The Mother Divine
Change Font Size 

One of the most asked questions of those who have started thinking about spirituality is about free will. Is there a free will? Can we live the life we wish to live? Or are we simply destined to live the life we are ordained for? How much freedom do we really have? It’s not easy to answer these questions, there are several perspectives on the matter. Those who understand the law of karma are clear about the fact that all that we are calling destiny is self-created. Destiny is simply the future tense of free will. A man came to Junnaid, a Sufi mystic, and asked him, “What do you say about pre-determination, kismat, fate, and the freedom of man? Is man free to do whatever he wants to do? Or is he simply a puppet in the hands of an unknown puppeteer, who simply dances the dance that the puppeteer chooses?”

Junnaid ordered the man, “Raise up one leg!”

He raised his right leg.

Junnaid said, “That is not enough. Now raise the other, too.”

Now the man was at a loss, and angry also. He said, “You are asking absurdities! I had come to ask a philosophical question – that you simply dropped without answering. You asked me to raise one leg, I raised my right leg. And now you are asking me to raise the other, too. What do you want? How can I raise both legs?”

Junnaid said, “Then sit down. Have you received the answer to your question or not?”

The man said, “The answer to my question has not been given yet. Instead you have been training me in this parade!”

Junnaid said, “See the point: when I said, ‘Raise one of your legs’ you had the freedom to choose either the right or the left. Nobody was determining it, it was your choice to raise the right leg. But once you had chosen the right leg you could not choose the left too. It is your freedom that has determined the fact of your bondage. Now your left leg is in bondage.”

Man is half free and half in bondage, but he is free first. And it is his freedom, how he uses his freedom that determines his bondage. There is nobody sitting there writing in your head or making lines on your palms. Even an omnipotent God must be tired by now, doing this stupid thing of making lines on people’s hands. You are free, but each act of freedom brings a responsibility – and that is your bondage. Either call it ‘bondage’, which is not a beautiful word, or call it ‘responsibility’. That is what I call it. You choose a certain act – that is your freedom – but then the consequences will be your responsibility.

The moment we exercise free will, we create a samskara and a groove. The life to come thereafter must take that course. If the water has travelled along a certain path and a channel and trench has been created, next time on the water is likely to travel the same path, there’s hardly any choice. What we are saying here in other words is that we have a tendency for conditioning and habit-formation, every karma we do out of free will would thereby set a tone for the future karmas. In fact, from our very birth, we carry impressions of past birth. We are therefore conditioned beings at the very birth. We are not free. What we wish to do or how we wish to do it is not entirely a free thought. If we probe as to why we are choosing what we are choosing, we will see that we have developed a self-notion and our choices are arising from that notion. We are even choosing our free will from some past condition. Where then is the real freedom?

Well, the real freedom perhaps lies in abandoning the thrill we gain from the fact that we can choose. It can come from being free from free will itself. Because free will is partially an offspring of bondage. If we were not bound, if we did not experience limitations, we would not think of freedom. Yes of course we can choose, but there’s no need for us to feel high and mighty on that account because it forebodes a bondage too. All the technological advancements are nothing but expressions of free will. A man wanted to be like a bird and aircrafts came into being. A man wanted to be like a fish and submarines came into being. A man wanted to have the might of an elephant and an earthmover came into being. What does this mean? It means being embodied in the tenement of a human being, man discovered some limitations, things he couldn’t do as humans and then he pushed it create an ability. What he felt he was destined to do, he challenged and remedied. However, there’s a catch here. Once he acquired these abilities or conveniences, he self-willed himself to be bound to another kind of life. And this cycle goes on. Somehow the word freedom has come to be understood as freedom to fulfil your desire. These days desire is driving notions of freedom. It is a great trap because while you may have the freedom to realise your desires, you have no freedom from desire itself. Coming back to what we said before, free will from samskaric mesh creates restrictive pathways for the future; therefore, freedom from free will would constitute true freedom. In the larger scheme of things, the ultimate goal of human being is to gain freedom from birth and death. What form of ‘free will’ will ensure such freedom? The more karmas we do out of free will, the more samskaras we gather and more difficult it is for us to be free of the cycle. A blind acceptance of destiny on the other hand is also not the way forward because that implies compounding or aggravating the past conditions. Using the free will to effectively annul the karmic bondages is the way.

All the free will of our past has created a destiny. We must dissipate it. God gives us an opportunity to dissipate it by creating conditions which are nothing but outcomes of past karmas ready to be lived out, chewed like sugarcane and the pulp thrown away. But we must not create fresh karmas in the meanwhile simply because we have a free will. By intelligently accepting our destiny, we find ourselves less bound. When we surrender our karmas to God, our attachment to free will diminishes, His is done! When His is done, the human will has merged with the divine will. May God give us the discriminative faculty to see what is binding us and get rid of it for ever!

~ Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda)
Editor, The Mother