[Advaita-l] 'Free Will' - prakrtim. yAnti bhUtAni nigraha: him. kariSyati

Murali Karamchedu murali_m_k at msn.com
Thu Mar 25 19:37:43 CDT 2010

Dear List Members,

There is a brief and interesting discussion in Bhagavad Gita (c3, v33 - 34) 
where the acharya explicates the role of deliberate choice of the individual 
against the natural effects of 'destiny'. In the Gita verse here, Vasudeva says,

sadrsham. ceshTate svasyA: prakrte: jnAnavAnapi |
prakrtim. yAnti bhUtAni nigraha: kim. karishyati ||

[ Tranlations of A.G. Krihna Warrier:
Even a man of knowledge behaves according to his nature. All living beings 
conform to nature. What can repression avail? ]

In the bhashya, continuing the discussion on the need to conform to prescribed
action - ones svadharma - as an aid to liberating knowledge - jnana; the acharya 
first defines what prakrti - nature - in this context means:

prakrti: nAma pUrvakrta-dharmAdharmAdi-sam.skArA: vartamAna janmAdou
abhivyaktA:, sA prakriti: 
[Nature means impressions of work, righteous and unrighteous, done already, 
which manifest themselves in the present life and later.]

In the present context, prakrti - nature, thus defined is destiny.
The acharya then poses the following objection, which the next Gita verse 

yadi sarva: jantu: Atmana: prakrtisadrSam eva ceshTate - na ca prakrti Sunya: 
kaScit - tata: purushakArasya vishayAnupapatte: SastrAnarthakya prAptou idam
ucyate - 

[If all living beings behave according to nature - and there is none devoid of his own
special nature - there remains no scope for individual initiative, and the SAstrA is thus 
reduced to futility.]

This then, is the question of the role of free will in the face of such destiny. The acharya 
says that Vasudeva's next verse addresses this question.

indriyasyendriyasyArthe rAgadveshou vyavasthitou |
tayorna vaSamAgacchettou hyasya paripanthinou ||

[Senses have attachment and aversion to their respective objects; none should be 
swayed by them. They indeed are obstacles in man's path. ]

Here the acharya says:

pratIndriyArtha rAgadveshou avaSyam.bhAvinou tatra ayam. purushakArasya 
SastrAthasya ca vishaya ucyate | SastrArthe pravrtta: pUrvameva rAgadveshayo:
vaSam. nAgacchet| yA hi purushasya prakrti: sA rAgadveshpura:sarA eva svakArye 
purusham. pravartayati;... yadA puna: rAgadveshou tatpratipaksheNa niyamayati 
tadA SastradrshTi: eva purusha: bhavati, na prakrtivaSa: |

[...attachment and aversion are inevitable for each sense. In this context, the scope 
of individual initiative and that of the mandate of the Sastra are being indicated. 
Submitting to the mandate of the Sastra at the very outset, one should refuse to be
swayed by attachment and aversion. Human nature indeed forces man to work under
the urges of his attachment and aversion...on the other hand when attachment 
and aversion are restrained by countervailing forces, man's vision becomes that of the
Sastra; he ceases to be Nature's thrall.]

After this instruction by Vasudeva, Arjuna then asks what is it that impells man to 
sin and then follows the discussion about the role of kAma - desire and krodha-anger
born of the rajo guNa, the gradation of senses, mind and intellect, and the need to 
reign in the senses - all elaborating this excercise of nigraha - restraint.

So, we have free will to restrain ourselves - else natural gravity will take us down!

Best Regards,
-Murali Manohar

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