The Karmas and our destiny
Anand_Hudli_at_USININ31 at BMC.BOEHRINGER-MANNHEIM.COM
Wed Jul 9 16:26:51 CDT 1997
The question of whether we have free will or our actions are all
determined by destiny is indeed a difficult one. I will try to
give an explanation based on the Giitaa. Please read verses
18.57 to 18.66.
Krishna makes it clear that Arjuna cannot, out of delusion (mohaat.h),
decide not to fight. For Arjuna will be bound by his own karma
(nibaddhaH svena svakarmaNaa) which is born of his nature (svabhaavajena)
as a Kshhatriya. Can a tiger "decide" one day that it will kill no more?
It is wrong on two counts. First, its very nature is to kill other animals
for food. Second, it has killed before, every single time it was hungry.
So whatever it decides is of no consequence. Kill it will. Similarly,
Arjuna will end up fighting even if he decides, out of delusion, that
he won't do so.
(18.60) illustrates an important point. Whatever we do _out_of_delusion_
will be determined by these two factors -- our nature and our karma's.
So, in this situation, we have no free will; our acts are all
predetermined. In fact, even we, as mere humans, can predict what a person
who is a slave to his senses will do or will not do under a given
situation. We may not be able to predict each and every detail of what this
person's actions will be, but we will, nevertheless, be able to make a
In this connection, there is a story in Kannada, called "mangagaLa
upavaasa", which means The fast of the monkeys. Some monkeys decided to
observe a fast on a certain day. They woke up early in the morning,
determined to fast. After a short while, they thought, "Since we will be
fasting the whole day today, we will be too weak tomorrow, to go to the
fruit grove and break our fast. Let us go there today itself. We can wait
there until tomorrow." So they all went to the grove. Pretty soon, they
started saying, "It is too hot on the ground. Let us all climb these fruit
trees. We can rest on the branches." Before long, they were sitting on the
tree branches, eyeing the fruits greedily. Next they thought, "Wouldn't it
be better if we held the fruits in our hands until tomorrow?
Otherwise, they might fall down and get broken. Or perhaps, some birds
might spoil them!" But this caused another problem for the monkeys. They
started drooling pretty heavily, looking at those juicy fruits. One
particularly smart monkey said, "Hey! Why not put these fruits in our
mouths? That way we will have solved this drooling problem." He had not
even finished his last sentence, when all the monkeys put the fruits into
their mouths. Thus ended the fast of the monkeys. By their very nature,
they had little control over their hunger. They had never fasted before.
The combination of these two factors meant that they were destined to
break their fast easily.
An interesting and troubling question may now be asked. If whatever
we do is predetermined, why should we even make an attempt for
attaining liberation (mokshha)? This question may be answered by
noting that Krishna says whatever we do _out_of_delusion will not be
an independent action, but will be determined by our nature and our
karma's. Then wherein lies our free will? Krishna affirms in 18.61 that
Ishvara (God) controls all beings, and in 18.62 he asks Arjuna to, in
effect, exercise his free will and seek the refuge of the God with all his
heart (tameva sharaNaM gachchha sarvabhaavena). Again in 18.63, Krishna
gives Arjuna a choice of what he can do and asks him to ponder over what
Krishna has said in full (vimR^ishhyaitadasheshheNa). Krishna tells Arjuna
to do whatever he likes (yathechchhasi tathaa kuru).
To conclude, whatever we do _out_of_delusion_ is due to our nature
and our karma's. Free will lies in recognizing this fact, not yielding
to delusion, acting without the desire for fruits of actions, and
seeking the refuge of God/Self. The exercise of this free will wipes
out all destiny and confers liberation.
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