The Bold Voice of J&K

Free Will Vs Destiny


Do humans have free will and choice or does determinism prevail in this world? When we look at this problem, we feel we have the freedom to choose what we like or deem suitable in our lives. But many instances and situations in our lives force us to realise how subdued are we by the circumstances. Naturally, we begin to wonder if we truly have the freedom to make choices in our lives.
Suppose, we want to open our locker protected by a password. There are two options. Either we receive an OTP sent by the controlling agency and enter the same to get access or enter a number of our choice previously set by us as the password. Lower level organisms are like those of us who opt for an OTP. They have to simply accept and key in the OTP received by them from the controlling agency to proceed further. The lives of lower level sentient beings are controlled by Nature. Their choice is limited to accepting what is given to them by the unseen power.
On the other hand, humans are like those who have the choice to enter the password set by themselves. This number, which could have been any number, was chosen by them in the past. At the time of choosing the password, the person has the freedom to choose any number. But once it is set, he is restricted by the choice he previously made. Similarly, when we begin a new chain of karma, the choices are unlimited.
But owing to our propensities, which were the results of our past actions, we tend to make a particular choice.
This choice we make restricts our possible future options and we are forced to work in a particular way only, owing to our tendencies. Thus, our choices narrow down as we continue with our propensities and tendencies and indulge in karma. Theoretically speaking, the password is purely our choice. It could be any random set of numbers and characters. But because it was set by us in a particular way in the past, even though on the face of it, the password is our own choice, since it was our own creation our choices now are restricted. Because it is our creation that our choices are now capped.
Our freedom to choose is curtailed by the choices we made in the past. Only a yogi has the real freedom to choose as he is free of the shackles of past propensities. Every action he does is a new action with limitless choices. He is sarvatantra svatantra. The choices are not only unlimited on the face of it, but are limitless to the core. For us ordinary humans, it is useful to realise that past karmic propensities and the consequent circumstances can also be circumvented by present effort, just as the password can be reset by a new effort. However, it requires greater efforts.
But where do lower beings receive their OTP from? Who controls those OTPs? It is prakriti, the eternal potentiality of nature, the unity of three gunas — sattva, rajas and tamas. All things and circumstances are composed of these three gunas and their differences are due to the different combinations of these gunas. The nature of a context is determined by the preponderance of a particular guna.
Sattva is white and is like nectar and gives joy; rajas is red and is like intoxication and gives pain; tamas is dark and is like poison and produces unconsciousness. ‘We bow to prakriti,’ says Krishna in his Samkhya Karika, ‘the red-whitedark, the unborn mother and nurse and receptacle of all generations’.
Viewed from Advaita Vedanta, this very prakriti is called maya, the creator of all experiences. Sentient beings below the rank of humans are Mayaadheena, that is, they are under the control of maya.
But as the sentient being ascends the ladder of evolution by the yogic practice and reaches the pinnacle, he becomes Mayaadheesha, the controller of maya. He becomes completely free and independent.
-Vijay Srinath Kanchi

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