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Essays

Personal Essays

No Right Answer

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“Should I be a vegetarian?” a devotee once asked Sri Anandamayi Ma.

“Eat according to your sadhana (spiritual practice),” Ma replied.

In this moment, the student was asking the teacher – the expert – for the right answer. And in this moment, the teacher was saying that she didn’t have the answer—instead, it was up to the student to decide.

Ma, in her wisdom, answered from a space of knowing that there is no absolute right or wrong answer to this question or any like it. There is only what is right for you—and only you, as the artist and author that you are, can decide what that is.

We figure out what is right and wrong for us through a painstaking process of trial and error. We come up with right/wrong definitions, act based on our understanding of them, and then, like an experimenting scientist, see what the result is. Did so and so behaviour feel good? Did it properly represent my most deeply-held values? Am I better or worse off now? If we come up with yes, we know we are on the right track. If no, then we make adjustments and try again.

It is not easy, by any means, to be our own answer, which is why the vast majority of us prefer to be told what to think and do. Being told what to think and do — i.e., being told what right and wrong is — absolves us of any creative accountability. If something goes wrong, then it’s the fault of the source of where we got our information from. If something goes right, we can’t really take credit either. In this way, we can feel a certain sense of safety that we aren’t going to mess up and face potential judgment, ridicule, and/or exclusion—and, most of all, experience our own sense of joy from living in harmony with ourselves, i.e., being our own answer.

In other words, we like to go along to get along to have a basically OK experience of life.

The laugh out loud joke is that nobody is in charge, and hardly anybody knows what they are doing. You can be certain, also, that few among us know exactly who you are. Why would you want to empower others to be your answer? Why not empower yourself?

Like a child learning to walk or ride a bike, all it takes is a little courage to try, the resilience to bear the inevitable hurt of making “mistakes,” plus faith that you will, eventually, figure things out (as honest effort is always rewarded).

Only humans cast aspersions and only 100% of the time do they reflect the inner world of the caster more than anything you have done. Trees do not judge. Animals do not judge. The whole of nature does not judge. You can be sure higher intelligences don’t judge either. In religious terms, if almighty and all powerful God so badly didn’t want you to do [fill in the blank], why would He or She permit you to do so or create the potential in the first place? This question needs to be carefully considered.

The reason we have freedom of choice and an infinite amount of things (thoughts, identities, behaviours, beliefs, circumstances, etc.) to choose from is because that is exactly what is needed for you to know yourself as the creator that you are and yearn to be. You have to be able to experiment. You have to be able to make mistakes. You have to be able to say, “Whoops. That wasn’t right, let me try this.” Through this process, like Edison inventing the light bulb after 10,000 failures, you find your way.

Choice is connected understanding. Understanding is connected to knowledge. Knowledge is connected to truth.

And truth, finally, is connected to joy—the kind that can’t be taken away from you.

C. LowmanComment