You Are What You Choose To
Upanishadic seers of realisation have declared that life and the outcome of life for each and every
individual is a matter of constant, continuous, moment by moment, choice. It s a matter of choice.
What do you choose? What is your wish?
This, the great wisdom teachings of Vedanta very clearly and
unambiguously state in the Kathopanishad. It is also very clearly brought home to us in the Srimad
Bhagavad Gita which contains the quintessence of the Upanishadic teachings.
You are what you choose to become. Nothing is forced upon you.
Nothing is imposed. You are not compelled. There is no external force in this universe that does it
or can do it. All force, all power is within you. You are the source of all force, all power. It is
for you to choose how you will express it.
The Kathopanishad, through Lord Yama's teachings to Nachiketas says:
"O Nachiketas, at every step, at each moment, before every human individual there are two paths,
the path of wisdom and the path that is merely pleasant, the sreyo marga and the preyo
In another context, the Upanishads say that constantly within the
human psyche there is a flow of thoughts - constantly. They either take the channel of the
auspicious or the channel of the inauspicious. It is for the wise, awake and alert individual to
keep watch and to be immediately aware of which direction the thought flow is taking. If it is the
right direction, it should be encouraged. If it is in the wrong direction, it should be immediately
checked, withdrawn, and the thoughts made to flow in the right direction, the direction that is
conducive to one's highest welfare.
Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji reiterated this same truth, this same fact
of human life in his own unique manner, summing it up briefly by saying: "Detach, attach." It is
for you to say, "No", break the connection, and then attach to where you want the
Disconnect yourself. It is for you to do so. Constantly you must use
this power of choice and detach your mind from the petty pursuits and fleeting perishable objects
of this world and attach to the lotus feet of the Supreme. Detach and attach. He constantly said
that this is what sadhana is. Herein lies the secret, the key to a progressive spiritual life and
the surety of attaining the Goal. Detach and attach!
And, as though to clinch the issue - that you are a creature of
choice, that what life ultimately means to you depends on what you choose, that as you think so you
become - at the conclusion of the Gita, Lord Krishna declares to Arjuna: "yathecchasi tatha kuru
(Act as thou wishest). Now, it is up to you what you will choose, whether to follow, obey and do as
I say or whether to follow your own mind, your own desire, and do as it propels you. It is up to
Therefore, the individual soul has freedom of choice. He can weigh
pros and cons. Through his uniqueness and wisdom, he can anticipate consequences by reflection, by
thought. Upon the basis of his own experience and what he sees happening in the world to others,
through logic, rationality and intelligence he can anticipate what will happen if this or that
course is taken, what will be favourable or unfavourable for him, what will be conducive to his
highest welfare, what will be adverse to him. Then he can make a choice.
Thus we create for ourselves our experience, our future. Long ago in
ancient puranic India they expressed the selfsame law "As a man thinketh, so he becometh" in an
allegorical way. They said that upon both the right and left shoulder of each individual two
deities preside, and they keep saying: "Be it so, be it so." So what ever arises within the hidden
depth of your own inwardness, which you think is not known to anyone and sometimes may not even be
known to oneself, these celestials say: "Be it so," and so it comes to prevail.
For we live in the presence of God, and He is one who immediately
grants to us whatever we wish. Therefore, we have the concept of the celestial wish-yielding tree
or the celestial gem, holding which whatever you wish instantaneously manifests. Therefore, be
careful what you ask for when you are in His presence.
He is a Being who can give us the highest, the sublimest, greater
than which there is no other gift. So, when we are in the presence of a Being capable of such
munificence, such abundance, why will we deprive ourselves of the highest and greatest of all gifts
and attainments by asking for something very petty, small, puerile, or worse still, in our folly
asking for something that is not good. For what you ask, that is given you.
Therefore, we have to guard ourselves not only from external inimical
or adverse forces, but more than anything else, we have to guard ourselves against our own folly,
our own ignorance. The jivatman suffers more through ignorance and folly than through any
wickedness or evil. Wickedness and evil have a limited ability to injure you, make you suffer, but
ignorance and folly can heap upon the individual soul endless suffering.
This reminds one of a subtly humorous statement, which nevertheless
conceals great wisdom: "It is a great pity that ignorance is not painful." If it were painful,
people would try to get rid of it immediately. That all of you know; one does not want to allow any
painful condition to prevail or continue. But unfortunately, ignorance not being painful, one
allows t to be, and this leads to endless suffering later on.
The entire Vedanta siddhanta (doctrine) says that the great problem
of man is avidya, ajnana. All suffering, all tapa-traya, all problems, all the complications that
the human individual soul - which is part and parcel of the supreme, all-perfect Divinity -
undergoes are due to ignorance. It is that which causes the individual to make the wrong choice and
to later regret.
Through knowledge alone can ultimate liberation be attained. The
Kathopanishad characterises the state of ignorance as little understanding like that of children.
Due to this smallness of understanding, beings take the visible alone to be real and refuse to
believe in and recognise the invisible which is real. Therefore they come to grief and are caught
in the ever-recurring wheel of birth and death.
One, therefore, has to guard oneself against one's own folly through
awareness, through reflection, through always being in the company of wise people. That is why
satsanga has been lauded so much as one of the gates to liberation. The company of elevating,
inspiring books is also very helpful in the process of gradually progressing towards wisdom. One
needs to be simple of heart, humble and prepared to learn.
Our situation is very much indeed a situation of choice. This choice
is that which ultimately decides what you become, what your life ultimately culminates in. This
indeed is to be pondered deeply, known very clearly and constantly borne in mind. With this
awareness live wisely, choose rightly, act spiritually and crown yourself with
May the choicest blessings of Gurudev be with you at every step
taking you in the right direction, making you choose the correct alternatives. Thus may you with
wisdom, alert awareness and an active discrimination steadily move towards the Goal!
Extracted from "Ponder these truths" by Swami Chidananda
Published by The Divine Life Society,