Power of Choice
Nothing to Achieve, Nowhere to Go
Choice and Free Will
Our confusion about choice, and the question of whether
or not we have free will, is compounded by the fact that
even our most esteemed teachers have assumed what
seem to be ambiguous positions on this question. For
example, consider the following three quotations from
The present difficulty is that man thinks he is the doer.
But it is a mistake. It is the higher power which does
everything, and man is only a tool.
Choose that guru from whom you get shanti (peace).
There is no creation or dissolution.
There is no path or goal.
There is no free will or predestination.
The issue is complicated further still by the fact that the
question of choice and free will can be addressed from a
variety of different levels and perspectives, as detailed
below. However, exploring and reflecting on these various
perspectives eventually will aid each of us in recognizing,
understanding and appreciating the power of choice in
our lives, when and as it arises.
Traditional Advaita ("Not Two"): No Choice
The traditional Advaitan, and popular neo-Advaitan,
position asserts that as human beings, we have no
choice at all. This position is based on the premise
that if the appearance of a separate identity is an
illusion, so too is our apparent freedom of choice.
This position is commonly illustrated by our experience
of preference. For example, we appear to be free to
choose between different varieties and flavors of ice
cream, but are we actually free to choose our preference
for a particular flavor?
Inevitability: No Choice
Another similar, but slightly different, "no choice" position
is the notion of inevitability.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
Principle of Open Space
If things could be any different, they would be.
Whatever action happens, whether you eat ice cream
or meditate, at that moment you could not have done
otherwise. Ramesh S. Balsekar
The rationale for this position has best been articulated
still further by Nisargadatta when he said:
Considering the endless list of factors required for
anything to happen, one can only admit that every-
thing is responsible for everything, however remote.
Classic Vedic Teachings: Ultimate Choice
In spite of the traditional assertions that we have no choice,
there is the notion in classic Vedic thought that at the
highest, ultimate (cosmic or ontological) level, choice does
spontaneously arise and this, in turn, results in the process
` The One chooses to become Many.
` The nondual chooses to becomes dual.
` The unmanifest chooses to manifest.
Immediate Experience: Relative Choice
As long as there is the appearance of an individual,
there is also the appearance of choice. Therefore,
we can still meaningfully talk about choice at this
You can easily and directly recognize this truth
simply by observing your own immediate experience.
For example: there is a difference between thinking
about moving your hand and actually moving your
hand -- and that crucial difference is choice.
©2002, Metta Zetty
All Rights Reserved.