QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS1
[In this section we seek to answer frequently asked questions, at U.L.T. meetings or during private conversations and discussions with people who seek the answers in the light of Theosophy. Answers given in this section are by no means final. Only a line of thought is being offered by applying general principles of Theosophy.]
Question: “Man is said to be the architect of his own destiny.” How?
We use the word “fate” or “destiny” when we are unable to see the rationality. What is destiny? There are three classes of Karma: Sanchita, Agami and Prarabdha. Sanchita Karma is that which is stored up and not in operation now, because there is not the appropriate environment or condition for bringing it into action. Agami is Karma we are making in the present life and will be felt by us in future births. Every re-incarnating Ego is born bringing with it a portion of the stored Karma. Thus, Prarabdha Karma is the portion or aspect of Karma with which one is born, and for whose precipitation the field is ready. It is operating in the present life and body, bringing about all the circumstances and changes. Destiny or Fate is the Karma that has ripened, so that its expression cannot be averted or postponed. For instance, we cannot change the family, nation or race into which we are born. The Karma that is irreversible may be called fate or destiny.
In the absence of the knowledge of the law of karma we describe certain inevitable events by saying, “These things were destined.” But destiny is only the working of certain powerful causes, so that no action of ours or any other karma can avert or modify the result.
Who weaves the web of destiny? We are creating our destiny from moment to moment. How do we build fate or destiny? “Sow a thought, reap and act; sow an act reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” The manner in which a man turns into a chain smoker illustrates this process. An occasional smoker with confidence in his will power may finally become a habitual smoker. When we form these habits deliberately and consciously, it becomes avoidable fate, because by avoiding certain thoughts, feelings and actions we can avert the fate. Just as a spider weaves the web, thread by thread, so every man from birth to death weaves his destiny. When the last strand is woven, we are seemingly enwrapped in the network of our own doing, and are under the empire of self-made destiny.
Destiny and free-will co-exist. A person may think ten times before he makes the choice, but having made it, that choice becomes his destiny, by which he is bound. Today’s destiny is made by our choice in the past. Today’s choice weaves our future destiny. If a man makes the choice to go in the right direction, he goes forward, else he goes backward. Destiny is woven in the minds of men with good and evil thoughts. Each one is born with the Divine Destiny. Each one can weave his freedom. One needs to transform one’s thinking and feeling and thus weave a better destiny.
When Karma has ripened and begun to precipitate, all we can do is to experience the effects with right attitude. Since the Law of Karma is just and merciful, there cannot be a misshapen day. So, instead of complaining or grumbling there must be acceptance or resignation. We might even go a step further and say, “This is not only what I deserved, but what in fact I desired.” This is an attitude of supreme surrender, of unswerving faith in the Law of Karma—an inward stance necessary to be cultivated by every true spiritual aspirant. With such attitude, we will not resort to any prayers or propitiatory ceremonies, to cause to deviate the course of the Law and dodge the karmic consequences. It is total acceptance that “my own comes back to me.” However, “acceptance” should not be equated with passivity and helplessness. If we are able to change the situation, we must do all in our power. We are not expected to remain poor, handicapped, ignorant, weak, oppressed, or whatever be our plight. We can use the situation as raw material and extract the necessary lessons. When intense effort is made, the influence of the Karmic tendency is shortened. Karma has placed us where we are, but it does not hold us there.
The fact is that we are conditioned, to an extent, by our previous right or wrong actions so that our present choices are, as it were, determined or influenced by the past. In other words, the exercise of free will is conditioned or limited by the external circumstance, as well as, the inner capacities and conditions—both being the result of past Karma. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa illustrates it by the example of a cow tethered to a pole with a long rope. The cow feels she is free to roam anywhere but the perimeter of the area in which she can move is fixed. Similarly, he explains, every human being has a free will but the length of rope is governed by God (or Law, based upon our previous actions). Ultimately, each one of us can rewrite his destiny, by acting with complete awareness. In fact, we can become Karmaless by not doing our actions with the feeling that “I am acting,” and renouncing interest in the fruits of action. We, then, cease to offer individual focus where the Karmic consequences could return.
- Vol. 4, December 2012, p. 29, Mumbai, India; Published with permission from U.L.T. India (Mumbai) ↩