One Choice Too Many?
One Choice Too Many?
Everyday, we are faced with decisions to make. In this samsaric world we live in, the choices many make are sometimes not so good, and most of the time painful to different extents. To be presented with choices is not a bad thing because it forces us to decide. It is better than having no choice? Clearly, the outcome is not likely to be perfectly desirable if is the decision is hard to make. Problems exist especially if one is presented with two seemingly equally painful alternatives. Here is a classic one - "If two of your relatives may drown and you can save only one, who would you save - your mother or your wife?
Most of life's painful decisions usually are presented with no choice, one choice, or two equally painful choices. Imagine making the difficult decision of whether to end the life-support of a brain dead loved one versus keeping him alive in a vegetative state. Either way, regret and remorse is likely to ensue.
If they must, rational people would choose the least painful out of all painful choices presented to them. And when choosing among the desirable in life, take the one which gives the most satisfaction. People often find themselves indecisive when given more than two choices. Is it really a good thing to be having more than two choices? Three, forty, a hundred, maybe infinite choices? Too many choices can bring about paralysis, indecisiveness, procastination and fear of making sub-optimal decisions.
Students who are familiar with multiple choice questions know that they have only one correct choice to make - out of four or five alternatives, which they would eventually narrow down to two close possible answers. No matter how many choices one may be presented, ultimately only two choices are left and one decision has to be made. The indecision is caused by greed and the unwillingness to accept that the decision made might be an inferior or more painful one. This comparison and constant seeking of perfection and lesser suffering has no end, and regret follows when forgone choices turn out better than expected, being seen as missed opportunities.
One example which I observed is that Buddhists are generally spoilt by choices when they are faced with which Buddhist tradition to practise. Within the Mahayana tradition, there are a wide range of different "zong" (traditions) and "fa men" (Dharma gates or practices). They tend to migrate from one tradition to another. Due to lack of focus, they then achieve little progress in their cultivation.
A very intelligent brother once shared with me that the Pureland method seems unchallenging for his personal cultivation because he feels that there are higher levels of practice such as the more profound Hua Yen tradition. I told him that it may be that the Hua Yen tradition fits him better, so he should be focused on its practice. (But then again, has he mastered the fruits of Pureland practice to make a sound judgement? Or did he belittle its profoundness as a masterful skilful means?)
In the Surangama Sutta (Leng Yeng Jing), twenty-five Arhats and Bodhisattvas shared their experiences on their practice on the path to enlightenment, each succeeding through in-depth focused meditation on a single subject. For instance, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva had focused on using mindfulness of sounds. Thus, there are no best choices for all? One has to discover what works best for oneself.
With the objective of cultivation being the same, no matter which Dharma gateway one chooses, as long as one is diligent and focused, he would eventually reach the other shore of liberation as would others on a different boat going the same direction. As one decides to go to the other shore, remember not to take too long to decide which boat to take!
- Alan (BigCuPorridge)