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Ego is the biggest obstacle in our spiritual practice. While most of us have some idea of what ego is, many do not know that doership is one major type of ego. Doership means having the feeling that we are the doer. When we take doership for an action, it means that we feel we are doing an action instead of realising that God is getting everything done and surrendering our actions to God. In other words, when we take doership of an action upon ourselves, we think we can get things done on our own. For example, we feel we own a house, that we own a car, that we are working to earn a living etc.
Surrendering doership is important for spiritual practice. It helps to establish a state of connection with God, wherein we feel that in reality we are not the doers of any actions and that God is the sole doer of any action.
2. How is doership developed?
Doership has actually arisen due to the current universal tendency to seek happiness and avoid unhappiness. In past eras when humans were spiritually purer, humans had low doership and were in a state of surrender to God where they felt God was getting everything done. As time passed, people began to lose their natural state of communion with God and they started to seek happiness and avoid unhappiness by using their wilful action. As a result, people began to feel that they were doing something or some action, and slowly the subtle feeling of doership developed.
As doership developed, we began to rely more on ourselves than on God. God gives us exactly what is required if we surrender to Him. On the other hand, relying on ourselves leads to mistakes. Since we started relying on ourselves, we began to make mistakes that created and reinforced incorrect impressions in our mind. This eventually led to the development of personality defects like impatience, fear, worrying, rushing, harshness, overthinking, negative thinking, perfectionism etc. The mind became used to expending tremendous energy in trying to resolve situations beyond its capacity and in maintaining numerous thoughts, so our capacity reduced and we began to undergo situations with stress. This has led to the current state of the world today where most people take the doership of their actions upon themselves and the level of unhappiness has been steadily increasing.
3. Why would we want to surrender doership to God?
Since we now seem to naturally take upon ourselves the doership for our actions, it may not be clear as to why we would want to surrender it. One interesting point is that a feeling of non-doership is essential for the success of any activity. For any activity to be performed properly, there has to be relaxation and surrender. To understand this point better, let us take the examples of a musician playing the violin, a gymnast and a public speaker. None of these people can perform their respective activities properly if there is doership and stress. If there is stress, the violin player will not play well, the gymnast will fall during a jump and the public speaker will make errors in speech.
All highly successful musicians, athletes, and public speakers behave in a relaxed manner. In a way they have surrendered control of their activity and partially merged with it so that the activity occurs automatically from within them. This is why they are able to perform some of their acts flawlessly.
As a seeker makes spiritual progress, they begin to identify more and more with the God principle within and less and less with the 5 senses, mind and intellect. Like the musician, the gymnast and the public speaker, the seeker performs acts in a relaxed manner, and their actions become fruitful and effortless. In difficult situations, the seeker does not worry and instead has faith in God and is carefree. The secret behind this lies in surrender, resulting in low doership.
From a worldly and spiritual perspective, it is beneficial to reduce and overcome doership because both worldly and spiritual endeavours happen in the best possible way when doership is low. This means we can achieve our goals — be they worldly or spiritual — more easily when there is low doership.
4. How can we recognise and overcome doership?
Doership is experienced whenever one experiences psychological happiness or unhappiness. Thoughts such as “I am doing this nicely,” “Others will be impressed by me,” “I must be capable since I am performing this activity well,” etc. all arise from doership. We feel happiness when we think this way, but this actually happens due to our taking doership. If we look within when we experience happiness, many times we will find that these subtle thoughts are present.
At the same time, we experience unhappiness due to doership as well. Thoughts such as “Others should understand me,” “I cannot handle this situation,” “I deserve better,” etc. arise from doership.
In other words, we can identify that we take doership for our actions when we experience happiness or unhappiness as a result of our actions.
The question then is how can we overcome doership? Actually, most of us do not know how to perform acts without doership because we have been performing actions with doership for many births. Even the thought that “I will overcome doership” arises because of doership! Nevertheless, there are several steps a seeker can take to overcome doership, as follows:
- Doership can be overcome by surrendering to God. We can start by surrendering in small tasks by praying to God to teach us how to perform them. For example, we can ask God to teach us how to clean our room or how to use the computer so that our spiritual practice happens. Doership is engrained even in small tasks, and by asking for God’s help in these tasks, a seeker learns to surrender. Later, the seeker is able to surrender in more complex tasks such as writing a report or conducting a satsang.
- Doership can be overcome by surrendering happiness and unhappiness to God. It is easier to surrender unhappiness than happiness as the mind is attached to experiencing happiness. A seeker can learn to surrender unhappiness by accepting difficult situations they are faced with and by asking for and accepting God’s help in them. The seeker can ask God to teach him how to do spiritual practice in the situation, and then after the difficulty is resolved, the seeker can express gratitude to God for helping him through the situation. For example, let us say a seeker has lost his job. He can face the situation positively by praying to God to teach him how to do spiritual practice through the situation and then surrender to God — regardless of whether he gets a job or not. When the seeker surrenders in this manner, God takes care of the seeker and gives him what is needed so that his spiritual practice happens. By facing difficulties in such a manner we become carefree and situations are resolved more easily. Faith also increases as we are shown that situations can be resolved by relying upon and surrendering to God.
- Eventually, a seeker needs to learn to surrender happiness as well as unhappiness to overcome doership. Since this is not easy to do, it occurs at a later stage in spiritual practice. As a seeker progresses they experience more spiritual emotion (bhāv) and Bliss (Ānand). As this happens, the seeker begins to realise that these experiences provide far more lasting satisfaction than psychological happiness. The seeker makes efforts to increase spiritual practice so that their spiritual emotion and the amount of Bliss they feel increases, and the attachment to happiness reduces automatically. The seeker can also impress on their mind continuously that the goal in spiritual practice is to experience spiritual emotion and Bliss, not to experience happiness. This makes it easier to let go of the habit of the mind to seek happiness.
In addition to the above, one can make efforts to increase all aspects of spiritual practice, including chanting, attending satsang, rendering satsēvā. By increasing spiritual practice, one begins to experience God from within, and this makes it more natural to surrender doership to God.
5. About surrendering to God
To summarise, doership is a state that makes us feel we are the doer, not God. Due to doership, we become trapped in experiencing the cycle of happiness and unhappiness and this makes it difficult to feel Bliss and God within us. As a result personality defects and ego develop. By making efforts to overcome doership, we are able to progress towards our goal in spiritual practice, which is God-realisation.
Below is one experience of a seeker from Serbia, Europe (Dejan Glescic) to encourage seekers to make efforts to reduce doership:
“I was feeling stressed due to some situations in life and work. When I sat for spiritual healing, I unexpectedly broke into tears. At this point I started experiencing that God is controlling the body, giving energy to the mind and controlling the thoughts and intellect. It felt like even breathing was performed by God and that nothing that was happening was occurring due to my effort; I was just an observer. All was done by God and I was just immersed in thinking of Him. I realised that the situations I was facing had occurred to bring me to this breaking point so I could learn to surrender to God and rely on only Him. The feeling was indescribable, and I was feeling very blissful, peaceful and free. I thought it must be so amazing to be in this state continuously once one reaches higher levels of Sainthood.”
We pray to God that by reading this article, seekers all over the world are inspired to overcome doership so that they can experience God within.