10.3 DIALOGUE ON FREE WILL & DIVINE WILL --- 3
DDW: Hey! Where do you get all these questions? They cut the ground under my feet!
TD: But it is a legitimate question. I suggest we take it up first.
DFW: I feel if you grant that the attributeless Brahman is the only Absolute Truth, then there can be no divine will. If you want to have divine will as an entity, then advaita is contradicted.
DDW. But if you grant free will absolutely, then that means there are choices to choose from. All this means duality and multiplicity, which is against advaita.
TD: May I correct your qualification 'absolutely'? Even if there is one instance of free will, that is enough to imply duality.
DFW: If there is only one Consciousness everywhere and all the time, where is the question of free will? Free will of whom? Free from what?
TD: The problem arises because we are making the standard mistake of mixing up two different levels of our awareness. If we want to stay at the level of the Absolute Brahman, then there is nothing else to talk about. Only Silence. Remember Dakshinamurti concept. But the moment we think of God or ISvara, we have descended to the level of the mAyic world and in this vyAvahArika world, there is God, -- who is now nothing but saguna Brahman, i.e., Brahman on whom we have superposed several attributes -- there are creations, there can be talk of free will, divine will etc.
DDW: I see. It is really a subtle point.
TD. This subtlety is usually missed in arguments. Now let us come back to the question of whether free will itself is under the influence of the divine will.
DFW: In fact that is exactly where I have another question. I would like here to come down to the ordinary concept of bhakti or devotion rather than the abstract injunctions of ‘satyam vada’ and ‘dharmam chara’. Now all religion says “Be devoted to God. Pray to Him”. This is bhakti. If God, your saguNa Brahman, is the Almighty that He is supposed to be, why not He Himself grant me, by a wave of His magic, that bhakti which I find it difficult to cultivate by my free will?
DDW: Good question! I appreciate you, DFW, for the way you articulate your questions. But God does grant you that bhakti. Only you have to receive it. The rain may pour, but if a vessel is upside down no water will collect in it.
TD: Well said. Our minds are free. So by our own free will we have to decide to receive what God gives us. By our own volition we must decide to trust in God and surrender to Him.
DDW: If by supplanting our will, God has to give us what we need, then there need be no creation, no existence of the universe.
TD: That is the mystery of God’s leelA, sport or play of creation. Creation is where God allows beings to have the feeling of separateness from Him and then waits and waits until the beings that have emerged from Him come back to Him. If they don’t want to come back to Him, He allows them to go their own way and take their own time to discover that that is the Want which will rid them of all other wants.
DDW: This is what Sathya Sai Baba calls ‘The agony of God’ in this great cycle of creation. His anguish is that beings do not want to get out of this cycle. So sometimes He gives them all the petty things they want, so that in due time they would want what He wants to give them.
TD: As Shri Ramakrishna said: ‘Breeze of Grace is always blowing, but you have to set your sail to catch that breeze’. In other words He allows us to go our ways and learn by our own experience and come to Him by our own volition.
DFW: Then is this experience ours or is it given by Him?
TD: He does not give us these experiences. Because, we have already programmed it for ourselves by our own past actions.
DDW: The one thing He assures us however, is that once we take even a minor step towards Him He comes forth with both hands to receive us, as would a mother in welcoming a lost child. As Sathya Sai Baba would say: ‘You take one step towards Me; I will take ten steps towards you’!
DFW: Then let us come back to the question of whether Free Will itself is under the influence of Divine Will or not.
TD: I am happy you are recognising the existence of Divine Will to that extent. When we say that everything happens according to the Will of God, are we specifically referring to Nature and Nature’s doings?
DFW: When an event happens to a human being and this is referred to as God’s Will, is this not just another way of saying that it is one’s past karma that has brought about this event?
DDW: But the average psychology is different. When a bad thing happens to somebody we rush to say it is God’s Will. When a good thing happens to us we would rather ascribe it to our own effort.
TD: That is where the teaching of religion is important. Either learn to accept both as God’s Will, or in the alternative, learn to take responsibility for both. Don’t blame only unpleasant things on God.
DFW. That is why I say, we should take responsibility for every one of our actions. It is all our free will.
DDW: You are going back to your old refrain.
TD: We shall now have to go to the next level of spiritual evolution. That, I think, will make matters clearer.
DDW: The question of DFW is 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 lives.
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; please allow him to go his own way.
TD: Only actions are ours. Fate has nothing to do with 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 fate.
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 it.
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?
CONTINUED ON 10.4