The Karmas and our destiny

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.

    This verse
    (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
    rough prediction.

    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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