Free Will and Conditioned Will

Question: You have mentioned about our free will and to exercise it properly we have our scriptures. Now my question is how far can this free will act? Is it upon us/ our will to accept and follow the Scriptures (without  Bhagavan’s will) and became a bhakta OR with Bhagavan’s will only we can start following scriptures and progress in bhakti. Please clarify in the light of the following facts:

  1. Bhakti is bestowed by bhaktas to abhaktas. So the bhaktas’s will is more powerful than ours (the tools of start of bhakti , like shravans, etc not in question).
  2. Shri Vrindavan Das Thakur has mentioned in Shri Chaitanya Bhagavat that this free will is like tying a cow with a rope and free will acts up to the length of the rope only and finally he says that there is nothing in the “mula” of the free will.
  3. Bhagavat also says that not even a leaf moves without will of Bhagavan.
  4. The elaborate process of bestowing bhakti as mentioned in Shri Chaitanya Bhagavat is that first Bhagavan (Mahaprabhu) chooses candidates for bhakti and then sends his bhaktas for bestowing bhakti to that candidate.
  5. The first sloka of Shri Brahma Samhita where Shri Krishna is mentioned as “Sarvakaranakaranam“.
  6. Bhagavan is not aware of the suffering of abhaktas, but as mentioned in Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Bhagavan identifies such a person and feels that what a poor fellow, who is not enjoying the mellows of my pure bhakti and gives him bhakti through his bhaktas. ( I am pointing towards Bhagavan’s feeling that a jiva is getting deprived of the mellows of bhakti.)

So my opinion is that scriptures act as guide for showing us the path of bhakti with all necessary tools, but with this free will alone we cannot start bhakti. The initiative is solely taken by Bhagavan and the initiative doesn’t depends on our free will/ karmas/ sukriti. Even if it depends on the latter it is governed by Bhagavan’s will, i.e., the latter are intermediaries only.

I apologize for such a long and argumentative question and a really feel bad for that for asking you with so many arguments but I feel it is you only who can lucidly clarify my above noted long standing doubt. Once again I apologize.

Answer: Your question is a bit intricate because the answer is not black and white. One of the big problems with Reality is that it is not always this way or that way; black or white. It can also defy our perception and logical thinking. So we have to keep a few basic points in mind. Bhagavan has various potencies. He has contradictory potencies in Him. Yet, they exist in Him with perfect harmony. His potencies are trans-rational. It does not mean that they are always acting in an illogical manner. It means that they act both ways – sometimes logically and sometimes beyond logic. He is independent. That does not mean that He is frivolous and follows no norms. He follows norms but is also not bound by them. The only binding principle is love, and nothing else. And love knows no laws.

Besides, another important point to keep in mind is that Reality appears in one way from our perspective and in another way from His perspective. And shastra speaks about both perspectives. But shastra does not inform us which perspective it is talking about. To give a practical example, to us the earth looks flat. No matter how great a scientist you are, you will see the earth only as flat. But to a person in space, it looks round or elliptical. Who is right? You may say that the one in space is right. But that is not really true. He is right from his perspective. As far as the person on the ground is concerned, the earth is flat. So the earth has both aspects. Seen as a whole, it is not flat but elliptical, but if only a small part of it is focused on, it is flat.

One may say that one is the absolute truth and the other is a relative truth. Yes, that is true, but this relative truth cannot be undermined. It has practical applications. We make most of our plans considering the earth as flat. If I want to build a house, I consider the plot to be flat, and I face no adverse or wrong results. So for most of our dealings, it works fine to take the earth as flat.

To give another example: From our point of view, a table is a solid object. From the quantum point of view, it is mostly space. Who is right? You may say that quantum view is right, but as far as we are concerned the table is a solid object. And our knowledge has a lot of practical value in comparison to the quantum vision. We can live without quantum vision but not without our Newtonian vision.

So similarly, when we analyze things from Bhagavan’s point of view, not even a leaf moves without His sanction. He is the supreme regulator. There is no free will or any such thing. Because if we had free will, then He could not be the supreme regulator or master. There would be total chaos in the world, at least on earth. We would be able to will and defy His authority or defy the law of karma and escape unpalatable reactions. But that is never acceptable. Nor is it our experience. So from His perspective, He is in control. Therefore He says that a person bewildered by ego thinks/himself/herself to be the doer when in reality everything is done by the gunas of prakriti. He also says that nobody can transcend His maya consisting of gunas without surrendering to Him. So we are not free. If we were free, we could choose to be under maya or get out of it. But we cannot choose unless He makes us choose. In fact, unless He informs us, we do not even know that we are under maya. We would never have known. So where is the question of will if we do not even have the knowledge of choice?

But when we see things from our point of view, we can see that we are not like machines that have absolutely no choice. God Himself asks us to surrender to Him. If we had no choice, then what is the sense in asking us? So we must have some will. But I do not call it free will because it is not completely free. God has free will and we have conditioned will. Our will is conditioned by the amount of knowledge we have, the extent of control we have over our mind and senses, and our past karma. If I am a man born in India, I cannot suddenly will to be an American woman. It will not work. I have so many limitations. But God can will and it happens, so He is called satyakama and satyasankalpa.

If you can digest this, then you will get the answer to all your queries made above.

Jai Radhe.






One thought on “Free Will and Conditioned Will”

  1. Dandavat to the question and 108 dandavats to the answer. Wonderful, I am flabbergasted, thank you so much!

    Radhe Radhe

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