Humble salutations to the Supreme Creator, The Advaitha Guru Parampara (lineage teaching non-Duality) and my own Acharya (Preceptor) for the content that I put forth in this blog !
Is our life on earth governed by Fate or is it governed purely by Free-will?
“Fate and fate alone”, if you say, these are the direct implications:
1. You believe that a God in Heaven has predetermined every second of your life, whether good or bad. If you land up with bad, your explanation is that God wants to put you to test to see how you will weather it out with faith and strength. Agreed but doesn’t that make God a partial being who allots good/bad based on total randomness?
2. You say that you as an Individual have no free-will and therefore no choices what so ever to make in life! In short you are a puppet in the hands of a puppeteer! Is that really the case though? Aren’t we bombarded by thousands of choices throughout the day, even from choosing whether to wake up now or not?
3. If you are a puppet and everything is done by God, makes it convenient to escape from taking responsibility for one’s wrong actions (isn’t it?).
4. If God is the doer (as controller/the puppeteer) then shouldn’t he be the one enjoying the results of his actions? Why then is the Individual (I) experiencing good and bad? Isn’t the doer supposed to be the enjoyer too?
Now let’s say you are on the other end of the spectrum and have no faith whatsoever in faith/destiny and the likes. You say, I , the Self alone am and I am the only determining factor of every situation. Let’s analyze this a little.
1. By saying I alone control EVERYTHING through my free-will, we are totally eliminating a whole bunch of unknown,unseen factors which play alongside every situation. Usually it is this unknown bunch that is termed destiny/fate/luck/chance/God(by the religious). This means, for every action that you indulge in, you alone are the controlling factor which accounts for the results. Then, if you give a 100% towards your action shouldn’t you get a 100% result? But is that the case of poor farmers who sweat and toil and give their 100% to the work at hand but many a times are left behind with no option but suicide? What about treating a sick person? Shouldn’t they be cured back to health, all of them who receive the right treatment on time?
As rational beings, many a times in life we would have taken one side or the other or even keep switching sides as per situational needs. This is where Vedantha steps in and sheds some light on the topic. Vedantha terms the first group of people who believe only in fate as Fatalists and blatantly charges the second group as ignorant because they are simply turning a blind eye to whole lot more (the unknown factors). Vedantha says
Every situation in life is a mix of both fate and free-will.
Fate is the totally unknown factors collectively
Free-will is the planned choice I exert in a particular situation
Therefore, according to Vedantha,
life = free-will + fate
According to the fatalists, fate is the ONLY factor determining a situation. But the Vedantin rejects this and says, fate is ONE OF THE factors determining the result.
Vedantha is rejecting fatalism, but not fate (subtle point!!)
The most important point to note here is, there is no fixed mathematical ratio defining this fate and free-will pair.
The most important thing to keep at the back of the mind while reading this whole note is, for a Vedantin, the present is a result of his past (actions) and the future is directly dependent on the present. So today if I am suffering in some way, I certainly brought it upon myself! Hard to digest but I always get only what I deserve!! I don’t look to find a scapegoat to thrust all my blame on! Thus for a Vedantin, fate is nothing but his own past actions (in unseen form) coming at him in varying degrees mixed alongside every appropriate situation. Only thing is, we don’t know when and how so, we should be ever prepared. Law of Reciprocity concurs saying
What goes around comes around
I was quite surprised to hear this during one of my Acharya’s(preceptor’s) teaching sessions:
Physicist Paul A.M. Dirac, winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize, once said, “Pick a flower on earth and you move the farthest star.”
No action simply disappears or vanishes into space without a trace. It has a consequence, whether immediate or later, whether known or unknown (like the petal example above).
Having understood fate thus, a true Vedantin therefore never has a need to ask,”Why me?” He understands from deep within that any time, in any degree his past actions can and may come back at him. He prays to God alright, but not begging for the elimination of bad from his life but to be endowed with appropriate strength when these unknowns come at him. By prayer we only try to influence fate, I.e try to influence its severity on our mind. This is how we account for varying results too! Someone may say, “I prayed non-stop the whole time and he was under the best medical care possible and yet he didn’t make it.” The Vedantin understands this thus: We don’t know the ratio in any given situation of fate:free-will then how can we ever assume that the effort we put Forth in the situation was ever enough? (Food for thought) Besides, there is no question of simply erasing past actions ever! This is exactly why all religions insist on living a moral life governed by right ideas, ideals, words and actions because, once put out, they can only come back at us in some way or other and not just disappear.
Now let’s see what Vedantha has to say about free-will. Man is the only being endowed with a free-will owing to his capacity to function based on his intellect, as a rational, conscious being. He can think, plan, rationalize and act. He can choose between right and wrong.
1. If as per the fatalists, man was just an instrument in the hands of God, why is man the one who is faced with making choices? Does the car(the instrument) have to choose where it has to go? Isn’t that the decision placed before the conscious driver? Aren’t we the ones placed with choices before us all the time? Does that make us just the instrument or the conscious actor?
2. An instrument needn’t know the difference between right and wrong, only the doer does. Does the car need knowledge of traffic laws or the driver? Are we required to know between right and wrong or not? Isn’t that why there is religion, Scriptures, saints, teaching, just to teach us between right and wrong? Then are we mere instruments or doer?
3. Conflict is present only where there is choice? Does man have conflict?? So does he have choice? ☺️☺️
If we are convinced thus that life is a mix of both fate and free-will, we should choose/strive to live a simple, true, moral life which will be in natural alignment with God’s will. That way, while fate will still bring on our own past at us, we will be suitably endowed to handle whatever it unleashes.
OM! Peace! Peace! Peace!