13

The concept of universe repeating itself is similar to philosophy of Eternal Return. Such philosophy is subscribed many ancient Indian philosophers as well. In brief:

A finitely timed universe will repeat itself infinitely in fixed pattern

In nutshell, we have to create a model of universe which accommodates below truths together:

  1. Time is infinite
  2. We are existing

1 If time is infinite, then we cannot exist, because infinite events have to occur before 'now' to reach till 'now'(present moment). But that will take infinite duration; i.e. in such case will never reach present moment.

2 If we are existing, then time should have a starting point. But that's not right. Whatever point you choose, time can always exist before & after that.

Be aware that all the events happen sequentially. i.e. initially we are in some subtle form, then physically we are born first, followed by school, teenage, adolescence, old age, death, again subtle form, ... All these events don't happen in parallel (if parallel, then they require infinite resources to define every moment, which is similar to "Eternalism" / B-theory of time).

Possible Solution: [God] Define a finite duration for a cycle, which repeats infinite times. Since the cycles are infinite, the time is infinite and since the duration of cycle is finite, all events are covered some or the other time & hence we can exist. It doesn't matter in which cycle we exist, because all are same!

Important point here is that, since it's a cycle, it has to repeat perfectly. Now the consequence is: Since everything repeats, everything has to be fixed to be able to repeat.
The detailed logic (with scriptures) and some counter arguments are discussed in this answer.

Gita has verses which are indicative of this theory, such as:

  • All the beings, you & me were existing before and continue to exist afterwards
  • The universe is created at beginning of Kalpa and destroyed towards the end; This cycle repeats forever
  • The knowledgeable person knows that, he is not actually doing anything
  • You are supposed to do whatever is destined regardless of what you think
  • ...

Question

Can "Free will" really exist, even when we can logically believe that universe has to repeat itself in same pattern (to allow possibility of our own existence)?

OR

If free will doesn't exist, then everything is predetermined hence no choice among actions/decisions.
Does it make everything we "did, doing, to do" as "right"?

Feel free to use the chat room: Everything is Predetermined yet Unknown.

  • 1
    The 'you' - material you - repeats infinite times. But the jiva that is in you for a particular cycle does not repeat. The jiva that is the 'real you' will go onto another body. If your karma is such that you are born again in the next cycle, it is possible that you are born again at the same time, but your jiva will be in another body - not the body you have now. Your jiva could meet your material you in another cycle but you would not know it. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 20 '16 at 10:47
  • @SwamiVishwananda, this point is covered in the linked answer under "counter arguments" section. If jeeva comes to my body after X > 1 cycles, then X is the cycle. In any case, if the things don't repeat themselves in cycle then current moment can't arrive. Suppose as you said, jeeva changes. That means infinite jeevas had taken my material self. For infinite jeeva, it takes infinite time to reach present. Hence current jeeva will never be able to take my body. In nutshell, only finite duration events can be unique. After that all repeat exactly in same way to avoid infinite regress. – iammilind Mar 20 '16 at 16:41
  • Scripture says it all repeats. All events repeat. There are no unique events. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 22 '16 at 11:42
  • @SwamiVishwananda, Now we are talking in same language! :-) Just to clear the air, my Q also suggests that the Jeeva holding our body also repeats. Which probably you refuted in your above comment. It's ok to assume material events repeating every cycle & jeeva repeating every 100 cycles. In such case 100 cycles of body repeat becomes 1 cycle of jeeva repeat. Anyhow, Moksha is limited to 1 cycle of jeeva. Now, if everything repeats, then it gives immense power to do whatever we want. Because whatever we do, was already done before & will be done later, isn't it? That's Q on bounty! – iammilind Mar 22 '16 at 11:55
  • yes and no. I am putting together an answer with scriptural references. It will be another day or two. Not worried about the bounty, want to make sure you have a clear understanding. Whatever we do, has been done before and will be done again, but how the individual jiva in a particular cycle responds to those events determines the karma given to that individual jiva. One should act like one has free will, even though there is none. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 24 '16 at 5:06
5

All feel this conflicting view – we feel that we are free, but we also feel we are not free. Swami Vivekananda says (Complete Works, V8 p 35 and available here under the heading Lectures and Discourses sub-heading Discourses on Jnana-Yoga - http://cwsv.belurmath.org/volume_8/vol_8_frame.htm):

Vedanta says, ‘We are free and not free at the same time.’ That means that we are never free on the earthly plane, but ever free on the spiritual side. The Self is beyond both freedom and bondage. We are Brahman, we are immortal knowledge beyond the senses, we are Bliss Absolute.

But first, does the universe repeat. The universe does repeats. This is taught in scripture. Brahma Sutras 1.3.30 says (Swami Vireswarananda translator, available here - http://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/brahma-sutras/d/doc62753.html):

And because of the sameness of names and forms (in every fresh cycle) there is no contradiction (to the eternity of the Vedic words) even in the revolving of the world cycles, as is seen from the Sruti and Smriti.

And in his commentary on this verse, Sankara says:

…This eternal existence of the world in gross and fine forms are brought out by the Sruti and Smriti texts. ‘As formerly the Lord ordered the sun and the moon, heaven, earth, and sky’ etc. (Rg-Veda 10.190.3).

And in Brahma Sutras 2.1.35-36 it says:

If it be said (that is) not (possible) for want of any distinction in work (before creation), (we say) no, because of (the world) being without a beginning.

And (that the world is without a beginning is reasonable and is also seen (from the scriptures).

And Sankara’s commentary on verse 35:

…is answered by the Sutra, which says that creation is without a beginning and the question of first creation cannot arise. It is like a seed and its sprout. So the individual souls have always had a previous existence and done good or bad deeds in accordance with which their lot in a subsequent creation is ordained by the Lord.

And his commentary on verse 36:

Reason tells us that creation must be without a beginning. For if the world did not exist in a potential state in the form of Samskaras (impressions), then an absolutely non-existing thing would be produced at creation. In that case even liberated souls might be reborn. Moreover people would be enjoying or suffering without having done anything to deserve it—an instance of an effect without a cause, which is absurd. It cannot be attributed to primeval ignorance, which, being one, requires the diversity of individual past work to produce varied results. The scriptures also posit the existence of the world in former cycles in texts like ‘The Lord devised the sun and moon as before’ (Rg-Veda 10.190.3).

So partiality and cruelty cannot be imputed to the Lord.

Swami Vivekananda says (Complete Works, V2, pp 229-31 and available here under the heading Jnana Yoga, sub-heading Immortality - http://cwsv.belurmath.org/volume_2/vol_2_frame.htm):

But the question of immortality is not yet settled. We have seen that everything in this universe is indestructible. There is nothing new; there will be nothing new. The same series of manifestations are presenting themselves alternately like a wheel, coming up and going down. All motion in this universe is in the form of waves, successively rising and falling. Systems after systems are coming out of fine forms, evolving themselves, and taking grosser forms, again melting down, as it were, and going back to the fine forms. Again they rise out of that, evolving for a certain period and slowly going back to the cause. So with all life. Each manifestation of life is coming up and then going back again. What goes down? The form. The form breaks to pieces, but it comes up again. In one sense bodies and forms even are eternal. How? Suppose we take a number of dice and throw them, and they fall in this ratio — 6 — 5 — 3 — 4. We take the dice up and throw them again and again; there must be a time when the same numbers will come again; the same combination must come. Now each particle, each atom, that is in this universe, I take for such a die, and these are being thrown out and combined again and again. All these forms before you are one combination. Here are the forms of a glass, a table, a pitcher of water, and so forth. This is one combination; in time, it will all break. But there must come a time when exactly the same combination comes again, when you will be here, and this form will be here, this subject will be talked, and this pitcher will be here. An infinite number of times this has been, and an infinite number of times this will be repeated. Thus far with the physical forms. What do we find? That even the combination of physical forms is eternally repeated.

A most interesting conclusion that follows from this theory is the explanation of facts such as these: Some of you, perhaps, have seen a man who can read the past life of others and foretell the future. How is it possible for any one to see what the future will be, unless there is a regulated future? Effects of the past will recur in the future, and we see that it is so. You have seen the big Ferris Wheel in Chicago. The wheel revolves, and the little rooms in the wheel are regularly coming one after another; one set of persons gets into these, and after they have gone round the circle, they get out, and a fresh batch of people gets in. Each one of these batches is like one of these manifestations, from the lowest animals to the highest man. Nature is like the chain of the Ferris Wheel, endless and infinite, and these little carriages are the bodies or forms in which fresh batches of souls are riding, going up higher and higher until they become perfect and come out of the wheel. But the wheel goes on. And so long as the bodies are in the wheel, it can be absolutely and mathematically foretold where they will go, but not so of the souls. Thus it is possible to read the past and the future of nature with precision. We see, then, that there is recurrence of the same material phenomena at certain periods, and that the same combinations have been taking place through eternity. But that is not the immortality of the soul. No force can die, no matter can be annihilated. What becomes of it? It goes on changing, backwards and forwards, until it returns to the source from which it came. There is no motion in a straight line. Everything moves in a circle; a straight line, infinitely produced, becomes a circle. If that is the case, there cannot be eternal degeneration for any soul. It cannot be. Everything must complete the circle, and come back to its source. What are you and I and all these souls? In our discussion of evolution and involution, we have seen that you and I must be part of the cosmic consciousness, cosmic life, cosmic mind, which got involved and we must complete the circle and go back to this cosmic intelligence which is God. This cosmic intelligence is what people call Lord, or God, or Christ, or Buddha, or Brahman, what the materialists perceive as force, and the agnostics as that infinite, inexpressible beyond; and we are all parts of that.

In the Gita (IX. 7-8), Krishna says (Swami Gambhirananda translator):

O son of Kunti, all the beings go back at the end of a cycle to My Prakrti. I project them forth again at the beginning of a cycle.

Keeping My own Prakrti under control, I project forth again and again the whole of this multitude of beings which are powerless owing to the influence of (their own) nature.

And in Gita VIII. 19:

O son of Prtha, after being born again and again, that very multitude of beings disappears in spite of itself at the approach of night. It comes to life at the approach of day.

And in Gita XVIII. 60-61:

Being bound by your own duty born of nature, O son of Kunti, you, being helpless, will verily do that which you do not wish to do owing to indiscrimination.

O Arjuna, the Lord resides in the region of the heart of all creatures, revolving through Maya all the creatures (as though) mounted on a machine.

In the Gospel if Sri Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says (Chapter 9 – Advice to the Brahmos and available here - http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/chapter09.htm):

VAIDYANATH: "Sir, I have a doubt. People speak of free will. They say that a man can do either good or evil according to his will. Is it true? Are we really free to do whatever we like?"

MASTER: "Everything depends on the will of God. The world is His play. He has created all these different things-great and small, strong and weak, good and bad, virtuous and vicious. This is all His maya, His sport. You must have observed that all the trees in a garden are not of the same kind.

"As long as a man has not realized God, he thinks he is free. It is God Himself who keeps this error in man. Otherwise sin would have multiplied. Man would not have been afraid of sin, and there would have been no punishment for it.

"But do you know the attitude of one who has realized God? He feels: 'I am the machine, and Thou, O Lord, art the Operator. I am the house and Thou art the Indweller. I am the chariot and Thou art the Driver. I move as Thou movest me; I speak as Thou makest me speak.'

So the question becomes, if this universe and all these forms repeat and there is no free will, is a man free to do whatever he wants? No. What matters is your mind and your motive. Again, in the same chapter of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna says:

"'As is a man's feeling of love, so is his gain.' Once two friends were going along the street, when they saw some people listening to a reading of the Bhagavata. 'Come, friend', said the one to the other. 'Let us hear the sacred book.' So saying he went in and sat down. The second man peeped in and went away. He entered a house of ill fame. But very soon he felt disgusted with the place. 'Shame on me!' he said to himself. 'My friend has been listening to the sacred word of Hari; and see where I am!' But the friend who had been listening to the Bhagavata also became disgusted. 'What a fool I am!' he said. 'I have been listening to this fellow's blah-blah, and my friend is having a grand time.' In course of time they both died. The messenger of Death came for the soul of the one who had listened to the Bhagavata and dragged it off to hell. The messenger of God came for the soul of the one who had been to the house of prostitution and led it up to heaven.

"Verily, the Lord looks into a man's heart and does not judge him by what he does or where he lives. 'Krishna accepts a devotee's inner feeling of love.'

"In the Kartabhaja sect, the teacher, while giving initiation, says to the disciple, 'Now everything depends on your mind.' According to this sect, 'He who has the right mind find the right way and also achieves the right end.' It was through the power of his mind that Hanuman leapt over the sea. 'I am the servant of Rāma; I have repeated the holy name of Rāma. Is there anything impossible for me?'-that was Hanuman's faith.

Krishna says (Gita XVIII. 62):

Take refuge in Him alone with your whole being, O scion of the Bharata dynasty. Through His grace you will attain the supreme Peace and the eternal Abode.

Understand that there is no free will, but think and act as if there is free will

  • the Gita translations as referenced in the first quote are by Swami Gambhirananda, a Sanskrit scholar and past President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. They are accurate translations. He gives a word by word literal translation in each verse and then a translation that is put into English to catch the total meaning of the verse. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 31 '16 at 4:37
  • Swamiji- Namaste. Here's my understanding of it. Free-will does exist; a trivial proof being our karma (driven by manas and buddhi )impacting our subsequent lives and living conditions. Free-will is a quantum physical phenomenon and is never energetic enough to match the energy of the brahman. It tends towards it but brahman is always one-step ahead. So brahman is able to foresee, forestall and fore-everything else ; we are never able to precisely match it. Matching it precisely is moksha/sayujya. Please comment. – user1195 Mar 31 '16 at 14:32
  • @moonstar2001 quantum physical phenomenon means gross elements no matter how you cut it. The atman (in the jiva) is not composed of gross elements. Your gross body will go through its pre-determined actions (as Krishna says in the quote above) and as the other quotes above say. What YOU (meaning your jiva) can do is keep your mind on God - again as Krishna says above. The Astavakra Samhita (1.11) says: "He who considers himself free is free indeed, and he who considers himself bound remains bound. 'As one thinks, so one becomes' is a popular saying in this world, and it is quite true." – Swami Vishwananda Apr 1 '16 at 6:01
  • @moonstar2001 Perhaps in a prior cycle the jiva that inhabited your body did not think about God - and went onto another birth. Perhaps in another prior cycle another jiva that inhabited your body attained liberation by thinking of God... – Swami Vishwananda Apr 1 '16 at 6:07
  • But Swamiji- free will is a function of the jiva not the jiva itself. Also, isn't "yad bhavam tat bhavati" a resounding endorsement of free-will? – user1195 Apr 1 '16 at 6:38
3

Before presenting the discussion about Fate and Free Will, I would like to quote some statement.

  1. The scriptural (vedas) teachings are directed towards the entire humanity and therefore the teachings are many and varied in keeping with the level of the people. Therefore whatever are relevant to one person or a group of people will not be relevant to others and therefore if we superficially look at the entire vedic teaching, it may appear to be confusing and also in some places contradictory. - Swami Paramarthananda

  2. It is a very beautiful tradition. So Guru is not dispensable if you want to have knowledge. If you want to get confused you can read on your own. - Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

The above statements were taken from the video here

So instead of quoting from different texts, I will present the content as a dialogue between a disciple and a guru. The discussion took place between the celebrated renowned Jeevanmukta Sri Sri Jagadguru Sankaracharya Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswami, the 34th Peethadhipati of Sringeri Sarada Peetham and his disciple. The conversation is taken from the book Dialogues with the Guru by R. Krishna Swami Iyer.

One evening a disciple approached His Holiness with a view to obtain some valuable instruction, but found words wanting to express his intention and His Holiness came to his relief by starting the conversation himself.

His Holiness: I hope you are pursuing your studies in the Vedanta as usual.
Disciple: I cannot say that I make any regular study, but I do study somewhat off and on.
HH: In the course of your studies, you would have been faced with many doubts.
D: I cannot say that I have studied deep enough even for that.
HH: I do not mean the doubts, which arise when we endeavor to grasp the technicalities of the Vedanta system, but only those broad problems, which present themselves to any one who makes an attempt at serious thinking.
D: Certainly, there are very many such doubts.
HH: Will you formulate one of such doubts and tell me how you have tried to solve it?
D: I shall mention one of such doubts, which is repeatedly coming up to my mind and for which I have found no solution yet. I shall be very grateful if your Holiness will solve it for me.
HH: Please mention it.
D: It is no other than the problem of the eternal conflict between fate and free-will. What are their respective provinces and how can the conflict be avoided?
HH: The problem is indeed a very great one and would baffle the intellect of the highest thinkers, if presented in the way you have done it.
D: What is wrong with my presentation? In fact, I only stated my problem and did not even explain how I find it difficult to solve.
HH: Your difficulty arises even in that mere statement of the problem.
D: How?
HH: A conflict is conceivable and possible only if there are two things. There can be no conflict if there is only a single thing.
D: But here there are two things fate and free-will.
HH: Exactly, It is just that assumption that is responsible for the problem arising in your mind.
D: It is not my assumption at all. How can I ignore the fact that they do exist as independent factors, whether I grant their existence or not.
HH: That is where you are wrong again.
D: How?
HH: As a follower of our Sanatana Dharma, you must know that fate is nothing extraneous to yourself, but is only the sum total of the results of your past actions. As God is but the dispenser of the fruits of your actions, fate, representing those fruits, is not His creation but only yours. Free-will is what you exercise when you act now.
D: Still I do not see how they are not two distinct things.
HH: Have it this way. Fate is past karma, free-will is present karma. Both are really one, that is, karma, though they may differ in the matter of time. There can be no conflict when they are really one.

D: But the difference in time is a vital difference which we cannot possibly overlook.
HH: I do not want you to overlook it, but only to study it more deeply. The present is before you and, by the exercise of free-will, you can attempt to shape it. The past is past and is therefore beyond your vision and is rightly called adrishta, the unseen. You cannot reasonably attempt to find out the relative strength of two things unless both of them are before you. But, by our very definition, free-will, the present karma alone is before you and fate, the past karma, is invisible. Even if you see two wrestlers physically squatting before you, you cannot decide about their relative strength. For, one may have weight, the other agility; one muscles and the other tenacity; one the benefit of practice and the other of coolness of judgement and so on. We can on these grounds go on building arguments on arguments to prove that a particular wrestler will be the winner. But experience shows that each of these qualifications may fail at any time or may prove to be a disqualification. The only reasonable, practical and sure method of determining their relative strength is to ask them to wrestle with each other. While this is so, how do you expect to find by means of arguments a solution to the problem of the relative value of fate and free-will when the former by its very nature is unseen!
D: Is there no way then of solving this problem?
HH: There is this way. The wrestlers must fight with each other and prove which of them is the stronger.
D: In other words, the problem of conflict will get solved only at the end of the conflict. But at that time the problem will have ceased to have any practical significance.
HH: Not only so, it will cease to exist.
D: That is, before the conflict begins, the problem is incapable of solution, and, after the conflict ends, it is no longer necessary to find a solution.
HH: Just so. In either case, it is profitless to embark on the enquiry as to the relative strength of fate and free-will.
D: Does Your Holiness then mean to say that we must resign ourselves to fate?
HH: Certainly not. On the other hand, you must devote yourself to free-will.
D: How can that be?
HH: Fate, as I told you, is the resultant of the past exercise of your free-will. By exercising your free-will in the past, you brought on the resultant fate. By exercising your free-will in the present, I want you to wipe out your past record if it hurts you, or to add to it if you find it enjoyable. In any case, whether for acquiring more happiness or for reducing misery, you have to exercise your free-will in the present.
D: But the exercise of free-will however well directed, very often fails to secure the desired result, as fate steps in and nullifies the action of free-will.
HH: You are again ignoring our definition of fate. It is not an extraneous and a new thing which steps in to nullify your freewill. On the other hand, it is already in you.
D: It may be so, but its existence is felt only when it comes into conflict with free-will How can we possibly wipe out the past record when we do not know nor have the means of knowing what it is?
HH: Except to a very few highly advanced souls, the past certainly remains unknown. But even our ignorance of it is very often an advantage to us. For, if we happen to know all the limitless varieties of results which we have accumulated by our actions in this life and the countless lives that have preceded it, we will be simply staggered at the magnitude and number of such results and give up in despair any attempt to overcome or mitigate them. Even in this life, forgetfulness is a boon which the merciful God has been pleased to bestow on us, so that we may not be buried at any moment with a recollection of all that has transpired in the past. Similarly, the divine spark in us is ever bright with hope and makes it possible for us to confidently exercise our free-will. It is not for us to belittle the significance of these two boons—forgetfulness of the past and hope for the future.
D: Our ignorance of the past may be useful in not deterring the exercise of the free-will and hope may stimulate that exercise. All the same, it cannot be denied that fate very often does present a formidable obstacle in the way of such exercise.
HH: It is not quite correct to say that fate places obstacles in the way of free-will. On the other hand, by seeming to oppose our efforts, it tells us what is the extent of free-will that is necessary now to bear fruit. Ordinarily for the purpose of securing a
single benefit, a particular activity is prescribed; but we do not know how intensively or how repeatedly that activity has to be pursued or persisted in. If we do not succeed at the very first attempt, we can easily deduce that in the past we have exercised our free-will just in the opposite direction. that the resultant of that past activity has first to be eliminated and that our present effort must be proportionate to that past activity. Thus, the obstacle which fate seems to offer is just the gauge by which we have to guide our present activities.
D: The obstacle is seen only after the exercise of our free-will, how can that help us to guide our activities at the start?
HH: It need not guide us at the start. At the start, you must not be obsessed at all with the idea that there will be any obstacle in your way. Start with boundless hope and with the presumption that there is nothing in the way of your ex exercising the free-will. If you do not succeed, tell yourself that there has been in the past a counter-influence brought on by yourself by exercising your freewill in the other direction and, therefore, you must now exercise your free-will with re-doubled vigor and persistence to achieve your object. Tell yourself that, inasmuch as the seeming obstacle is of your own making, it is certainly within your competence to overcome it. If you do not succeed even after this renewed effort, there can be absolutely no justification for despair, for fate being but a creature of your free-will can never be stronger than freewill. Your failure only means that your present exercise of freewill is not sufficient to counteract the result of the past exercise of it. In other words, there is no question of a relative proportion between fate and free-will as distinct factors in life. The relative proportion is only as between the intensity of our past action and the intensity of our present action.
D: But even so, the relative intensity can be realized only at the end of our present effort in a particular direction.
HH: It is always so in the case of everything which is adrishta or unseen. Take, for example, a nail driven into a wooden pillar. When you see it for the first time, you actually see, say, an inch of it projecting out of the pillar. The rest of it has gone into the wood and you cannot now see what exact length of the nail is embedded in the wood. That length, therefore, is unseen or adrishta, so far as you are concerned. Beautifully varnished as the pillar is, you do not know what is the composition of the wood in which the nail is driven. That also is unseen or adrishta. Now suppose you want to pull that nail out, can you tell me how many pulls will be necessary and how powerful each pull has to be?
D: How can I fix the number of pulls now? The number and the intensity of the pulls depend upon the length which has gone into the wood.
HH: Certainly so. And the length which has gone into the wood is not arbitrary, but depended upon the number of strokes which drove it in and the intensity of each of such strokes and the resistance which the wood offered to them.
D: It is so.
HH: The number and intensity of the pulls needed to take out the nail depend therefore upon the number and intensity of the strokes which drove it in.
D: Yes.
HH: But the strokes that drove in the nail are now unseen and unsee-able. They relate to the past and are adrishta.
D: Yes.
HH: Do we desist from the attempt to pull out the nail simply because we happen to be ignorant of the length of the nail in the wood or of the number and intensity of the strokes which drove it in? Or, do we persist and persevere in pulling it out by increasing the number and the intensity of our present efforts to pull it out?
D: Certainly, as practical men we adopt the latter course.
HH: Adopt the same course in every effort of yours. Exert yourself as much as you can. Your will must succeed in the end.
D: But there certainly are many things which are impossible to attain even after the utmost exertion.
HH: There you are mistaken. If there is any thing, it is by its very nature capable of being experienced. There is nothing which is really unattainable. A thing, however, may be unattainable to us at the particular stage at which we are, or with the qualifications that we possess. The attainability or otherwise of a particular thing is thus not an absolute characteristic of that thing but is relative and proportionate to our capacity to attain it.
D: The success or failure of an effort can be known definitely only at the end. How are we then to know beforehand whether with our present capacity we may or may not exert ourselves to attain a particular object, and whether it is the right kind of exertion for the attainment of that object.
HH: Your question is certainly a very pertinent one. The whole aim of our Dharma sastras is to give a detailed answer to your question. They analyze our capacities, or competency, and prescribe the activities which a person endowed with a particular adhikara can undertake. The activities are various and numberless, as the capacities also happen to be various and numberless. Regulation of activities or, in other words, the directing of free-will into channels least harmful and most beneficial to the aspirant, is the main function of religion. Such regulated activity is called svadharma. Religion does not fetter man's free-will. It leaves him quite free to act, but tells him at the same time what is good for him and what is not. The responsibility is entirely and solely his. He cannot escape it by blaming fate, for fate is of his own making, nor by blaming God, for He is but the dispenser of fruits in accordance with the merits of actions. You are the master of your own destiny. It is for you to make it, to better it or to mar it. This is your privilege. This is your responsibility.
D: I quite realize this. But often it so happens that I am not really the master of myself I know for instance, quite well that a particular act is wrong, at the same time, I feel impelled to do it. Similarly, I know that another act is right, at the same time, however, I feel powerless to do it. It seems to me that there is some power which is able to control or defy my free-will. So long as that power is potent, how can I be called the master of my own destiny? What is that power but fate?
HH: You are evidently confusing together two distinct things. Fate is a thing quite different from the other which you call a power. Suppose you handle an instrument for the first time. You will do it very clumsily and with great effort. The next time, however, you use it, you will do so less clumsily and with less effort. With repeated uses, you will have learnt to use it easily and without any effort. That is, the facility and ease with which you use a particular thing increase with the number of times you use it. The repeated and familiar use will leave behind a tendency to use it. The first time a man steals, he does so with great effort and much fear; the next time both his effort and fear are much less. As opportunities increase, stealing will become a normal habit with him and will require no effort at all. This habit will generate in him a tendency to steal even when there is no necessity to steal. It is this tendency which goes by the name vasana. The power which makes you act as if against your will is only the vasana which itself is of your own making. This is not fate. The punishment or reward, in the shape of pain or pleasure, which is the inevitable consequence of an act, bad or good, is alone the province of fate or destiny. The vasana which the doing of an act leaves behind in the mind in the shape of a taste, a greater facility or a greater tendency for doing the same act once again, is quite a different thing. It may be that the punishment or the reward of a past act is, in ordinary circumstances, unavoidable, if there is no counter-effort; but the vasana can be easily handled if only we exercise our free-will correctly.
D: But the number of vasanas or tendencies that rule our hearts are endless. How can we possibly control them?
HH: The essential nature of a vasana is to seek expression in outward acts. This characteristic is common to all vasanas, good and bad. The stream of vasana, the vasana-sarit, as it is called, has two currents, the good and the bad. If you try to dam up the entire stream, there may be danger. The sastras, therefore, do not ask you to attempt that. On the other hand, they ask you to submit yourself to be led by the good vasana current and to resist being led away by the bad vasana current. When you know that a particular vasana is rising up in your mind, you cannot possibly say that you are at its mercy. You have your wits about you and the responsibility of deciding whether you will encourage it or not is entirely yours. The sastras enunciate in detail what vasanas are good and have to be encouraged and what vasanas are bad and have to be overcome. When, by dint of practice, you have made all your vaasanas good and practically eliminated the chance of any bad vasanas leading you astray, the sastras take upon themselves the function of teaching you how to free your free-will even from the need of being led by good vasanas. You will gradually be led on to a stage when your free-will will be entirely free from any sort of coloring due to any vasanas. At that stage, your mind will be pure as crystal and all motive for particular action will cease to be. Freedom from the results of particular actions is an inevitable consequence. Both fate and vasana disappear. There is freedom for ever more and that freedom is called moksha.

Still you might have doubts, but instead of reaching a conclusion based on our opinion and understanding alone, it is better to clarify these in by approaching a sadguru or we can take their words for granted having faith that one day we will understand what is said.

Hope This Helps You.

  • 1
    Very enriching answer.I upvoted.Thank you. – commonman Feb 26 at 7:52

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