(The following article was posted in the "Inner Voice" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest English language daily newspapers, on 2 August 2004.)
Choice can be misused. This is the source of pain and frustration for all beings and the cause of environmental degradation. The more we attempt to exploit the resources of material nature, the more we become entangled in complexities.
Exercising intelligent choice is now mostly in the domain of abuse, as what we choose to love is often the source of the problem. We want what seems best; what most satisfies our seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling and tasting. We even justify bowing down to those who promise to bring us the desired results.
The Bhagavad-gita reminds us that "one who is able to withdraw the senses from sense objects, as the tortoise withdraws its limbs within the shell, is firmly fixed in perfect consciousness". Permanent happiness for all depends on a knowledge of, and relationship with, the transcendent God, and not upon a multiplicity of gods or devatas whose satisfaction and pacification is no more than that of a human player in a chess game. When Yudhishir, disguised as Kank, was playing chess (the game originated in India) with Maharja Virat, the latter informed him that the great demigods treat humans like pawns.
If we put our faith in such uncaring, gaming beings, our situation is tenuous and desperate. Reciprocation with higher beings is not assured. But with the supreme God, mutual interchange is guaranteed. "As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Partha" - this is the promise in the fourth chapter of the Gita.
So let's simplify our lives. As child Krishna told Nanda, Indra is not absolute in awarding good results to anyone. Even Indra ultimately pays tribute to the Almighty God.
(The write is emeritus member of the ISKCON governing body commission)