Category Archives: free will

Re-program yourself

We, as human beings, like to view ourselves as the most evolved species, the pinnacle of perfection and so on. The human race is truly superior to all other species and the human brain a real marvel.

We like to view ourselves as possessing free will. We like to pride ourselves in being able to make intelligent choices based on the situation. But if we look closer at ourselves or human beings in general we will realize that more than 80% of our mind is pre-programmed.  We are made up of layers and layers of rules. Our conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious minds have been programmed right from the times of our birth. In the early years a lot of programming is done by our parents – “don’t do this”, “do this”, “avoid that” and so on. Later we get conditioned by our friends, our schools and society. Our inner selves are made up of millions and millions of little rules like – A person who smiles often must be good natured”, “A black cat crossing your path is bad luck” and so on. These programs are deep inside us and kick in when ever a situation triggers them.

With so much of programming most of our actions are simple reactions or results of our existing programs or conditioning. There are some who feel that man really does not have free will and all our actions in our life are pre-ordained. While that may be debatable the fact still remains that most of our actions are simply reactions which stem from our past programming.

For e.g. when somebody questions our capabilities we feel hurt. The simple reason is that we have programmed to view ourselves as smart and intelligent. When somebody questions our credentials our ego is hurt. The internal programming rules start to revolt and we get really upset. Most of the times besides getting hurt we will also tend to get angry. There may be many internal programming rules which may result in this adverse reaction. For one this may be diametrically opposite to the rule “I am the greatest”. There may be other rules also in action for e.g.  “What right does Mr. X have to question my capabilities?”, “Mr. X is inferior to me”.

There may be other times when you instantly dislike a person. This may be because he/she may be dressed outrageously. Sometimes it could be more subtle. This person or this person’s mannerism may remind you of a colleague or acquaintance who you intensely dislike.  The memory of the colleague or acquaintance along with the hate is programmed into your psyche and is triggered again.

Hence it can be seen that a large part of our reactions in this world whether it is anger, hatred, bias, sadness etc are all based on our past programming or conditioning.

We first have to recognize that these reactions are pre-programmed behavior. In a way we are reacting as robots would.

What is required of us is to gently re-program ourselves. For e.g. if somebody questions our capabilities we need to step back and take a genuine look at ourselves. Are we really lacking in some areas? Could we do better? For this we need to re-program our own opinion about ourselves. We have to rewrite the rule about our own assumed superiority. We must write it to include a realistic picture about ourselves.

Similarly when we instantly like or dislike somebody we must again question ourselves. We must look deep into ourselves and try to understand the rules that result in such an outlook.

Re-programming oneself is no simple task. After all we are trying to undo years of accumulated programs and rules.  For this to be effective we must truly make an effort to understand the real reason behind our reactions and why we need to re-program ourselves in a new way.

Many philosophers and thinkers have constantly re-iterated the need for a person to be aware of one’s thought process. This in reality is another way of saying that we need to be aware of our internal programming.

In other words to change ourselves for the better we need to re-program ourselves.

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Are we deceiving ourselves?

Are we deceiving ourselves? This was the question which I have been asking myself for the past couple of days. If for a moment we put away our ideas of soul, atman, karma and sin then what are we left with. We would just live each and every day in own merit.

So does karma or sin really make sense? A human being is nothing more than a slightly glorified version of an animal. We probably have a much more evolved sense of ourselves, have developed a language to communicate and would like to think that we have choice. As human beings we really pride ourselves with having the ability to be self-aware besides also having the freedom of choice.

This choice that we pride ourselves in is nothing more than a slightly evolved animal ability. I have seen a dog smell a piece of bread on occasions and quietly turn away. Is it not exercising choice then?

Then we delude ourselves into thinking that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This is really only true to human beings who are conscious of their acts. There are many people in the world who simply rationalize their acts and sleep with an easy conscience for the rest of their lives.

When a lion slaughters a deer and eats it does it acquire bad karma? No. However if subsequently a hunter comes and shoots it down would the animal world deceive itself that it was the lion’s karma to get killed?

This brings us to the Greek ethical question that plagued the Greek philosophers’ many thousand years ago. “Is it better to be strong or is it better to be good?” They concluded it is better to be strong.

That is reality. In many ways we live in a world of “matsya nyaya” or might is right. However there are sensible people in the world who do good to others simply because they believe “in doing unto others what they would like have done unto them”.

What are your thoughts on this?

The art of getting lucky

All of us spend a good part of our lives in envying people who are successful in life. We generally attribute success in anybody’s life to be in large part to his or her luck. But, is that true? Is there a way we   can get lucky? By getting lucky, I don’t mean winning the lottery. What is meant, by being lucky, is being more successful in life.

As a matter of fact we can increase the chances of being successful or becoming more fortunate. The key here is luck only comes your way if you make way for it. We need to take proactive steps in life to ensure our chances for success.

One of the steps that we need to take is to learn new skills that will be useful in our professional lives. We need to proactively take up some creative activity in life. Learning will not only hone our skills but also give us that little edge when it comes to promotions in office

We also need to network with a lot more of our colleagues and generally become visible in office life. We have to necessarily increase our circle of friends, colleagues and well wishers. This is extremely important for the present and will also serve as a cushion in times of crises.

Besides, we also need to put a little bit of our earnings on a regular basis for our and our children’s future. It is not necessary to speculate but saving a little regularly over a long period.

Finally we need to make sure that we keep ourselves physically and mentally fit through regular exercise. We need to be healthy to be able to enjoy any windfall that comes our way.

If we take these little steps and pro-actively do activities then we definitely increase our chances of success. Providence only favors the prudent

In other words we need to take little steps to plant seeds or start creative endeavors in the present. This in turn will enable our chances of getting lucky or hitting something big in the future. This in essence is “The Art of Getting Lucky”.

Free will or fate? Fate it is.

Do we have free will? Or are all our actions pre-determined?  In other words are we inextricably bound by fate, kismet or vidhi?  I am sure most people would probably say that a human being has the ability to choose their actions in any situation.

When I was young I was told by my parents that our lives were pre-determined. That it was one’s vidhi or fate to suffer or enjoy in life. This could be because of one’s karma they said. As I grew older I realized that man has the ability to make a choice. As a conscious being we have the ability to choose one of several possible alternatives.

While this argument may sound plausible at a surface, when one probe deeper we find that we really do not have free will.  Our current state in life is dependent on our past actions. The actions that we choose to take, at any point in life, are dependent in a large part on our past experiences. The choice we may take is dependent on our past reasons, our past conditioning, our current biases and current opinions. The actions that we take in the present are definitely determined by our conditioning in life.

Given the fact that our actions can only be based on our past experiences, does it make sense to think that our actions are independent of any past conditioning? The answer is an emphatic, No!

Clearly this indicates that our actions are determined by our past conditioning. Then where is the question of free will?

Free will pre-supposes that our actions in the present cannot be determined in any way and is in many ways, truly random. But this is clearly not true. In any given situation, our choice will depend on our past experience and we will act in the most optimum way. Our choice will depend on whether there is personal gain.  For e.g. when we are insulted, we do feel hurt. That is true for most of us. May be a few enlightened souls, may choose to be detached from the insult. But a majority of human beings will behave in extremely predictable ways in any given situation. The only difference in behavior will only arise based on the slightly different experiences that different people have.

Otherwise our actions are truly predictable and will be based on past conditioning. We will chose to maximize our gains in any given situation and make the most rational choice.

Given this does it make sense to think that man has free will? Clearly not!  The world and our lives are deterministic and we are all bound in fate.