18:26 – One who acts while maintaining that they are not acting is not a fool—they are liberated in this very life. Even though in the world, they shine, ever happy and fortunate.
If you walk around telling people you’re the action-less self, you’re going to get some funny looks. You may even be called a fool—or worse—even though what you’re saying is correct. But the point here is that even though a liberated person outwardly goes about their business in the world just like everyone else, inwardly their perspective is very different: They know they’re never acting, despite the actions of the body. And regardless of what is happening, they ‘shine brightly,’ feeling happy (satisfied) and fortunate to be the self.
18:27 – The wise ones, weary of diverse reasoning, have attained repose. They do not think, know, hear or see.
The spiritual journey can lead you down many different paths, each one with its own set of beliefs. And you may spend considerable time comparing and contrasting these conflicting beliefs, using reason to see which ones are true. But no amount of reason can prove what’s already true—you can only see truth firsthand.
For instance, Vedanta is a path that uses generous amounts of reason to support its claims. But once you’ve investigated those claims and seen for yourself that they’re true, you attain repose in the knowledge, “I am the self” and no more reasoning is necessary. At that point you no longer need to think about who you are and there’s nothing more to know (learn) about your true nature. You don’t need to hear any more teachings to support your conclusions or see any more proof.
Further, you know that as the self, you were never the one that thinks, knows, hears or sees i.e. the body-mind.
18:28 – As the wise one has no distraction and does not practice meditation, they are neither an aspirant for liberation nor are they in bondage. Seeing the world but knowing that it is an illusion, they exist as brahman itself.
The wise one—as the self (brahman)—has no distraction. And as they body-mind, they don’t practice meditation, at least not for the sake of gaining the self-knowledge they already have. They may, however, continue meditating simply for the sake of focusing their mind. Or to dwell on the implications of self-knowledge in order to purify their mind of the negative thinking patterns it developed from its previous stay in self-ignorance.
The reason I mention this is because there’s a belief in the Vedanta world that enlightened people shouldn’t meditate, as if not meditating proves that you’ve really got it. Ironically, if you’ve ‘really got it’ then you know that whether your mind keeps meditating or not is just part of the illusory world and has no bearing on your status as the self. As I said above, you’ll no longer be meditating in order to focus on inquiry and gain self-knowledge. But you may use meditation as a tool to bring the mind back to the self-knowledge you already have, until that knowledge has really ‘seeped in,’ until it’s been fully assimilated. Or you may simply utilize meditation as a mechanical exercise that keeps the mind sharp and focused, seeing as a clear, alert mind is an essential ingredient for success in day-to-day affairs.
The wise one, knowing they’re the self (brahman), doesn’t aspire for liberation because 1) they understand that they’re not the mind that aspires and 2) they see clearly that they weren’t bound in the first place because the self is ever-free.
18:29 – One who identifies with the ego acts even when they refrain from action. The wise one who does not identify with the ego does not act, even while acting.
When you think you’re the ego—the doer—you act even while not acting, seeing as refraining from an action is just another action. But when you know you’re the self, you know you’re not acting whether the body-mind is acting or refraining from action.
18:30 – The mind of the liberated one is neither troubled nor pleased; it is actionless, motionless, desireless, and free from doubts.
“The mind of the liberated one is neither troubled nor pleased; it is action-less, motionless, desire-less, and free from doubts,” assuming it’s fully assimilated what it means to be the self. So this verse isn’t giving the criteria for enlightenment. Instead, it’s describing an already enlightened person who’s consistently applied the knowledge, “I am the changeless, limitless, ever-free self” to their mind until it habitually thinks from that perspective, thereby becoming less disturbed by desire and negative emotions.
To be clear: Self-knowledge is knowing without a doubt, “I am the self.” That’s it! So a mind that’s neither troubled nor pleased etc. is not self-knowledge—it’s only a byproduct of self-knowledge, assuming self-knowledge has been fully assimilated. But when you have self-knowledge you know that it’s no credit to you if your mind fully assimilates the knowledge and becomes peaceful and it’s no discredit to you if it doesn’t. And that’s true freedom: to know you’re okay regardless of the state of your mind.