In life’s multiple-choice exam, select an alternative based on what it says, not where it stays
In a multiple-choice exam, the position of an alternative doesn’t determine its correctness. Just because an alternative is positioned first doesn’t make it correct. The correctness of an alternative depends on what it says, not where it stays.
Though this is elementary common sense, unfortunately when it comes to our inner life, this sense is not so common. In life, we all have many choices about what we desire and do. Thus life is somewhat like a multiple-choice exam. But in this exam we are often irrationally predisposed towards the first alternative – when the mind comes us with a desire for sensory gratification, we frequently accept it because it has come from inside us: “It’s my idea, my choice, my right.”
However, the first alternative usually comes not from us, but from our conditioning by the modes of material nature. The Bhagavad-gita (14.05) indicates that the modes bind all living beings. The modes are subtle forces that shape the interaction between consciousness and matter, thereby conditioning us to certain patterns of perceiving, thinking and acting. Due to this conditioning, we become habituated to noticing certain things and neglecting other things. So we don’t notice the various available alternatives when dealing with a particular situation.
As our intelligence and time are both limited, we understandably can’t explore all possible alternatives. But we can subject the first alternative to due scrutiny and also give other alternatives due attention.
To make such discerning choices, we need to loosen the grip of the modes on us. For this, Gita wisdom endorses bhakti-yoga as the most effective method. As bhakti practice progressively frees our consciousness, we become capable of evaluating alternatives intelligently, thereby empowering ourselves to make healthy choices that lead to lasting fulfillment.