We can now reflect upon what it takes to make the journey from an ordinary bhokta, an enjoyer or experiencer of pleasant, neutral or unpleasant situations, unfolding in our life moment after moment, and become a maha-bhokta, a Great Experiencer. The relationship between the karta and bhokta is that the karta is engaging in action in order to be a bhokta, to be the experiencer of the results of actions. When I go to a restaurant, take music lessons, buy a house, enter in a business relationship, etc. it is meant for me to have the (pleasant) experience of the fruits of these actions.
We can then distinguish three types of experiencer, just as we did for three types of doer. The simple bhokta, always oscillating from elation to depression; the one who is making an attempt to be a true bhokta and the one who is a maha-bhokta.
The first type of bhokta is characterized by a fundamental division between the incessant search for a happy, comfortable experience and the sharp resistance or refusal of what is unpleasant or painful. There is a clear demarcation line between what I like, what I want to happen and will make me joyful and that which I do not like, what I refuse to happen and which me make me unhappy. Life choices are therefore governed by two questions: what will make me feel great? And what can be a threat to my happiness? The dominant feeling is a mix of hope, expectation and fear, anxiety, a general sense of insecurity, because the possibility of a threat coming to materialize and hit me are always looming large in one’s mind.
As situations unfolds in the bhokta’s life, there is naturally an oscillation between elation when he gets what he likes and depression when he does not get it. The emotional landscape is volatile and the ordinary bhokta is thus prone to react when things do not go her way. There can be blame of others or oneself, anger, resentment that can be compensated though various coping strategies. Denial, distraction, suppression which no doubt seem to work and alleviate the suffering temporarily. But as these strategies do not address the root cause, they can lead to further escalation and volatility, getting the simple bhokta to be entangled further in his sharp divisive attitude towards life events and its consequences.
As I evolve into the second type of bhokta, I make an attempt to free myself from this rollercoaster ride. I develop through various psychological and contemplative practices an inner space which helps me to be aware of my internal landscape without being totally overwhelmed by the interplay of thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations.
I also become more aware of some fundamental realities of human experience, both at internal and external levels and their connection. First, life is made of a basic pair of opposites which governs my relationship with the world, sukha and dukha, pleasant, comfortable, and unpleasant, uncomfortable. Denying the unpleasant or hurtful side of life amounts to cutting myself from half of the realities of life, which comes at a great cost. Second, I begin to realize that external events change constantly just as internal experiences. There are born, stay for a while and then will necessarily decline and go. Third, I widen my perspective and start to appreciate that all situations are governed by series of causes and effects, which put together my actions and those of others, from recent and distant past. I get glimpses of the presence of a hidden order or laws at work behind both the apparent disorder I experience and the success I enjoy. I slowly come to terms with the fact that I cannot control the results of my actions: there are unknown variables at play which influence the outcome of my actions, sometimes in my favour as unexpected breakthrough or removal of obstacles and other times as obstructions to what I desire to accomplish.
However, at this second level, I still sometimes loose perspective of these realities in the obsessive and blinding pursuit of pleasure and fall back to my old ways of denial, refusal of pain.
Just like the maha-karta, the third type of bhokta, the maha-bhokta, the Great Experiencer is fully alive to the dynamic complex, intelligent order, weaving together actions and results, from herself and others. She also appreciates the psychological order governing the inner human life. That makes her accept the difficult emotions as an inevitable part of being human. She thus is able to trust the Grand Order of things with objectivity and lucidity even when she is experiencing pleasures and sufferings, which was previously making her live in fear, insecurity, expectation and elation.
Second, she has established in herself a permanent and stable inner refuge, or put in other words, has developed a cognitive space between emotions, thoughts, body sensations and herself. While acknowledging and accepting their interrelated play as they continue to occur, she is not overwhelmed any more by their force and is able to experience pleasant favourable situations with humility and gratitude and unpleasant events with more composure and less resistance. She is generally cheerful and enthusiastic, sensitive to beauty and empathetic to others. She is not only able to draw joy from success of others without feeling threatened but is also trying what she can to act for the benefit of others, community and society.
Third, at a more metaphysical level, she is fully awakened to the fact that all what she was so terrified about or desperately wanting to acquire or experience does not have the absolute reality she attributed to it. Just like the movie which is projected upon a screen has a certain undeniable empirical reality which can make one cry and jump in excitement. However, all that which terrifies us, that we want so intensely and which fascinates us, does not have any more for the maha-bhokta the absolute reality we attribute to it. Moreover, she knows intimately that like the screen is not wet or torn nor burnt when a furious storm of the ocean is displayed on the screen or when bombs are exploding upon it, in the same way, she is untouched and unaffected by all what is happening.
That makes the Great Experiencer also a Great Appreciator, who rejects nothing and intensely seeks nothing, a person who, fully and completely appreciates things, relationships with others and the variety of situations that she comes to encounter. And that is the reason why the maha-bhokta can shift to be a maha-karta and be fully involved in each situation, doing what is required with lucidity and compassion. Like a musician in a symphonic orchestra knows intimately he belongs to a greater whole, she is attuned to other musicians with sensitivity. That enables her to contribute dynamically to the great melody of the world with quiet freedom and joyous creativity.