Is nothing the place where something is hiding?
Some people say, “When we do nothing, then we will become free from all external preoccupations and thereby discover our true self.”
Yes, we will discover something not our true self, but our worst self.
Doing nothing is impossible both practically and conceptually. Practically because we are by nature active beings if not physically then at least mentally. Conceptually because even to do nothing is also to do something.
Nonetheless, we do end up doing nothing sometimes when we aren’t doing anything specific. These are the times when our weaknesses and attachments surface. Because when the mind doesn’t have a constructive engagement, it usually seeks pleasure by the path of least resistance. This path takes us to impulsive pleasures that are immoral and anti-devotional. Normally, we mask such impulses – and the lower self that is the locus of those impulses. And we mask it not just from the world but also from ourselves so that we can imagine that we are better than what we actually are.
However, exploring the nature of this lower self is not the way to self-discovery; getting rid of it is.
One honest look at our heart is enough to show us that the lower self does indeed exist. Rather than taking the risk of giving that lower self a free hand by trying to do nothing, Gita wisdom urges us to engage in scripturally-prescribed and spiritually uplifting activities that will free us from that lower side. That’s why the Bhagavad-gita recommends (03.07) safe and purifying action and discourages (03.06) unsafe and potentially putrifying inaction. By keeping ourselves busy in devotional service to Krishna so that we have no time for doing nothing, we can not only keep the dark something at bay but also bury it permanently.
“On the other hand, if a sincere person tries to control the active senses by the mind and begins karma-yoga [in Krishna consciousness] without attachment, he is by far superior.”