Osho once said – “Life is a mystery, not to be analysed, intellectualised or solved, but to be lived and experienced moment to moment.”
At one level this makes a lot of sense but at another level as our quest for spiritual awareness evolves and we delve deeper into the spiritual realm, there is a dire need to find answers to many questions and issues that crop up. I am sure that many of us would have come across the following belief structures basis their own experiences, reading of scriptures, viewpoints and words of wisdom presented by many Spiritualists, Masters and Gurus (some of them would be quite contrasting in nature!).
“We are the makers of our own Destiny” as many rationalists would subscribe to.
“Not a leaf stirs without the Will of the Divine Grace.” We are thus only puppets and God the puppeteer (a belief system prevalent amongst most followers of the Hindu Philosophy).
“We are not the Doers” as Lord Krishna seems to suggest in the Bhagavad Gita whilst giving His sermon to Arjun. When He shows His Divine form to Arjun, Arjun sees all his cousins from the Kaurav clan already killed in the battle. The implication being that the final outcome (defeat of the Kauravas) has already been pre-ordained by the Higher Power and that Arjuna is only the medium to play out God’s Will.
“Life is like a game of cards. You have no control over the hand that you will get. All that is in your hands is the choice in terms of how you wish to play the game (Curse your fate about the poor cards you got or to decide to make the best of whatever cards you got). Thus here there is an element of Destiny (the hand that you get) co-existing with Free Will (how you choose to repond to whatever you receive).
“Life is like a movie or a play and we the mere actors in a script that is pre-written. We cannot change the script. All we have control over is how we choose to play our respective roles (hero, villain etc) that have been ordained for us.”
“Man is like a cow tied to a pole with a rope, bound by the karmic debts and human nature and the amount of Free Will he has is analogous only to the amount of freedom the rope allows” (View expressed by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa).
Now whatever belief system one chooses to follow (whether it is conditioned by what we have read or picked up from the preachings of others or even influenced by our own experiences), the truth is that regardless of the belief system, many questions crop up for which our need to have answers goes on unabated.
Some questions are as follows:
1. If we are the makers of our own Destiny, then how does one explain say the situation of a conscientous farmer who perseveres and toils night and day planting seeds, ploughing his field, adding manure and doing everything possible to have a good crop but the monsoon totally fails him? Or the lives of many farmers get wiped out (as has happened in Maharashtra) where severe droughts have rendered them homeless and penniless or where floods have inundated scores of farmlands leading to total impoverishment. How can these farmers write their own Destiny? As also the plethora of others in society who give their very best but fail to achieve their goals or realise their dreams?
2. If we are not the “Doers” and that it is God’s Will that is over-riding, then why hold man guilty or responsible for what he does? Then where is the relevance of Karma and Karmic retribution at all in this scheme of things? If not us who is the Doer? Who then is killing, raping, deceiving or performing noble and virtuous acts?
3. Even if we were to accept that we reap what we sow, it is understandable but provided it is in this birth itself. What is not understandable is why a person’s actions (karma) in one birth should determine his fate in the next? If a child does something wrong, doesn’t the mother point this out to the child there and then and decide to punish the child there and then? She doesnt wait for decades to pass before levying the punishment!! Moreover dont the natural principles of justice entail that it is our right to know the “sins and omissions” for which we are being punished? So being punished in this birth for something we did in the previous birth of which we know nothing would seem “unfair”. Just as justice delayed is justice denied so also a punishment or reward long after, would actually appear “unjust”.
4. Personal experience tends to suggest that we always have a choice in whatever we do – after all we choose our careers, our life partners, hobbies etc. But the issue is – Are these choices really free? The law of karma (if we accept it) says that our experiences and decisions are dictated by our cumulative stored karma. Thus even our traits (such as anger, laziness, humility etc) are part of our karmic pysche and manifest as a pre-programmed disposition, pretty much like a software in a computer. So actually speaking we are operating out of a pre-conditioned and pre-programmed will, constrained by our genetic, experiential and environmental limitations but NOT Free Will.
5. It would thus appear that there is a strong case for the laws of Nature to be causally deterministic of our lives. Then does Free Will exist at all?
What then are the answers to the above questions? Frankly I am not sure I have the answers because sometimes any answer only ends up raising some more intrinsically complex questions. But I do feel that Free Will can come into play only when we make a conscious choice to change our “programming” so that we are not governed by our conditioned responses. Then out of this consciousness can come actions which could then impact our Destiny going forward (in the sense of taking destiny in our hands).
Swami Ramakrishna offered some insights – As one progresses on the spiritual journey, the rope of freedom could become longer allowing for greater access to Free Will.
Does make some sense but then the mystifying questions remains unresolved – What are we talking about if we are not the “Doers” but merely puppets?
Author: Ajay Sachdeva