8.4 FREE WILL
WISE SAYINGS FROM DIFFERENT FAITHS
"For with God are the keys of the unseen; no one knows them but God and God knows what is on the land and in the sea; and not a single leaf falls but God knows it. And there is not a single grain in the darknesses of earth, nor anything green, or withered, but is in an open book. And it is God who takes your souls by night, and knows what you have acquired by day; then resurrects you in it, that an appointed term may be fulfilled. Thence your destination is to God who will then acquaint you with what you have done." Mohammed
"For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Jesus Christ
"I cannot act by myself; I judge as I am bidden, and my verdict is just, because my aim is not my own will, but the will of Him who sent me." Jesus Christ
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are more value than many sparrows." Jesus Christ
DISCOURSES OF SAI BABA
THE DESTINY OF MAN
Manava (man) has to become Madhava (God): that is his destiny, the plan and purpose of his being armed, as no other animal is, with the sword of discrimination and the shield of renunciation. Man is the only animal that can picture a previous existence and existences in a series, with impressions accumulating from one to the other. What you see and feel in a dream has some basis on what you have seen and felt in the waking state; so too, what you see and feel in the present life has, as its basis, what you have seen and felt in other lives, previous lives. You can win the Grace of the Lord only by righteousness. (250163)
In a recent conversation with Baba (1984), I said, 'One has the free will to choose to turn to God or to be fully involved with the world. But on the other hand, when Baba looks at a person, at one glance he sees the past, present, and future of that person, so how could there be free will?'
Baba replied, 'From that viewpoint, from the Divine, there is no free will, for all is God. But from the ego viewpoint of the individual there is free will. There is general law, and then the individual and society. The individual acts in society according to his free will, but all conform to the general law. The individual must act, and his action is a function of his mind. There are thoughts. Thoughts are seeds. They sprout and become actions. The actions then appear to be free will to the concerned individual. Everyone has been given skills and talents such as intelligence, reason, energy, and they must be put into life action.' (My Baba & I 145)
Nothing ever is born without the will of God, nothing ever happens without His will; that is the message of the Vedas; understand the Vedas well and this lesson will be instilled into you. (251164)
Question: What is free will?
Swami: Nobody has free will. For man is subservient to his senses. Even if he wants otherwise, his eyes will look at the world and what is its role in human welfare. Ears listen to all sounds. Legs move to places unwanted by him. He is thus reduced to the state of a slave of the senses then. Where is the free will? Added to this, man's behaviour is also fashioned around the acquisitions of previous birth; not only that, the effects of the deeds of his parents too will influence the child born to them. Thus man is subjected to and influenced by diverse forces - the effect of his own deeds, that of his parents and above all the influences of his senses. Then how can free will prevail for man? This faculty is enjoyed by God alone. (April 1992)
DO NOT BLAME FATE
To say that God is the prime cause of everything is true to a certain extent; but you are not thrust by Him into an iron cage of destiny from which there is no escape. He has endowed you with discrimination and detachment and, with a sense of awe and wonder, you have to use these for attaining Him. Though bound you are not entirely incapacitated. A cow that is tethered to a post by means of a rope can walk around it and graze on all the area which the rope can traverse; when all the grass therein has been eaten, perhaps the master might loosen the knot and tether it to another post a little farther off. Graze freely as far as the rope allows, but do not stray far from the post and pull at the rope and inflict pain on your neck.
On the land that belongs to you, you can grow the food you need or you can sit idle and allow it to lie fallow. You are the cause of your ruin or uplift. The tools are in your hands; you can learn the skills; you can break the shackles and escape; but if you grovel in slavery and bondage, who can save you? Do not blame fate or writing on the head for your condition. The writing has been done by you yourself. You fail or pass and you are detained or promoted on the basis of your performance in the previous class, is it not? So also, the status in the present life is decided on the basis of the activities in previous lives. (241161)
The Lord created everything in the Universe, but kept nothing for Himself. Every creature has been given complete freedom. Everyone is free to enjoy anything he likes. But there is one limitation. For every action, there is a corresponding reaction. You are free to do as you please subject to this rule. If you use the freedom given to you to indulge in wrongful acts, the consequences are bound to be bad. These results are not caused by God, but are the fruits of your own actions. The Lord inflicts no harm on anybody. Everything that happens to you is the consequence of your own thoughts and actions. (200292)
One meaning of Karma which is popularly accepted is that it is one's destiny, or fate, the inescapable 'writing' on the brow, which has to work itself out. There is no escaping it. But people forget that it is not written by some other hand. It is all written by one's own hand. And the hand that wrote it can also wipe it off. (211063)
The most important difference between humans and animals is that humans, with effort, can bring about a complete transformation in themselves, whereas animals will not be able to accomplish that. (Dis on BG 198)
Man is but an instrument in God's hands; his plans can win through only when they are in line with His. And, what are His plans? His commands? They are declared in the Scriptures, which are revelations of His plan made to the purified intellects of saints. They are also declared by His Avatars who appear in human form so that they may speak to men in their own language to win their confidence and lead them and teach them.
Man has to become Divine, the Divine from which he has come. So, he has to lessen his attachment to the world, not by cutting himself off, but, by being in it as an instrument in His hands; by subduing all tendencies towards egoism that raise their heads in him; by single-minded attention to the dictates of God called righteousness. (041065)
If you win the Grace of the Lord, even the decrees of destiny can be overcome. There are certain drugs which come in bottles on which the manufacturer has given an ultimate date beyond which the drug loses its efficacy. Of course, the drug will be in the bottle, but would no longer be effective. Similarly, the Lord's Grace can make it inoperative. (270761)
LIMITS TO FREEDOM
True freedom can come only when one is free from the impulses of the mind. Only when the will of the Atma prevails can there be real freedom. Actions done by the promptings of the mind or the senses cannot be regarded as free actions. There are some actions which are done according to the laws of Nature. Even these are not free actions. Man is also subject to rules and regulations laid down by the appropriate authorities. Human life is carried on between these two types of restrictions. In view of this, no one can claim that he is free to act as he pleases. Only the Divine is free. But this cannot be described as freedom, because the Divine is One.
As long as the mind is active, no one can be truly free. In the worldly sense, one may claim that "This is my money. I am giving it to him." He may think that he is acting freely but this is not real freedom. It is an act of goodwill arising out of the pure aspect of the mind. The mind is a mixture of all the characteristics (gunas): pure, emotive and dull (Satwa, Rajas, Thamas). At various times, different qualities are prominent. If you give a donation in response to the appeal of a man in need, it is a mental reaction to a particular situation and not an exercise of freedom.
A man swinging a stick on the top of his terrace may be free to do so. But he cannot do the same thing on the public road lest he should hit someone who has an equal right to the use of the road. If he swings the stick on the road, either he may be arrested by the police or taken to a mental hospital. What a man does in his own house is not freedom but indulging in satisfaction of his wishes. There is a real distinction between the exercise of freedom and the satisfaction of one's desires. The latter is based on self-interest. Freedom consists in the spontaneous expression of what comes from the heart in respect of any object or any individual, at any time. This is true freedom.
People talk glibly about 'free will'. There is only one seat of freedom and that is the heart (the spiritual heart). It is permanent and unchanging. As long as man is swayed by the mind, there will be differences and distinctions. These are due to the waywardness of the mind and are not indications of individual freedom.
In whatever way the question of freedom is considered, it will be clear that man is bound from the time of birth. A cow tethered to a post has freedom to move about limited by the length of the rope tied to its neck. A freedom limited in this manner cannot be called freedom. It is not even 'limited freedom'. It is really a form of restraint. (310590)
With purity of heart, anything can be accomplished. Even the course of destiny can be changed by human will power.
Some students today talk about free will. Only the Divine has free will. Man is endowed with a will but not a free will. When the Divine free will moves, the human will also operates. There are a myriad leaves in a tree but not a leaf will move in the absence of wind. The leaves have no free will but they have a will which can be swayed when a breeze blows. In the tree of life human beings are like leaves. When the Divine Will blows the human will begins to move. Thus, there is need for the coming together of Divine Will and the human will. Then, there will be a blossoming of human nature. Man can never achieve anything by his own efforts. There is something which a man accomplishes without much effort on his part. There are other things which he is unable to accomplish even with his best efforts. What is the reason? It is on account of the play of the Divine Will.
How the Divine operates may be known from two examples from everyone's experience. The heart beats and the lungs breathe without any conscious human effort. These are the results of the operation of the laws of nature according to the Divine Will. There is nature on one side and human effort on the other. The two should function in unison. When there is such unity you have purity. That purity leads to Divinity. These are not three different things but three stages in the process of a tender fruit achieving ripeness. (010193)
The Lord is the unseen foundation on which your life is built. He is the source, sustenance and strength. Without His will, no leaf can turn, no blade of grass can quiver. What firmer foundation can you desire than this? Once you know that the Lord, the Omnipotent Power, is the mainspring of your life, there will be no fear any more. When you suspect the strength of the foundation of a house, you are afraid to enter it; when you suspect the skill of the manufacturer, you are nervous to ride in the car. Bishma and other devotees as well as Sankara and other persons of wisdom knew that the Lord is the basis, and so they had no fear at all. But, that faith has not taken root in men today and so, this has become an Age of fear and anxiety, of no peace. Gandhi relied on the Lord's Grace and Might and he won. (081264)
The mind too must be unaffected by the experiences of success and failure, of gain and loss, of well-being and illness; it must be surrendered at the Feet of the Lord. Let His will prevail. What profit does your little will bring you? Just close your eyes for five minutes and think of the profit your efforts have won you. (030365)
Slowly, step by step, confirm yourself in the thought of the unity of the world in Brahman (God). Then, even without praying and pleading, everything worthwhile will be added unto you. .... Leave it to Him, let His Will prevail, do not ask for this or that other thing. He knows best. (190465)
FREE WILL AND GOD'S WILL
The Lord can be understood only if you approach Him, develop attachment for Him, have faith in Him, and maintain unswerving loyalty to Him. He is understood only when you feel that you are but the instrument and that He wills every little moment everywhere. ...... He is immanent in all beings and He gets done all activities through them, just as electricity makes the bulb shine, the mike to transmit the voice, the stove to cook, the refrigerator to cool. (121064)
To get the attitude of 'Thou' not 'I' one has to surrender completely to the Higher Power, personified as the Lord. The ego has to be fully curbed; the faith that "not even a blade of grass can shake in the wind without His being aware of it and thus having caused it" has to be implanted in the mind. Devotion is not a leisure time job. (260365)
You might infer that man too is not in the least responsible for the good and the evil that is done through him by the Divine, that his real nature is beyond both good and evil; that his acts, however evil, were basically prompted by the Lord himself, for man has nothing he can claim as his act. True; but faith in this attitude that 'nothing is done by you', that 'it is all the Lord's will that is being worked through you', must be steady, sincere, deep and unshaken. There should be no trace of ego. If that is so, then certainly such a one has attained the highest goal of life. He is blessed to the uttermost. That reality has to be known; that knowledge has to be stabilised. Indeed, he who has the conviction that all this is God, that he has no sort of relationship or kinship with the objective world, that he is above and beyond it, is the individual whose sojourn here has been worthwhile. (Geetha V 112)