Do I Have Choice?

Close up image of chessboard

(Black and White drew lots to determine who would begin.)

Black: Let us talk about choice.

White: Do you believe in choice?

Black: No.

White: No?

Black: Not at all.

White: Well, all right, in my ordinary state I have no choice. But when I wake up, then, I have a choice.

Black: I am reminded of a very old saying which a friend of ours likes to quote: “An unenlightened man has no choice, for he is a slave to everything; a man on the way to enlightenment has a choice; an enlightened man has no choice – he does what is necessary.”

White: Yes, in our language: When I am asleep, I am identified, everything just happens in me. A conscious man – well, we don’t really know about that, but can we say that he will act according to the promptings of his real conscience?

And the man beginning to wake up – surely he has a choice? One never knows what will happen- the habitual reaction, or something different.

Black: Then why is it that when I look back on my life, with sincerity, I have to admit that at each moment I could not have been other than the way I was.

White: At the moments you happen to remember, you reacted.

Black: Let us say that I have been asleep 99.9% of the time.

White: 99.9%? After all these years …?

Black: Let us not quibble about statistics – you have missed the point.

White: The point being …?

Black: 0.1% is significant. Not of course as measured by time. Can you measure consciousness by the clock?

White: What are you getting at?

Black: 0.1% of the time I was not asleep. I can remember such moments. I did not react. I was free inside. Did I have the choice to react? No.

White: The fact that you did not react as usual proves that you had a choice- the choice not to react.

Black: I had no choice. Freed from reaction, something else was bound to appear. “Man is always under influence”.

White: “The only choice a man has, is what influence he is under”.

Black: Yes, but is it true? At any particular moment, the balance of influences converging on myself is what it is – I react habitually, or I don’t. Where is the choice?

White: How did you choose the subject of choice?