Bumper stickers

Jonathan Bricklin brickmar at EARTHCOM.NET
Fri Jul 11 23:29:24 CDT 1997

>>A belief in predestination is a first step only in deconstructing the
>>self.  A belief in free will, on the other hand, is a rope tied around
>> ankle to keep you from realizing the state of non-action.

>No one denies that _if_ the same person follows the dictates of shAstra
>with respect to dharma. However, unfortunately, most persons who tout
>this "There is no free-will" idea also claim "I didn't want it, I am
>just drinking wine without volition", "I didn't want it, I am doing X
>without volition", "I didn't want it, I am doing Y without volition"
>etc. X, Y etc are all things which the shastra-s prohibit, since they
>lead one away from realization. In this case the one who claims
>non-volition and flouts dharma is no better than a hedonist, actually
>worse. In this case he is glorifying indulgence as philosophy and
>nothing could be more foolish. naishkarmya siddhi is attained only when
>there is complete purity of mind, not by repeating "there is no
>free-will" ad-nauseam. Do you agree?


One of the few quotes from an Indian that I have seen frequently on bumper
stickers is Gandhi's "It's not important what you do, but it's important
that you do it."  I think about this quote a lot, and not only because I'm
stuck in traffic reading it, but because while its meaning seems obvious
enough, I always feel I fall short of grasping its full import.  I believe
it is a profound truth, I'm just not sure I fully get it.  I'm thinking of
it now again, though, in response to Ramakrishnan's earnest appeal.  I'm
imagining Krishna, after he has driven Arjuna through the thick of battle,
dropping him off and appearing as a rickshaw driver to someone fleeing the
battle, someone who always flees battles, not because he is a pacifist, but
because he is a coward.  In fact, his cowardice is so renowned he is dubbed
the village coward.  Everyone makes fun of him, even though he serves a not
unuseful purpose of making them not only look brave, but actually be brave,
since it is the ridicule heaped on him that they fear for themselves more
than an enemy's arrow.  Now let us imagine this coward is, like Arjuna,
having second thoughts.  Why must he always flee?  Why must he always be
ridiculed?  Would not Krishna tell him exactly the same thing he told
Arjuna, except instead of the bit about his duty as a warrior, he would
substitute his duty as a coward?  And couldn't he be driving both vehicles
with Gandhi's quote on the bumper sticker?

The desire to realize naiskarmya siddhi, being a desire, not only has no
absolute, transcendental value, and there have probably been as many people
who have reached some sort of enlightenment by landing at the bottom of
hedonistic induced despair, than by striving to climb toward spiritual
purity. And those who don't come through the bottom to the top are not
turned around by an act of will (whatever that is) but by seeing clearly
what their condition is.  An alcoholic tells many lies to himself, but
telling him he has free will to turn his life around would just be adding
to the pile.  The one truth that can change his life is that he is an
alcoholic, and often it takes a crisis, like running his car into a tree,
for him to realize that.  Once he does realize that, the change happens by
itself.  Will is not part of the equation. .

 I often hear the objection you have raised against belief in the
non-reality of free will, but I have never once met or read of anyone who
actually manifested it.  A divine bum, like Astavakra, does not believe in
will, and manifests that belief by expressing a disinterest in any goal.
The hedonists you mention sound like the ordinary kind, filled with the
separate sense of self that a belief in will engenders.  Do you actually
know, or have you ever heard of anyone acting *badly* and using a belief in
the non-reality of free will to justify it?  This is an earnest question.
Do you actually know anyone who repeats ad nauseum "there is no free will"?
 I, myself, don't keep saying it, I just keep posting it. :)  I am thinking
of starting, though.  It might be a little bit like Dorothy's  "There's no
place like home."  And perhaps to the same effect.

Jonathan Bricklin

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