Oct 8, 1998
What is a Choice ?
The word choice has several connotations and it is necessary to say in what sense we use it here. More than saying in what sense we use it here, it is necessary to define in what sense we do not mean the word choice.
In describing CHOICE, we have assumed a few things which are,
1) Social evolution, or at least the evolution of social development, takes place along certain predictable levels, as it is governed by several laws.
2) These laws are brought together under the title ‘Theory of Social Development’.
3) There is a basic unit of this vast infinite movement over the ages.
4) That unit is a single human ACT.
5) There is a centre for this ocean of activities.
6) That centre is the human individual.
7) He is a self-determining centre of action.
8) If external factors determine his course of action, it is not because they can overpower him, but he allows them to overpower him.
9) At each moment of action, he faces more than one option, in fact, an infinite number of options.
10) His choice determines the final issue.
11) That choice also exists in several grades.
12) The higher the choice, the greater is the result.
13) Even when he appears to be determined externally, there lies an area of action inwardly where he is totally free.
14) Once he makes the right choice there and persists in that course, each successive layer of life gives way to his mastery.
15) The themes of Gita and Integral Yoga endorse the above assumptions.
16) The theme of this book that there lies before man a future of unfailing success can be reduced to a strategy that anyone who is willing for the effort can follow.
17) Before launching on our exercise, it is imperative to know what this choice is NOT.
18) To start with, the alternatives we face every day between two types of drinks or three modes of travel is NOT what we mean by this choice.
19) Nor do we mean that choice which the man makes under duress.
20) The choice we speak of is a TRUTH, or is based on a truth which has its own principles and powers that are unfailing.
Life is full of non-determinative, casual events. It is a journey towards a goal, but it is beset with innumerable bypaths that are snares. They are so engrossing and enthralling that men mistake these variations for life itself. As men are vital, the vital energies of life that are in constant play are of irresistible attraction to them. Thus he loses the woods in the trees. Very rarely are men actuated by rational thinking. Even their rationality is shot through and through with vitality. When we speak of choice, it is natural that people mistake this as the preference for Coca Cola over Pepsi Cola. In the ultimate philosophical analysis, even this slight preference is governed by that basic choice and its rules. Our theme here is not man’s spiritual evolution that is all-inclusive, but a simple, straightforward journey to a goal of unfailing success. Today man, as we know him, has little hope. The very best of men are floundering. For the great majority of men, success and happiness are goals. In their experience they are unattainable. Most would say they are non-existent. The one phenomenon they see for sure is luck. The world has a known definition of that luck.
Against this background which is bleak, we bring a breeze of fresh air. We do not contradict the above human experience. But we see we are not compelled to draw the above pessimistic conclusion from that experience. We divide man’s experience into two halves, one shot with failure and success and another that is almost full of success. Man has lost sight of that part of his experience because it belongs to his subconscious part. Our endeavor is to make that part conscious and reduce that experience into a well-defined strategy for anyone to follow as a guideline.
In the beginnings of human history man was but a part of a mighty collective whole. The one decision that mattered was the collective decision. The mental decision of the collective was implemented by its various individuals in their own individual lives. One can argue that this too is an individual choice as the individual chooses to conform against the possible alternative of non-conforming disobedience. This is true in a wider sense as we first explained. But, for our purposes this is better described as obedience or following or implementing a decision which is not his own. Whatever it is, it is certain that the choice we are attempting to describe is not this.
Then there are opinions, attitudes, motives and choices made by one based on them. Of course these, too, are human choices, but will not qualify as the choice we are trying to define. In these above categories there are two halves One is the social opinion the individual accepts. Acting on it, he acts on social compulsion. Hence it will not qualify for our purposes. The other is one’s own individual opinion which may vastly differ from the social opinion, or even be contrary to it. Still, it is an opinion, which means a conclusion one arrived at on his past experience. As we are trying to reach something new, what is based on the past of exclusively on the past will not serve our purpose. Attitudes are vital propensities endorsed by opinions, thus making opinion the spearhead. Motives being the attitudes of the whole being, they are still dominated by one’s opinion. Hence none of them will suit our purpose.
We are often forced to choose out of a need for physical security. Obviously this is not a free choice. No choice that is not a free choice will qualify for our purposes. The same rule applies to choices made out of social compulsion or any other compulsion such as one dictated by the experience of education. Each one has a background of his own version of education. That determines his choice. So, this too is not a free choice. Choices made by any other inhibiting force or circumstance such as culture are not the choices we describe here.
There are choices made by people without life experience. They are choices made in ignorance. Life experience, social interaction, travel, etc. widen the scope for the individual to emerge. Without such experiences, one’s choice is compelled by the external circumstances and the individual acts in ignorance. For the choice to be classified under our title, it cannot be external but must be made inwardly with clear knowledge.
Firstly, the choice must be shifted from the external to the internal. That is a must. Next, even in the inner domain, it cannot be made under any compulsion whatsoever. Then the power of choice releases the power of the inner individual.
As the choice needs to be free of the external determinants, so it must be free of the past and its directions. Often our choices are made relying on our endowments. This too is a limitation. Endowments are of the part as well as they express a certain limitation by their being an endowment. It is a form into which the greater psychological energy moulds itself. That energy itself is free, free in all possible ways. The energy acting in such total freedom carries a power of effectuation that is denied to any formed endowment, however high it is. An endowment has the knack of possessing the individual rather than allowing him to possess it as an instrument.
We are here looking for a choice that will lead us to success and only success. Success needs power. Man starts with knowledge. Its clarity ensures success, not by itself. Knowledge emotionalized is energised by the vital. Energy is helpful and can accomplish more than knowledge by itself. But, there is a further stage. It is when the knowledge is acquired by the physical. The physical energy is no mere energy but is power itself when organised into a physical skill. Any knowledge that is acquired by the physical or that reaches down to the level of physical skill is sure of complete success, a success that does not admit of failure of any type. So, choices made by the mind and vital are not the ones we now talk of. We consider only those choices made by the physical, especially when the physical is endowed with a skill for executing that choice in action.
We have laid out the act as our unit of all human activities. If that is so, when does that act qualify to be chosen by our choice. As the act lies at the physical, vital, and mental level, we need to describe it in three ways.
Let us start with the vital which is easy to understand. For a vital act to qualify for the choice, one should have instinctive knowledge of the act, viz. the vital intuition must be there. Complete obedience of the physical will be its equivalent at the physical level. Its mental equivalent is organisation of the facts at the mental level.
Spiritual skill is values. To extend the definition of choice to the spiritual plane, we can say that choice made by the highest value is the choice we have in mind.
There are choices in life which will fix the man in one position and may effectively prevent him from moving higher or discourage him from doing so. That is not what we speak of. There are other choices that help man by virtue of his having made them to move higher or even release energies that would encourage him. Those belong to our list.
Owning lands in one’s native place, seeking marriage alliances from relatives in the village make one walk into disadvantages that peg one to that level. Though these too are choices of the individual, we do not consider them for the present. One who takes an engineering degree naturally gravitates to places where industries are located. These places often open up constant avenues of progress, for foreign travel, further qualification, etc. We have such a choice in mind. The choice that releases man from present fetters and will lead him on to future development is the choice we wish to land on.
The idea that great men are born great is not a complete truth. Whatever its truth is, we would like to say that there is a TYPE of CHOICE which when adhered to unfailingly, will make any man great. We shall see in later chapters how to make it and where its power comes from. Suffice it to say that such a choice exists and that is what we mean by choice.
Earlier we said that we do not have in mind the choice between two or more similar alternatives (Pepsi and Coke). Now we can add one more dimension to it. At each moment one faces two options, one at one’s own level and the other at a higher level. To always choose the higher alternative is one characteristic of our choice.
An aimless life is no life; it drifts. We always work for a goal or a result and delight in the result when we achieve it. That is a great aim mankind has known for ages. Also there is a creative dimension to it which is equally well known. However practical and pragmatic the result is, when one enjoys the work for its own sake as an end in itself, he becomes creative at that level, almost an artist of that work.
Our invitation to people is to choose the latter alternative. That choice, incidentally, will include the result. Unfailingly that result will be greater than anything a result oriented action aims at.
So, the choice we speak of, is a choice for enjoying the process of work, rather than aiming at its end result.