatest archer and warrior hero of the Mahabharatha, is walking along with his friend and Guru, Krishna. Fate has placed Karna,another famed archer and warrior, on the opposite side of everything from Arjuna. Karna’s own fame has been a source of irritation and jealousy for Arjuna. This is one such situation where Arjuna’s jealousy boils over. “Why is Karna seen as the ideal giver, the role model of Dhaana? Why not me?”, Arjuna asks, demanding an answer from Krishna. Dhaana, in Sanskrit, means the act of giving.

Krishna, as he does so often throughout the epic, treats this as a teaching moment. With a snap of his fingers, Krishna transforms the two mountains on either side of their walking path into gold! Turning to Arjuna, Krishna says “Distribute these two mountains of gold among the villagers. But be sure to give away every last bit of gold.”

“Simple enough”, Arjuna thinks to himself. Huffing up in pride, Arjuna springs into action, goes to the village, and proclaims proudly,”Hear me all! I, Arjuna, am going to make huge donations of gold now. Gather in an orderly line at the mountains outside the village!”

Singing praises of Arjuna and his generosity, the villagers file in a long line near the mountains. Seeing this large gathering, and feeling enormous pride in anticipation of his big act of giving, Arjuna starts the process. Shoveling large amounts of gold from the first mountain, Arjuna gives away huge piles of gold to each villager. Two full days and nights of relentless toil and giving pass for Arjuna. All the villagers have received gold. To his dismay, Arjuna sees that the gold in the mountains haven’t diminished even a bit. Never one to give up, Arjuna summons the villagers to come back in line to get more. This goes on for a few more days. Tired to the bone, unable to move a limb, Arjuna sees that all his giving hasn’t reduced the gold in the mountains, but his ego doesn’t permit him to give up. Soon enough though, the limitations of his body are laid bare. Swallowing his ego, suppressing it the best he could, Arjuna tells Krishna, who has been peacefully witnessing all this, that he gives up, that he cannot go forward any more with this task.

Krishna then summons Karna. “Karna, I have a task for you. You must donate every last bit of gold from these two mountains.”

Barely pausing for a moment, Karna calls forth two villagers and tells them, “See those two mountains of gold. They are yours to do as you please.” And bowing in respect to Krishna, Karna leaves.

Arjuna sits dumbfounded. Karna did this task successfully in seconds, that took him days of hard work without success. “How come I didn’t think of what Karna did?” Arjuna asks Krishna meekly.

With his trademark, all-knowing, mischievous smile, Krishna proceeds to tell him, “Arjuna, you were attracted to the gold and assumed it was yours. You thought you would indulge in this great act of giving. And then, you proceeded to give the gold, regretfully to the villagers, giving each one, what you thought was a generous amount of gold. The portions you gave away were limited by your thinking, your mind’s imagination!” 

“Karna, on the other hand,” Krishna proceeds, “had no such thinking. He had no attachment to the gold. His task was to give the gold away. He gave away the fortune. He’s now walking away without any expectation for people to sing his praises or worry about whether they complain about him. This is a man on the path to enlightenment.”

The teaching moment helps Arjuna realize the folly of his ego, and how it committed him to being the doer, and how, with it, came all the limitations and problems. Not being bound by attachments, and not having a pride of ownership and doership, Karna was able to have the clarity to complete the task at hand with barely any doing.

What does this simple, yet powerful story tell us, as Reiki practitioners today?

How is the sense of doership affecting our healing work?

Are we entering our healing work with the same puffed up ego that we are the healer, and that we know what to do to help a given person heal? Are we trying to achieve a certain healing outcome in a healing session? Are we attached to a certain picture of what healing would be / should be for a given person? Are we trying to work hard on getting a certain sensation to occur at a certain part of the body in our healing work? If the honest answer is, “Yes!”, then this a learning moment for us. All this signify attachment, pride, and the grip of the ego, and what comes with this package is doership. As we see from Arjuna’s experience, the sense of doership is inherently limiting. It leaves no room for clarity to dawn, for the infinite to take care of the doing, utilizing you as an instrument. Which way will we proceed? That is a choice we have to make.

How about our compassion for others?

Are we thinking we are better than the other, and from that better place, we need to give the other something like advice, or healing or love or things? Is our giving happening with strings attached? Is our compassion a thin veil for our pity, our sympathy? Again, if the honest answer is “Yes!”, then this is a learning moment for us. Our desires, our sense of self, our attachments, our pride, and the grip of the ego may be corrupting our sense of compassion. Giving without strings, love without expectations, listening without judgment, these are signs of true compassion, that can come forth only when there is no doership. Which way will we proceed? That is a choice we have to make.

How about our personal practice?

Do we try to achieve something when we sit in personal practice, be it meditation, hands on healing on oneself, chanting or any other method, even if that is peace, or happiness or whatever? Sitting with our practice, are we trying to rekindle a previous heightened experience? Does the practice goes towards fueling chest puffing claims about our prowess with meditation etc.? If the honest answer is “Yes!”, then this is a learning moment for us. The objective of the practice is the practice itself. The emergence of heightened experiences, the unfolding of peace and calm, these are what come from right practice. But if we get caught up in that, attached to that, then the point of the practice is lost in the sense of doership. Which way will we proceed? That is a choice we have to make. 

Will we dissolve the doer? Or will we strengthen its grip on us?

I see Usui san’s teachings as helping us dissolve the doer, by helping us surrender the ego and sense of doership!

What are some practical ways that have worked for you in dissolving the doer? Please share in the comments below.

Sundar Kadayam is a Shinpiden graduate of the International House of Reiki.

Comments 21

  1. Very well said, Sundar. I love the story. It really reflects the ego’s desparate desire to be wanted overriding a more patient commonsense approach to the task at hand.

  2. Hi Sundar,

    Karan is my favorite character , after off course Krishna. He won the title of ” Daanveer Karan ” because of his selfless giving. There are so many stories about him in Mahabharata and Gita.

    However he also had a weakness . He wanted to prove he was a better warrior than Arjun , and he had self worth issues due to all sorts of wrong doings that were done to him all his life.

    Due to all that , even though he was much more deserving and qualified he end up figting for “Adharma” or wrong side. Because his thinking got deluded with the above issues.

    I know it’s not related with this article but I think it is a lesson in our journey. Even if sometimes we are doing or ” not doing ” , if we have other issues like low self worth, trying to prove, compare etc. it can prove otherwise.
    I think in Gita Krishna told Karan he could have tried to help people who were suppressed to become stronger , help bringing them together instead of going for a ” war” to prove his worth. He also said that he should have directed his anger in constructive way to help humanity.

    I , myself in so many ways reflect Karan story (ies) with my life journey , and it inspires so much.

    Sorry , if I stepped out a bit …from theam of the blog.

    I think there are so many great teachings , only if we can implement them in our lives…all the time.

    I am still thinking of what I do , not to be a “doer” ๐Ÿ™‚

    Typing from phone, sorry for typos ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hi Sundar,

    Great story. I often feel there is a lot of jealousy around in healing groups, which is a pity as it is not very healing at all. Students feel jealous about others due to all sorts of reasons, but it is all about attachment and having strings attached. As you say we need to investigate why we feel jealous and not complain about it. Instead we need to learn how to be compassionate in groups. It is a very important issue and have seen this in many group settings. As you say love without any expectation, be in a group without any expectation, learn without any expectation, practice without any expectation.

    Love
    Frans

  4. “Dissolving the doer” certainly says it, doesn’t it, Sundar? Thank you for another great post. And Frans, your comment cuts right to the chase. Or goal is to serve, to grow, to be, whether we’re teaching or learning, not to be the great teacher, student, healer, “the great so-and-so,” the great competitor. Our whole society is so competitive that I can’t even read an article abut cooking without the author’s bio noting that “she runs every day in LA” or whatever. What does that have to do with a recipe? Nothing. But they can’t bear to leave it out. People come to healing for many reasons, and one of them is to make money. Making a great reputation for yourself matters as much now as it did back in Jesus’s day, when miracle workers were a dime a dozen. There are still people who look at Jesus’s healing miracles rather than His spiritual teachings and come away deluded, as there are people who look at Usui Founder’s healings rather than his spiritual teachings and come away deluded. I think both of them would be horrified. As you say, Sundar, true healing comes when we set our ego aside and let what will come come as it may. This may not be easy when we’re putting our hands down on someone we love, or on ourselves, and praying they or we will be cured. It may not be easy when we’re teaching a class and seeing someone who, despite our best efforts, just doesn’t get it. But this isn’t about us. It’s about dissolving the doer. God bless.

  5. Russell, thank you.  As you say, patience is a key to our personal practice, and to our healing work, and to our teaching/sharing.  Frans often reminds us of this.  Patience, to me, seems to be not as much about tolerating what is happening now but fuming inside from resistance.  Patience, to me, seems a lot like allowing what is happening in the moment, accepting what is, and acting as needed from that space of allowing and accepting.  Can we successfully bring that attitude / stance into our lives, our work?  Certainly a worthy idea that can weaken the “I” over time.

    Seema:  As you point out, there are layers of lessons to be learned from stories like this one, or the life of characters like Karna as portrayed in the epic.  The need to prove oneself, as you say, is one more “I” thing that can drive us off track and into dead ends.  Who is the one that needs to prove oneself, right?  All those stories are so rich with lessons that extremely relevant even today, some 2000+ years from the time they were said to be written.  Thank you!

    Frans: Thanks for shining the light on the notion of jealousy and how it impacts our work together with other practitioners and healing groups.  Jealousy seems to be intimately tied with resentment, which in turn is based on fear – fear of rivalry might be what triggers that in a group setting.  Another distraction from the path and the practice.  The pull of the “I” is so strong that it can skew our life in unbelievable number of ways. 

    Elly: Your comment makes me wonder why it is that we, as humans, in general, are so taken in by miracles?  Those extraordinary occurrences that seem to shed a glimpse into a life beyond the limitations and suffering that we all feel at some time or the other – why do these hold our attention as they do?  Why does it, so often, drive us to seek out more of those miracles and the producers of the same?  Thinking out aloud … could it be that the occurrence of a genuine miracle (versus sleight of hand or other trickery) is one way Nature gives us a chance to see into the world beyond the form, the one that isn’t constrained by space-time, the realm of the infinite?  And in giving us the chance, is the event delivering the miracle meant to be a teacher for us in that moment?  Of course, as you say, often most of us don’t look past the miracle and to its source, and in which case, the miracle, even a legitimate one, becomes one more way we get ensnared in illusion, creating even more bondage in/of the “I”.

  6. Coincidentally, I read a lovely passage this morning from the Katha Upanishad on dissolving the doer and merging with the All: “As pure water poured into pure water becomes the very same, so does the Self of the illumined man or woman verily become one with the Godhead.” I love the image of the water pouring into the water, whether what comes to mind is a pitcher or a waterfall!

  7. Thanks for sharing this story Sundar. It’s humbling to notice just how much we stand in our own way. In a way, I understand this in my experience to be a form of fear / resistance to vulnerability. When I surrender the idea of control to the reality as it is, the doer has no place to stand. Much easier typed than lived though ^_^.

  8. I was reading this story again and was thinking , Often we tend to “do nice things” in a group setting , where there is lot of audience and people to see what we are doing so we can get a name etc. how ever it is not quite same if there is no one to “watch”.

    well , because than how can we tell we did such and such thing, how than we can sing our own song and have some one to praise .

    I think that is also expecting things in return or have ego that we are the “doer” just like the story above.

    Sundar , I really resonant with you on patience part :), yes it is not about “tolerating” what is happening but how much we are fuming inside , are we really allowing it to happen and accept and than act accordingly !. It requires so so much strength to be able to that and I agree it can and does weaken the “I” slowly . But this also takes persistent effort to keep trying.

    I used to think I am a very patient and persistent person ๐Ÿ˜‰ , funny to see and uncover different sides of “I” , multi facet personality award can go to ego any time ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Hi All,
    Yes Ia agree our society is so competitive, sad to see. We get educated like this in schools etc.. so hard not to take it on board.

    All serious spiritual traditions warn about not being attached to the “miracle” stuff, let it go, else it will go to our head ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Like the water blending with water, I always see hands on healing or reiju like that as well. The client and the practitioner, water mixes with water, becoming one.

    Often in courses people get jealous about other students, or some even with the teacher. Not always that easy. But we have to realize that one is not better then the other. Sometimes a teacher needs to explain something and needs a student to be part of the explanation, the teacher needs to pick teh right student else what she wants to explain might not work if it is not the right student and therefore what she tries to explain will not be explained.
    In Japan a teacher might have many students but only a few Deshi, the Deshi is the student who learns all the deeper teachings due to their ability and karmic link. But that doesn’t mean that someone who is not a Deshi is not good. Think this is very important.

    Some people might say that they speak their true and point towards the precepts to indicate this but then they have forgotten the compassion precept. Even if they are jealous they need to be compassionate to others. If that makes sense.

    Great stuff…

  10. Your comment about the worth of the Deshi and the worth of the students who aren’t Deshi being very important certainly resonates with me, Frans! It brings to mind the movie “Zen,” where Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen, chose his successor because he was a Deshi, over his dearest friend. He obviously loved his friend and found his friend valuable, even essential to his progress, throughout his life. Clearly, the founder of the Zen that is practiced throughout most of the West did not think that “someone who is not a Deshi is not good.” He simply recognized that those who were Deshi had one role and those who weren’t had another, and that those who were might have greater gifts but those who weren’t might have greaer love.

  11. Hi Elly,
    Yes we can see the Deshi in movies like that and also in many other Japanese arts.
    But as you say one is not better then the other just different but sometimes this is hard to accept for a student.

    Funny as I sometimes also see jealousy between teachers, but this is again really pointing towards their own insecurity. The deeper we go, the more we practice we gain 100% faith which helps us to let go of this kind of thing. When we have faith in our practice jealousy will be gone.

    Love
    Frans

  12. Thank you Frans and Elly for this enriching and thought provoking discussion. I haven’t watched the movie , will place in my list ๐Ÿ™‚
    Elly love how you have put it –  some have greater gifts and some love.

    I was also thinking as a student some times we place so much more expectations on the teacher, how they should do this and that, we see them with our own eyes of ” perfection” , start expecting things every time , all the time, same things ..but I think we often fail to look at ourselves how are we doing ? Are we sincere , honest, open to constructive criticism?

    In all spiritual traditions that I know , they have laid out ” duties ” for both – teachers as well as students.

    We should not forget that. Cannot think of exact quote right now but it to is something like the bigger container you have the more water you can get from the ocean. If your container is too small you can’t blame the ocean for the that.

    It is same with the teacher , we cannot blame the teacher if we ourselves are not being open for learning.

    This is a lesson I need to reflect on myself..

    Thank you for this thought provoking discussion , a essential part of practice and learning as a student I think.

  13. Hi Frans and Seema, it saddens me when I see jealousy, insecurity and the like at play in Reiki, whether teaching, learning, or healing. We all have our own gifts, and we all have our own shortcomings, and I think that one of life’s lessons is to learn which are inherent and which we can work on, and accept both without resentment or jealousy. Perhaps we’ll never be as intuitive as others we know, or as strongly empathic, or as excellent teachers or healers. Or perhaps we’re stronger in one thing or another.  But perhaps, through the Precepts, we can become calmer, more patient, more compassionate, more kind. Seema, you must watch “Zen”!!! You’ll love it. And I love your comment about the ocean.

  14. Sundar, thank you for this thoughtful retelling of a Hindu story.  I have enjoyed reading the reflection and following the thread of the conversation.  It is so difficult to let go of the ‘I’ in everything we do, including when we respond to a public forum like this.  Because of the beautiful references to the ocean, I am going to add a poem by Rumi that I read yesterday.  I see my ‘I’, my physical/mental/emotional/spiritual self in this world as a splash coming up out of the ocean.  Upon my death, the splash settles back into the ocean of consciousness.
    Thank you!
    Susan

    โ€œCup and Ocean,โ€ THE SOUL OF RUMI: A NEW COLLECTION OF ECSTATIC POEMS (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), p. 155

    These forms we seem to be
    are cups floating
    in an ocean of living consciousness.

    They fill and sink
    without leaving an arc of bubbles
    or any good-bye spray.

    What we are is that ocean,
    too near to see,
    though we swim in it
    And drink it in.

    Donโ€™t be a cup with a dry rim,
    or someone who rides all night
    and never knows

    the horse beneath his thighs,
    the surging that carries him along.

  15. Hi Susan,
    Thanks for sharing the lovely poem. Yes , we do not want to be a cup with a dry rim :).
    The only way to cross this ocean is by deeping and drowning in it and not by taking cover or refuge of a boat ..

    Elly , yes I would be watching the movie soon , sounds like a good one :).Glad you liked the ocean lines , i will try to look for exact quote

    So true so hard some times to accept things and get swayed from the path. I think Jealousy and to be compatative etc. is a very normal human emotion like Frans said we are taught from very begining to be competitive and than we sort of layer it around us. So true Elly perhaps with Reiki precepts we would be able to one day embody the compassion.

    Few lines-

    Look straight at your senses
    see what it is-
    and its grip over you will soon loosen

    so hard to look self and so easy to see in others ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. I love all the stories about how Shams of Tabriz, Rumi’s Great Sufi teacher, had to work to suppress his ego. There’s a wonderful one about how Shams, who was wild-looking, sort of like an unpredictable homeless person, maybe even a madman, showed up unexpectedly in Rumi’s library while Rumi was teaching a class. (Imagine a homeless person suddenly showing up in the middle of your Reiki class!) Looking around, Shams noticed that Rumi was holding a book. “What’s that book you’re teaching from?” he asked. “Oh,” Rumi condescendingly responded, “You wouldn’t understand.” Before he had finished speaking, the library caught fire. “What’s going on here?!” he shouted. “You wouldn’t understand either,” Shams replied, and he got up and left. As Seema says, ego is so easy to see in others, so hard in ourselves.

  17. Love the discussion and the juicy tidbits of wisdom you are sharing.  Thanks all.  I’ll add a couple of short quotes from Kabir, a mystic saint who lived in India in the early 1500s:

    โ€œโ€Ž“Life the veil that obscures the heart, and there you will find what you are looking for.โ€
    ——
    โ€œFaith,Waiting in the heart of a seed, Promises a miracle of life which cannot prove at once.โ€
    ——
    โ€œSlowly slowly O mind…
    Everything in own pace happens,
    Gardner may water a hundred buckets…
    Fruit arrives only in its season.โ€
    ——

    Pointers to our ongoing practice in dissolving the doer!

  18. Hi Sundar,

    Kabir is my favorite poet , his teachings during that period were very forward and advance and he faced so much ctiticisim for that. So relevant for our practice!

    There is another one , that I like . I know in Hindi but it’s meaning is
    When I went out to see bad and evil in , he couldn’t find any where no matter where he looked. Than he saw within his own mind and found the real evil/ bad was in his own mind, which was unchecked.

    When we accuse others , etc. It is our own mind which does the finger pointing , so we need to look within and heal our own mind first.

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