A funny thing happend to me a few days ago. I was at my place of work and was walking to another part of the building. I happened to pass a water-cooler and decided, in a flash, to stop for a glass of water. After having my glass of water I resumed my walk and reached a set of fire-doors. As I was reaching out to open the door it was opened from the other side by someone who had arrived at that opposite side exactly at the same time.
As I passed through the doors I realised that had I not stopped for water I would not have arrived at the door at the same time as the other person. I know people will think that I am making a big deal and that since it is a place of work, people are bound to be passing through those doors regularly.
Firstly I am not saying there is anything magical about what happened. The other person was a young lady but I did not even see her face properly. I don’t know her. Our eyes did not meet. It was not love at first sight! Secondly I work at a university and these days there are no students on campus due to the summer break. The faculty strength is also reduced since most people are away on holiday. So obviously the foot traffic is reduced.
Coming back to the point I was trying to make, this incident made me first realise and then question the effect of choices. Do choices we make end up making a big difference or not? The future is fixed or is it not fixed? Did I make the coincidence happen by suddenly deciding to have water. Or was it going to happen in any case?
There is no way to tell.
This little incident also highlights the two approaches to life.
One approach says that the future is fixed. Whatever has to happen will happen.
The other approach says that each and every action (and in-action) changes your future. The ripples we create today become waves tomorrow and tsunamis the day-after. Or the tsunamis that rock our life today become mere ripples tomorrow.
The Bhagvad Gita gives this debate an interesting twist. It says:
He who sees inaction in action,
and action in inaction,
he is intelligent among men,
he is a Yogi and a doer of all action
In other words even inaction is a form of action. It makes everything inaction and action.
Taking a step is inaction. Why? Because you cannot try different steps in one go. So while with respect to that selected step you have taken an action, with respect to other possible steps which you could have taken you have shown inaction.
Therefore the Gita tells us we are always active and passive. Thus we are always changing the future through action (if the future can be changed) or we are playing out a fixed script through inaction (if the future cannot be changed)!