20.4 SARVA-DHARMAN PARITYAJYA - 4
SURRENDER EVEN YOUR WILL
In sum, sharaNAgati or surrender is certainly the final commandment of the Lord to all humanity. The Lord says in so many words: Surrender to Me, in heart and soul, -- by all your being, sarva-bhAvena, says verse 62 -- even your will. Then your future, either here or elsewhere, shall be My concern. This settles, once for all, the question ‘What dominates?: Man’s free will or the divine will’ This is a question which every religion has to answer. Hinduism says that every individual starts life with certain macro-aspects of one’s life already chalked out, not by an external force, but by the thoughts and actions of one’s own past lives – in short, by one’s own evolution, as evidenced by the store of one’s vAsanAs. Subject to this each person is enjoined in one’s day-to-day life, to voluntarily discipline oneself as per the religious sanctions, advices and norms. But an intellectual analysis of life’s experience in due time tells us that nothing happens without the will of a super-power and perhaps even one’s own free will is subject to the influence of that divine will.
This leads us to the question of domination: Which dominates? Free will or Divine Will? Are our thoughts and actions ours or of the divine element within us? Each action of ours is not merely a product, of the action or thought that precedes it (not necessarily immediately) but it is also the product of a state of moral character which may be called our individualised prakRRiti.This prakRRiti has been brought by us as a chip of the shades of imprints from all our previous lives. We cannot rewrite our past. The past is our limitation, inherent in our nature. This is what is called prArabdha, which may be alternatively also called ‘fate’. But this determines only our tendencies. Our actions are ours; they are not determined by our fate, though it is a strong influence. Fate or prArabdha might have created the circumstances that led to our action, but the decision to act in a particular way and the action following it are ours.
Fate and free will are interwoven just as the threads of a fabric are crossed and interlaced. We act, that is, our body acts, according to the decision taken by the intellect and the mind. It is our mind that dictates our action. Within the mind there is the will-power. All spiritual teaching pleads for the will of man to become stronger than the mind. It is not as if man is a helpless creature as a leaf in the storm or a feather in a 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 tendencies. In this sense he is the architect of his fate for the future. 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. By our own will we must face our fate or prArabdha, though it is true that the influenc of the prarabdha karma that originated today’s fate cannot be changed even by divine intervention. Our stotras in praise of God which promise eradication of all sins as the result of the recitation of these stotras are careful to imply only the destruction of sancita karma and not prArabdha karma. Sometimes it says this explicitly as in ‘sancita-pApa-vinAshaka-lingam’. PrArabdha karma has to be exhausted only by experiencing it. Our attitude to that experience, however, changes according to our trust in God. This 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 the first step for the correct understanding of Hindu philosophy and spirituality. Some people think that faith in God is superstition. Superstition is what holds you when you think negatively. But faith is a kind of intuition which makes you, through your own free will, reach out and contact the most positive thing in the universe, namely, the Supreme Almighty. It is that spark of faith which one should keep fanning, until with the blessing of a guru, it blows up into a fire of wisdom (jnAnAgni).(For a detailed discussion on Fate and Freewill see the 5-part dialogue on Page 10)
For most of humanity this however may remain only an academic ideal remaining on paper. But, for the few who are intent on a spiritual ascent, they can help themselves by making small beginnings in the direction of being only an instrument of God’s Will. Suppose one day we feel that we have been cheated by somebody in a small matter and we have no way of redressing our grievance. We might fret and fume at the thought of this happening. Instead, if we take it as God’s will and forget about it, (and forgive the supposed wrong-doer) then that would be the first step in being ‘an instrument of God’s Will’.
Having made this beginning with respect to small matters, gradually one enhances it by having the same attitude in larger and larger matters of happenings, good or bad. But usually what happens is very familiar to all of us. Somebody has taken us for a ride, in a very important matter. (What is important and what is not, depends of course on one’s taste, training, and tradition). But our immediate reaction is to take a hard decision to fight back and ‘teach the wrong-doer a lesson’. But to be only an instrument of God’s will is not concordant with this judiciary role that we ascribe to ourselves. Some of us even go to the extent of saying: “I should teach that wrong-doer a lesson. It is God’s Will that I be the instrument in His hands to teach this wrong-doer a lesson”. This kind of reaction is only an indirect justification of the play of our own ego. It only increases our affiliation with the gang of thirteen evils within us. Certainly it is not concordant with our attempt to become the instrument of God’s Will and of nothing else.
Thus, starting from small matters and gradually over a period of time (perhaps a whole life) encompassing all matters - small or big – into the frame of ‘being only an instrument of divine will’ , one rises fast on the ladder of spirituality. Certainly, the best prayer in this circumstance would be ‘Oh God, take my will and make it Thine’! A few names of great people in living memory who were beacons of light in this direction would not be out of place here: Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa; Sri Ramana Maharishi; and Kanchi Mahaswamigal (also called the Paramacharya). They all lived happily, the Gita Way.
Before we move away from this topic of surrender of freewill to divine will, it is necessary to clear one cobweb of a usual misunderstanding by students of advaita, who may argue: If according to advaita there is only one Consciousness everywhere and all the time, where is the question of free will and its surrender to divine will? Does not free will man there are choices to choose from and does it not mean there exists not only duality, but multiplicity? This problem, however, arises because one is making the standard mistake of mixing up two different levels of our awareness. If one wants the discussion to stay at the level of the Absolute Brahman, there is nothing to talk about. Only silence. Remember Dakshinamurti concept. But the moment we think of God or Ishvara, we have descended to the level of the (mAyic) transactional world and then there is God, there is creation, and there occur all concepts such as surrender, free will, divine will, and the like. The two levels, namely, the pAramArtik (the absolute) level and the vyAvahArik (the transactional) level should never be mixed in the same context.
[i] These are:
rAga (attachment, passion); dveshha (hate) ; kAma (desire and/or lust) ; krodha (anger)
lobha (greed) ;moha (delusion, infatuation) ; mada (arrogance) ; mAtsarya (jealousy)
IrshyA (the feeling that why this misery is happening to me alone) ; asUyA (malice)
dambha (show or vanity) ; garva (pride)and ahamkAra (Ego).