We must assume that there are many pathways into the future. At the human level, nothing is predetermined. If I show kindness toward a neighbor, I am likely to earn his or her good will. If I am mean spirited, I will very likely alienate him or her.
Thus, our actions matter. They matter more than we would like to think. Fatalism is not a valid option. The belief in fate (moira) was, I think, a weakness of the ancient Greeks despite the genius of their great ones who forayed far into the fields of philosophical and protoscientific inquiry. We need not repeat their error. We can learn from history if we care to.
We also need not repeat the erroneous belief in progress, which arose with the technological development of the eighteenth century. As we can witness all around us, progress is not inevitable. If anything, it is a slippery slope. Any astute observer of the environment will by now know beyond any shadow of a doubt that, all supposed technological progress notwithstanding, we have messed up royally.
Change is certain. Whether we can make it a positive experience for us is entirely our choice in every moment. What needs to happen, then? First, we must recognize that we can determine our future as individuals and as a species. Second, we must realize that we are capable of choosing wisely.
What is wisdom? And how do we generate it in us? Wisdom is knowledge that entails self-transcendence and aims at the good not only of the person claiming wisdom but all human beings and also all nonhuman beings as well as the natural environment. This is a very broad definition, but I can see very little wisdom, if any, in knowledge that offers less than that.
Because wisdom has a moral component, we must consciously cultivate it, which is a matter of discipline. Knowledge as information is readily available and requires no special fitness on the part of the person wanting to acquire it. Not so with wisdom. It is knowledge that grasps the whole human personality, not just the intellect. Hence we could call it “integral knowledge.” A wise individual is not merely clever, but he or she radiates good-heartedness—the kind of person whom you would seek out when you are in trouble.
Yogins and yoginīs who immerse themselves in the wisdom tradition of Yoga have an undoubted advantage over most other people. By practicing Yoga as a lifestyle, they can themselves elicit the quality of wisdom. That’s why, in contemporary parlance, Yoga is so cool.