In my study of Advaita Vedanta, I have come across many references to the point that one is not the doer of any action. See for example these two verses

धर्माधर्मौ सुखं दुखं मानसानि न ते विभो।
न कर्तासि न भोक्तासि मुक्त एवासि सर्वदा॥६॥

Righteousness, unrighteousness, pleasure and pain are connected with the mind and not with the all-pervading you. You are neither the doer nor the reaper of the actions, so you are always almost free.॥6॥

(Ashtavakra Gita)

प्रकृते: क्रियमाणानि गुणै: कर्माणि सर्वश: |
अहङ्कारविमूढात्मा कर्ताहमिति मन्यते || Chapter 3, verse 27||

A egotist, under the influence of the three modes of material nature-Rajas, Sattva and Tamas, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.

(Bhagvad Gita)

Now if I am not the doer and reaper of any action what's the significance of law of karma? Lord Krishna says what is happening with us is the result of our past actions.

So, shouldn't we be taking responsibility of what we are doing instead of saying that we are not the doer?

Here's what Vasistha has to say about people who think they are not the doer of any actions in Yog Vasistha:

He who thinks of going to heaven or hell by the will of the Maker is also a slave to destiny and is no better than a beast.28 The man of a noble mind who is employed in acts of goodness, breaks off from the errors of the world like a lion from its cage.29 Those who vainly imagine themselves to be led about by some supernatural power, and so slight their necessary duties, are to be shunned at a distance as the mean and base.

(Yog Vasistha, Part 2, chapter 6)

But again in later Yog Vasistha, I have found Vasistha saying that we not the doer of actions we perform.

At this point I am totally puzzled as what to do. At one point they all are saying that I am not the doer and at other point they are saying I am the doer. Am I the doer of my actions or not?


6 Answers 6


"Now if I am not the doer and reaper of any action what's the significance of law of karma?"

The law of Karma has significance only if one considers himself/herself as the doer. In reality, neither Karma exists, nor the result of Karma, nor the doership. That's the reason, whatever good or bad deeds one does, wouldn't go beyond the material world.

BG 5.14 - Neither "Doership" (Kartutva) nor "Actions" (Karma) nor "Reactions" (Karma-phala) of the people are created by the Omnipotent; But only their nature [3 modes] pervades.
BG 5.15 - The Omnipresent neither accepts anybody's sin nor even virtue. Knowledge remains covered by ignorance. Thus the creatures become deluded.

"Lord Krishna says what is happening with us is the result of our past actions."

Krishna says that, depending on good/bad actions, "I" will put that being in good/bad life. In other words, because a being wants good/bad life, he/she 'does' good/bad actions and reap good/bad fruits.
In brief, the supreme Brahman merely satisfies the wanting (desires) of all beings.

BG 13.22 - Purusha being seated(situated) in Prakruti, experiences the [sattva, rajas, tamas] modes born of Prakruti. Contact with the these modes, is the cause of its births in good and evil wombs.

"So, shouldn't we be taking responsibility of what we are doing instead of saying that we are not the doer?"

It's upto individuals. If one wants to enjoy in the worldly matters, then one would automatically take up doership. If one is disinterested in worldly matters then automatically, will surrender the doership.

"Am I the doer of my actions or not?"

Either I believe "I am the doer" OR I know "I am not the doer".
Because, everything is predestined.

Those who are interested in the worldly matters, would themselves accept the illusion of "doership".

BG 3.27 — All actions (karma-s) are enacted in Prakruti by [3] modes (guna-s). Bewildered with identity, the self(Atma) believes "'I' am the doer".

Those who have realised the predetermined nature of the world, would discard the doership themselves.

BG 5.8, 5.9 — "'I' certainly don't do anything" is thought by knower of elementary (tattva gyAna) - even while seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, dreaming, breathing, talking, discarding, accepting, opening, closing; -- "Senses only are acting in the subjects of senses" - is understood.


Think of this life as a cricket match. Hitting balls & getting runs OR throwing ball & getting OUT -- are Karma-s & Karma-phala-s respectively -- the rules. "Veda"-s are the guidelines for everyone on how to make this win/lose game a gentleman's game.
Gita simply says that, the whole match is spot fixed!

The spectators who want to enjoy this fixed match, would illusion themselves as of the match is not fixed. They will follow the actions of the player of their liking.
The disinterested people will have 2 groups:

  • "Enlightened" -- They will sit in the match, but indifferent to all the happenings
  • "Liberated" -- They will leave the stadium
  • Too good an answer! Did you write it or? Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 14:58
  • I know You didnt! Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 14:59

In Advaita Vedanta the ultimate concept is SOHAM or I am He (the Supreme Brahman). There is no difference between the spiritual aspirant and Brahman.I (the ego) is an illusion. Hence I (the ego) is not a doer.

The status of I in Advaita Vedanta explained

There are two ways. One is the path of discrimination, the other is that of love. Discrimination means to know the distinction between the Real and the unreal. God alone is the Real and permanent substance; all else is illusory and impermanent. The magician alone is real; his magic is illusory. This is discrimination. One ultimately discovers God by trying to know who this 'I' is. Is this 'I' the flesh, the bones, the blood, or the marrow? Is it the mind or the buddhi? Analyzing this, you realize at last that you are none of these. This is called the process of 'Neti,neti', 'Not this, not this'.

One can neither comprehend nor touch the Atman. It is without qualities or attributes. 'I' and 'mine' - that is ignorance. By discriminating you will realize that Krishna is Spirit, His abode is Spirit, and everything about Him is Spirit.

What you call 'I' is really nothing but Atman. Reason it out. Are you the body or the flesh or something else? At the end you will know that you are none of these. You are free from attributes. Then you will realize that you have never been the doer of any action, that you have been free from virtue and faults alike, that you are beyond righteous and unrighteousness.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

God alone is the doer since the 'I' is He

The younger Naren:"Sir, have we any free will?"

Sri Ramakrishna:"Just try to find out who this 'I' is. While you are searching for 'I'. 'He' comes out. 'I am the machine and He is the operator.' You have heard of a mechanical toy that goes into a store with a letter in its hand. You are like that toy. 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."

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

  • Soham still imply dualism between I and Brahman in advaita there is no I at all just Brahman
    – user646989
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 14:28
  • @PradipGangopadhyay In your post, Ramakrishna says first - the 'Real You' is not the flesh, blood, mind or ego. The 'Real You' is Atman. Once you realize this, you'll know that you're free of attributes and that you are never the doer ... So far this makes perfect sense and is totally compatiable with what the Gita or Advaita preaches ... But in the later portion of your post, Ramakrishna says, that 'you' are the instrument/machine (probably referring to us as the body-mind and not Atman) and he furthur says that God alone is the doer and operator ... I see contradictions here. Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 7:49
  • @PradipGangopadhyay ... (contnd.) Why do you think he said two different things? Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 7:54
  • @TheCrimsonUniverse You are presumably pointing out that the Atman is a mere witness in Advaita and so the statement that 'God alone is the doer and operator' seems to be a contradiction. This statement is about the existence of free will. Do humans have free will? Sri Ramakrishna says that humans don't really have free will and the free will that we think we have is a mere appearance. One sees that only after moksha is attained. Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 11:54
  • @TheCrimsonUniverse, read through my answer here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/46039/… Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 12:04

As I was reading the question and some of the answers by others it occurred to me that I and you are not the doer as God is not the doer. I was reminded of the Gita where it says that actions are performed by the gunas.

BG 3.27 — All actions (karma-s) are enacted in Prakruti by [3] modes (guna-s). Bewildered with identity, the self(Atma) believes "'I' am the doer".

Krishna (who is our innermost Self) says the gunas come out from him but he is not in them. Our Self is the witness of actions. I think it is like watching a movie and we get so absorbed in it we think the movie is reality and we are actually the character we are watching. We are caught up in a illusion but when we figure it out and realize that this is all just a trick we can then let go and be at peace. We then know that all of this is just part of the process of awakening.


As per my understanding of advaita vedanta - when they refer to think as ' I am not the doer' what they mean is remove the doership of any karma. However, as per our prarabhdha karma which we are spending in this birth it will go on. But if we have the doership feeling then we can adding upto Agami karma which is accumulation of future karma which then would become sanchita karma for future births. To break free of these karmas when the individual doership is totally removed and the mind is dead then sanchita karma and agami karma would be removed, however prarabhda karma for this lifetime has to be completed but then we would not accumulate any further karma which would result in one freeing himself from the cycle of birth and rebirths.

Now coming back to the question of we trying to taking responbislity for our actions. As per the prarabhdha karma they are all predestined so even if we take the responsibility or even we think we are the doers or not the body will go through the predestined actions and it consequences.

When in vedanta they suggest to perform righteous activities or actions they advise us because those actions would purify the mind which is essentially collection of thoughts and help in subsiding the thoughts

All of the above explanation is what i have read in Bhagvan Ramana Maharishi's book of 'Talks with Ramana Maharishi'


First of all you must understand the difference between Brahman/Atman and prakriti. you are soul and not your body. Now first understand what Prakriti is. Prakriti is both higher nature and lower nature(lower nature Prakriti is formed under imbalance of three modes of nature from higher nature). Higher nature is pure energy and lower nature is five elements which make body(five senses,five working senses,form) ,mind,intellect and false ego. Now you consist of Soul/Atman/Brahman which is pervading all this body. Now you should note this all moving and non moving things are combination of all above things including you.All actions are being performed by Prakriti and not by you because you are soul/Atman/Brahman. you do nothing but you are under the influence of Three modes of nature you consider everything done by Prakriti to be done by you.This false ego which is generated as soon as human is born. Think about this.You are soul and not your Prakriti. The Soul gets blinded by it's own material and mental energy. The soul is sticking to the material and metal energy and because of false ego it is considering itself to be the doer of all the activities.


Existence cannot be conceptualized because it is prior thought. If Existence cannot be conceptualized it is not an object. If not object, then not subject to time.

Consider all that appears to occur an accident. There must be a witness to testify to the accident. Like standing on the corner waiting on a car wreck. But there is no one there, only witnessing. And that is the little leap - witnessing, no witness. And what power in witnessing? Zero.

Another way to look: there are not 2 of you, that which does and that which experiences. So what stand to take? Got to take the stand PRIOR. For any thing to be experienced, got to be there first. Like being in the audience when the curtain opens and the play starts.

Existence cannot be conceptualized and conceptualization has no author. Ask this: What's the next thought? What's the next thought? There is no response. The mind is quiet. Quiet because you are not the thinker. The mind is in the painting with all other concepts/phenomenon. As Nissargadatta said: I take my stand prior to all. I am the primal ground.


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