Sunday, January 20, 2008

What About Choicelessness?

In the world of spirituality today, particularly non-duality, the concept of 'choicelessness' has become extremely popular. We have even spoken about it. However, there is something that needs to be understood... You can not act from choicelessness!  Choicelessness is actually a realization, not a philosophy or technique by which to live, and yet many use it as if it was just that. "I will not make any effort to Awaken or to inquiry into the Self, because if it is meant to happen, it will simply happen effortlessly."  When experienced or thought of like this, the concept of choicelessness is something of a poison that infects the will. This is a very subtle point which is extremely easily misunderstood. It goes along with the concept of non-doership. The Gita tells us that even the wise are confused by the ideas of action, non-action, right action and wrong action, because there can be doing in non-doing and non-doing in doing. For instance, you decide you like the idea of choicelessness and choose to be choiceless. Can you see how ludicrous that is. The reality is that the real choicelessness is that you have choice. Your choosing, or appearing to choose, is a choiceless reality that simply is. But trying to live that way is an impossibility. You will be accosted by choices moment by moment.

The real difficulty occurs when the idea of choicelessness seeps into one's spiritual practice. If one nurtures this concept of choicelessness, it holds the same idea as fate as opposed to free will. If I am either fated to awaken or not, why try. I will do whatever I friggin feel like, and I will either wake up or not.  

I had a friend many years ago who claimed he he had been with a group that was totally in touch with future events. When he asked them if he would become enlightened this life they said, "We can't tell you."  "Why not?" he asked.  "Because," they said, "If we tell you that you will, you won't do anything to try, and if we tell you that you won't, you won't do anything to try!"  In other words, in either case, he stops doing anything. It's either fated or not.  Now, whether this people had the ability to see could obviously be questioned, but their answer is correct.

Now, interestingly enough, the teacher who is probably most famous for the idea of choicelessness is Ramesh Balsekar. Yet he has said,

"You certainly have free will but on investigation you discover that it is counterfeit. For what use is your free will if the outcome of your action is not in your control? Sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you don't get what you want, and sometimes what you get is completely unexpected; many times for the worse, sometimes for the better. Which of the three things happens is never in your control." 

So, according to Ramesh, you have free will, but have no guarantee of the results. In other words, it doesn't say, "Don't try" but rather, the ultimately result is always in the hands of the Absolute. This is what the Gita calls Karma Yoga - you must endeavor, but you have no right to the results. Gita also says, "no one can stop from acting, not even for a moment".  This very phenomena is a result of the Absolute's 'Doing'. We, as non-different from that Absolute, are identical in every way. The Absolute has will, we have will.

The Yoga Vasistha explains it this way. You have karma from the past and it completely determines your present reality. However, your current actions decide your future results. So, if you decide to do nothing, influenced by this idea of choicelessness, then your future will be EXACTLY as your present. If you are totally surrendered to the present moment and fully happy with it, without exception, then no problem. However, if you are not happy in this moment, then action, or understanding can change that. Yoga Vasistha is very clear on this point, even going so far as to say that one who bases their life on the idea of having no free will is a fool.

So, you may never KNOW whether there is choice or not, however, in this moment, chances are that you are acting, consciously or not, under the premise that you have a choice. Therefore, choose mastery! Choose to commit to awakening. Give yourself whole-heartedly to that pursuit. Nothing less will do!