Become a Mahakarta and a Mahabhokta (Part I)

Surya Tahora

Author: Surya Tahora

Date: Thu, 2016-10-06 13:35

सर्वाः शङ्काः परित्यज्य धैर्यमालम्ब्य शाश्व्तम् ।

महाकर्ता महाभोक्ता महात्यागी भवानघ ॥

After giving up all your doubts, cling to the truth, and  you will become a Great Doer, a Great Experiencer, a  Great Renouncer, O Rama! Yoga Vasistha VI

Moment after moment, life puts us in various situations and calls on us to act. Vasistha teaches Rama to adopt the attitude of a Mahakarta and Mahabhokta in order to live more fully. Is this teaching relevant for all of us absorbed and sometimes entangled in action? How can we shift from being a simple karta and bhokta to become a Mahakarta, a Great Doer, and a Mahabhokta, a Great Experiencer?

To start with, let us define what the words karta and bhokta mean in Sanskrit. A karta is a doer. We all have the sense that “I” am doing this action, I am the author of this particular action and not that action. I decided to do it, I initiated it and I am responsible for it. A bhokta is the enjoyer or rather the experiencer of the results of her own actions or situations, pleasant, neutral or unpleasant, unfolding in her life, moment after moment. 

Then, we can distinguish three types of action – the action of the one acts while being overwhelmed by situations or inner pressures, the one who makes an attempt to be a true karta and the one who is a Mahakarta.

The first level is characterised by reaction and not action, as it goes along with the pressure of personal likes and dislikes, or ragas and dveshas. It is mechanical, impulsive and fraught with subjectivity, fear, anxiety and other afflictive emotions. It is devoid of any concern for others and is primarily preoccupied with the fulfillment of individual ragas and dveshas. In other words, ragas and dveshas run the show!

As I grow as an individual, I learn to become more conscious and concerned about others while trying to fulfill the agenda of my ragas and dveshas.  At this second level, I ask myself:  What is appropriate, what is just? This is different from the first level, where the question is: What do I feel like doing? or What will I do? Instead, I ask: What has to be done? What is appropriate in this situation?  What ripples is my action likely to create on others and the world around me, given the web of interdependence?    This is called being aligned to our svadharma, our personal dharma, and doing what is expected of us in the given situation.

Initially it could be still depending on societal norms (what behaviour is expected from a father/mother, citizen, employee/boss, son/daughter, etc.), but slowly, I become free from internal pressures, my immediate interests, my own longings and repulsions. I go beyond the fear of transgressing any form of authority, as I act from more dignity, from well-assimilated values emanating from my own depth. I am convinced I cannot act any more like a child living in his or her separate bubble. I am an adult living less and less in my subjective private world, and more and more in the world, as it is.

I am more in touch with what is asked of me, situation after situation, and ask myself in a dynamic manner: What has to be done? What is appropriate in this situation? And what I can hear more and more clearly is not the voice of authority, of an ideal or a model, nor the frightened or all powerful old “I” and its commandments. I now hear more clearly and surrender more and more often to the voice of my buddhi, my heart and my wisdom, telling me what is just.

Action at this second level is still dependent upon effort. Desires, likes and dislikes have become less binding but there is still an element of struggle, choice and deliberation, hesitation and conflict. When they all disappear, there is spontaneity, which is not uncontrolled impulsivity, but true freedom in action. That is the third level of action, where the karta has become a Mahakarta, a Great Doer. Paradoxically, this freedom is about surrendering totally to necessity, to what the situation calls for. There is no more choice or doubt; only one action is possible and it is the just, appropriate action.

To illustrate this, let us take the imagery of the actor. The actor goes totally with the script of the play. Everything is written in minute detail. While playing the role, the actor is aware that he is distinct from the role; he knows he is much more than the role. At the same time, the actor is engaged totally with the role; he deals with challenging situations, he is ruined, despised or betrayed by his family and friends, loses his dear ones, he even plays his own death on stage. While all this is happening, he is unshaken, totally serene as he knows he is not affected in any manner by anything because the challenges belong to the role only. And that is why he can congratulate himself and say “well done!” as he notices how much the audience is moved by his performance.

In the same manner, the Great Doer has given up his personal demands and limited perspective of what is. He is totally aligned to the Great Flow, the overall order of things. He is peaceful and serene in the midst of the challenges or tragedies the Great Script of the universe has put him through. There is no need of any prompter, like in a theatre, to tell him what to say and how to act. The prompter is totally internalised! This is because within that order, only one action emerges clearly from each situation, the just and right action. No fear or anxiety, no doubt nor hesitation, there is only the action flowing by itself. When there is no gap (not “even the width of a human hair”) between the order of things and the karta, then the karta with his usual load of fears of failure, vanity, shame, impatience or guilt is replaced by the Mahakarta.

With a lucid awareness of what brings him in this situation with his unique skills, background, capabilities and the necessity of the moment, he does what needs to be accomplished and thus plays his role fully. There is total freedom in action, or as some traditions called it, action in non-action, actionlessness in the midst of action.   

To know more about what is a Mahabhokta, a Great Experiencer, look for the second part of this blog which will be posted soon.  







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Mr. Tahora, the way you have differentiated the Subjective & Cognitive behavior is beautiful. The example of Actor to the subject and comparison with Life is very Lucid. We all could able to reach till 'Karta' through your classes. However replacing it by 'Mahakarta' shall be a long journey. Let us see, how fast we can attain it.

After reading the blog, I became aware of the “Karta” and ‘Mahakarta”. I want to portray my understanding below to ensure my understanding. I feel, we must not be a doer like the first kind, who does the things to react or in response to something as a reaction. It will never give him satisfaction and inner peace. He may enjoy the success momentarily but after that, he will lose himself. Second doer (Karta) is a moderate guy, who does the action in the virtue of his heart and brain under the command. He is not totally involved with the action. He has some expectation of the action and result of it may make him happy or unhappy. Third Doer, the Mahakarta, has no option to choose anything for the betterment other than the desired action. Hence he has no any expectation not even he worrying about the result. He keeps his personal interest and gains apart from the action, therefore whatever he will get he will be happy with that. Then he will get self-satisfaction and inner peace. All of us are somewhere in between doer and true doer and running behind the success in terms of position and money. It creates hurdle to get supreme pleasure of Mahakarta.

This is a well articulated message to understand the difference between real living and a mere sustaining in this so called universe. As Swami Vivekananda has told “You are the creator of your own destiny”. Your creation starts with your thought process. It’s important that you take the responsibility of your action. In any relationship we often tend to waste our valuable time reacting impulsively to the small and petty issues that is of no value to us which leads to stained relationship. After sometime once our heat subsidies if we sit and think on the reaction a realization occurs that it was really unnecessary. If one of the person would have controlled his feelings to express impulsively, the weary situation could have been avoided. It just takes a moment to just control your feelings in that very moment to lead a happy life. The negative effect of the impulsive reaction doesn’t end just with that situation, it takes a rippling effect thru ought the life. As somebody said “Relationship is like a glass: a scratch in one side will reflect on other side too, always handle feelings with care because scratches can’t be removed.” So if one practices to become a true karta, he hears to the voice of his mind, heart and wisdom even in the situation of impulsivity and hence handles the situation in a sensible manner. In this way he is able to maintain sanctity in the relationship. Even in this we have a rippling effect, but a positive one. The other person at some point of time realizes that it’s unnecessary to react to a person who is so understanding, in this way a red flag is avoided in the subtle relationship. Life becomes smooth, enjoyable and a positive atmosphere is created around them just by a small yet powerful effort.

Amazing article, sir. As a human being, and a busy one at that, we are always performing actions. And in the segmentation of different types of action, more often than not, most of us fall in the first category. We are overwhelmed by struggles, pressures, and emotions that day to day interactions provide. We are so short sided, and into the moment so deep, that we forget that our happiness and contentment, to a large extent is independent of these struggles and day to day routines. As you mentioned, we’re fraught with fear, anxiety, and other impulsive feelings, to such an extent that, they cloud our sense of action. We become highly reactive. The journey from this first stage, to the second and third stages, where the person becomes more aware of his emotions, and the fact that, there is only one real option, is a critical one. In this competitive day and age, where people wouldn’t give another person even an inch, it may seem that there are many “options” in front of us. But, in reality, there’s always only one action, that is, the appropriate and the fair action. This journey is not so easy, as this involves making ourselves indifferent to the day to day melancholy, and pressures that accompany our lives. It also means, that we need to be true to ourselves, and more importantly, contemplate and measure the impact of our actions on others. We live in an interconnected world, and whether we’d like to believe or not, we’re affected by each other’s actions. We need to understand that our perspective is limited, and there’s always only one option, the right option. When we do this repeatedly, we would soon get into that subconscious mode, where we’d automatically align our decisions with the right action.

Thank you Dr. Surya for getting us face to face with a concept we practice every day but rarely are aware of and understand the importance of its different levels. I will try to observe these levels in what I see and feel every day. It is clear to the eye that the world around us works at the first level of action. Stock market crashes out of insecurities, wars are fought sometimes out of fear, sometimes time greed and anger, and then there is racial abuse and countless other incidents. Even our education system fuels and encourages the first level of action. We breed the weed of fear of bad result and insecurity at the very basic level in our education system. Kids start their education with the dagger of fear and failure buried deep in their hearts. And their actions are guided by internal and external forces. The situation becomes worse as we grow up and enter the result oriented and highly objective work system. Corporate world is cruel and unforgiving. Everyone is in a rat race to get more customers, more profit, more revenue and more and more. It is easy to get lost, forget what is just and appropriate and remain at the first level of karta driven by our fears and insecurity. But amidst all this I am happy that at SPJIMR we are trying to lift students from the first level of Karta. SOS course by DR. Surya and initiative like DOCC make us more humble and responsible. We understand the deeper impact of our actions on others and get a gentle nudge to enter the second level of Karta. I am truly hopeful that with such an awareness we will only rise higher and may be someday become Mahakartas!

This article takes us one level up in cultivating a thought process from Reaction to Conscious Reaction (response) to Conscious Action (Kartavya/ Duty). Its a circle and our actions/ reactions come back to us flowing through different people. This indicates how each of us is connected to each other..we all are one. 99% of life complexities arise due to thought process of 'Reaction'. We react and do not pay attention on how does that impact or what ripples does it create in other's mind and what action other person may initiate. In current times, when one hardly takes responsibility for his own action, its very rare that one feels responsible for its effect on Karma quotient of others who have got impacted. we have become very ignorant of this thread which has connected all of us, no one can escape...the ripples go on an on. Though it takes a lot of practice to transition on this path, however one has to be really open minded to attack on the problem and not focus on person. In the game of reactions one has to be double cautious for not hurting anyone's Ego. We may witness ups and downs , however with the correct attitude and practice, one shall succeed to overcome reaction. As Rahimdas says ' Karata Karata Abhyas ke, jadamati hota sujaan...rasari aawat jaat hai, seal par padat nisaan'.

Congratulations Professor Tahora for a very beautiful and enriched presentation of important but complex philosophy. It cannot be simple more than this. I would like to share with you my thoughts and feelings with you. Though I have not studied Ramayana in depth, but I do remember an episode of TV Serial Ramayana by Ramanand Sagar wherein Guru Vashisth preaching about Spirituality, Spiritual life, energy Chakras (Centres) and out of body experiences to Rama and his brothers. Our Saints, Mahatmas were great scientists of spirituality and had proposed a particular art of living to achieve the ultimate goal of self-realisation. Our Vedas and other literature are filled with this precious knowledge. Unfortunately, we have ignored and did not value these teachings. Now, in this era of ever growing discontentment and stress, to find shashwat (eternal, long-lasting) peace and happiness, people are realising the dire need of exploring this knowledge. Sir, I feel that this is an era of start of a spiritual revolution and India will become a lighthouse for those who want to quench their spiritual thirst. In today’s increasing bhautikwad (materialism), we have just become abject slaves of situations and expectations around us and become meagre puppets of “others”, instead of “self”. Our Atma can be the best guide in our life, but we, due to so called modern style of living, value-less education and “money is everything” type thinking….. slowly and steadily we are going away from our Atma. We have put lot of superficial “layers” on our Atma and as a result, forgot our Swadharma (or Atmadharma). Our chitta is always engaged in worldly things, our thoughts always evaluate gains in whatever we do and thus, our actions are always materialistic. No action of ours is leading towards adhyatmic augmentation. As it is said that our paristithi (situations/happenings/circumstances around us) is reflection of our stithi (our inner, spiritual condition). As it is said that we are what we think. Since there is no awareness of our atmadharma, we are trapped in vicious cycle of bad stithi causing unfavourable paristithis and that leading again to bad stithi. Truly ragas and dweshas run the show of our life!!! As you have rightly mentioned that we have become hard core doers. We keep on taking our ego (ahankaar) to next level. Journey from “puppet of situations” to a karta and from karta to mahakarta is, perhaps, called moksha which we have to attain when we are alive… The example of an actor, as given by you, is very apt in explaining this complex philosophy. I remember a similar example… a story related to the King Janaka and Narada. The story enlightens us about attachment and detachment. If applied to your example, the actor, though playing different roles is not eventually “attached” to any role. He is just a part of that “act” and he is playing a “given” role…..but he is not that role. He is what, he actually is. While playing the “his” role, he is just becoming a madhyam (medium), along with other co-actors to accomplish the great show. Similarly, in this world, we all are aligned to each other, to play our assigned roles, without a burden of fears of failure, vanity, shame, guilt… as rightly stated by you, and thus become a Mahakarta. Perhaps, we have to realise (and remember always) that we just a pure and pious soul as we were at the time of birth and nothing else. As I understand, then the journey of mahabhokta starts and experiences flow in. Mahakarta lives in present, he doesn’t wonder in past and future. This is the beginning to be a mahabhokta. However, having shared my feelings on the subject with you, sometimes, when connecting this concept with my corporate work life, I often wonder, whether what I’m doing is, really, what I’m supposed to do ….. or somewhere, some other role is there for me ….. ? Should I explore what I’m destined to ….or let destiny (the Great Flow) take its course and I will automatically be there where I’m destined to! What is needed to accept this and what should be done to explore which is not this? My spiritual Guru says – “doing nothing is actually management”. What is complete surrendering? Wish, you cover these mysteries in your next blog. Thank you again for enlightening. Eagerly waiting for the Part 2 on the subject.

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Dear Surya, I am inspired with your article, I feel energetic with the positive words, and it was great way to explain how to shift from doer to Great doer. i had been thinking about spirituality but this blog has motivated me to think seriously of making it a habit. You have explained very nicely with examples how mindfulness can help individual to move from subjectivity (i.e. When our emotions of anger, anxiety and fear take over our mind) to objectivity (i.e. When we are aware of our emotions and we take actions with awareness). I belief that Meditation is of great use to reduce the level of negativity such as anger, frustration and failure and can lead our mind from avoidance oriented to approach oriented . The negative emotions which we face in day to day life is not because of actual problem but due to our subjectivity we have about the same, sometimes we make problems out of no problem. I have learnt that if we slowly start practicing the art of spirituality by meditating it helps us to become more objective and to deal with situations with awareness. I am thankful to you for guiding me and waiting for your article “Become a Mahakarta and a Mahabhokta Part –II”.

“Self consciousness is alone the negation of all relative existence” Namaste Prof. Tahora, thank you for this beautiful explanation for the equally enlightening quote from “Yog Vashistha”. I was touched with an example of the actor playing his act on stage and how simply you decided and adapted this advice in your life. This example is so appealing to me that I immediately start seeing the real person behind the actor, sitting aside and becoming “Mahatyagi”. While the act is getting perfomed,.I see him calm and composed and just watching the act with smile on his face. Like the smile on the face of Buddha. Full of joy and bliss. And how true are these words from you for everyone of us. “I am an adult living less and less in my subjective private world, and more and more in the world, as it is.” Yes we are living less within and more outside, mostly reacting to the situations around us. But I find now a purpose in so. Two years back I came across the shloka from “MandukyopanishaT. Which had a quote as below. नान्तःप्रज्ञं न बहिष्प्रज्ञं नोभयतःप्रज्ञं न प्रज्ञानघनं न प्रज्ञं नाप्रज्ञम् । अदृष्टमव्यवहार्यमग्राह्यमलक्षणं अचिन्त्यमव्यपदेश्यमेकात्मप्रत्ययसारं प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवमद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते स आत्मा स विज्ञेयः ॥७॥ -माण्डुक्योपनिषत् translation: Not inward conscious Not outward conscious , nor the conscious of intermediary conscious nor ingathered consciousness(Nothing as to consciousness) no consciousness Nor inconsciousness Atman is invisible, unperciviable,beyong all signs, beyond all thoughts, ineffable of the nature Self consciousness is alone the negation of all relative existence it is Peaceful (shantam), bliss(shivam),the unity(advaitam) and is called fourth. ( chaturtham manyante) that is self (atman) needs to be realised by wise. " I see the expressions “Shantam, Shivam and still Advaitam (for here advaitam is the very fact that he is watching his own act) in the person sitting and watching his own act on stage. So far I was not able to correlate to these expressions until this time you put it in the example of Actor as a “Mahakarta” And within a fraction of seconds the title of “Self Conscious person” reflects in that person as a reward for “Mahabokta” as described in the shloka third word is “Mahatyagi” May be this upanishad has enquiry of “Turyam” In it, but I think even if I am able to try to practice “Mahakarta” I will be happy. Following this everyday will need a conscious effort until it becomes “Sahaj”and will become way of living. It will also take away a lot of our emotional burden and will bring "meaning with joy" in everyone’s living. Thank you.

The Subtle Art of Surrender “tam eva saranam gaccha sarva-bhavena bharata tat-prasadat param santim sthanam prapsyasi sasvatam Bhagavad Gita Chp 18 Verse 62 The highest form of surrender is surrender to the Almighty. Not any physical God, but the one Supreme Power that fuels all life in the multiverse. The surrender here is the purest form of merger between two souls, and not the loss of existence of one. The journey of a mahakarta to a mahabhokta is through surrender. As correctly said, when the doer removes the ‘I’ from his lines, he becomes the receiver of knowledge. sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śharaṇaṁ vraja ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣhayiṣhyāmi mā śhuchaḥ Bhagavad Gita Chp 18 Verse 66 On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, when Arjun refused to battle his loved ones, Lord Krishna asked him to abandon all varieties of dharmas and simply surrender unto him alone. This was a necessary step for Arjun without which he wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the vast knowledge that he received. Our Dean, Dr. Ranjan Banerjee asks the students to be like an ‘Empty vessel’. A mind full of doubts, fear, anxiety, questions and mistrust will not be able to see the end result of anything. To reach the shore, one has to cross the entire sea with faith and trust. Arjun couldn’t gain enlightenment as long as his mind was wondering with doubt and questions. The moment he saw the entire Universe in his Lord, he renounced all his worries and bowed in acceptance. Another instance of complete surrender can be found in the same epic. During Draupadi’s Vastraharan, it is known that Draupadi received no help from anyone present in the audience. It was Krishna, his best friend who miraculously appeared in the end and, offered yards of clothing to her, protecting her modesty. Many scholars have questioned the fact that why didn’t Krishna appear initially, saving her the insult altogether. Draupadi was naturally doing everything in her power to protect herself and hence, she kept clinging on to her saree and crying out for help to all present. The moment she let go of her hold and concentrated on just one person with all devotion and faith, Krishna appeared. This is a clear proof of why people should not cling on to their thoughts and leave something for god at times. The doer is just a pawn in the hands of the vast universe. As Shakespeare rightly said, All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. The actor mentioned in the blog is also a doer but under someone’s orders. He has a complicated job of surrendering to the character, while keeping his individuality intact. This balance between Attachment on stage and Detachment off stage is crucial to maintain the person’s sanity. If we compare Arjun and the theatre actor, they both have the same duties- Attachment to the supreme power/ character on the field and detachment off it. In the end, it is them who need to walk on their life path. Surrendering is not a process of loss, but the journey of empowering one’s inert capabilities for them to rightfully fulfil their duties.

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