Free Will.


“I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
~ Stephen Hawking.

To start off this post, let me introduce you to Sam Harris and his take on the subject, a very dangerous idea! Please do spend the full hour and twenty odd minutes listening to this very interesting clip on the delusion of free will.

In the Indian system it is addressed in great detail and the crux of the commentaries is in studying the statement: “It is the problem of the eternal conflict between fate and free-will.”

What are their respective provinces and how can the conflict be avoided?”

The answer is brilliant in its simplicity.

Fate is past karma; free-will is present karma. Both are really one, that is, karma, though they may differ in the matter of time. There can be no conflict when they are really one.

The present is before you and, by the exercise of free-will, you can attempt to shape it. The past is past and is therefore beyond your vision and is rightly called the unseen. You cannot reasonably attempt to find out the relative strength of two things unless both of them are before you. But, by our very definition, free-will, the present karma, alone is before you and fate, the past karma, is invisible.

Fate, as we have seen, is the resultant of the past exercise of one’s free-will. By exercising free-will in the past, one brought on the resultant fate. By exercising free-will in the present, we can wipe out our past record if it hurts us, or to add to it if we find it enjoyable.
In any case, whether for acquiring more happiness or for reducing misery, we have to exercise our free-will in the present.

Let me make it simpler. In a game of bridge, the cards dealt is fate and how you bid and play your hand is Free Will.

This topic for the weekly LBC posts was suggested by me.  Please visit Shackman and Pravin who are also likely to write on the same topic.

18 thoughts on “Free Will.”

  1. Ahh but in real life, not TED talks or youtube vids, others can keep changing your “hand”. It’s not a one time thing. Disability is cards dealt. Government refusal to provide health care coverage or income which can prevail over years, cannot be overcome ny “Free Will”. I would add single mothers who cannot find work OR day care is another example of inadequecy of “Free Will”. Unless you consider going out to prostitution as choice? That’s what a lot of women are told today: sex “work” is an option and a choice, a righteous free will coping. Seriously it’s happening, particularly with Indigenous women.

    1. Marms, the debate has been going for millennia from the time of Greek philosophers till today. No one has yet come up with The Answer as to whether there is something called Free Will at all.

  2. Exercising my, for once, “free will” I did not spend one hour and twenty minutes on listening to someone spouting about free will – as well intended by you as I assume it to be.

    The concept of “free will” sounds alluring. However, in my life’s experience it’s an illusion. There are so many variables in life over which you have no influence whatsoever – not least, say, the first twenty years of your life when any of your will counts for little, usually overridden by your parents’ own “will”, even if their intent is to the “best”.

    I do agree that there are moments in life when we are at liberty to exercise free will. By way of example the fact that I became a mother was entirely out of free will. A decision made stone cold sober (in the throes of fulfilling my biological destiny, insert smiley). Other than that? I am lucky to sit in some sort of boat. But where is the rudder? What are the winds and the rain thinking they are doing blowing me and my boat all over the place?

    Karma? It sounds good. But so does “Singing in the Rain”. Doesn’t make it more dry.

    Ursula recently posted..Royal Flush

  3. I skipped the video too. I do believe I have choices. “When the wind stops it’s time to start rowing.” All of us here have been some of the luckiest people who have ever lived on the face of the earth. Which doesn’t mean we haven’t dealt with adversity — that’s where wise choices and creativity, patience, and determination make a huge difference. And if that was predetermined for me too, then I’m grateful.
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Sweet Sammy

    1. Yes, most often, the good effect of karma/fate is ignored and only the negatives in our lives are blamed on them. Once we recognise that the good things in our lives are due to the effects of our good deeds/thoughts in the past, gratitude is generated and free will can get exercised without worrying whether it is really free will or not.

  4. Only this week I was involved in a discussion on free will. It mostly involved people who had been to an exclusive bible college and they argued the topic very intellectually with little thought for application.
    To see the topic come up here is interesting. Maybe there is a lesson for me.

      1. I have to make use of some probability and statistics regularly for my job. Coincidences are improbably events, but they are only improbable with respect to the information we have. Thus, I tend to view the issue of free-will vs predestination discussion mainly as one of observers with highly limited vs unlimited knowledge. Since people are always limited in their knowledge and most of what they know is wrong, free-will must be the perspective they live by.
        Looney recently posted..Remembering The Birds

  5. i think we are a vast universal experiment.
    i used to think free will was all about ‘religion’ because i only ever heard about it in those terms.
    but as i grew up and realized that ‘religion’ was at the root of almost all of mankind’s woes… i grew weary of the whole subject.
    the simple truth for me is… i want to live as well as i can… as long as i can and still feel healthy… and then i will die. i will be perfectly content if there is nothing more ahead.
    i think there probably is. but if there isn’t i won’t care.
    and if there is an answer to those esoterical questions then…
    i will find out all the silly secrets of the universe that used to keep mankind torn up the entire time i was here! i am becoming more pragmatic as i age i guess.
    or… maybe i’m just tired! LOL! xo
    it’s late as i write this. but tomorrow i will listen to the TED talk.
    i usually find that i enjoy them.
    tammy j recently posted..moving on old bean

    1. As long as you are happy doing what you are doing and thinking what you are thinking, why bother about esoteric things? Enjoy yourself and have fun. That would be my way of tackling life.

  6. I have to say without shame or guilt that this is a subject that just doesn’t captivate me. Free Will or not Free Will…doesn’t really concern me. I must, indeed, think I have it, though, because I DO look before I cross the street.

    You might enjoy Sam Harris’ book called “Lying”.
    Mother recently posted..Gratitude – The Practice

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