Is our life the result of predetermined destiny, or do we use our free will to influence the events of life? What does destiny or karma mean?
Every desire we have during our lifetime is a product of our karma. We are born with individual inclinations, aspirations towards certain things, situations and people. That inclination is reflected in our hope to establish some relationship, contact with the product of our desire. The intention or a desire that was set in a past life now aims to be satisfied. This is how one of the universal laws works – the law of cause and effect. By living this life, we consistently create new desires that will strive to be met by some new birth. Every desire takes time, place, context, and body to be satisfied.
Hence, our life is predetermined in the sense that all significant events in it are predestined. When a soul is ready for a new incarnation, the Universe or the Creation, drafts a script of that soul’s life. The script contains all the experiences that a particular soul seeks to go through in the body. And the soul is given the time, place of its birth, death, as well as the time, space, resources and other souls who are a part of their experiences, as well as that of their soulmates. The term ‘soulmate’ refers to all those souls whose incarnations will connect with our lives. These are our family members, partners, friends, colleagues, acquaintances. The flame of the primal desire in us, the inclination, which is recognized in the material world by intuition or tendency, will be how our soul communicates with our mind. If our mind is in harmony with our soul, if it listens to its whisper, it will lead people towards the fulfilment of those desires and needs. This is how karma, or destiny, is met. Every day of our life is filled with different experiences for which there was an intention to happen.
Does this automatically mean that the free will is just a delusion that does not exist? No. Every human being is born with free will, and this is one of the most valuable resources that we are blessed with compared to other living species. However, free will only reflects our ability to manage the level of consciousness at which we function, that is, to live our lives. Although it may not look like it, that is all we need to live a life of happiness and well-being, peaceful and stable. The level of consciousness on which we experience our life will directly influence the experience of the purpose of life.
The first trap of our mind, or ego, to be more precise, involves expectations. People live their life expecting their life, as well as God, to make their life precisely as they wished by looking at other people’s lives, often comparing themselves with their environment. One of the most important lessons is to understand that life or God owes us nothing. None of us was born with a promise from God or life that our lives would unravel as our mind, ego or intellect desired. We need to abolish this concept as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Expectations lead to disappointment which creates unrest, sorrow, anger, rage, resistance, depression. The mind creates expectations.
On the other hand, happy or sad events for our mind are no more than experiences for our soil. Our soul will not attach to an emotion caused by an event in our life. It will experience it. Our soul will completely experience the feeling, but will not remain attached to it. What is sorrow or happiness for our mind is just an experience for our soil. Nothing more than an experience that sought to be lived and expressed in this incarnation, in this body. By getting through this experience, our soul will have its purpose for which it was embodied. When we live in harmony with our soul, we realize that every experience that happens to us is part of the purpose of our life. If we fall into the trap of our mind, ego or intellect, we will grasp each experience as a kind of discomfort (pain, sadness, stress, hatred, envy, greed) or pleasure (happiness, joy, euphoria). It depends on a person’s level of consciousness how they will live their life. We raise our awareness level with knowledge and practical application of the knowledge. Constant work on ourselves, with unconditional faith, will allow us to realize this knowledge and then to enjoy it.
When we realize that the purpose of life is to go through all experiences without delay and repression, as well as to express all of it, only then will we be able to perceive life as a show in which we play the primary role. To be an unbiased witness of the course of our life; to surrender to life with complete faith in its course; to surrender to life means acceptance. It is an expression of strength and high awareness. To surrender to destiny means giving up. And that is an expression of weakness. No experience is good or bad by its nature. It is just an experience. Many things depend on our state of consciousness – whether we will go through that experience and keep holding on the emotion that the experience created, or we will stay free and accept it as the part of our journey, an integral piece of a grand puzzle whose broader picture we may not be able to perceive and recognize at the moment; as part of the story of our life. It is our absolute free will. The way we will approach everything.
In life, karmic events are fulfilled in two ways. One, to fully undergo the experiences that life brings to us – experiences our being longs for (relationships with people, keeping a particular job or staying in a specific situation, various forms of addiction, living in a specific place, etc.). When we satisfy these desires, karma is fulfilled, and we no longer return to it. When karma is completed, there is no longer any tendency towards it, because that story is over. The course of life will make sure that we have a sense of fulfilment and purpose after a job done, and we will have no urge to get back to it.
The other way to complete karma is to rise in our consciousness to the degree that we will overcome all the desires we were born with and for which we will feel the urge to satisfy. We will be aware that there was an intention to satisfy our passion, but there will be no instinct that will strive for satisfaction. Our passion will be overcome in high consciousness. The feeling of lightness and relief would be the same if our desire was satisfied through experience — a state of peace and well-being.
We will choose one of the options of our own free will.
To live a life with dignity and without constraints, no matter what experiences the life consists of, is our true nature and our only duty towards life and soul, to our self. We have chosen all the experiences at the soul level solely for its expansion.
Author: Dejana Vojnović – graduated from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade she has been working as a foreign language teacher for ten years. She completed her psychology training in transactional analysis and at the same time became interested in a more in-depth spiritual search, which continues today. Using her own acquired knowledge and what she has experienced, she has been working as a consultant for several years.
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.
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
I nearly drowned as a child. There is a rather long story as to how I ended up in the pool. It was innovative to say the least. It was autumn and I remember the cold water soaking into my clothing as I grappled for the side. Struggling with short arms and the wet, slippy stone ridge around the pool. I did not have the skills to paddle to the step or just float. Swallowing water as I gasped for breath became overbearing as panic set in. Luckily for me that day I had a saviour who heard the commotion and had the mind to investigate. Helpless I gave into exhaustion. Sinking face up, looking through the water as the blurred figure pulled me out onto the edge coughing and spluttering.
Metaphorically I’ve been drowning for years. Flailing around in the waters looking for someone to rescue me. Realising that the only one who can really help is me.
The rough choppy waves for now have subsided and more relaxed demeanour has taken over me. I have been granted the space to breathe and can comfortably bob on the surface of the water contemplating what comes next. Behind me is the land mass of my past and the security of what I have created around me. My pride exudes as I count my blessings of family willing me to take the plunge.
The monuments of my past smatter the coastline casting a shadowy hug around me gripping me firmly in the past. Before me is an island of hope and promise. This is the reason I got into the water in the first place. If I am right this could be a place of growth and free spirit.I have waded into the water many times before but have never gone this far. The first initial stroke towards the island has eluded me for years. From here on in the water is deep and full of horror.
My life changed in January of 2014. My Father died after a month of fighting very sudden diagnosis of a brain tumour. I have grown up with a very close relationship with death having seen many lives taken through brutal tragedy or plain suicidal despair. This was a very different experience. Dealing with death from inside my own immediate family circle I began to ponder the significant times. The final conversation I had with my Dad (June 2013) had surprising revelations. Considering what happened within the next six months I mulled over what those comments really meant. Like most parents my Dad really just wanted the best for me and my siblings. Giving advice he felt appropriate for us at the time.
That day we talked about the direction my life had taken and although I felt lucky and happy with everything I had. I explained how I wished I had followed some of my initial aspirations of writing, photography and art. We had had similar conversations before as work was a very big part of my Dad’s life which he loved to talk about. The reaction this time was a little different. I expected the usual pep talk about acceptance of my path and pressing forward.
I felt a little embarrassed as he apologised for being so hard on those ideas and dissing them as unreal aspirations better followed as a hobby. He felt he had pushed me towards choosing a “proper” job to make a living and provide for a family. I could have at any point decided not to take heed. But wanted people (in particular Mum and Dad) to be proud of me as a stand up citizen of the world. I have come to the conclusion that at certain poignant points in my life I made decisions to suit other people and blocked off the riskier road less trodden route. Which seems silly now as both paths are filled with equivalent uncertainty. It has taken a while for me to get to this point but feel it is time to start the swim. Opening myself up on a personal level is difficult. Especially with this modern age of cyber trolls where I expose myself to possible snap attacks from some bitter and twisted individuals releasing venomous sputum whilst hidden behind a protective screen.
However I now feel that vulnerability can manifest itself as a tool of strength and freedom and this is my destiny.
When I think about passion I very rarely gravitate towards things that surround my work life. As a chef the joy of cooking is great but deep down it’s not enough. I am more interested in talking about what I have read, art works I have seen or music I have listened to. I am increasingly envious of people who work within a field they really get a kick out of and fulfil a personal dream at the same time.
So here it is. I most definitely took that first stroke into the depths. In my mind I have reached the island and hope that means I am standing on the shore. I need to figure out bridging the gap between my future and past. I hope the land is hospitable and that the route out of the water is kind and not a treacherous climb up a rocky cliff with the danger of being bashed against the rocks.
Author: Gavin Elden
I am a Head Chef who has always had a burning desire to do a bit of writing. I have started many projects but never submitted anything. The plan is for this to change and I teeter on the precipice getting ready to drop in. I dearly hope that I could potentially carve out a late career within writing. I love good art, film, music,writing and food. The surf, skate and snowboarding culture is of particular interest to me. I also love the world of graphic novels and comics but would not really consider myself a geek.