I have been listening to a Q&A session with David Godman in which he states that Ramana believed that everything in our lives is predetermined from birth and that we only have two choices to continue to identify with the body or to look within.

Is there any basis in the Upanishads or other texts for this idea?


1 Answer 1


Ramana Maharshi is right. Only Divine will is free according to Hindu scriptures.

Brahma said, ‘No embodied being can counteract His will by austerity, meditation, Yogic power, intellectual skill, or worldly power. Neither with the help of others nor by oneself alone can one do so. Man takes on the body given to him by that mysterious Power for the very purpose of undergoing the experiences it subjects him to – birth, death, work, bereavement, grief, infatuation, fear, happiness, misery etc. We all offer our tribute of works as offerings to Him as cattle pulled by their nose strings do to their masters. The Veda consisting of sounds is the cable to which we all are tied with the smaller but stronger strings of the three Gunas of Prakriti and works springing from them. He controls and directs us with this rope, as their owners do their draught animals. O dear one! We are like a blind man, directed entirely by another with eyes. The Lord gives us each a body according to our eligibility through our nature and karma, and with that we undergo the sufferings and enjoyments He awards us.’

Srimad Bhagavata Purana, V.1.12-15

Hindu scripture says that the Lord surely knows our Agami karma.

This universe, which is the grossest of the gross entities, is the form of the Lord. In this Cosmic Form all the past, the present and the future subsist. Permeating this universal cosmic form, with its seven sheaths - consisting of five elements, egoism, and the universal intelligence - there is the Viratpurusha - the Cosmic Divinity. He is the real object of concentration.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana II.1.24-25

Lord Krishna showed Arjuna in the Gita the entire Mahabharata war before a single arrow was fired. If there was free will then such a thing will not be possible.

Our body-mind complex can not and does not have free will. Yet if there is no free will then there will be no way to distinguish between morally good or bad karma. Machines are not capable of doing bad or good karma (acts).

So what can we say about free will of a jiva?

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 [Sri Ramakrishna]: "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.'"

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 9, Advice to the Brahmos

Sri Ramakrishna: "It is God alone who does everything. You may say that in that case man may commit sin. But that is not true. If a man is firmly convinced that God alone is the Doer and that he himself is nothing, then he will never take a false step.

It is God alone who has planted in man’s mind what the ‘Englishman’ calls free will, People who have not realized God would become engaged in more and more sinful actions if God had not planted in them the notion of free will. Sin would have increased if God had not planted in them the notion of free will. Sin would have increased if God had not made the sinner feel that he alone was responsible for his sin.

People who have realized God are aware that free will is a mere appearance. In reality man is the machine and God is the Operator, man is the carriage and God its Driver."

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 18, M at Dakshineswar (II)

The Younger Naren: "Sir, have we any free will?"

Sri Ramakrishna: "Just try to find out who this 'I' is? While you are searching for 'I', 'He' comes out. 'I am the machine and He is the Operator.' You have heard of a mechanical toy that goes into a store with a letter in its hand. You are like that toy. God alone is the Doer. Do your duties in the world as if you were the doer, but knowing all that time that God alone is the Doer and you are the instrument."

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 42, Car Festival at Balaram’s House

Free will is an illusion that is planted by God to prevent people from committing sin. Actually past, present and future are all laid out for all of us.

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    The answer says that God has kept the illusion of free will in us,so as to not let sin multiply,and that God is the doer.But there are people who sin anyway.If it God who makes them do this,then why is the prani who sinned responsible(suffers consequences) for his actions?And since God has kept the illusion of free will in man to prevent sin,those who read this answer now know that God is the Ultimate doer,and so all sin done by them is actually the consequence of God’s will,and so they themselves are not responsible..(????)
    – Amethyst
    Aug 31, 2021 at 9:28

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