Subjective responsibility does not merely mean that we have a choice. It means that we have the potential of free choice. The difference is essential so we have to understand what “free” means in this context. A discussion on “smoking” and “stopping smoking” can illustrate the difference between choice and “free” choice.
Generally we understand choice as the option to choose between, say, A, B and C. However, the very seeing of these options has already limited the choosing process. The moment we perceive an option, we have taken a step in its direction – not in the direction of the option itself, but in the direction of perceiving separate options at all. Remember: object consciousness is dualistic. It thinks in terms of separation and objects.
Smoking is bad for our health. We all know this – including most smokers. Unless you have lived your life in a remote jungle, you are aware of the danger of smoking. So why do people not give it up? Many would say that smokers are physically addicted and therefore cannot help but continue smoking.
I do not find that argument persuasive. I believe that smokers do not quit because they do not really believe smoking is bad for their health. It is this disbelief that gives rise to the addiction. On an intellectual level smokers know smoking is unhealthy but on an emotional level they deny it. I truly believe that no living being would act against its own well-being out of true free will. That would defy logic. Nature does not naturally oppose nature.
This means that if a smoker really sees and understands the risks of smoking at both the intellectual and emotional levels, then they would simply stop smoking. The true problem is that our minds are blurred, which in turn cripples our ability to make free decisions. It is relatively easy to understand this concept intellectually, but it is hard to understand emotionally and thus to act upon. Our minds are cunning and emotions can trick us. It is possible – and even easy – to fool ourselves whenever and wherever we choose. We are very good at this! It takes honesty to see this trickery and emotions are never truly honest. We might tell ourselves that it is our decision to continue smoking, that it is our decision to go against our nature. We might believe that we are making this decision but we are fooling ourselves if we say it is a free decision. Why? Because it is not a free decision. We are being coerced into it. We have a junkie mind, which is to say, not a free mind. Taking SRA means that we see that our mind can operate freely but that it often chooses not to do so. Seeing that is the moment when we start to develop the power to make free decisions.
I stopped smoking the day I was pregnant with our son Nicky. To the world it may have looked like I took responsibility by not smoking anymore. In reality, I used my pregnancy (object) to force myself stop smoking. It was not an act of SRA! Luckily it did function in the long run, because that did mark the end of my smoking habit, but it was not the end of dualistic (which is to say, unfree) action.