(Selections from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)
What is knowledge? And what is the nature of this ego? ‘God alone is the Doer, and none else’ – that is knowledge. I am not the doer; I am a mere instrument in His hand. Therefore I say: ‘O Mother, Thou art the Operator and I am the machine. Thou art the Indweller and I am the house. Thou art the Driver and I am the carriage. I move as Thou movest me. I do as Thou makest me do. I speak as Thou makest me speak. Not I, not I, but Thou, but Thou.’
It is like the cast-off leaf before a gale; sometimes it is blown to a good place and sometimes into the gutter, according to the direction of the wind.
As the weaver said in the story: ‘The robbery was committed by the will of Rama, I was arrested by the police by the will of Rama, and again, by the will of Rama, I was set free.’
But those whose spiritual consciousness has been awakened, who have realized that God alone is real and all else illusory, cherish a different ideal. They are aware that God alone is the Doer and others are His instruments.
Those whose spiritual consciousness has been awakened never make a false step. They do not have to reason in order to shun evil. They are so full of love of God that whatever action they undertake is a good action. They are fully conscious that they are not the doers of their actions, but mere servants of God. They always feel: ‘I am the machine and He is the Operator. I do as He does through me. I speak as He speaks through me. I move as He moves me.’ Fully awakened souls are beyond virtue and vice. They realize that it is God who does everything.
As some Sikh devotees once said to me, even the leaf moves because of God’s will. One should be aware that everything happens by the will of Rāma. The weaver said: ‘The price of the cloth, by the will of Rāma, is one rupee six annas. By the will of Rāma the robbery was committed. By the will of Rāma the robbers were arrested. By the will of Rāma I too was arrested by the police. And at last, by the will of Rāma, I was released.’
Those who have realized God are aware that free will is a mere appearance. In reality man is the machine and God its Operator, man is the carriage and God its Driver.
Likewise, when the embodied soul says: ‘O God, I am not the doer; Thou art the Doer. I am the machine and Thou art its Operator’, only then does its suffering of worldly life come to an end; only then does it obtain liberation. It no longer has to be reborn in this world of action.
The feeling of ‘I ‘ and ‘mine’ is ignorance. People say that Rani Rasmani built the Kāli temple; but nobody says it was the work of God. They say that such and such a person established the Brahmo Samaj; but nobody says it was founded through the will of God. This feeling, ‘I am the doer’, is ignorance. On the contrary, the idea, ‘O God, Thou art the Doer and I am only an instrument; Thou art the Operator and I am the machine’, is Knowledge. After attaining Knowledge a man says: ‘O God, nothing belongs to me-neither this house of worship nor this Kāli temple nor this Brahmo Samaj. These are all Thine. Wife, son, and family do not belong to me. They are all Thine.’
I say, ‘O Mother, I am the machine and You are the Operator; I am inert and You make me conscious; I do as You make me do; I speak as You make me speak.’ But the ignorant say, ‘I am partly responsible, and God is partly responsible.’
God alone is the Doer. Do your duties in the world as if you were the doer, but knowing all the time that God alone is the Doer and you are the instrument.
Look here. If a man truly believes that God alone does everything, that He is the Operator and man the machine, then such a man is verily liberated in life. ‘Thou workest Thine own work; men only call it theirs.’ Do you know what it is like? Vedānta philosophy gives an illustration. Suppose you are cooking rice in a pot, with potato, egg-plant, and other vegetables. After a while the potatoes, eggplant, rice, and the rest begin to jump about in the pot. They seem to say with pride: ‘We are moving! We are jumping!’ The children see it and think the potatoes, egg-plant, and rice are alive and so they jump that way. But the elders, who know, explain to the children that the vegetables and the rice are not alive; they jump not of themselves, but because of the fire under the pot; if you remove the burning wood from the hearth, then they will move no more. Likewise the pride of man, that he is the doer, springs from ignorance. Men are powerful because of the power of God. All becomes quiet when that burning wood is taken away. The puppets dance well on the stage when pulled by a wire, but they cannot move when the wire snaps.
Man will cherish the illusion that he is the doer as long as he has not seen God, as long as he has not touched the Philosopher’s Stone. So long will he know the distinction between his good and bad actions. This awareness of distinction is due to God’s māyā; and it is necessary for the purpose of running His illusory world. But a man can realize God if he takes shelter under His Vidyā-māyā and follows the path of righteousness. He who knows God and realizes Him is able to go beyond māyā. He who firmly believes that God alone is the Doer and he himself a mere instrument is a jivanmukta, a free soul though living in a body.