Monday, July 11, 2011

Is our future pre-determined

Discussion between Vamsi and Natarajan Amirapu.

Ram asks:

We Hindus believe that our future is already written. Can we change our future? If we can, how far we can change it?

Natarajan Amirapu answers:

The answer is yes and no. The statement saying that our future is already written is quite misunderstood. Swami Vivekananda explained that very clearly.

It all starts with the Karma Theory (karma siddhAnta). The theory says that all the works which you do, through body, speech and mind will leave an impression which will be stored. It will be like a bank balance.
But this bank balance will have a negative balance as well. When you do a good, unselfish work it will be stored in your favour and when you do something bad and selfish you will get a negative balance. Since this balance will be stored and will appear at its most current level even at a new birth, men get to open their accounts with a brought-over balance from all their previous births. It applies in the same way to the present life as well. The works you do will have their effects, sometimes immediate, on your future life.

All of us, the ordinary mortals, can safely assume that we can change our future. By our works, we will be able to re-write our fate.

Here, let us define morality as given by Swami Vivekananda. “Everything that is unselfish is moral and everything that is selfish is immoral.” Taking this into consideration we have to act. We have to get rid of our selfishness altogether. That is the one practice which we do all the time – kill our selfishness! “The world is a great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong!” Here we are given an opportunity to get rid of our selfishness, show our unselfishness and build-up our strength which we derive out of the practice of unselfishness. He further says to the effect, “Every good work will unshackle and set you free and every evil deed will put you in more shackles. Every evil deed will pounce back on you like a demon, whereas every good deed will protect with the strength of a hundred thousand angels.”

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa gives an illustration to explain this ability of a man to work and what is beyond. Suppose there is cow which is tied with a long rope to a stump and allowed to graze. (You can see quite a lot of this in India.) It will be able to roam freely as much as the rope allows it to. It will be able to feed in a circle beyond which it will not be able to go. Ramakrishna says that man’s ability to work is like that of the cow. He is able to work and alter his fate to a certain extent but beyond that he does not have the ability to go. There comes the idea of grace of God.

But for all practical purposes, the grace of God is far, far off. Let us work in a manly fashion in our limited circle and perfect our work here and the grace of God will descend on its own. For the ordinary mortals like us, working hard, very hard, is the solution to finish ‘eating the grass in our circle fully’ and then only we need to think beyond. We can change our future within that circle. But, we can safely assume that the circle is so big, it is not in a hurry that we are going to finish it. Working within it we will be able to achieve quite a lot. We will be able to change quite a lot of our future.

And finally, it becomes clear that our future is not already written. It only appears so. Since, the effects of our previous karma are really strong, we feel that it is unchangeable. But the only thing that is unchangeable is God and our future or fate is certainly changeable. We have a weapon in our hands called willpower which is derived out of God. With its help we will be able to change our future by working properly.

Will-power may be defined as the power that empowers us to do what we ought to do and helps us resist what we ought to resist. Will-power changes our fate.

Finally, let us conclude this with a saying from Swami Vivekananda: “ ‘This misery that I am suffering is of my own doing, and that very thing proves that it will have to be undone by me alone.’ That which I created, I can destroy. Therefore, stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves."

One more: “We can overcome the difficulty by constant practice. We must learn that nothing can happen to us, unless we make ourselves susceptible to it."

Vamsi asks:

I read the answer. It's very good. But I have more doubts on that topic. If our future is not written, then how come these Astrologers know our future quite clearly?
I heard that our Guru and the number of times we are going to chant the mantra are predetermined. In what way this is true, if we can change our future?

Natarajan Amirapu answers:

Now you can understand how this question remains the hottest ever. I have left so much unanswered. It is obvious that we can never answer the question completely because there are some imperfect elements which have crept into the phenomenon and they make it impossible to answer the question fully. That is MAYA or imperfection.

I am not trying to evade anything. Our future is ‘written’ or predetermined since our Karma is already done and will bear its results. The sum total of all our works already done will determine the next course our life would take. It is called “prArabDHa karma”.

This prArabDHa karma is explained with an analogy. It is compared to an arrow that is released from a bow. Once it is released, it will go and find its destination. It may hit a tree or a man or an animal or just fall on the ground. But, once it is released, it’s route is predetermined. It’s course may change if it is hit a powerful gust of wind or anything that appears in the middle. Even that is predetermined, you may say.

Now, when we take birth, this arrow of prArabDHa is released. You may assume that there will not be any change in it’s course. A man born with the sum total of his previous actions will live a life where all he does is predetermined. He will have to face the results of his works without fail. We usually feel, that a man thus born, will lead a very dull, unexciting life! That is true in most cases, but only in MOST CASES! There are, always, exceptions!

We have already seen how the cow is free to work in the circle it is free to roam. Here, his work in the present birth changes the INTENSITY of the results of his prArabDHa. Sarada Devi explains beautifully: “What is the use of Japa? Suppose a man is to get injured by a plough, he will be spared only with a pin-prick.” This explains how that prArabDHa is altered. It may not change the result but it will change the intensity. So, a man can change his life. In fact, our lives are changing continuously and so is the sum total of the result of our Karma.

Astrologers usually are very sure about our past. As far as the future is concerned, they answer it well as far as the result is concerned but they usually leave the intensity part of it. You may observe carefully and you find this to be true. An astrologer’s prediction becomes all the more correct when the man in question is very ordinary and devoid of any will-power! Because as the students of Swami Vivekananda, we understand that Will-Power is what that changes our lives!

We defined will power previously. “Will-power may be defined as the power that empowers us to do what we ought to do and helps us resist what we ought to resist.” Will power may be defined more theoretically as the “compound of God and Mind”. If this grand power is restricted to being only of the mind it would have remained quite dull. But the element of God makes it very exciting. That element have no limits and no rules. When we are exercising our will power we are putting the God-element in us to work which will change all the rules of the game. Will-power changes our fate!

In fact, a good astrologer also predicts the will power of a man as some of it is also predetermined and predicts that such a man may find a change in the result. One more thing. These astrologers ask us to do puja, japa etc., to alleviate the results of our karma and overcome the troubles that are predestined in our future.

Now, I assume the final question is already answered. If you are man of no will power, your practice of japa may be limited. But, the rishis of yore as well as the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, with their sheer energy changed the course of their lives. Even it applies to our Guru. Our present level of Karma may give us a particular Guru, but as we advance, we may find Sri Ramakrishna himself guiding us. Why should we say a particular Guru? In fact, our own Guru is the very embodiment of Sri Ramakrishna. Didn’t Sri Ramakrishna say that Satchidananda Parabrahma himself comes in the form of a Guru? (By the way, we should never do the mistake of questioning the capacities of our Guru and have complete faith in him.)

All these ideas are pretty complicated and need some time and experience to understand them fully. What would be life if there not a little uncertainty thrown in? What is it worth, if you can’t change it and find the truth beyond all uncertainties and all confusion?

May god bless us all with better understanding!


  1. Dear anna,

    Even though I have been listening the same from my childhood in our samithi, I understood it now little more clearly.

    Thank you very much.

  2. I got the summary as below from the explanation given above.
    Our Future is pre-determined or certain as we have already have Karma associated with us (i mean karma associated with the Jeeva).
    For e.g. If a Jeeva took birth as a Human being, we can consider he has Some Good and some Bad karma associated with him in his earlier births in any kind (i mean as a bird, an animal etc..).
    Since hs has both Good and Bad Karma associated the Jeeva borned as a Human being, right.?
    Also I understand from the explanantion, Our Karma decides even out next birth (if we have any).
    I mean to say, if Jeeva is not going to take birth any more means he/she has No Karma associated with him, if I'm right on this statement.

    One thing I did not understand is, How or when birth/death life cycle of a Jeeva starts.
    To me more clear over my question,
    If a Jeeva associated with some Karma then the Jeeva should take birth in any kind.
    Lets consider previous life of the Jeeva. What ever Karma the Jeeva does/associated in the preivious Life that Karma decides the next birth/life of Jeeva.
    If we go back to privious and previous to previous and previous to this where exactly the Jeeva statrts his/her Life...?

    I hope you got my dilemma/confision state/question.