Friday Discussion: To Choose or Not to Choose

The Yoga Sūtra begins by juxtaposing two, mutually incompatible approaches to information. On the one hand we can simply accept our experiences as a fact about us and the world. In this case, we do not see ourselves as choosing our experiences. They rather happen to us. On the other hand, we treat experience as something that has to be altered and influenced by our choices.

What Patañjali describes here is a choice: on the one hand, we can treat our experiences as something we have no choice over, or, we treat it as something that we have to influence. This former choice is paradoxically the choice to not choose. But for any experience, we are always faced with two choices: either we treat the experience as an autobiographical fact, or we see it as our responsibility to influence our experiences to make room for ourselves as people.

Some folks, often due to trauma, think we have no choice: bad things just happen and then we have to live with the consequence. But this ignores an alternative: we can treat the good, bad and ugly as something we have to influence to make room for ourselves in our life. As what we have before us is a choice (to choose or not to choose), to pretend we don’t have a choice is disingenuous. Our freedom is not our ability: our freedom is our responsibility.

Shyam Ranganathan

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