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You always have a choice
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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Acharya Prashant: In ‘Karma’, in normal action you feel you have a choice. In ‘Akarma’ you feel you have no choice at all rather you are feeling that you are acting out of compulsion, obligation. You have convinced yourself that this is something that I have no control over. So, you do not even attempt to navigate your roller properly when it comes to these actions. You have just surrendered yourself to something called fate. You have said, “But this is something that necessarily happens, what do I do about it?” That is Akarma. Are you getting it?

Now even this Akarma can be of two kinds. Be very clear. First is Akarm of the physical kind, purely physical kind. Actions like breathing digestion, blinking, growth of body, discharge of bodily fluid, movements of internal organs, these are things that you really cannot have much control over. You can play tricks with your heart and alter your heart rate. You can probably go out and run and you will find that your heart rate has increased. So that much you can do but you cannot really order your heart to stop beating. Same with perspiration; you can probably control the rate of perspiration, but at no point can you reduce it to zero. Some amount of perspiration is always happening. For how long can you control the blinking of your eyes? How much control can you have over your digestive juices? So, this is Akarm of the physical kind about which not much attention, to which rather, not much attention should be paid. These things happen though occasionally it may be required to pay attention even to these things.

Then there is the more severe kind of Akarm that pertains to actions in which actually, a mental choice is available but we have convinced ourselves of our helplessness. We say, “Oh! but I have no choice, I am option less.” It is fake and artificial helplessness. Do you see the examples given here? Somebody has convinced you that such and such religious rituals are very necessary and you go on performing these rituals all your lives telling yourself that these rituals are almost like a heartbeat. These rituals are almost like lunch and breakfast. Just as one eats daily, similarly one has to do all these things daily. Are you getting it? You have convinced yourself and thereby you have given up your choice.

Spiritual practice is about regaining your choice. These things that you are doing, these things that you feel so helpless in front of, are they really compulsory? Must you really kneel down in front of them? Are you getting it? For example, people of a particular cult or religious denomination feeling that they must kill animals. Is that really obligatory? People of a certain age feeling that they must marry. Is that really obligatory? In all these matters, we just relinquish choice. We feel that these things are not alterable. Only the Truth is not alterable. Do not raise social or even religious practices to the level of Truth. Except for the Truth, everything is subject to conscious choice. There is nothing that cannot be decided upon, there is nothing that cannot be rejected, and equally, there is nothing that cannot be attempted and accepted. Are you getting it?

So Akarma in that sense is a way of acting lower than even misguided or unconscious Karma. In Karma, you at least feel that you are in the driver’s seat. In Akarma, you feel that the driver is somebody else and you are just the hapless passenger being carried away in the vehicle of fate. Getting it? And it is not something limited only to those who follow religious practices or those who live very social lives.

Every time you say you are helpless against something; you are just displaying Akarma. None of us is ever helpless. Never come up with an alibi “What else could I have done?” There is always something else that you could have done. There is always the right thing that you could have done.

All powerlessness is just a pretense. Even in your feeblest moment, you are still powerful enough to exercise choice. And you must always hold this very close to your heart. The world can take anything, everything away from you, but nothing and nobody ever can take away from you your power to choose. That right has not been given to you by man. Therefore, man can never deprive you of that right. It is an existential right; right to choose. Now, what you do with that right is your fate. You may exercise that right in a way that life blossoms or you could use your right to choose in a way that devastates you. So, the worst are those who say, “But what do I do? I am helpless.” These are in the lowest state, they are the worst self-deceivers, they harm themselves, and they pollute the entire environment.

A little better than these are those, who at least try exercising choice, though their choices are all in the wrong direction- in the direction of replication of the past, in the direction that their system is already rolling towards. And the highest one is the one who knows what is right and chooses only in one direction. His choices in fact have all already been made. In some sense, his life is just a continuous reiteration of his one unchangeable choice. Every time life asks him a question, every time he is asked to choose, he just repeats his one choice though in many names, in many forms, in many languages. But whatever he says, whatever he chooses, fundamentally he is choosing just one thing.

That’s our man. That’s the one for whom this program is there, this session is there, all these late-night Bandobast (Settlement) is there. All for the sake of that one so that such a possibility may inspire us. It is real. It is there for us to take. We are not looking at it or listening to it as some kind of fairy tale. We are looking at it so that we may be awakened to our own possibility. So that we too discover that we have the guts, the gumption to choose with abandon. These are, if taken in the right sense, some of the holiest words “I don’t care.” But obviously, they have to be put in the right context.

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