I am little confused here, out of the two entities - freewill and karma which one is more dominating in deciding the future course of action for a person?

Reason am confused is because in every decision making we have a freewill but then there are karmic outcomes of our actions in our previous births that may force us to take a particular decision - so is it right to say that we have freewill to take any decision?

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    There's no freewill. Depends on your karmas even your decision making... you do not know. U get attracted to something which u have not seem before instantly in no time. U think its freewill. That's maya. Its ur samskara impression being satisfied there Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 16:54
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    I too agree with your statement .. @ParabrahmanJyoti
    – Just_Do_It
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 18:46
  • @ParabrahmanJyoti, by the same logic, I can turn it completely opposite and say there is no karma. Everything is freewill. The way you have defined karma & freewill, they both can refer to the same thing, but appear to be opposites. If I like mango, is that freewill or karma ? One person says freewill, another person says karma - then neither of them can prove the other wrong. But Brahma Sutras clearly state - Karta Shastrarthavatvaat - Meaning - Jiva is doer, because that alone gives reason for Shastras to exist. If everything was karma, no need for shastras to advice do this, or don't that.
    – ram
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 22:49
  • @Just_Do_It I would say freewill would exist only when there's a beginning and end that you can choose from limited options. In this brahmanda, on absolute state, the Para, which neither has beginning nor end, what freewill one can have? One can be free from all modifications of prakriti but freewill?There's freedom but no freewill. Everything in this Universe is desgined in sequential order to happen and that is Dharma. Our job is to go hand in hand with that. If you step away from that, you suffer and thats adharma. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 4:58
  • Dharma is what is already designed to happen in a sequence. That is called dharma. Even adharma for it to be uprooted, it also has to happen as per Dharma. Dharma alone is governing entire life forms of existence. And thats why it is said Dharma is Ishwara. SAT is Ishwara. Because SAT DHARMA JNANA = all three you can say just another form of Paramatma. So in all aspect of life, DHARMA SAT JNANA alone exists. Rest at surface level whatever we see are just appearances. This appearances if you cling to it due to ego, thats maya. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 5:01

2 Answers 2


I am little confused here, out of the two entities - freewill and karma which one is more dominating in deciding the future course of action for a person?

One who is more powerful wins. If your past karma is strong it will win, or if your present efforts are strong they will overcome your past karma. For example a drug addict after leaving his dose for some time feel compel to take it again. It result of his past actions, but also he has power of present efforts to win over past impulses and not take drug. If his present efforts are strong, he will overcome but if he has taken too strong doses in the past, he needs to exert much more self effort in the present moment.

Fate is nothing but the result of our actions in former existences. Therefore it is possible to leave it at a distance and extricate oneself by keeping good company and studying moral scriptures. 2 Whatever one attempts to do, he readily meets with its reward. This is the effect of effort. Fate is nothing but the same thing. 3 Men laboring hard are heard to exclaim, “O how painful it is!” Men suffering under fate cry out, “O hard is fate!” 4 Thus fate, being nothing but a name for our past actions, it is as easily overcome (by present acts) as a boy (is subdued) by an adult youth. 5 As some bad conduct of yesterday is corrected by proper behavior of the present day, so is past fate is removed by present acts.

25 Actions of the past and present lives are the two fruit trees growing in the garden of humanity. Whichever is cultivated the best thrives and bears most fruit. 26 He who is unable to overcome his false fate by his best efforts is no better than an ignorant beast that has no power over its pain or pleasure. 27 He who thinks of going to heaven or hell by the will of the Maker is also a slave to destiny and is no better than a beast. 28 The man of a noble mind who is employed in acts of goodness, breaks off from the errors of the world like a lion from its cage. 2 9 Those who vainly imagine themselves to be led about by some supernatural power, and so slight their necessary duties, are to be shunned at a distance as the mean and base.

-Yoga Vasistha (2.5)

Reason am confused is because in every decision making we have a freewill but then there are karmic outcomes of our actions in our previous births that may force us to take a particular decision - so is it right to say that we have freewill to take any decision?

Your past karma can only compel or influence, in the end its up to you whether give up to those impulses or overcome them.

Objection: It is said that Atman is doer of everything.

तुलसी भरोसे राम के निर्भय होके सोये।
अनहोनी होनी नहीं, होनी होय सो होये।। ~तुलसीदास

Tulsidas sleeps depending on Ram because what has to happen will happen and what doesn't have to happen won't happen anyway.

कबीरा किया कुछ ना होत है, अनकिया सब होय |
जो किया कुछ होत है, करता और कोय ||

Kabir says that by my doing nothing happens, without doing it happens. If anything happens as if my doing, the doer is someone else.

ईश्वरः सर्वभूतानां हृद्देशेऽर्जुन तिष्ठति।
भ्रामयन्सर्वभूतानि यन्त्रारूढानि मायया।।18.61।।

O Arjuna, the Ishwar resides in the region of the heart of all creatures, revolving all the creatures through Maya as though mounted on a machine!

यदहङ्कारमाश्रित्य न योत्स्य इति मन्यसे।
मिथ्यैष व्यवसायस्ते प्रकृतिस्त्वां नियोक्ष्यति।।18.59।।
That you think 'I shall not fight', by relying on ahamkar, vain is this determination of yours. (Your) nature impel you and you will do it anyway!

What these sages are saying is that niyati/maya/destiny (Ishwar's power) is all powerful, and its the only thing which acts while we fools think we are acting. This contradicts the law of karma, which says people reap the fruits of their karma while here they are reaping the fruits of niyati.

Answer: No, there is no contradiction. The law of karma holds. Whatever karma you do, only you will be its enjoyer. Niyati works though us only, its not separate from us. Everything you think and perform is governed by niyati only. If a dumb person becomes a scientist by lot of self effort, he hasn't defeated niyati. It was niyati only which he manifested. It was niyati only in the first place which made him do it. You asking this question is niyati, me answering it is niyati, flowing of water is niyati, glowing of fire is niyati. Know that there are not 2 persons you and me having an effect on this world, its niyati only working through us merely names are changed. But don't we feel we are making an effect? If we do feel we are making an effect we are under illusion, we will reap its fruits as per law of karma but if we realise its niyati only (working through us and not externally), we are free from law of karma because we never did it in the first place.

Consciousness naturally exhibits a variety of forms in itself, just as the body of an embodied person exhibits its various members. The lotus-born Brahma took these various forms in itself to be theseveral parts in the great body of the cosmos. 1 8 This foreknowledge of events imprinted in the Consciousness of God is called Destiny which extends over all things at all times. 19 Destiny comprises the knowledge of the causes that move, support and sustain all things in their proper order, and that such and such a cause must produce such and such effect forever. 2 0 This destiny is the force or mobile power that moves all men, animals, plants and inanimate creations. It is the beginning or primary source of time and the motion of all beings.
23 What more do you have to ask me, Rama, with regard to destiny and self-exertion when I tell you that it is destined that all beings take themselves to their proper actions, in the destined or prescribed manner, in order to bring about the desired result? 24 A person who relies on predestination, sitting idly and quietly under the belief that he is being fed by his fixed lot, is said to depend on his destiny alone (a fatalist). 25 By sitting idly and waiting on Providence for the whole of his life, he gains nothing and soon comes to lose his good sense and energy, and finally dies from the famine of his sole reliance upon destiny. 26 It is quite certain that whatever is destined must surely come to pass of its own accord, and that it is impossible to prevent it by the foresight of gods and men. 27 Yet the intelligent ought not cease to exert their activity and only rely on their fates. They must know that it is our effort that brings destiny into action.
-Yoga Vasistha (3.62)

  • Take another example, if a person has option to marry either A or B it's his freewill, but maybe coz of his past karmic actions he selects B, for he has to pay for his past karmic actions. But on the basis of current situation he felt that B would be better than A, later on he regrets and wonders why he didn't go for A in the first place, so in this case perhaps karma was dominating wrt the freewill ... hope am making sense here ? @lokesh
    – Just_Do_It
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 15:28
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    He selected B as per his free will. This is for certain. Did his past actions had a role to play in his selection. Yes, that's true. His past actions influenced him in certain way, but the end decision was his only. If he had selected A by overcoming maybe his lust by listening to his Guru or being in company of other good people, he could have prevented the bad ending.
    – Lokesh
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 15:41
  • @Just_Do_It updated the answer to clarify your objection. Let me know if it helps or not.
    – Lokesh
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 3:19

The following is an excerpt from an online source:

Hindu religion has various names for fate: Kala (Time or appointed time); Vidhi (ordinance); Daiva (divine will). It is also called adrasta or that which is not seen, but felt. Fate thus is taken to be the result of acts done by the soul in former bodies, which exert irresistible power on the Soul.

In a story, when a boy died of snakebite, Death or Yama said that he was guided by Kala (Time). Thus, the boy was killed neither by snake, nor by Yama, but because the time was ripe. But Kala (time) said that even he had not killed the boy, but that he was killed by his Karma (Fate).

What exactly is fate? Can fate and free will co-exist? If everything is predetermined and pre-destined, where is the need for right action?

The Ramakrishna Paramahamsa illustrates it by the example of a cow tethered to a pole with a long rope.

The cow feels she is free to roam anywhere but the perimeter of the area in which she can move is fixed.

Similarly, he explains, every human being has a free will but the length of rope is governed by God (or Law, based upon our previous actions).

So ultimately, the DIVINE grace is necessary to understand as to how much one is bound by Karma and how much can be done at Freewill.

Even Sages of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's caliber acted according to the will the God, but not as per their wish.

  • Even to act as per ones wish, grace of the supreme is indeed necessary. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 5:36

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