[Advaita-l] A Conversation between Divine Will and Free Will

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 18 08:49:16 CST 2005

Continued from where we left in 

DDW:  We were discussing the question of DFW whether Free
will itself could be under the influence of Divine Will.

TD: Well, it is quite clear here from your own example.
This discussion on Divine Will and Free Will is taking
place because you raised a question first and started the
discussion. You are therefore the ‘nimitta kAraNa’ for this
action that is taking place now. But this event of a
discussion is itself God’s Will.

DFW. If you go in this strain then every action of
everybody becomes an act of God!

DDW. No. Each action of ours is not merely a product of the
action or thought that precedes it but it is also the
product of a state of moral character , which is what TD
calls our individualised prakRti. This prakRti has been 
brought by us as a chip of imprints from all our previous

DFW: So is it  then not God’s action?

DDW But it is He who is the distributor of results of past
deeds and thoughts.

TD: Wait. The concept of free will changes (subjectively)
as one evolves philosophically. The common man’s
understanding that the Almighty intervenes either by way of
Grace or otherwise is rather elementary. The real work of
the Almighty is deeper. Not a leaf moves without His
knowledge or sanction, not a drop flows down by itself.
Gravity is His Will. Action and Reaction are His Will.

DFW: Is Divine Will absolute then?  Is that what is called
Fate?  Then why all this talk about Free Will?

DDW: Let us not confuse between Fate and Divine Will. I
think they are different.

TD:  Yes, first let us dispose of Fate. Then we can discuss
Free Will and Divine Will more understandably.  Fate and
Free will are interwoven just as the threads of a fabric
are crossed and interlaced. We cannot rewrite our past or
fly like a bird or breathe under water. These are our
limitations, inherent in our nature, our fate. Our past is
our fate for the future. But it is only our tendencies that
are determined by our past (and the so-called fate). Our
actions are not determined by our fate. Actions are ours. 

DFW: Then why does DDW say that everything is Divine Will?

DDW: Just now we decided to dispose of the concept of Fate
before we make the final lap of discussion between divine
will and free will. Don’t bring in divine will now. TD is
doing alright; allow  him to go his own way.

TD: Only actions are ours. Fate has nothing to do it. Fate,
that is, our prArabdha,  might have created the
circumstances that led to our action, but the action is
ours. Fate might have contributed by shaping our
tendencies, which led to our action, but the action is
still ours. It is our mind that dictates our action. All
spiritual teaching pleads for the Will of Man to become
stronger than the mind. Everywhere in the upanishads the
appeal is to the will . It is not as if man is a helpless
creature as a leaf in the storm or a feather in the wind.
Man’s will has an element of complete freedom. It is the
power which enables him to act in directions opposite even
to his spontaneous bad tendency (dur-vAsanA).  In this
sense he is the architect of his fate. Indeed this is the
time when he should not slacken any of his self-effort.
Ultimately man’s will must prove stronger than fate,
because it is his own past will that created his present

DFW: Wonderful.  I have heard Swami Chinmayananda say
something like this. I cannot take shelter under ‘Fate’ 
and refuse to act in a morally elevating manner. I cannot
argue, for instance, that ‘I will not go to the help of a
suffering man, because it is his karma that makes him
suffer; let him suffer!’. Maybe the other person suffers
because of his karma but my action or karma of not going to
his help is my own decision, out of my own free will.

DDW: And that will be a debit entry in your karmic
accounting, for which you have only yourself to blame. 

TD: In fact this cover for inaction  will start a chain
reaction of vAsanAs in your future conduct and will
gradually consume you in its own way.   I was saying
therefore, that it is by our own will that we must face our
fate, that is prArabdha. Of course we cannot rewrite our
past. We may not be able to repair our wrong actions, but
we can learn lessons from them and act accordingly, by a
determined free will, in the future. 

DFW:  Maybe we can try to avoid repeating them.

TD:  Fate is only our prArabdha karma which nobody can
escape. It seems even divine intervention cannot change it.
Many of our stotras which promise eradication of all sin as
the result of recitation of that stotra, are careful to
imply only the destruction of sanchita karma and not
prArabdha karma.  Sometimes it says this explicitly as in
“sanchita-pApa vinAshaka lingam”  in LingAshhTakaM.
PrArabdha karma has to be exhausted only by experiencing

DDW: But it is our attitude to the experience that changes
according to our trust in God.

TD: That is where our level of spiritual evolution enters
the picture. A trust in God and his omnipotence does not
mean that we ‘believe’ in Fate. It is wrong to think so. It
is the first step for the correct understanding of Hindu
philosophy and spirituality. 

DFW : Does not the omnipotence of God mean that unless He
wills it we cannot become spiritual?

TD:  You are raising the right question at the right time.
Your question brings home to us another point that is
mentioned in our smritis. You know there are four goals of
life. These are called ‘purushArthas’ in Sanskrit. They are
 dharma, artha, kAma and moksha. – meaning broadly,  Duty
of Righteousness, material prosperity, satisfaction of
sensual desires and release from the samsAra bondage. Of
these, the smritis would say, only artha and kAma are
obtained as per  one’s prArabdha karma.  The other two,
dharma and moksha are obtained only by self-effort. That is
why ‘satyam vada’ and ‘dharmam chara’ are specific
injunctions to us. Self effort is the most essential
ingredient for lifting ourselves upward in the ladder of
spiritual evolution. 

DDW: If the upward path to higher levels of spirituality
has to be chalked out only by our effort then where comes
the question of divine will? You are confusing me now.

TD:  We have to go slow now. Maybe we should break here 
and continue  next time.

PraNAms to all seekers of Truth.

Prof. V. Krishnamurthy

You are welcome to have a look at any of the following  books on my website:

1. Gems from the Ocean of Hindu Thought Vision & Practice
2. Live Happily, the Gita Way
3. Advaita Dialogue for beginners.
4. Discourses of the Paramacharya on Soundaryalahari.

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