for Hindustan Times on Nov. 6, 2010
Driving on the wrong side of the road: we have the free will to do so, but it`s unsafe. Both karmic destiny, and free will operate here.
Is history the result of personal endeavor? Do people shape events, or do events shape people? Are we ruled by karma and controlled by the stars and planets, the shapes of our bodies, the lines in our hands, or are we the architects of our destiny?
This ancient debate seems irresolvable. For millennia, humankind has been unable to establish causes for events. This discussion has occupied the minds of great thinkers for centuries. History students grapple with the problem, philosophy graduates seek answers to this enigma, ethicists wrestle with moral mazes, but scholars and seekers alike cannot establish consensus. Religious leaders daunted by world events struggle to give answers. The issue seems impenetrable. It is time to give up and move on to something less abstruse?
It`s fashionable for us – and in line with the western capitalism – to think we can control our future and thus progress, economically and socially. Working for justice and mercy is required, as faith isn`t found in fatalistic inertia, but the metaphysical dilemma never dies.
What do saints and sages say? Are we always controlled, or are we free? Well, look out; because, ancient books of truth tell us that freedom and destiny (or roughly-speaking karma) exist side by side. The crude example is driving on the wrong side of the road. We have the free will to do so, but it`s unsafe. Both karmic destiny, and free will operate here.
According to shastric knowledge, even pre-destined reverses or apparent curses can be seen as blessings, and mistakes the pillars of success. From this perspective one is always free, in success or failure, life or death.
Lord Brahma tells us that Govinda extinguishes sinful reactions for those who, with devotion, value Him. In other words, spiritual commitment is to see the “invisible hand” of God directing our activities, such that instead of being left to the rule of karma, we can rightfully act in accord with the wishes of God, and find reverses to the blessings in disguise.
Tolerance is a value, and he or she, who can endure the ‘whips and scorns of time’, patiently awaiting better days, is a person of character. Those who are free from lamenting over losses, and the euphoria that comes with achievement, are not just drably stoical and unfeeling, but wise, content and happy. A person of steady mind is unflappable in any situation, and worthy our respect and emulation.