Posted 04/17/2009 - 12:08 by phanimitra

Destiny or Freewill - A long debate!

This is a post written by my wife, Padmaja Valli, on her blog. Copying it here for interested people to read and form their own opinions on this very interesting topic.

Yes..Everything is Pre-Destined...But..!?

These days i seldom get time to read a book from cover to cover. Whenever I was greedy enough to start from the beginning, I left the book mid way, incomplete, for want of time. To avoid the remorse, now i have made a habit to randomly open a page and start reading for the short period of free time and leave it at that.  (The kind of books that i read are no suspense thrillers and hence the order of the chapters really doesn’t matter!)  So on one of our later visits to Ramana ashram (Note 1), I randomly opened a page of a free booklet and started reading. It was a story about a conversation between a guru (Not Ramana Maharshi, but some sage, may be mythical) and his disciple and i jumped out of my skin on reading the first sentence. (Note 2)

The disciple asks his Guru, “Is everything pre-destined or is there free-will?"   The guru replies saying that EVERYTHING is pre-destined and there is no free-will. Now, the disciple, in the story contests the guru's claim! He says, " If there is no free will and if everything is pre-destined, what is the point in living the life?! What is the point in working hard? Nothing matters! So logically, there should be Free-will" The all smiling guru says "Son! I say again, Everything is pre-destined"

Now the disciple, just like the Guru is adamant. He says, "Ok, in that case, tell me something that i am going to do in the next 24 hrs. I will exercise my free-will and NOT do that! Will you then agree that there is free-will?? " "Yes, of course!” said the Guru. Saying so he meditated for a while, opened his eyes and said "Son, you are going to eat paayasa (Kheer) before tomm morning!" and left the place.

The disciple was very excited. Eating payasa? that is an easy target, isnt it? After all what you eat is under your control. So he already started whistling and rehearsing what he would say to his Guru, when he returns victorious the next day. He goes home quickly and without talking to anybody (why, someone may offer payasa!) he finishes his daily chores in a buff, packs a little food for the night and goes to the forest. There in the middle of the forest he climbs a tree by noon and starts waiting for the dusk. The idea is to spend the night in the middle of the forest, on the tree, where no one even knew he existed! He can get down the next morning and go straight to the guru. Hence thinking he dozes off smugly.

Suddenly he is woken up by some commotion, when it is just about to get dark. He sees a marriage party crossing the forest. They are discussing whether they should stop for the night and put up the tents there. Finally they decide to stop there, cook and eat the dinner, rest for the night and continue with the journey the following day. The tents are put up, the cooks put few boulders together, gather wood and starts cooking. The marriage party had to make at least one sweet in the food and after a little discussion, Lo! it is payasa that is being cooked!! As the fragrance of payasa touched the disciple, he is a bit rattled. But he still reasons, there is no worry as nobody knows i am here.

Few hours pass. Just when the food is ready and everybody is about to eat, dacoits attack and loot the marriage party. Everybody runs helter-skelter. After gathering all the valuables, looking at the ready-to-eat delicious and sumptuous meal with all varieties, they decide to have the meal as well and carry on. Our hero was observing all from the tree top with great curiosity and praying that they should leave fast. But one doubting Thomas among the thieves says "what if they mixed something in the food before they fled?" More arguments and counter arguments followed and finally it was decided that if someone mixed sth in the food, hoping that the dacoits would eat and die, they would be hiding somewhere around to come back and take the valuables. So it was decided to go around searching if somebody was hiding. On listening to this, a chill ran the spine of our dear disciple and true to his fears; he was discovered and dragged down!!

Now, the doubting Thomas is all beaming..."See! Did i not tell you! this fellow must have surely mixed something in the food"   The disciple pleaded that he was not one of the marriage party and he should be left. The more innovative of the dacoits (may be the one who really still wanted to eat!) comes up with an idea that the disciple should be made to eat the food first and if nothing happens to him, all of them can have it. Everybody agrees with the idea. The fear stricken disciple is also a bit relieved for a moment, but then he remembers payasa and blurts out "I will eat everything except the payasa!"

Now, all the dacoits get doubtful and say "Then you MUST have surely mixed something in the paayasa. So eat THAT first!" The disciple tries to explain, begs and tries to run away, which only makes the dacoits persist. They unanimously decided that something is really mixed in paayasa, the disciple is the one who did it and hence the punishment would be to make him have it. Holding down the disciple to the ground by his limbs, they pour the paayasa in his mouth. The disciple, still using his "free-will" tries to spit it out and not swallow it. This infuriates the dacoits further and with a few blows they manage to make the disciple gulp a good amount of paayasa. Thus satisfied, they leave the place jubilant with their own clever ways. Next morning, the disciple visits the ashram dejected, accepts his defeat and apologizes to the guru. The story ends there.

This as such did not answer my doubts instantly. The story does say something more but the logic is not yet complete. One negation is enough to disprove. But one success is not enough to prove!

True, the disciple has lost, but has the Guru really won? Even if we assume so for a moment and accept that "Everything is pre-destined", then what is the role of Free-will!? Where does Free-will fit in the scheme of Divine-will? I kept pondering over the same and something close to the answer dawned upon me after a few days.

Note 1: We have been to Thiruvannamalai and Ramana Ashram 6-7 times after our first visit that I wrote about

Note 2: Now, did that book come to me by chance or was it predestined- I did not buy it, it was a free booklet in my mother tongue (Telugu) given by an old man in the Book Store on knowing that I am from Andhra Pradesh! Did i open that page by chance - Except for those 5 mins and for that one story I couldn’t get time to read that book again!  It happened at the same place that i contested the claim of Ramana Maharshi on previous visit! That adds one more parameter to the "by chance" list!!!  )

There IS says Krishna

Ramana Maharshi says that EVERYTHING is pre-destined and there is nth called "free-will" in deciding the events. He has no intention to elaborate or convince anyone about the same. To take it as it is or to find reasons is left to us. The story of my prev blog illustrates the same. Though i have faith in Ramana Maharshi's words, I need to know the reason too as intellect is still not convinced. It still reasons that EVERYTING cannot be pre-destined. If one does not have a choice in their actions, they cannot be held responsible for the same. If it is written that X would kill/oppress Y. Even the oppressor is as helpless and choice-less as the oppressed. It is unjust that he should pay for sth imposed upon him, if he just has as much choice as a gun in the hands of a murderer. So there HAS to be a free-will, to fit the Karma theory.

This takes us to “Everything is predestined, but we have free-will!” Now, it is getting interesting here. If we call Destiny as Divine-will, where exactly does free-will fit it? I would like to share some of my deliberations about the story. There are different threads i am pursuing as of now, so this post can turn out to be a bunch of muddled thoughts.

There is definitely a Divine-will and there is also a free-will, though a lot weaker than the former. NOTHING can happen against Divine-will. The divine-will was that the disciple should have payasa. The disciple in the story had the hardships because he has used his free-will against Divine-will. If he had aligned his free-will inline with Divine-will, he would have had the paayasa offered in a cup and had it happily sitting at home and not choked to gulp the same forcibly by some dacoits in the middle of a forest. The more he tried to oppose, the greater the difficulty. So the choice(free-will) here that the disciple (or anyone) has is either to align with the Divine-will or to oppose it. A person who does the former is at peace (does not mean material wealth or happiness). The one who tries the later is like trying to outshine the sun with a candle and would be frustrated, restless and defeated.

The Divine-will is a law of Nature or Dharma, there is no favoritism.  The ships that align their sails with the mighty winds reach the shore and those to don’t are overwhelmed in a storm.  In the context of Gita, Pandava's are examples of the free-will aligned with Divine-will.  Kourava's are the examples of free-will opposing divine-will. Everybody in the battle-field of Kurukshetra had exercised their free-will in choosing which side to take and had reaped accordingly. A couple of times, Arjuna exercises his free-will and consciously chooses to go with Divine-will. Once before coming to the battle ground, when he chooses Krishna (with condition that he wouldn’t take up arms in the battlefield) over his entire army. Then at the end of Gita, he exercises his free-will and chooses to continue with the battle than walk away. Let me elucidate my point...

When Arjuna suddenly decides not to go for war in the midst of the battle field, Krishna gives him the eternal knowledge. At one point, Krishna says (11:33)

tasmat tvam uttistha yaso labhasva
jitva satrun bhunksva rajyam samrddham
mayaivaite nihatah purvam eva
nimitta-matram bhava savya-sacin

Here Krishna says that it is His will that the Kauravas are to perish. Arjuna should arise for battle and attain fame by conquering the Kauravas and their army who have already been killed even before the battle has commenced by the Will of Lord Krishna. He informs Arjuna that he is nimitta-matram or merely the instrument, for accomplishing this.  

In one of the later chapters at the end of Gita, Krishna says "yadechasi tada kuru" - (I have told you all that i had to say) Do as you desire to do. Which means Arjuna did have a free-will either to do as Krishna directed or not to. What was pre-destined was the death of the kauravas - death of adharma is the Divine-will.

Arjuna could choose either to work for the Divine Plan or walk away.  Aligning with the Divine plan inspite of the hardships and his personal doubts would give fame, wealth and kingdom to Arjuna.

However, Arjuna should not let his Ego of being a good warrior delude him that "HE" is the "DOER" and is in the position to decide the future events!!! If he had chosen to walk away, the kaurava's would still have been killed without Arjuna in the picture. Only Arjuna would have been the loser, in disgrace of being a king who fled the battle-field. As far as Krishna is concerned, they are already dead and it is just a matter of who plays the lead role and takes the fame...the script is already in place!

Going by this logic

a) Events are pre-destined, but our participation in them is our free-will!

May be, getting the opportunity to participate is also pre-destined. But whether to "act" or not at the right moment is the free-will of the soul. The future and maturity of that soul depends on that one moment of action or inaction

Whether YOU come forward and do a good or righteous act or not doesn’t matter for the Divine. If it is destined, someone else would definitely do it. If u do not live up to the occasion and do the good deed, it is only YOU who is going to lose!

b) Events are pre-destined, but our attitude towards them is our free-will. Karma is accumulated because of the attitude with which we do an action and not the action itself!


PKFz may cost 12.5 billion at

PKFz may cost 12.5 billion at CXFA the end of repayment period but its value may be more than 12.5 billion at that time. if we have not constructed KLCC, it would cost us more now to build. R we cfa test not proud of KLCC the twin tower. uncle kit siang please just be fair and not ROUTE so vengeful. be magnanimous. to be a stateman you got to behave like one. Being an opposition leader does not give you the god damn right to condemn everyone and everything under the skies. Please spend more time teaching your son how to stand up to DSAI first uncle kit siang. i TSHOOT think he needs a "tongkat". At least OTK got the courage to make change and be progressive.

Posted by lee500 on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 05:32