Is Acting a psycho spiritual activity? Lalit Parimoo April 30, 2022

Is Acting a psycho spiritual activity?

Lot of thinkers and philosophers have believed that acting is a psycho spiritual activity. Many spiritual masters have said and given messages to their disciples that one should live on this earth as an actor. They had understood the potential power of acting and were keen to utilize it on the path of spirituality.

Acting is a psycho spiritual activity. How?


If this awareness of the inner watchman is applied for 24 hours by anyone, he/she can be an actor on the world-stage. Only for such a person the whole world becomes a stage, all actions and events playful, all desires, all relationships and the emotions connected with them, become a part of the bigger drama enacted by the cosmic mind. One makes efforts to know and identify clearly one’s role in the cosmic drama and tries to play it according to the wishes of the supreme director.

Lalit Parimoo

Before we go into the details of this process it needs to be understood and explained that what we mean by a psycho spiritual activity. Human activities can be classified under four categories. (1) Physico psychic (2) psycho physical (3) pure psychic (4) psycho spiritual. Any activity which needs more physical energy with a bit of mentality comes under the first category. There is nothing as pure physical activity. Without the involvement of mind there cannot be any physical activity. It is well known that even the smallest unit of our body, called as cell has got its own mind.

All our voluntary and involuntary actions where the bodily activity is predominant, like walking, running, our daily physical routine which involves actions like sleep, clearing bowels, eating, drinking etc. come under this category….even the involuntary actions like breathing, digestion of food, circulation of blood and lot of work which goes on inside human body without we being aware of it fall  under this category.

Psycho-physical activities are those ones where more of mind is required, with of course the support of its physical body. Here the body is less active, and mind works more feverishly. Take an example of a man trying to catch a train at a particular time or driving a car to reach a particular destination or simply buying groceries from a mall keeping in mind the requirements of his family or consciously doing exercises for his physical fitness. In all the above said activities the body or physical activity is very important as without which action can not take place but at the same time the role of mind is more important…It is the mind which is giving directions to the human body and is goading and guiding it towards a particular aim or a well-planned goal.

Thus, in psycho-physical activities the mind is the master and controller and in the physico-psychic activities the body is the controlling agency, and both are to a very large extent mechanical in nature.

Pure psychic activities are those ones where body is mostly at rest or less active and mind is completely engrossed and engaged. Here the flight of mental world is such that one may even forget the presence of body. One can feel that one is more mind and less matter. Lot of examples can be cited like writing a letter or mail, reading books, understanding, and solving problems, all kinds of brain-storming sessions and all sorts of sentiments and emotions arising in the mental world and all our daydreaming and imaginations fall under this category. In most of the above said activities one can observe that the physical activity becomes minimum, and one soars and moves in the mental arena only, but the physical presence is a must.

Pure intellectual work of a writer, a poet or a research scholar also comes under this category and this sort of work requires stability of the physical body because the pure mental work needs a smooth and uniform flow of breath which can happen if the body is at rest. The interrelation of breath and activity shall be discussed later.

Psycho spiritual activity is the movement of mind towards its source which is the consciousness or the witnessing entity within. It is this movement, which is the real inward movement, where one can cross the boundaries of duality and dissolve the mind and thereby reach the transcendental state of nondual world, which can be termed as pure spiritual domain or spiritual terminus.  Thus, this pure spiritual state can not be practiced but it can be attained by psycho-spiritual efforts, mostly consciously, so it cannot be called as an activity, rather is the result and outcome of one’s psycho spiritual activity.

There are many ways of this psycho-spiritual activity and   during past five thousand years we have seen various kinds, forms, derivations, and methods of this activity which also can be termed as path of dharma…All religious or spiritual schools have one way or other, but the end-result is the same –peace or bliss or whatever name one would like to use.

In many systems only the method of prayer is used, some follow the way of keen observation and others use the incantation of mantras and many believe that by imagining that state of pure bliss one can reach there…whatever may be the differences in the methodologies ,the fact can not be ignored that the common link amongst all the seemingly different systems is that the physical energy needs to be transformed into psychic energy which gets transformed further into spiritual consciousness resulting into a kind of peace or bliss. This peace or bliss has several stages or layers and according to the capacity of the aspirant the results are achieved.

This psycho spiritual activity in Sanskrit language is called as Dharma which is derived from the root verb ‘dhr’ Which means that which holds. Our body mind is held by the soul or Atman. Hence the movement of mind towards this soul or Atman is Dharma. Let us analyse a very simple form of Dharmic activity which is “prayer”. In this process one must sit in a particular position or stand in a particular posture with some Mudra, which means either hands folded or knees bend. Thus, the aim being stillness of body. The first work is to keep the body still and then one utters certain words or hymns or sutras, which carry a deep meaning where some attribute of the Supreme Being is mentioned or a simple request like giving strength, peace, education, or any other help is sought. So, mind is constantly repeating certain words which carry deep meaning and if spoken with a lot of concentration, it can lead to momentary peace.

In Japkriya a mantra which carries the ideation of Supreme Being is also another method where an aspirant makes efforts to concentrate and lead the mind from dual world to nondual world.

Again, the main work is done with the help of mind and while keeping the body still, the mind is first withdrawn from the external world, and then with the help of mantra the mind is goaded towards the inner world, where if intense concentration happens mind comes in touch with pure consciousness and loses its existence, resulting in an experience of bliss. When an aspirant comes back from this experience, he remembers it for a very long time and craves for it more and more.

There are masters who can easily move into this blissful world, rejuvenate themselves and come back to this transitory world and guide others for their spiritual upliftment.

In this psycho spiritual activity or dharma there are lots and lots of difficulties and obstacles which an aspirant must face and overcome. Our ordinary mind is composed of primarily good and bad thoughts, desires, aspirations, longings, feeling and emotions. When one follows dharma or psycho spiritual activity, with the help of concentration, good desires and feelings get focused. And hence the bad and negative thoughts and feelings also get concentrated. This creates a condition of polarization of mind where the positive forces get clubbed on one side and the negative forces on the other side. Thus, a war begins between the two opposite and belligerent forces. All spiritual books and scriptures have talked about this war between two diametrically opposite tendencies prevalent in human mind. Take the example of Bhagwat Geeta, which mentions the war between Pandavas and Kauravas. For a spiritual aspirant the external war has less meaning, and the internal battle and struggle is of more value. For example, if in the inner world a Kaurav tendency called hate is overcome by a Pandav tendency called compassion, the victory is of Dharma. And if the opposite happens Adharma is established. Thus, during the war between positive and negative forces it cannot be said with certainty that which side will win. It is said that it depends upon the cosmic design which means when the cosmos is controlled by Avidya forces, then Adharma is victorious. And when it is controlled by Vidya forces then Dharma is the winner.

According to ABHINAYA YOG this cosmic design can be named as ABHINAYA LEELA where a drama is taking place and sometimes Avidya wins and at times Vidya. This eternal battle of drama keeps going on, thus maintaining the balance of entire cosmos. Due to various factors we human beings are assigned, various roles in various lifetimes and according to our various Virtues and Vices, we participate in this Abhinaya Leela and fulfil the aim of the cosmic drama. It’s very difficult to say who will get which role? The role which is assigned to you must be played in such a way that is fulfils the purpose of the cosmic drama. Even if one must play a negative role or a role where one is mean minded, cruel and selfish but if it is played with this awareness that a higher purpose is fulfilled, then even playing of a negative role is justified.

So, in the practice of Dharma or psycho spiritual activity, the polarization of mind is a necessity and the struggle between the two is a must. The more one struggles the more chances of growth. One may fall also because the path is like that of a razor’s edge and is very difficult to maintain the connection and harmony with the positive tendencies of mind. But those spiritual warriors who keep on struggling and fighting against their lower nature, one day find themselves established on the path of Dharma.

Let us try to analyse and examine the process of Abhinaya or Acting. How does an actor prepare a role? What are the tools with which he/she works? What is the journey of getting into the skin of a character written by someone else? An Actor uses three very important tools which are (1) Body (2) Voice (3) Feelings/Emotions.

For an actor body is of utmost importance. Not only the fitness of body is required, but at the same time one must learn how to communicate with the help of body. As in real life body expresses all our major feelings, thought waves, attitudes, mental state etc. and hence an actor must learn the ability to reproduce all these major physical expressions of the mental states. This means his mind should control his body and body should follow the instructions of mind easily, spontaneously and without any opposition or hurdles, it should be able to transform from one physical expression to another. It takes years and years of hard work for an actor to understand his body and bring the entire bodily movements and expressions under his control. That is why the need to learn Yogasans, Dance Movements, Mudras etc. To bring body under one’s control also develops another major quality or trait, which is observation. An actor has to be a keen observer and notice each and every small bodily function, gesture, posture, movement etc. and re-enact it with precision and perfection whenever it is required. For example, if an actor has to play a role of Servant, he must know the body language and mannerism of a servant. If in the same story the servant becomes the master, then an actor needs to transform his body language from a servant to the master, which can happen only if the body of that particular actor is well tuned, flexible and has the ability to transform quickly. Also, after many years of constant practice an actor’s body learns to concentrate. This means that all the parts of body from head to toe, including the arms and the legs, the chest and the stomach and all other parts are vibrating with the same wavelength as required within the parameters of the character and the story.

An actor’s body when fully concentrated, during the playing of a character or a scene of a play or film, is a treat to watch. What an actor learns through lot of hard work happens automatically or naturally in real life. If one sees, in real life, a man in anger or a woman crying or a boy happily dancing, one may notice the concentration of body. In the expression of all the major emotions body becomes concentrated, which means all the cells within the body and their minds are moving in one direction only. This is a big achievement of an actor which can be termed as a part of spiritual practice where the entire physical energy, moving in different directions is brought under control and is forced to move in one direction only.

The second most important tool of an actor is his/her voice. To exhibit and display all colours or a character an actor needs to train his/her voice. In real life too voice is important form of communication and whatever we say or hear has its impact on our mind. During the training, an actor learns to keep his/her voice loud and clear, to articulate, pronounce well and be expressive. If an actor is not able to pronounce well or speak clearly the words written by the writer, he/she will not be able to create any impact on the minds of the listeners or the viewers. In real life we listen to so many voices and our world of thoughts and feelings get affected. The voices of our near and dear one’s, of actors and news readers and commentators, of singers and leaders and spiritual masters, all have it’s desire effect on our minds. An ordinary phone call which is nothing but a voice, can change a person’s mood and an ordinary remark may bring either happiness or misery. All people are able to distinguish different voices with it’s various tones, inflections, moods, timbre that conveys wide range of feelings, which creates either a friend or a foe. Once again an actor has to work hard in order to first improve his/her voice and then bring it under his/her own control, so that he/she is able to express different feelings of different characters in different circumstances. Training of voice involves training of breath or re-educating one’s breathing pattern which comes under the scope of PRANAYAM. Breath is the source of voice and hence to bring breath under one’s control is the first step of vocal training. The breath has to be deep and the exhalation needs to be prolonged. What a spiritual aspirant learns through YOGIC practice, an actor learns it during his/her professional training. A well trained voice with sufficient volume and clarity, and ability to express varied feelings easily, will certainly have a deep impact on the mind of a listener. The voice of a sports commentator, a political leader, spiritual master, a singer, an actor, a news reader do affect the daily lives of most of the people and better the voice deeper the effect.

The third most important tool is the ability to re-produce all major emotions. This is the most difficult part and takes more time. The job of an actor requires to master all emotions, like Anger, Love, Romance, Hate, Surprise, Sacrifice, Pity, Fear, Jealousy, Greed, Lust, Pride, Possessiveness, Ego, Compassion, Peace, Humour, Happiness, Irritation, Sadness, Courage etc. A non actor is under the control of all these emotions and he/she has to function according to the dictates of most of the emotions. Difference between two people can be easily mentioned by their different emotional worlds. Ordinarily people are very sensitive about their emotional world. Very few people would like to talk about their anger, fear, hate, pain etc. because it makes one vulnerable. Emotions in real life arise irrespective of our like or dislike and are a source of surprise and delight. Most of us treasure these emotions, cling to it, identify with it and are not able to go beyond them.

An actor works with his emotions and learns to display them at his will. This becomes a sensitive work because an actor exposes his world of emotions to other people and at the same time  receives either appreciation or criticism.

Because an actor works with his/her body, voice and emotions, he/she gives everything to his/her work, which is playing of a character within the parameter of a script. During the training as an actor the most difficult part is to master these emotions. It is not easy to capture the truth of an emotion. In the real life these emotions come because of various reasons and factors which an actor has to imagine, re-create and then bring them out. It’s easy for an actor to re-produce those emotions easily, which he experiences often and regularly. But those emotions, of which he/she has less experience, become a cause of worry and one needs to apply different techniques to bring them out. Hence it is said, for a person to be an actor, one should be more and more expressive, so that all the latent or hidden emotions come out and become a field of study.

But these emotions are dangerous. An actor who expresses the negative emotions very regularly for his/her work will surely get affected by them. For example, if one has to cry a lot or enact a tragic scene, it is bound to affect the emotional health of that particular actor. In order to come out from the world of sadness and misery, most of the actors then take the help of intoxicants, which may give them some temporary relief but in the long run is hazardous.

How does an actor train these wild emotions? Initially most of the actors are shy and their inhibitions stop them from displaying their emotions. The feeling of shyness has to overcome first in order to express emotions shamelessly. Ordinarily one thinks “What will the others say?”, and this thought creates a block. The moment one stops bothering about others and starts giving vent without sense of shame, he/she starts getting good results and develops control in the exhibition and display of one’s emotions. Also when one starts to express one’s feelings in the real life honestly, then one can develop the habit of remembering these emotions and then later on applying them in one’s work.

During his/her training, an actor realises that the words or dialogues written by a writer are of great importance in his/her work. These lines or dialogues convey the entire meaning of the story and the way a character has to perform. The emotions hidden behind these lines motivate an actor to decode them and then play it with truth and honesty. The written words create an image and a world in which the actor has to live and make the viewers believe what he/she is doing. Thus the words become his/her world. Through these words an actor plays a scene with his/her fellow actors or speaks a monologue where he/she talks about his/her mental condition. In this process he/she learns to go back into that world which the writer has created, then tries to live those moments honestly and then express them with the words though written by the writer but spoken by him now. Good actor speaks the lines with his/her conviction and is able to re-create the world, which a writer has imagined. During his/her work, an actor lives in a new world, makes the other people believe in what he/she is portraying but at the same time there is an entity within, which watches him/her doing all the performances.

When an actor works on a passage or a scene, he/she is involved in a process which can be called as Psycho Spiritual Activity. The moment he/she has to play a character written by a writer and then he/she reads the lines written for him, the Psycho Spiritual Activity begins. Whatever information he gets, he/she imagines the life and world of that particular character, transforms himself/herself into the another world by withdrawing himself/herself from the immediate Psycho Physical world. This process in the psycho spiritual activity is termed as PRATYAHAAR. This requires a lot of hard work and power of imagination. The world which he/she has created in the mind needs to be expressed in words. So, his/her next step is to memorise the lines which convey the inner import of the character’s mental world. This in many spiritual scriptures is a six-fold step. Para, Pashayanti, Madhyama, Dhyotmana, Shrutigochara and Vaikhari. Para is that stage where, there is a faint picture of the world imagined. This means one is able to see something not clear but an indescribable visual does exist. In the second stage called Pashayanti, this visual becomes more clear and one can see it in the mind’s eye, but one can’t hear anything. In the third stage of Madhyama, the visual becomes more strong and clear and at the same time one hears faint sounds. During the Dhyotmana stage, the sound becomes more audible but disordered. In the Shrutigochara stage, one listens to the words clearly in his/her own mind. At this stage visual is clear and so is the sound. In the last stage the words get released from the mouth and one expresses what one feels. The words come out because of the inner compulsion and necessity.

The work of an actor is the movement from Para to Vaikhari. He/she imagines the world faintly, initially, then strengthens it by his/her imagination, brings the words and struggles with it, memorises it and further strengthens it and then finally in the last stage utters it. This whole process of work of an actor is a Psycho Spiritual Activity. Though it is done unknowingly and unconsciously by most of the actors, the pleasure experienced comes under the scope of Psycho Spiritual Happiness. This happiness or pleasure is subtler than most of the ordinary pleasures and remains with the actor for a longer time. The work of an actor generally receives admiration from the audience or the people who are watching, but the pleasure of compliments received is nothing compared to the pleasure he/she experiences during the process of his/her Psycho Spiritual journey.

The journey of an actor, when working on a scene or monologue, is an inward movement. The written words become alive and the more one goes deep into the meaning of it, the more clear the imaginary world becomes to him/her. With the help of one’s imagination, an actor visualises fresh and new thoughts about the character and the scene written. If the imagination is stirred properly, he/she can touch the realm of PARASHAKTI which is the root and seed of the manifested world. Take for example simple lines like this, “ Main ek swastha Abhineta hoon. Vishvabrahamand ke is Prithvi grah par main 100 varshon ke liye aaya hoon or mujhe_____________ ki bhoomika mili hai. Main apni bhoomika nibhane me purn roop se safal hoou, iske liye main mann or pran se prayatnsheel rahunga. Mujhme apni bhoomika samajhne ki shakti paida ho, or mann, vachan or karma se main apna manushya jeevan saarthak bana sakoon, iski main main kaamna karta hoon”. Now when an actor concentrates on the very first line, “Main ek swasth abhineta hoon”, with the help of his/her imagination, in his/her mental world he/she should see a picture of himself/herself, who is healthy in all the three strata of life, physical, mental and spiritual. If the concentration level is mild, he/she will be able to see only a faint picture of himself/herself, but if the concentration is deep, he/she can clearly see the physical body, a healthy physical body, healthy physical organs and all systems functioning properly within. If he/she goes little more deep, he/she can see his/her mind full of varied thoughts, ideas, feeling and emotions. If he/she continues his/her journey further, he/she will be able to see only his/her picture without any other thought wave or idea. This picture of his/her will slowly transform into a mesh of light waves and if he/she is able to hold this visual for a long time, he/she can attain bliss or peace.

Mind functions with the help of light waves and sound waves, and when it is filled with so many ideas and thoughts, there are innumerable light waves and sound waves crisscrossing each others. The moment mind has to do a particular task, it has to withdraw it from useless thoughts and bring it to the required task without which, mind cannot carry on its ordinary daily work. Even a small activity like walking, requires a particular level of concentration which means nothing but few thoughts getting organized, in order to complete an action.

So, in the process of acting, we see a higher level of concentration required. All the lines or dialogues written are a collection of vowels and consonants. The sixteen matras as vowels and thirty four Vyanjans as consonants are the original expression or the acoustic expressions of the unmanifested world. Thus any sentence contains within itself the potential to reach its original source or abode. This is the reverse journey which is called as the psycho spiritual journey.

Coming back to the above said passage, let us see the meaning of the second line “vishvabrahamand ke is prithvi grah par main 100 varshon ke liye aaya hoon”. Again while pondering hard on this sentence, one should be able to visualise the entire universe consisting of various galaxies, nebulaes, stars, sun, earth, moon, planets etc. and at the same time try to see one’s 100 years which means his/her entire life span. Initially it will be difficult to concentrate but slowly and regularly one can go deep and reach a zone which can be called as no mind or no thought zone. While concentrating on entire life span, one has to take the help of the past and the present life of oneself which shall help in giving some knowledge to know the future. Similarly while concentrating on the entire universe one needs to focus on the immediate planetary world and then keep on imagining the distant stars and galaxies. In this way one needs to visualise all the lines and touch the PARASHAKTI as said earlier.

An actor has to memorise the lines. So, the memory power has to improve. Again, one says few lines after remembering them; it becomes an act of concentration. Lines uttered with clarity, correct pronunciation, meaning and ideation have not only a deep impact on the listener but on the speaker too. The memorised lines spoken with correct meaning and pronunciation, supported by the correct visual creates completely new world which in YOGIG PRACTICE can be called as DHAARNA. During this period or activity mind is focused and moves in a required direction only and there is no scope for other disturbing or alien thoughts. This concentrated mind, which is a part of good actors work, will give supra-aesthetic pleasure to him/her. It may last for few minutes only, but the taste of it will remain for a long time. Actually the real craving of all human beings is to touch the perennial source of bliss, because we have come and originated from that bliss only. Hence, the movement is to go back home, to go back from where we have come, to take permanent shelter.

Other forms of art also give this supra-aesthetic pleasure to artists like, during a dance performance a dancer gets merged into the dance completely or a painter engrossed in his work so deeply that the subject and the object become one. In other words one can say, the dissipated mind which moves in 100 different directions is brought under control and made one pointed, and this one pointed mind can easily touch or reach its original source.

After preparing a role the job of an actor demands performance either in front of the audience or in front of the camera. He/she has learnt his/her lines, movement, has got into skin of the character, knows when to express a particular feeling and he/she does it efficiently and at the same time he/she is naturally aware of himself/herself, which means that there is someone within, who knows the entire enactment of drama. It is because of this inner watchman that an actor remembers even after the performance, the mistakes he/she committed, or the good work which he/she did. Also during the performance this inner watchman reminds him/her that whatever he/she is doing is just a play, the character which he/she is playing is not real, and the emotion portrayed is only to create an impact within the parameter of the script.

If this awareness of the inner watchman is applied for 24 hours by anyone, he/she can be an actor on the world-stage. Only for such a person the whole world becomes a stage, all actions and events playful, all desires, all relationships and the emotions connected with them, become a part of the bigger drama enacted by the cosmic mind. One makes efforts to know and identify clearly one’s role in the cosmic drama and tries  to play it according to the wishes of the supreme director. 

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