My friend wrote this post today – What is my choice. It got me thinking about choices. What I thought about my choices, why I made them, how they shaped my life and so on.
When I thought back to a time in my life where I didn’t have choices, I wondered why that was. E.g. when I started working in my first job back in 2004 and stayed with my uncle that I didn’t want to.
Or the time when I made the choice to rebel against the status quo because I refused to define my life by cultural expectations or norms and allowed myself the freedom to be, I realised that eventually my rebellion had taken away my choice to learn and explore myself and what I wanted. Instead I had started living my life by what I didn’t want. It was a choice too, albeit a narrow one.
I also thought about how I have the choice to practice the religion of my choice, without my family disowning me or the legal system penalising me.
In that sense, the more I reflected on it, the more I was sure that being able to choose is a privilege. That I am already on the side of privilege when I have choices. However, it isn’t quite as straightforward. Why did I refuse to exercise the choices I had in a moment, for example, when I chose to stay in an unfulfilling relationship for even a minute, let alone months or years? Why did I choose to stay with my flatmate when it was clearly not working out for me?
As Mike had said to me once, probably the last time I ever saw him, he said that even though I thought I was staying in my toxic living arrangement because I had no other options at that moment, it was still my choice. At the time, I had just had a panic attack with the sense of isolation I felt in my life in Sydney and called him because I just needed to be around a human being who acknowledged my existence.
When he said to me I had a choice, this did not relieve my panic, this made it worse. To me, back then, it meant that knowing I have choices and still being stuck in my toxic living arrangement was a feeling of entrapment and helplessness. It made my panic worse. I told him his words just make me want to kill myself, they make me feel worthless and powerless as though he is saying to me I am so far gone that I chose that for my life. He backed off and recommended a TV show for me to watch.
Today’s reflection showed me a critical element of choice. It is a privilege but to be even aware of and exercise this privilege, I need great inner life force and wisdom.
For me this comes from my Buddhist practice. When I practice consistently, chanting abundantly in the morning and focusing on contributing to kosen rufu, I can elevate my life state. It’s akin to zooming out the camera lens and having a well-rounded view of my situation. I know that I have that anchor to come back to the next day. I know that no matter what, I will still have the Gohonzon to chant to, as the source of my deep conviction and belief in my life an its potential. For me, being able to make a choice, comes from knowing I have firm ground to stand on. As they say, if you are worried about putting food on the table, you are not going to think about a fulfilling career. If our basic needs are looked after, we can rise above our suffering. For me this basic need is to somehow believe in the inherent dignity of my own life, no matter what I do, how I look, how I dress, whether I marry or have kids or not, I am still worthy. I am a part of the universe and the universe is a part of me. I am always home and from this secure base I am free to make choices.
Sometimes, I am deterred from making choices when I have a sense of apathy and cynicism, thinking it is already done and it is not going to make a difference anyway, no matter what I do. The Buddhist concept of “Three thousand realms in a single moment of life” breaks this destructive circuit too.
According to this concept, the choices I make in a single moment of life permeate all existence across the past, present and future. E.g. while I cannot change what happened past, changing my perspective about it changes the effect it has on my present and future. I can make a determination from this moment on and when I determine to use my life and my experiences to somehow lead others to finding their happiness, my reality changes.
The concept of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” also called ichinen sanzen (in Japanese) is described below:
President Ikeda describes life as an unceasing spiritual struggle (2001 Peace Proposal). This can be seen as an inner battle we all undergo between living with hope or despair confidently or fearfully, and ultimately, whether we choose to live a fully engaged life or one of withdrawing into isolation. Our life is not as polarised as that but the choices we make moment by moment can have stark results. We can learn much from the expression of poets and philosophers.
President Ikeda quotes Goethe’s Faust, and goes on to say, “Together with Faust, we must focus our efforts fully on the ‘fleeting minute.’ For this, we must understand two things. One is that everything is contained in the present moment. The other is that the way we approach this moment is crucial and will determine the entire course of our lives.”
Based on the belief that the entire course of our lives can be determined by our actions in the present moment, our values and our life philosophy is crucial. Through seeking a profound philosophy and applying it, we can respond courageously to our present circumstance and positively influence our environment. We can say in essence, this is the spirit of actual rather than theoretical ichinen sanzen. It is belief in the potential of life itself, embodied in our actions in the present moment. There is infinite potential in the present moment, no matter our state of life or circumstances. The possibility to transform and create our happiness exists only in the present life moment.Study course – http://www.sgiaust.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/1280887967985-6054.pdf
If my choice in this moment determines everything, it is a much greater responsibility. E.g. while writing this post I again had an impulse to call Mike. Ironically, I have to remind myself what I want to choose for my life. My rallying cry to myself this morning as I was chanting was…
"I deserve...................................................... Better."
But, can I choose better?
Lucky I have a friend coming over to study in fifteen minutes, so I can zoom out of my deepest hole of suffering and not choose from my negative self.
My mission comes to the rescue once again.
How do you exercise your power of choice? In every moment of every day? Who do you choose to be?