Destiny and Free-Will

By Rudra Shivananda

There is a constant friction in the minds of truth seekers when it comes to whether there is pre-destination or whether we can determine our own fates. This is natural because although we would like to believe that we have the freedom to choose our paths, more often than not, our experience is that things just happen and we feel powerless to make the changes that we might aspire to.

People seem to be drawn to the same situations and make the same mistakes over and over again. This is because of our habit patterns and the imprints that have accumulated in this present lifetime as well as from previous births.

Even if you don’t believe in re-incarnation and past lives, a little examination will confirm all the childhood and teenage imprints from parents, relatives, teachers, friends and enemies, as well as from the rigid norms of society.

What are these imprints? They are the automatic reaction complexes which have been set up in our mental and emotional minds. They are the programs that make us wince at certain situations or words and laugh at others. They are the prejudices that make us avoid certain people and places and attract us to some others.

We hardly give any thoughts to the thoughts and emotions that are triggered by advertisements, political rhetoric or our favorite songs. However, what goes well in one part of the country or with some ethnic groups will not work with others. The programs are different. The common factor is the lack of freedom. We are proud to salute the flag that symbolizes that we are the land of the free, but most of us have not made any effort to free ourselves from our programs.

We do not think, speak or act freely but under the control of our programs which force and limit our response whether we are aware of it or not. Some become aware of their imprints but feel helpless to do anything about them. Others think that by rebelling against their parents and society will make them free – this is an illusion as found out by the hippies in the 60’s.

The change must be internal, not external, through removing the imprints and not through drugs or bizarre behavior. The practice of yoga is to attain freedom from our imprints and to be able to think, speak and act freely. The innate sense of suffering and
unhappiness that humanity feels is because of the lack of this freedom, without which, we find ourselves trapped in the wheel of destiny. However, destiny happens only because we follow our programs. If we act according to these imprints, it is like we are following a well-tread path and not deviating from it – of course, this means that it is easy to predict where one will end up!

person holding hand

Humanity has been obsessed with mapping our destiny, whether from the stars, the palms, the face or tea-leaves, entrails, bones, numbers or geometric figures. The staggering amounts of effort put into these endeavors indicate that there is a certain predictability to our lives.

However, it is also taught that we have free-will. However, this elusive free-will is an illusion because even our choices in the food we eat and the clothes we wear are determined by our imprints. Why does one have this favorite color and not that one? A myriad of other why’s that we never ask determine our choices. What is free-will if we never truly exercise it?

It is the goal of higher consciousness to be able to free ourselves from the imprints and habit patterns that limit our free-will. The more we are able to exercise our free-will, the greater the possibility of achieving higher and higher consciousness and in a high-five to the virtuous circle, the higher the level of your consciousness, the greater capacity for free-will.

As we no longer think, feel, talk or act in an automatic and robotic manner, we become less and less predictable and therefore free from destiny. We become independent agents of change and the paths that we tread are no longer clear to the readers of the stars or any other indicators of destiny.

It is now clear that most of slumbering humanity is subject to the grinding wheels of destiny and have little influence over their successes or failures but there is always the pathless path of those who have chosen to exercise their free-will to de-program themselves and achieve freedom for themselves and become beacons of light for their brothers and sisters. May you decide to wake up from destiny’s sleep and see the light of free-will.


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