Thursday, April 17, 2008

Free will, Determinism, PrarabdhA.

Q.
How does one explain death from a plane crash or murder in terms of responsibility if it is a predestined event? How can in the case of a plane crash one explain a simulataneous predestined event involving so many people being compatible with their individual free-wills? Primarily though, do any of our actions stem from free-will or are they predetermined?
A.
Whenever there is a violent event like an accident or murder what happens is one person's abuse of his freemay be resulting in an abrupt end to another person'slife before that person's prArabdha karma may have had a chance to get fully fructified.
Of course it is entirely possible that this may beenexactly by design based on the "victim"'s prArabdhakarma (as when Krishna tells Arjuna that theseKauravas have already slain by me – all you are is a nimitta – a instrument for this to happen - Ch11 -mayyevaite nihatAh pUrvameva nimitta-mAtram bhava).
But there may be situations when one takes birth with a certain prArabdha-designated course chartered by destiny and someone else’s abuse of free will may have brought about a premature end to that – what happens in this case is of course that Ishwara’s ever-perfect Order takes over and the residual prArabdha of the victim which is now added onto the prior sanchitakarma fashions his next equipment suitable for its own ordained self-expression.
With regards to the improbabilities of the probability of orchestrating prarabdha - it may perhaps be worthwhile here to pause for a second and remind ourselves of where we stand -a human body alone has trillions of bacteria in his gut and on his skin, each representing a separate jiva. in the time it takes me to blink a few trillion of them have died and another trillion born -perhaps reborn if this alone was their field of activity.If you add up the trillions of plant,animal and microbial life both land and multiple time more so in sea, you have a dazzling array of infinite jivas - all on just Earth - bhulokA - there are quite possibly manifold more jivas in the other lokas as well.
Confining ourselves to the time-scales of the bhulokA alone, a year ofBrahma is composed of 360 day/night cycles of Brahma, or 720 kalpas,or 8.64 billion human years. Each kalpa (composed of a 1000 mahAyugAs)is reigned over by a succession of 14 Manus, and the reign of each Manu is called a manvantara. A single manvantara is approximately 71maha yugas. A maha yuga is 4,320,000 human years. There are fourteen Manus in one kalpa - in this (the Shwetavaraha) kalpa we are in the period of the seventh (vaivaswata) Manu. One blink of Brahma-ji and crores of our lifetimes are already over - such is the Divine Order, ordained in turn by karmas accumulated over an infinite number of prior births over an infinite number of prior cycles of creation and destruction. What then to speak of determination of death in one lifespan? So in and through all this "theistic" determinism - is there any scope for this infinitesmally small human being to have free will? Yes - the very Order has bestowed upon the human - a power - that is called icchAshakti - the capacity to desire, to have an intention, or sankalpa. This icchAshakti, a deliberate capacity to choose - is lacking in animals and plants - the tiger has to choose between two deer and decides to run after one of them - it looks like he did exercise a choice but it really was no choice - were the scenario to replay a hundred times over the tiger would have chosen that one deer only, at that one time and place only, as such alone is the diktat ofthe Order. In the case of humans alone, is a very small and limited capacity "to will" "freely"
The freely is in quotes because there are constraints. A big percentage of what he wills is pre-determined by a variety of factors that have led-up to that one point in time and cannot truly be considered as being a component of his freedom to choose. However it cannot be denied that there is a very small portion of his subsequent action that is completely untainted by any colourations from the past.
This is what gives rise - simultaneously and seemingly paradoxically -to the twin concepts of moral responsibility as well as forgiveness - depending on which aspect of this construct one wishes to lay more emphasis on (- and that itself is to a large extent governed by our own prior colorations primarily alongwith a small portion of "free" will!)
We can liken this to a torrential stream consisting of our prarabdhakarmas which is violently hurtling us inexorably towards pre-ordained destinations along the banks - we have little control over the torrents save our own capacity to make small deliberate movements ofour own vehicles - the key here is that these small deliberate moves have the capacity to add up, to summate, into not only helping us navigate but also change the kaleidoscope of our river-banks, as well as the vehicles themselves, lending them greater senses of potency,and channeling them into easier landscapes where perhaps the torrents themselves are forced to ease up some, ultimately to be stopped by the dam (sethu) of self-knowledge as built by a benevolent Guru, by carefully building on the words of the Shruti.
Practically speaking what this means is that anything I do, or someone else does, we have no way of EVER knowing the percentage of what part of this was pre-ordained and what part of it we had some choice in.[In one point in the Yoga Vashishta it is said that at exactly the same point in every creation, the same act of the Bhagwad Gita is repeated with the same players Arjuna and Krishna - talk about complexities of orchestration!] And moreover the result of this action or karmphalA is again determined indirectly by the factors responsible for that action and also to a limited extent on the intention that went into that action. The amount of effort one puts in can within the constraints of the system influence its result. (One important point though - this entire karma bundle can and does get burnt to ashes in a single flame of jnAna - this Krishna himself alludes to in the Gita,Ch4 - so one does not need to despair that "if my next many lifetimes are already predestined am i not assured of not attaining self-knowledge in this birth?")
Every moment of time, with every blink of the eye,
we are atinfinity's cross-roads,
at once at the mercy of the next moment,
at once the victims of the prior,
at once the masters of that ONE moment.
What we need to do,
what we can do,
indeed what we alone can do,
infact what alone we can do,
is to mindfully seize the moment and to act, by tremendous effort,
by our own recurrent firm sankalpa, to ensure that our actions consistently over time are in keeping with dharmA, are less tainted by our raga-dveshAs,
are more "act"ions and
less "re-act"ions,
humbly recognizing all along the fact that what they are is mostly about purva-samskAra that is aided to some part by our own purushArtha
- then slowly but surely we change the very tone of the torrent of prArabdhA that will dictate our future actions, which in turn will await our future sankalpAs to sync with.
For such alone is our lot - no choice, but to choose.