Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Fate vs Free Will

The below excerpt from the book "What The River Has Taught Me" (Sri N. Ananthanarayanan) is an excellent introduction to this often misunderstood topic.

"Strange are the world’s ways. Strange is the working of the human ego. When egoistic people succeed in some of their puerile pursuits they boast on every side: "I did this. I did that. Nothing can stop me from succeeding. Nothing can prevent me from doing what I want to do". They take upon themselves all the credit for their success. When these very people fail in some other direction, they say, "It’s all fate. See, idiots are prospering. It’s my bad luck". They tap their foreheads with their fingers and exclaim, "Taqdeer! Kismet!". Thus, when they succeed, they attribute their success to their own dynamic ability, and when they fail, they trace their failure to some vague ‘destiny’. They lay the blame on Taqdeer. They do not want to take the blame upon themselves.

Did I succeed? Ah, yes. I exercised my free will. Did I fail? Fate willed it so. This is convenient logic. This is fooling oneself. This is self-contradictory. But the whole world talks in this fashion. At the back of this false logic is the human ego.

Lord Acton said, " Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely". Likewise, success also corrupts the mind. The successful man’s head swells. He begins to forget God. He begins to think high of himself. He begins to brag. He will talk to his friends on the limitless possibilities of human achievement. He will talk contemptuously of those who meet with failure in life. He will sermonise on free will.

What is this free will? In Hindu scriptural lore, whole treatises like the Yoga Vasishtha are devoted to glorifying free will or Purushartha. Stories, like those of Markandeya and Savitri, are cited in support. In his "Sure Ways for Success in Life and God-realisation", Sivananda himself names some persons who rose from poverty to power by their own self-effort.

But then, in this world, for every person who is able to raise himself by his own free will or self-effort, there are any number of others who are tied down to adverse circumstances by that unseen power called fate. In the same Hindu religious lore which glorifies free will, there are any number of passages and stories to declare and assert the inevitability of destiny or Prarabdha.

The question naturally arises: "Which is more powerful? Fate or free will? What is the truth of the matter?".

The question itself is wrong and is based on the misconception that fate and free will are two separate entities. Sivananda clears this misconception. He says that the destiny or Prarabdha that we enjoy or suffer in this life is the result of the exercise of our free will or Purushartha in previous lives. He adds that our actions in this life will shape our destiny in future lives. Prarabdha and Purushartha, fate and free will, are not two different entities, but only two different names to indicate the same set of actions viewed from a particular point of time and from a particular angle of metaphysical speculation.

What then is the use of the Theory of Fate and the Theory of Free Will? Theorising has its own utility. The Theory of Fate or the power of destiny and stories in support of it, in illustration of it, are intended to console and comfort the person in distress. The Theory of Free Will, and stories to exemplify that theory, are designed to boost the morale of the very same person buckling under the weight of repeated onslaughts of unfavourable forces and adverse circumstances. In other words, we tell the person in distress, "Do not grieve. Whatever has to happen will happen. Do not weep over the inevitable. Endure bravely". Having thus consoled him by expounding the Theory of Prarabdha, we proceed to exhort him, "Suffering is only Karmic purgation. Your past sins are now washed out by this suffering. Now, rise up. Exert. The whole future is in your hands. Hard exertion now will shape for you a glorious future destiny. In your hands is your future. You now have the free will to make or mar your future by your present actions. Plod on. Persevere."

Thus, there is absolutely no contradiction between fate and free will. Both the theories are necessary and should be used together. It is a wrong popular notion, based on one-sided and limited understanding, which views the Theory of Fate and the Theory of Free Will as diametrically opposed concepts.

But, if the question be asked, "Which is more real, Fate or Free Will?", the correct answer would be, "Neither is real. Neither Fate nor Free Will. They are just theoretical concepts. They are merely philosophical formulations. The formula of Fate and the formula of Free Will are both fictitious. The only Reality is God’s Will".

It is God’s Will which operates everywhere and at all times. It is infallible. It is the only Truth. It is the only Power. Behind the actions of the good man and the bad man, behind the movement of birds and insects, behind the erupting volcano and the rumbling earthquake, behind all growth and decay, behind everything everywhere, the propelling force is God’s Will. God’s Will is the life in all creation. It is the living force. Without it there will be nothing. Without it your mind cannot think, your senses cannot operate.

There is neither fate nor free will. There is only God’s Will. It is the human ego, it is mere vanity, which makes man claim for himself all the credit whenever he succeeds. It is his vanity again which makes him disclaim all responsibility for his failures and throw all the blame on a concept called Prarabdha. In truth, God is responsible for both success and failure. A man succeeds or fails, because God wills it so. God’s Will is supreme. It is the power or force which upholds the universe. It is the substance behind the world-show. The man who understands this is wise. He will have no cause to complain."
Source: http://www.dlshq.org/books/eo41.htm

This topic has been discussed repeatedly on Jyotish discussion groups; and, in trying to balance the theory of Fate vs Free Will, many propositions have been put forward. My thoughts, in line with the above article, have prompted me to publicly declare (on numerous occasions) that even what we perceive as Free Will is preordained. According to the dictum's of Vedic astrology, third house governs our deliberate actions, own efforts, initiative (motivation) and so forth, whilst 10th house shows our actions in this world. Due to this dictum, many astrologers mistakenly declare that this (3rd house) supports the premise that we do have a certain amount of Free Will. But this premise simply doesn't hold true when we consider the unmistakable Destiny/Fate reflected through this (or any) house.

The following charts are clear examples of this...

As we see Maharishi was born under the mahadasa of MokshaKaraka Ketu who occupies nakshatra of 12th moksha lord Jupiter. Ketu's dispositor (Mercury), conjunct exalted 4th moksha lord Mars (in lagna), occupies nakshatra of lagnesh Saturn's dispositor (Moon) who has gone to 8th moksha bhava whilst 8th lord (lagna karaka Sun) is placed in 12th moksha bhava along with Rahu and YogaKaraka Venus who (himself) occupies nakshatra of Ketu. There can be little doubt that Maharishi entered this earthly realm with the divine mission to bring spiritual regeneration to the world. In 1957 (the year of transcendental consciousness) Maharishi declared:

"My Mission in the world is spiritual regeneration -
to regenerate every man everywhere into the values of the spirit.
The values of the wholeness of life are pure consciousness,
absolute bliss, absolute blissconsciousness, which is the
reservoir of all wisdom, the ocean of happiness, eternal life."

At that time Maharishi was enjoying the bhukti of Jupiter in Mars mahadasa. Mars, transiting 3rd house in sign of Pisces, was in mutual aspect with 3rd lord Jupiter who was transiting 9th in sign of Virgo. Mars was transiting nakshatra of 9th lord Mercury whilst Jupiter was transiting nakshatra of lagna karaka Sun. So we can see clearly the astrological imprint that brought to fruition such deliberate actions through his own efforts and initiative (motivation). Nothing is by chance and what is brought about by our own efforts is, without doubt, preordained. Maharishi himself alludes to this in the below video (@ 5min.16sec.) where he states: "Nothing is unknown; Everything is very well known".


Similarly Charles Manson's chart clearly depicts the destiny that he too was born to fulfil.

Manson was born under the mahadasa/bhukti of 4th lord Moon who is inimicably placed in 10th house of Actions in tight conjunction with demonistic Rahu. It's documented that Manson referred to himself on occasions as both Christ and the Devil. Moon and Rahu, in nakshatra of Moon, are joined (in 10th) by functional malefic Saturn who has 11th house of community as his moolatrikona. As we know, Manson formed a community which became known as the Manson Family. Note Saturn's aspect on 2nd/7th lord Venus who aspects lagna from 7th along with debilitated lagna karaka Sun, inimicably placed Jupiter and functional malefic Mercury. This Mercury, in nakshatra of demonistic Rahu, owns 3rd/6th trishadaya bhavas...the 11th trishadaya is, of course, owned by Saturn.

On the night of the Sharon Tate murders commited by him and members of his cult-family (Aug 8th/9th 1969) Manson was running sookshmantar of Rahu (pratyantar of Saturn) in Jupiter's dasa/bhukti. Transit Saturn was aspecting 3rd house of intentions/deliberate actions from his sign of debilitation (Aries).

The following chart is that of a native who, in spite of many setbacks, has achieved significant success in life through his own efforts and hard work.

Note moolatrikona Saturn in 3rd house of own efforts, motivation etc., aspected by swakshetra Mars, the planet of energy, courage and ambition. Saturn occupies nakshatra of exalted Rahu (co-owner of Aquarius) who is placed in 6th house of work, employees (subordinates) etc.. No doubt, with 6th lord (Venus) ill-placed in 12th, this native has had his fair share of ups and downs; and has often been at the point of near bankruptcy. But, through his own determination and hard work, he has managed to pull through the rough times.

As per the statement in above excerpt (Sri N. Ananthanarayanan) that, "The successful man  will talk to his friends on the limitless possibilities of human achievement. He will talk contemptuously of those who meet with failure in life. He will sermonise on free will"; this native strongly believes that all he has achieved in life is due solely to his own Free Will. Little realising that his achievements, due to his own efforts and initiative, is his unavoidable destiny (karma/fate) which has been allotted to him in this life by the placement of relevant grahas in his chart. He can no more avoid this than the man whose efforts are continually met with failure can avoid his.

Also worth noting in this chart is the retrograde status of both 2nd lord Saturn and 2nd karaka (Jupiter). This denotes that the native may not always enjoy domestic harmony. As we know, the house whose lord is retrograde, is subject to some setbacks (reversal of furtune). In simple terms this indicates ups and downs in regards to domestic harmony (family relationships) as well as ups and downs in financial matters.

If we hold to the view that our deliberate actions (intentions) are a matter of our own Free Will, how then is it that we can so clearly identify the astrological influences that initiate and bring these intentions to fruition? Is it not right to conclude that (even) our so-called Free Will is preordained.


Karma is managed by the Lords of Karma known as the Grahas. The Grahas create a prescription of karmas for a new life and this prescription is given over to the Âtman of the  jiva for fulfillment. The karma prescription is created with the intention of providing the jiva with the life that it desires, but in a way that will serve to protect the jiva from creating more misery for itself. The karma prescription is never created to "teach a lesson."

When the Âtman creates a new human life, the karma for that life is coded into the DNA. Without changing the DNA, it is impossible for the individual to escape the fruits of that karma. This means that the entire life of an individual is predetermined at birth. Freewill can only be exercised within the confines of the karma generated existence.

Jyotish is the science for knowing the karma of an individual life. It is given to us to provide some light on the path of our lives - jyotish literally means light. Through the study of a person's jyotish it is possible to predict the future course of events in that life. It would be cruel to provide this insight without some means of averting the danger that is to come. Hence along with jyotish is given the science of yajña.

Yajña is the performance of a specific action that has been designed with total knowledge for the specific purpose of averting some karma. It is effective only when performed perfectly as prescribed and only when the particular yajña that is suitable for a particular karma is performed. Furthermore, the yajña must be performed before the karma has begun to arise - before the bullet leaves the gun. Once the karma has begun to sprout, yajña cannot stop it.
Source: http://www.srivyuha.org/srivyuha/Public/Books/index.cfm

The Process of Karma

We are taught that ego (Rishi) arises from the mind. The ego desires that which it perceives is lacking (not known). This initiates the process of knowing (Devata) which arises in the intellect. The known (Chandas) is inventoried in the mind as memory and it's from these stored memories that the desires of the ego rise again and again.

Rishi, Devata and Chandas
Rishi (I am; ego) is the knower and is ruled by Sun.
Devata (intellect) is the process of knowing and is ruled by Mercury.
Chandas (mind) is the known and is ruled by Moon.

Rishî is the knower or ego of the jîva. Each one of us senses this "knower" aspect of ourselves. It is that aspect we identify as our "self." Rishî is a viewpoint of the universe that is uniquely personal, like a window through which an individual perceives the world.

Devatâ is the intellect or faculty of discrimination which connects the knower with the known, and completes the circuit that gives rise to knowledge.

In the self-referral process of knowing, rishî becomes devatâ and devatâ becomes chhandas and chhandas is the knowledge, which is the new rishî. The new rishî is different from the original rishî because of the assimilation of the knowledge.

There is one unknowable – the ultimate value of the gap between rishî and devatâ and the gap between devatâ and chhandas. The gap cannot be the object of knowledge because it is forever the process through which knowledge is gained. As one investigates into the gap, there comes a point in which conscious awareness dips into the unmanifest and ceases to be in the field of knowing.

Experience is the end result of the process of knowing. When we experience something, our rishî has become devatâ and devatâ has become chhandas. Our rishî has changed because we have experienced and gained knowledge.

However, the transformation of rishî into devatâ and devatâ into chhandas cannot be known in its entirety because the transformation occurs in the gap. We can only infer after the fact that the transformation from rishî to devatâ to chhandas did occur because we have experienced and now own some new knowledge.

Because the ultimate value of the gap can only be inferred but never known directly, it is transcendental or beyond consciousness. The true Self (Atman) is the silent witness to this self-perpetuating process of karma and it's through ignorance of our true nature that we find ourselves at the mercy of Maya (illusory karma). Self-realization is the conscious awareness of Atman.
Reference source: Âtmavedî, Part I

We are privileged to have, through the divine revelation of jyotish, a window through which we're able to see the unfoldment of karma. The highest purpose of jyotish is to guide us towards the truth of our existence; to the awareness of Self.

It should not be too difficult to understand why Moon is considered the most important planet in Vedic astrology. It's through the Moon (Mind) that destiny (encoded into the DNA) unfolds, and it's by the light of Jyotish that we can view this sequential unfoldment of karma.