Making Right Choices
This is a popular story you may have heard. It’s about a builder who was down on his luck and out of work. When his wealthy friend, a developer, heard of the builder’s plight, he paid him a visit. After a few minutes the developer said to his friend, “I have this choice plot of land. I want you to build me a beautiful house on this lot. Here’s $200,000 to complete the job. You choose the design, buy the materials and supervise the work. I trust completely that you will do an excellent job. Do this for me and I will reward you well.”
The next day the builder set out to start the project. He looked at a good set of construction plans but found that he could save some money by buying a slightly inferior and outdated set of drawings. So he bought the cheaper ones.
When the time came to buy the concrete he found that he could buy slightly watered down concrete that would not be as sturdy. But he was able to save $5,000 and he pocketed the money for himself.
Then rather than buying grade A lumber for the framing, he bought the cheaper, warped lumber. He figured: “This lumber will be covered by the walls and no one will see it.” So he saved and pocketed some more of the money. And so, in this manner, he kept cutting corners on the construction to enrich himself.
When the builder was done, the house looked quite appealing on the outside, but he knew that there were a lot of serious defects built into it. The builder had managed to divert $40,000 for himself out of the job.
After the construction was complete, his friend the developer, the person who supplied the money and trusted him, returned to inspect the job and to take delivery of the house.
When the developer arrived, he didn’t step a foot inside the house. Rather he admired it from the outside. He then turned to his friend the builder, the one who had done the slipshod work, and said, “Here are the keys to the house. Because you are such a good friend I’m giving it to you for your own home.”
We make decisions in this life all the time. Whether in the light of day or behind closed doors, the decisions we make are always between the Lord and us. We build our own house, and then we have to live in it. When we cut corners we are the ones to suffer, but when we make right choices we are the ones who ultimately gain.
Maharaj Charan Singh used to tell us that Sant Mat is an attitude of mind to be developed, and a way of life to be lived. Continually we are faced with little moral dilemmas: Do we turn to the positive or to the negative? Do we take a step toward our goal or away from it? We mould our lives positively by making right decisions. At each decision point we can do one of two things: We can follow the lower nature of the mind, which leads us more deeply into this world, or we can respond to the higher nature of our mind, which takes us closer to our destination.
In the story, the builder made major decisions that affected the integrity of his finished product. He skimped on the quality of his materials and, in the end, became the owner of the defective house. The consequences of his actions are clear.
In our lives we are constantly facing decisions big and small – mostly small. But these things combine to form the pattern of our lives. Each little decision is woven into the tapestry of our being. Over time, these choices add up, just like when we throw the change from our pocket into a jar at the end of the day. A few coins, day by day, eventually can become enough to buy a new suit of clothes. The decisions that we make are the coinage of our day. And, as time goes by, they add up. What do these choices look like? Perhaps it is deciding whether to watch a little more TV, or shut it off and get to bed, so that we can wake up refreshed for meditation. Perhaps we have to choose not to yield to a temptation (the avoidance of a negative action). Or perhaps it is to do a little bit of simran when our mind is free for a moment (the assertion of a positive action).
As we strive to develop a Master-oriented attitude of mind and to live life rightly, these little moment-by-moment decisions count for a lot. Our work on this path seems not to be so much about some epic battle played out on the stage of life but rather a series of small struggles between the higher and lower nature of our mind.
There’s an old saying that says: If we don’t know where we’re headed, any road will take us there.
Master has described the direction to our home and instructed us on how to get there. It is for us to align our daily activities in a manner consistent with our goals. He has given us a chance to stop our aimless wandering. Every day when we open our eyes, God has given us another golden opportunity to live life rightly and make the best choices. May our decisions large and small take us nearer to our destination.