The Riddle of Fate and Freewill

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Wed Oct 1 13:53:53 CDT 1997

On Wed, 1 Oct 1997, Jonathan Bricklin wrote:

> The foundation of  the castle is the belief in the ultimate reality of a
> jiva self.  The foundation of that belief is a belief in free will.

Replace "ultimate" with "provisional" or "conventional" and we are fine.
And, do not dismiss the importance of the provisional reality of the jIva.
Nobody can doubt his/her own existence, whether in the waking or dream or
sleep state.

> A belief in fate only becomes part of the castle if it is itself such a
> foundation or rests upon it.  There is no evidence to support free will.

How about this? Consider the stock-market. Say I get an insider tip about
a particular item. I have the choice either 1. to make a fortune out of
it, or 2. to follow the rules about such things and not make a fortune. In
either case, I have to exert my will to do one or the other. Others might
be affected by it, and you might want to describe whatever happens as
their fate, but given the two choices I have, I am not fated to do
whatever it is that I eventually do.

> There is evidence, such as precognition, to support fate.  But such

This cannot be admissible evidence, for your precognition is accessible
only to you. So long as precognition of conventional reality is concerned,
you could be imagining things, for all I know. Moreover, thousands of
supposed precognitions do not come true.

I would like to reiterate that where there is conventional reality,
including the conventional jIva, there is both fate and free will. Where
the absolute is known, there is neither fate nor will. There is no need to
bias one's judgment and raise either fate or will to an absolute level.


ps. Eliot Deutsch says that karma is a convenient fiction in advaita, but
he misstates the issue. The entire universe is a "convenient fiction,"
which disappears when the unitary brahman is known. In one understanding
of advaita, the universe is perceived only so that its basis may be known.
However, given the universe, with all its variety, karma stands. Deutsch
does not emphasize this. Karma loses its reality only when all
multiplicity is lost, not otherwise. If karma is all as convenient a
fiction as Deutsch holds, the entire motivation for moksha is lost, and
the import of advaitic teaching is lost.

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