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Section 3 - Realizing the power of our choice

posted Oct 30, 2019, 7:36 PM by Sudhir Babu   [ updated Dec 7, 2019, 5:38 AM ]

Following are the five essential principles which help us realize the power of our choices!

1) Weigh the consequences

A very unique capability of a human being is the power of choice. In Bhagavad Gita 4.11, Krishna says that “ye yatha mam prapadyante, tams tathaiva bhajamy aham” - the living entities are given freedom to make their choice, and the Lord awards them accordingly. We can choose how we want to spend time, whom we want to spend time with, where we want to go, what we want to buy, where we want to work, who we want to vote and so on. And every choice we make binds us to the consequences. For example, if we overeat, we have to contend with indigestion; we choose a politician to be our leader and we have to abide by his rule for several years. A job at a lucrative company may give us a financial boost, but it will take away our personal time from family. We choose to get on a scary ride in a theme park, we have to no option but to suffer/enjoy the ride for the next 5 minutes. Our present life conditions, circumstances and situations (birth in a family, wealth, beauty, education etc) are nothing but a consequence of choices we made in prior lives. So before choosing, weigh the consequences carefully, as our choices shape our destiny (karma).

2) The Sreya vs preya principle!

Many times, good choices are the ones which we may not necessarily like to do. Krishna mentions in Bhagavad Gita that “happiness in mode of goodness appears like poison in the beginning and nectar in the end” (BG 18.37). A child may not like to brush teeth at night. A patient may not like the strict diet imposed by the doctor. But the best choice is always the choice that our well wishing superior suggests we do. In the case of the child it is his parents, in the case of the patient, it is his doctor, in the case of Arjuna it is Krishna. Sreya means what will be ultimately good for us. 

We should not just go by the mind’s dictations in making our choices, as the mind always wants petty material happiness. Mind is looking for preya - which is temporary, short term, instantly gratifying happiness). And that choice eventually leads to misery (“happiness in the mode of passion is nectar in the beginning and turns to poison in the end” - BG 18.38

We should do what is “Sreya” for us, that which will be ultimately beneficial. So we should rely on our well wishing superior’s knowledge and guidance on what is good for us. 

The best thing Arjuna did in the battlefield of Kurukshetra was to not rely on his mind alone and instead turn to Krishna, who enlightened him in the knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita and in the end Arjuna’s confusion was removed and he became enthusiastic and decided to fight for Krishna’s cause. 

3) The choice that really matters!

While we may approach many well-wishers like our parents, teachers, friends, superiors, relatives in our life and rely on their guidance for making “good” choices, we have to remember that ultimately the “absolutely good” choice we should make is for our spiritual benefit. 

The so called “good” choices we make to improve our health, wealth, career, position, power etc. are all on this material realm and temporary. (“a brahma bhuvanal lokan, punar avartino arjuna…” -BG 8.16; “ksine punye martya lokam visanti” -BG 9.21). It is like being promoted to a first class cell in a prison-like existence of this world. After all, whether you are in first-class cell or third-class cell, it is still a prison and you can’t expect true happiness in a prison.

Therefore, Krishna says that “the most important” choice we have to make in this life is towards our spiritual elevation. If we abide by Krishna’s orders we can get liberated from this prison-like material existence. Krishna’s order is very easy. 

man-manā bhava mad-bhakto

mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru

mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te

pratijāne priyo 'si me

Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. (Bhagavad Gita 18.65)

Srila Prabhupada says in the purport to BG 18.65: “The most confidential part of knowledge is that one should become a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa and always think of Him and act for Him...Life should be so molded that one will always have the chance to think of Kṛṣṇa...And the Lord's promise is that anyone who is in such pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness will certainly return to the abode of Kṛṣṇa, where he will be engaged in the association of Kṛṣṇa face to face.”

4) The rarity of human life

It is said in Srimad Bhagavatam 11.9.29: “labdhva sudurlabham idam bahu sambhavante…” - “After many, many births and deaths one achieves the rare human form of life, which, although temporary, affords one the opportunity to attain the highest perfection…sense gratification is available even in the most abominable species of life, whereas Kṛṣṇa consciousness is possible only for a human being.”

This material existence is also compared to a big ocean. Human body is compared to a good ship. Krishna’s representative, the spiritual master is compared to the captain of the ship. The instructions of Bhagavad Gita and scriptures are compared to the favorable winds. We should take our chance, become Krishna conscious, cross the ocean and solve the problems of life: birth, old age, disease and death. Else we are losing out utilizing the power of human life!

After explaining the whole knowledge of Bhagavad Gita, in 18.63, Krishna says: “Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.”

The living entities, being superior energy to matter, have choice and discrimination either to surrender unto the Lord or to surrender unto material nature. By surrendering unto the Lord, one is happy and liberated, but by surrendering unto material nature the living entity suffers. So the end of all suffering means surrendering unto the Lord. That is our choice.

5) Choosing spiritual life helps in our material life!

Then the question could come up, if I choose a spiritual life of Krishna consciousness, what about my material ambitions, family, society, career, children etc.

We have to note that after Arjuna was enlightened in Bhagavad Gita and decided to surrender to Krishna, he continued to remain as a householder and fighter. In fact he became a confident fighter after hearing Bhagavad Gita. So, choosing Krishna consciousness, actually helps you become a better person even on the material platform. 

For those who are devoted and surrendered to Krishna, Krishna gives the best intelligence to take important decisions in your life (“...dadami buddhi yogam…” - BG 10.10)

And Krishna takes care of even their material needs! (“...yogaksemam vahamy aham...” - BG 9.22).

By Krishna consciousness, we take to “purified living”, not “gratified living”.

In summary,

1) Weigh your consequences before you make a choice

2) The “Sreya” vs “Preya” principle.

3) The choice that really matters (spiritual life)

4) Remember the rarity of human life

5) Choosing spiritual life helps in our material life!

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