On Destiny vs. Freewill

free will
Image by cambiodefractal via Flickr

You ask, “if everything the that the body does and experiences happens in material nature – then what blame or glory is there for the soul? If everything is predetermined and I have no freewill, then I am not responsible for my actions.”

Right. If you have no freewill, you could not be held accountable for your actions. If everything that happens in the world happens only in matter, and has nothing to do with spirit – then the soul can never be blamed for anything bad it’s body does (nor praised for anything good).

However it is wrong to believe that you have no freewill and that your soul is not the origin of all the actions your body performs and everything it experiences. Very wrong.

This whole chapter [referring to Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13] is about how spirit combines with matter and what happens as a result. “Matter changes form constantly and easily. This attracts the spirit soul who wants to shape it’s world into forms that s/he finds personally enjoyable. Thus the soul becomes welded to matter, bound to it, braided into it.”

From this, and from all the rest of the information in the chapter, we learn that this material world is a combination of matter and spirit – it is a cooperation of matter and spirit. Your question is based on a wrong definition of this combined cooperative relationship: the idea that the soul is a passive observer of matter. That is not what we hear from Krsna here in the 13th chapter. What we hear, in fact, is just the opposite! That the soul is the active principle, and that matter bends and shapes itself around the soul, and the soul’s desires. The soul is an interactive participant in matter. That is what we should learn, if nothing else, from the 13th chapter.

Your question is answered at this point. I am not sure how clearly I could explain it. I am sorry about that. If its unclear perhaps you could reread it a few times, and feel free to ask for clarification.

A little bit more to say…

Karma is the marriage of freewill and destiny. The soul desires something (freewill). It exerts this will towards matter which, being inferior to the soul, must attempt to comply. However the physics of the system of matter entails cause and effect, and inter-dependence. Therefore as the soul pushes matter in one direction with its will, the psycho-physical nature of matter itself generates a ripple, and we experience that ripple as “destiny.”

Different desires push matter in different ways into different shapes, and these generate lots of different types of ripples in the material energy – all these ripples interact with one another to make destiny (and the reading of it – astrology) a very, very, very complicated thing.

Once you throw a stone into a pond, the ripple moves on its own accord. However it is the stone, not the ripple, which caused the movement on the pond. Similarly, destiny appears to be “predetermined” – moving on its own, but actually it is the will of the soul which moved the lake of the material world and caused the ripple. Once the ripple is caused it is very difficult to stop (though it can be done by cancelling it with other ripples and withdrawing from agitating the pond, etc.). The ripple has its own force, sometimes becoming like a tidal wave. And that force seems to be, and is, beyond our control. Thus it feels like “predestination.” But it is our own desires which caused us to interact with the world and disturb the surface of the lake.

I have an article on this subject which more patiently and simply describes the relationship between destiny and freewill, and their interdependence and marriage in the concept of “karma.” Here is the link, I hope you will read it and it will be clarifying for you.


– Vic DiCara


4 thoughts on “On Destiny vs. Freewill

  1. free will is limiting.
    Numerology tells us that a person has three numbers defining his life-psychic,destiny and name number.You can’t change the first two as it’s detemined by the date of birth,but one can certainly add alphabets to the name number and enhance the luck factor.So people consult numerologists only because they can change one of these numbers out of the given three.
    come to think of it,that’s about 33% out of 100. just Passing marks,rest 65-66% destiny keeps with itself to screw your life.one can’t do anything about this 66% except resignatedly label it as his past karma!

    1. Freewill is “limiting” or did you mean “limited”?

      Yes, the ripples in the pond of the world become waves and are seem impossible to deal with. Therefore our freewill is not “unlimited.” We are not able to immediately attain any outcome we desire. But we always possess freewill and can therefore gradually change our destiny – which itself is the result of ripples from our previous exertions of freewill.

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