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

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 21 15:36:33 CST 2005


We continue from where we left in 

DFW: What is it that I am missing from the fifteenth
chapter of the Gita?

TD:  It is the fact that there are two purushhas instead of

DFW:  Both sentient?

TD: Yes, both sentient.  By themselves mind and intellect 
are not sentient. The spark of the Infinite Consciousness
that resides in us as  the sentient Purushha is the source
of this sentience. This spark is the Jiva. But the Jiva
cannot express itself in any manner  except through the
BMI. When it so expresses itself, an identification takes
place between jIva on the one side and the BMI on the other
side. This identification results in a conscious
personality which is what goes by the ordinary name of ‘I’.
 This is one purushha. It is the perishable purushha
(kshara-purushha).  If on the other hand jIva disassociates
itself from the BMI and remains as the spark of
Consciousness that it really is, then it is the
imperishable purshha within. It is known as the
akshara-purushha.  Thus there are two purushhas.

DFW.  So who is responsible for my actions, good or bad?
Who is the doer?

TD:  It is only the perishable purushha.  The other one is
imperishable, unattached, unaffected, unpolluted,  and
immutable. It is the real ‘I’.  The perishable purushha is
the false ‘I’ or the lower self.  The real ‘I’ is the
higher Self.   

DDW:  Shall we say then that the real doer of actions is
this perishable purushha? 

TD:  In a sense, yes. Not only he is the doer but suffers
the result of his doings. He it is that goes from body to
body and suffers all the fruits of actions. 

DFW: Then what does the other purushha (the imperishable)

TD: He is untouched by anything.  All our Upanishads as
well as all the great teachers of advaita from Shankara
downwards tell us to identify ourselves with the divine
within and thus be unaffected by the ups and downs that the
kshara purushha goes through. 

DFW:  I still don’t understand it. What exactly do you mean
by ‘identification’. Is it just a posture? How does it
translate into action? The discussion has now taken such a
turn that we have forgotten why we started the discussion.
Where have the Free Will and Divine Will gone now?

DDW:  We have not strayed. We are still trying to
understand Divine Will. Because it is the purushha within, 
whose presence in us makes us will,  act and feel through
our BMI, it is common in Vedanta to say that the outer self
has no control and it is the inner self that is the motor
behind it. 

TD:  One of you mentioned earlier  the concept of ‘action
in inaction’.  This is it. The inner Self does nothing but
in its presence everything happens.  But for its presence
nothing would happen.

DDW:  This concept of the inner self as the power behind
all our actions gets translated for general understanding 
to say it is all divine will.  Common folk understand by
this statement that God is sitting there in his throne  and
dispensing  all decisions and actions!  The bottomline
lesson is that we have to be in harmony with that ‘divine
will’ in order to live and die in peace.  The
identification means that you should be constantly aware
that you (the real You)  are neither the doer of actions 
nor the experiencer of  the consequences. ‘na ahaM kartA,
na aham bhoktA’.  Your mind thinks, your hands and feet
act; but You are only a witness to all of these.

DFW: I feel this identification business is tricky. I think
there is some blurring here.

TD:  Let me try to explain. Whenever we act, we think we
are the doer of the action. Actually we are thinking of the
false ‘I’ here. The 18th chapter of the Gita elaborates
four others that have a part in the action. One is called
‘adhiShTAnaM’, the support or base of all action. In other
words it is the conglomerate of natural forces that
constitute the field of action.

DDW:  The next is the toality of the different senses which
form the instrument of action. The third is the set of
circumstances or the context.  The fourth is variously
called Fate or Divine Element; actually it is the set of
vAsanAs as we know, that have inspired the action.

TD:  Thus the false ‘I’ together with these four
accessories become the agents of action.. 

DFW:  The difference between this false ‘I’ and the real
‘I’  is only in the attitude. Right?

TD:  But the attitude or bhAvanA  is everything. This is
the crux of the entire philosophy of advaita. The doer or
kartA is the individual mental attitude which unifies
itself with the external things like body, senses and the
mind to the extent that it thinks they are itself. This
process of attitudinal unification is what is called

DDW:  On the other hand, the real ‘I’, the deeper Self,
stands aloof as Witness, sAkShI.

TD:  If now our mental attitude is perfectly tuned to
identify itself with the sAkShI behind, then the five
participants to the action are outside us. We can then
clearly say “na ahaM kartA, na ahaM bhoktA” (I am not the
doer or the experiencer).

DDW: But all the four  agents of action  belong to PrakRti
or its effects and the fifth  namely the kshara purushha,
is also an effect of the mAyic spell over us. So it is also
 right to say that PrakRti is the doer.

DFW:  But yesterday or so we concluded that PrakRti, being
insentient, cannot be the doer and it is He, the inner
self, that is the doer.

TD: It is now clear, after the analysis in the 18th
chapter, in what sense we are saying that PrakRti is the
doer. It is  the false inner self along with the four other
agents of action  that  is the doer.  Thus  PrakRti 
together  with the sentience of the false self becomes the

DFW: It is all pretty complicated.

DDW:  That is why, to the common folk, we simply say, that
the spirit within us, which is divine, is the doer. And
they further simplify it by saying that it is all divine
will. ...

TD:  ... which is right after all, since it is the spark of
Consciousness that sparks the mAyA that causes our false
self to say what it says.

DDW : I feel greatly relieved now. I feel I understand it

DFW.  Do you, really? Then  can you answer the question:
Does the ‘divine’ have free will?

DDW:  I know you are trying to trap me.  To say it does not
 have free will is absurd because we ourselves have free
will in some measure.  To say the divine has free will also
leads to absurd supplementaries.

DFW: Like what? 

DDW:  Like what you yourself pointed out earlier. Free will
implies options to choose from. Does the divine choose from
several options? Why does it choose one of them?  In that
case is the divine so ignorant of the future to have to
choose from its options? What governs its choice? Nature or
PrakRti? Is the divine a slave to Nature? It cannot be.
What desire makes the divine choose? If the divine is
omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, why does He have to
have options, choices, freedom to choose or not to choose?
Why? Why? Does it not all add up to saying that the divine
is a bundle of contradictions?

TD:  Wonderful. The divine Godhead in Hinduism is difficult
to conceive of  because it simultaneously possesses
‘contradictory’ qualities. There is no parallel in this
finite world of ours. The divine has no desire, yet He has
will! He chooses and chooses not! He intervenes and He also
never intervenes, only watches! He has options but each
option is His own Will! He knows the future, yet He chooses
to act! The future is what He makes of the present. Nature
or PrakRti   is His slave, yet He allows Nature to take its
course. He is Personal, but not personal in the ‘worldly’
sense, because He is all-knowing. He is perfect, not in the
sense of free from limitations, because limitations don’t
exist outside of His will! Yes, He is a bundle of
contradictions, if you yourself don’t have Faith in your

DDW: Therefore the plea for us is only this:  Be the
instrument of  the Will of this Self  and nothing more.

TD:  The so-called free will itself is in the ultimate
sense an expression of Grace as MA AnandamayI would say. If
one makes the right spiritual effort Divine Power would be
with him. Thereafter whatever he does would be nothing but
expressions of the divine will. This identification with
the divine will and to work in the world simply as an
instrument of His will, form the crux of the theory of
Surrender to God.

DDW: But we should beware. Such injunctions like ‘Be the
instrument of God’s Will’ and associated ideas about the
not-so-free free will are only for those who are already a
few steps up in the spiritual ladder.

DFW:  How does one know that one is up in the ladder?

TD: Ask yourself, whether these injunctions make sense to
you. If they do, then you are ready to rise further. If
they do not, then your will is still free! 

Om ShAntiH ShantiH ShantiH!

Postscript:  My eight presentations in this series have
been collected together and made available on the web at
I thank Mr. Praveen R Bhat and Mr. Mahesh Ursekar for being
the nimitta-kAraNa for this set of articles. 

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.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list