Sunday, January 20, 2013

free will/destiny

Verses 1.32-1.35: O Govinda, of what avail to us are a kingdom, happiness or even life itself when all those for whom we may desire them are now arrayed on this battlefield? O Madhusūdana, when teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other relatives are ready to give up their lives and properties and are standing before me, why should I wish to kill them, even though they might otherwise kill me? O maintainer of all living entities, I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth. What pleasure will we derive from killing the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra?

Ever hear someone say: "Whatever is going to happen, will happen. We have no control over it." For every person like that, there will be just as many who will say, "No way. Everything is dependent on you. You make things happen out of your own free will."

The path of bhakti yoga actually reconciles these two points beautifully. See, it's easy to think in black and white. Most of us, especially me, have been influenced by society to think in terms of duality. It's either hot or cold, good or bad, or black or white. We forget the fact that the spiritual path of bhakti may actually offer a different proposal. In this case, it means that both free will and destiny work hand in hand together.

I think it's very obvious to all of us that we have free will. We see it in babies all the time, what to speak of fully grown adults and we see it again here in this verse with Arjuna. He is speaking his mind at the current moment and exerting his free will. For all those who may think that God forces you to do something, just take a look at this verse. It's very clear that Krsna is not like that. Here's proof that, yes, we do in fact have free will and we have full reign to utilize it.

But let's come back to the whole free will vs. destiny aspect and how it practically applies in our own lives. Free will means that can make choices. However, the caveat that comes with it, is that we are also responsible for the results that come from making those choices. Those choices, in turn, will set up what will come to us in the future. This is the very definition of the law of karma. For whatever action you perform, you get a reaction.

This means that every single choice we make, every day, at every second will set us up for....can anyone guess? If you said, destiny, you're right!

The shroud of mystery that covers destiny is actually not very thick at all. It's because we are not conscious of the fact that our actions will result in various consequences that we are so stunned by the outcomes. Even more challenging is the fact that the results of our actions (i.e. our future karma otherwise known as destiny) may not come right away. This totally bemuses our minds because we are so used to having everything "now". It may come years down the line or even in future lifetimes. In fact many things and situations that present themselves now, are very likely the result of actions performed in past lives.

This results in what is known as the cycle of birth and death. We get trapped. Whether good or bad karma (your destiny) is supposed to come to you, if you haven't received it all in the current lifetime, you will need to take birth again to receive what is due to you.

However, there is a way to get out of this cycle of karma and that is what bhakti teaches us. By living our lives according to the principles of bhakti, the most important of which is to always remember Krsna and never forget him, we can incur no karma. That's right! There's a third option! Just by performing our day to day activities with the consciousness of gratitude that everything is coming from God, we can break this cycle of good and bad karma.

So what does this practically mean? It will mean we won't have to worry about all this free will and destiny stuff. We will be rightfully situated in our blissful, eternal and loving relationship with God.


  1. This post really made me think. Thank you!

    "In fact many things and situations that present themselves now, are very likely the result of actions performed in past lives."

    I never really thought of it like that. When I think of karma I usually think of the present and future..That what we do not effects our karma and sometimes our experiences and results later on. When I think of past karma I always think of something that happened in the past during this current lifetime. To think of having countless of lifetimes before this with untold karma puts everything in perspective! Thank goodness that there is a way out of it all..

    Thanks for another great post. I'm really enjoying these. I'm kind of using the as a devotional part of day. :)

    If interested, I'd love your thoughts on this post I recently wrote:

    I completely understand if you don't get the chance. :)

    Hare Krishna!

    1. *That what we do effects our karma
      Sorry, typo!

  2. Thank you Jessica! I think it's the same with most of us that we think of past karma as that which happens in this present lifetime. That's one of the wonderful things I personally love about bhakti - it makes you much more broadminded. It also goes to explain a lot of things that would otherwise be unexplainable and answers those "How in the world does that person...."

    I'm so happy that you're enjoying these posts. I enjoy reading your comments to all the posts! :D

    Hare Krsna!