March 16, 2008

ESSAY- 1 : The Illusion of Choice

I had two interesting conversations with two different people (of opposite genders) last week. One centered on the difference between 'Choice and Decision' and the other being between 'Religion and God'. Apparently, both the guys differed from my point of view and stated some strong arguments in their favour. We did not reach any conclusion per se, but did feel that it was a topic for further exploration.

In this essay, I have tried to reflect on some of the views hovering around these topics. I will not try to 'explain' it, but take it to a state from which i would wish the thought processes to continue.

Choice and Decision
Choice is a 'state of mind' , which sees the presence of one(Hobson's) or more course of actions, given a particular predicament.
Decision is a logical conclusion arrived at by considering all the available choices(course of actions).

According to Hinduism, Maya is a state wherein the mind sees something that is either ephemeral,evanescent or is not-present - this is something similar to illusion. The mind conjectures certain conditions which leads it to 'see' certain things that are not present. The last sentence is indeed interesting. Firstly, how can the mind 'imagine' something that it has never seen - how it can 'make' things without having an experience of the same. For eg. a person knows that a desert is hot and arid because he has experienced it. Now for a person who doesn't even know what a desert is , or even further, hasn't even heard the word - then how can he imagine the 'state of a desert'. It follows that if a person who has already been to a desert (say Bob) explains it verbally to a person who hasn't been there(say Alice), then there are some good chances that Alice can come up with a rough version of a picture of the desert. This is because, Bob was able to relate to the conditions in a desert to a conditions that Alice would have felt when at home or at her present state;but the same scenario becomes difficult for Bob, if Alice was blind since birth.

Experiences do matter.

Religion and God
Religion is a set of rules put forth by our predecessors to bring discipline into our lives. Religion for that matter can be equated to the constitution to be followed in one's life - a way of life. It prescribes some notions that when followed lead to an enhanced status of living with superior intellectual pursuits. The presence of different religions around is a depiction of different schools of thought. Each religion (or school) prescribes certain activities that was felt by a 'single' person to be significant and a mass followed him for the wavelength matched with the Master. The creation of a new school of thought was deeply influenced by the social dynamics and interpersonal relationships. Whenever the society(which constitutes of that 'single' person in the begining) feels that a certain rule needs to be broken or created altogether , and which was totally complementary to the one already existing in the present religion, a new discipline/religion was born.

Now, the creators of the religion(or constitution) did realize that it was difficult for the society to follow some rules when there was no one to supervise and hence 'God' was created. [The concept of 'God' is one of the most beautiful things that fascinates me till date , for it amuses/amazes me - but the thirst still persists and am continuing my hunt to satiate it.] According to humans, God is the one who was supposed to have created the 'new' religion and hence he is the Supreme - the omnipresent - the omniscient. Different rules where ascribed to different Gods.

Symbolism
A perspective that has been missing in both the conversations has been the relevance of symbolism. Symbolism cannot be equated to Experience. The concept of Choice and God is sheer symbolism. We cannot describe either of them, unless we feel them; and describing the experiences is beyond the bounds of the lexicon. These words are the feelings that come closest to the experience, but the feelings cannot be sustituted for a constrained set of grammar rules and words.

As Gary Zukov points out in his book[2], let the masters continue to dance... let the music flow and let us dance along with it. We are least bothered about what had transpired and what is supposed to come. We are just concerened about the present and the dance and the mysticism associated with it.

Finishing Notes....... My knowledge on this subject is very much limited and am trying to understand it more. This essay is not an effort to vandalize the existing customs or rituals , but an effort to share some views that i feel were worthy of consideration in this world. This essay also does not reflect all the rationale behind the topic of contention and many other views that are equally important in understanding the subject. The subject is worthy of exploration and more research, and it carries an enormous philosophical and psychological angle to it. I do not deny the existence of God and neither question the relvance of religion - i do visit temples , pray and prostrate - but i want to understand this 'phenomenon' in its entirety , for it encompasses some of the most delicate and controversial dogmas, principles and thoughts around.

Who am I? Why I am here? What am i supposed to do? What have i done? (Origin > Identity > Destiny)

Humans are causal beings - we ascribe 'causes' to whatever we see happening - this notion is reflected in almost in all the religions - its called 'karma'. I atleast know that Hinduism and Buddhism do lay emphasis on 'karma'. Bible certainly conveys the same essence [1]:

# A person reaps what he sows. (Gal. 6:7)
# All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Karma does not mean that all events are predetermined; what it means is that the it is us who control what has to happen to us.

I do not believe in another 'term' that keeps floating around -- LUCK. Luck a term directed at something that is beyond the control of human mind ,and which we prescribe to when things do not happen as we anticipate them - and i find this to be weird and unacceptable. It is the human mind that decides its course of action; though it should be taken into account that the human mind does decide its course based on the current state of things and the things that have been learnt from the past. The symbiosis of Eastern Mysticism with Western Science is a very potent relationship and should be studied very carefully, with interest.

References:
[1] Buddhism Karma [http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/karma.html]
[2] Dancing Wu Li Masters - Gary Zukov
[...] experiences that has been gained in my limited stay on this planet :)
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