nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo na medhayā, na bahunā śrutena:
yamevaiṣa vṛṇute, tena labhyas tasyaiṣa ātmā vivṛṇute tanῡṁ svām.
-(Katho Upanishad, 1.2, 23)
Translation: This Self cannot be attained by study of the Scriptures, nor by intellectual perception, nor by frequent hearing (of It). He whom the Self chooses, by him alone is It attained. To him the Self reveals Its true nature.
Speaker: The aatman cannot be attained by studies of Vedas, nor by intelligence, nor by much hearing. It is gained by him who chooses It alone. To him, this aatman reveals his true nature. So the question is, ‘Isn’t studying the scriptures also choosing it? What does it imply?’ When we say that it is gained by him who chooses it alone, what does it imply?
Whenever we choose, we choose in hope of something else, we never choose the thing itself. The thing is just a promissory note. When you say that you are choosing something, you are not choosing the thing, you are choosing a promise, a hope, you are choosing the thing as a medium to reach something else, so you never choose anything alone by itself. You choose an entire story, you choose a process, you choose a chain, a series that will probably, eventually lead you somewhere, or so you hope.
To choose It alone is to come to the end of choosing.
To come to the end of choosing is to come to the end of time, is to come to the end of ego itself. Have you ever chosen anything after which there would be no need to choose? Have you ever chosen anything that would be final? Ever? You choose in the hope of reaching ‘the final’. You never choose ‘the final’ itself, because ‘the final’ itself is probably not a ‘thing’ to be chosen. Are you getting it?
To choose it alone is to come to the end of choosing, and that ego cannot do, because the ego itself will not agree to its own annihilation. So who chooses It alone?
Whatever you will choose will just be a promise, a hope. You choose a man or a woman, what do you think, you are choosing the man or the woman? No, you are choosing something beyond the man or the woman, which unfortunately a man or a woman cannot give to you. That’s why all our choices fail, because what they promise, they never provide. What do you think; do you choose a nice piece of jewellery? No. It promises joy, but unfortunately, it never gives that, that’s why you need another piece and then the next one, and then the next.
Behind all our endeavors is a deep thrust to come to the end of endeavouring. Behind all our choices is a deep desire to come the end of choosing. In some sense, all that the ego wants is, its own end. The ego is actually suicidal; it’s just that it cannot commit suicide. It’s so afraid. The ego wants to come to an end because its existence only gives it suffering, so it does want to come to an end. But it doesn’t have the guts. It wants to disappear, but it can never choose to disappear. It can only choose a hope of disappearance, it can only hope the ultimate. And that is the reason why hope is such a deception. The ego uses hope to continue itself.
‘One day ‘I’ will come to the ultimate, so today ‘I’ can continue. One day the final will happen, so today ‘I’ can just live with the old pattern.’ It can never choose the ultimate. Very beautifully the Upanishad says that ‘your’ activities will never bring you to the aatman because you will never exercise that simple and direct choice.
(Speaking in Sanskrit) नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो, न मेधया न बहुना श्रुतेन. This Self cannot be attained by study of the Scriptures, nor by intellectual perception, nor by frequent hearing (of It). These are the activities that you do, and your ‘doing’ will never bring you to That, because all you are doing is just an escape from That. How can you come to that from which you are escaping? How can you come to the centre while moving to the circumference? So what is the solution that the Upanishad is showing?
The aatman is gained by him who chooses it alone. To him this aatman reveals its true nature.
Choose it alone, nothing else. No medium is required, no hope is required, no future is required, no middleman is required. What do I want? Joy, not joy through a man. This otherness, this intermediation is a problem. What do I want? Freedom, not freedom after two years. Freedom is unqualified and instant, right now.
When that choice comes to the ego, it retreats. The ego will never make that direct choice. It will keep clamouring for freedom, while never choosing freedom. What will it choose? It will choose different types of bondages that will supposedly lead to freedom. Rubbish, obviously rubbish!
What can you do then? Nothing. You are anyway choosing all the time. Just know that your choices are useless. It does not mean that you should exercise a different choice. Kindly do not interpret it to mean that. All you interpretations are anyway your choices. The Rishi is not asking us to choose differently. What is he telling us? ‘Whatever you will choose, you will only choose from escaping That which deserves to be chosen.’ So take your choices with a pinch of salt. Never think that you have made a great choice, that kind of compliment you can reserve for people who are changing their fifth girlfriend. ‘Oh! You have made a great choice this time around’, or for a woman who has brought a new sari, ‘Great choice’!
You should know that no choice is a great choice. The moment there is a choice, there is just rubbish. That does not mean that you should stop choosing, because ‘you’ will choose. I am speaking to the one who chooses. Right? I am not speaking to the great aatman. I am speaking to the one who chooses. To whom am I talking? The ego, and the ego will choose. So I am not asking you to not to choose, because you will choose. I am not asking you to choose differently, because whatever different choice you will make, that will anyway come from the one who is choosing. So I am saying none of that. All I am saying is that you will continue to choose, just know that your choices are useless, and then choose. Keep choosing, and be aware that all these choices are useless. Is this clear?
Listener 2: I have observed that whenever I choose to buy something, there is an initial excitement, there is a hope that the product will be good. But after the product arrives, that excitement vanishes away.
Speaker: Nobody ever sells you anything except hope. Realize this. Nobody ever sells you anything except hope, and that is why you need to be hopeless. (Everyone laughs). How else will the market survive then? A promise is what you buy. A fairness cream is not a skin treatment cream, it is the promise of love. Realize this. It is the promise of love. That’s what you buy. A promise of love!
Listener 2: So one should go for everything then?
Speaker: Yes, everything.
-Excerpts from a Clarity Session held at Advait Sthal. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session at: Whatever you choose will bring sorrow to you
Article 1: Why do we choose to suffer silently?
Article 2: Whatever you choose for yourself will be poison
Article 3: Confusion arises from choice; choices from ignorance