Contradiction in Ramana Maharshi?

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rbalasub at ECN.PURDUE.EDU
Sun Apr 20 12:08:04 CDT 1997

Dennis Waite wrote:

[ ... ]

>         One summer afternoon I was sitting opposite Bhagavan in the old
> hall, with
>         a fan in my hand and said to him: "I can understand that the
>         events in a man's life, such as his country, nationality, family,
> career or
>         rofession, marriage, death, etc., are all predestined by his karma,
>         can it be that all the details of his life, down to the minutest, have
>         already been determined? Now, for instance, I put this fan that is in
>         hand down on the floor here. Can it be that it was already decided
> that on
>         such and such a day, at such and a such an hour, I shall move the
> fan like
>         this and put it down here?"
>         Bhagavan replied,   "Certainly." He continued: "Whatever this body
> is to do
>         and whatever experiences it is to pass through was already decided
> when it
>         came into existence.
> RM is clearly talking about the vyaavahaarika level here. Can someone
> resolve this apparent contradiction, please?

There seems to be a contradiction, but there is actually no contradiction. The
experiences of the soul during a birth are due to prArabdha karma. But note
that RM only says that "whatever experiences it is to pass through was already
decided", but does not say that it _cannot be changed_. That is the crux of
the argument here isn't it, whether there is free will or not?

In other places RM has said that one can do the prAyaschitta karma-s to attain
certain ends. For eg, he has told that rituals like shrAddha-s (done for
fore-fathers) are certainly beneficial to them. Giri also quoted another
similar passage. Though my interpretation seems to read more into RM's words
than necessary, it is quite obvious that otherwise there would be a patent
contradiction in RM's words.

Also the context where this was said is important. RM's point here seems to be
(to me) that all experiences we go through are decided by prArabdha and
decided already. As is obvious from other quotes RM definitely agrees rituals
can be performed (or suitable action can be taken) to avoid pain or gain
certain fruits. But there is no point in doing more actions. It makes more
sense to endure the pains and be detached from the pleasures and turn the mind


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