The Art Of Indecision – The Paanch Raasta Metaphor

To do or not to do or what to do or how to do are the big questions! How often have we deferred our decisions just because our minds cannot resolve conflicting demands? I am sure it happens to all of us very often. Recently I happened to read the following Greek parable: A man was riding a chariot drawn by a dark horse & a white horse. He couldn’t make much progress since each horse was trying to drag the chariot in different directions.  When I read this story I was reminded of an even more interesting & powerful metaphor from Katha Upanishad where the chariot is being drawn by 5 horses not just 2! The body is compared to the chariot, the intellect is the charioteer, Mind is the reins while the 5 horses correspond to 5 senses. There are 2 possibilities: All the senses can collectively lead you astray or they may work in conflicting ways and make your journey impossible. I would presume that the third possibility of all senses leading you up the right path is very bleak!

Let me give a rather mundane but practical example. In Mulund (a suburb in Mumbai where I live), there is a well- known junction known as PAANCH RAASTA (I am sure many towns/cities have something equivalent to this). As the name indicates this is an intersection where 5 roads meet. Until one gets familiar with the local geography, one is likely to lose sense of direction completely at the intersection. And if one doesn’t wish to take risks, there are chances of getting stuck up at the intersection! This is the equivalent of deciding not to decide!

Why am I talking so much about indecision? Because this is what I went through during my recent trip to Chennai. I was there for a week to shop around for a flat. The moment one thinks of buying an apartment several conflicting messages come to the mind. One inner voice might say: Don’t COMPROMISE on creature comforts. Yet another might say: No noise or air pollution please while another sentimental being in you is likely to caution you: Make sure the house you choose is close to the near & the dear etc. And finally just when you feel you have got it all right, the financier in you can be heard mumbling: Beware of your budget constraints! Don’t overstretch yourself.

It’s not our fault after all. According to neurobiologists the real culprits are the 2 neurochemicals that our brains produce – one is acetyl choline and the other is noradrenaline. One of them accelerates the brain activity while the other decelerates the  activity. We start dithering when the 2 chemicals start firing off together. It’s a miracle that against such heavy odds we still manage to take decisions! I suspect this happens when we finally stop listening to the analytical left brain and flow with the instinctive right brain!

Tailpiece: I met an interesting lawyer in Chennai to show my documents related to flat purchase. He narrated a funny definition of  an  ‘impartial’  judge. How do you define an impartial judge? A judge who makes sure to take equal amount of bribe from both parties before delivering his judgment!

Published in: on February 16, 2013 at 12:05 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Very interesting to read as the blog reflects the predicament that all of us face on several occasions. The scientific, philosophical and analytical bent of your mind to the fore!

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