[Advaita-l] Disccussion on Free-will

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Fri May 22 02:05:53 CDT 2009

Dear Rameshji,
I think sometimes the Advaitic cocept of illusoriness is probably not properly visualised.  Sooner or later one  goes back to one's own eternal home or permanent state ie.the state of oneness with Brahman. At that point of departure one sees that all that one had lived that far was only a dream. But everything was real in the predeparture state or the dream state. Due to reflection of the spiritual nature on the mind some of us get awakened and get a glimpse of our true home or sate. Thereafter this spiritual insight or knowledge controls our way of living and working such that we do not get attached to the dream state and do not do anything to prolong the dreamstate. That knowledge then acts as a guide to decide how the free will (to the extent it is free) is to be exercised keeping our final destination in mind. The spiritual knowledge is the best guide under this condition and that is why Lord Krishna gave the required spiritual guidance to
 Arjuna so that he could decide what was desirable to do. So albeit everything in this life is illusory one has work being guided by the spiritual knowledge and one cannot sit tight just because the world is illusory. If one does not act  then the dream state will only be prolonged. The effects of past karma will appear in our life and we haveto gracefully accept that as inevitable and exercise our free will. So free will does exist as a boon to us and it does not matter if at the end of the dream state it appears as if we did not act at all as we are back to our original state and the the whole past existence appears as a dream. The Sankhya interpretation too is essentially not different except ithat nstead of the dream state we talk about the cltch of Prakriti.
- On Thu, 5/21/09, Ramesh Krishnamurthy <rkmurthy at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Ramesh Krishnamurthy <rkmurthy at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Disccussion on Free-will
To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Date: Thursday, May 21, 2009, 10:54 PM


The debate between "fate" and "free-will" is an endless one, and
although the Vedantin may have something to say on this (on the basis
of the law of karma), it is not his approach to get caught in this
cycle. Rather, the Vedantin points out that the very premise for the
existence of fate/will, viz., the sense of agency, is illusory.

Actually, fate and free-will are two sides of the same coin, the coin
itself being the sense of agency. As long as I have the bhAva of being
a kartA and a bhoktA (doer/enjoyer), I will see that some of my wants
get fulfilled and others don't. On one occasion, I might decide to go
to Sringeri and do so with ease. Hence my "free-will" has worked. On
another occasion, I really want to go but am unable to because of an
emergency at the office. Hence, "fate" has stalled my plans.

As long as there is a sense of agency, which in a way is the key to
our sense of individuality, both free-will and fate influence our

mokSha involves the understanding that the sense of agency is avidyA.
Hence the mukta does not identify with the causal cycle and is
liberated from both fate and free will.

Interestingly, the illusory/erroneous nature of the sense of agency is
stressed by all the Indian philosophical traditions, though they
explain it in different ways.

The advaitin uses the framework of avidyA which is the attribution of
knowerhood and doerhood to the Atman. The saMkhyan, in a similar way,
says that the puruSha identifies himself as the doer due to a mistaken
identification with the modifications of prakR^iti. Most
bhakti-oriented traditions would attribute doerhood to Ishvara (divine
play etc), with the jIva being only an instrument. The bauddha-s would
say that the doer and the deed arise co-dependently, therefore neither
is inherently real, and so forth.

Hence, if you are a follower of any Indian philosophical tradition,
the riddle of fate and free-will is "transcended" (through the
understanding that the sense of agency is mistaken) instead of being
resolved in favour of either fate or free will. In fact such a
resolution cannot happen because the two are two sides of the same

The vipra-s of the ancient past, while pouring their offerings into
agni, contemplated on their actions and the relationship between the
sacrificer and the sacrifice, the doer and the deed. Hence, 'karma'
and 'yaj~na' took on increasingly philosophical meanings, and spawned
the insightful darshana-s that we have inherited today.

santoṣaḥ paramo lābhaḥ satsaṅgaḥ paramā gatiḥ I
vicāraḥ paramaṁ jñānaṁ śamo hi paramaṁ sukham II
- Yoga Vāsiṣṭha
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