If there is anything people tend to blame for their spiritual progress-it is destiny. It is one of the topics that the mind is widely used upon. Luck, fortune, fate are the synonyms for destiny.
To think that we are bound by our destiny, which cannot be changed, is the doctrine of fatalism. This is how the “fatalism” is defined:
1. Doctrine of fate: The philosophical doctrine according to which all events are fated to happen, so that human beings cannot change their destinies.
2. Belief in all-powerful fate: The belief that people are powerless against fate.
3. Feeling of powerlessness against fate: An attitude of resignation and passivity that results from the belief that people are helpless against fate.
Let us analyze whether this concept of fatalism is correct or not. First of all, let us understand what destiny is:
“The actions we performed in our past lives become our destiny in this life.” In other words, destiny is not something that has come down from the heavens or a horoscope chart that is revealed to us by astrologers. We have created our destiny ourselves by actions in past births. This means that we performed actions with our free will in past lifetimes.
Now, we shall use the technique of “Reductio ad absurdum” to disprove fatalism. This is a technique where the statement to be disproved is accepted in the premise. It is then shown to lead to a logical inconsistency.
Let us start with the premise that everything is predestined.
- If we are bound by destiny in this life, and cannot perform actions by our own volition, this rule must apply to our past lives as well. It would mean that in past lives too we were bound by destiny, for the rule must be the same in all lives.
- But if in each life we were bound by destiny, then in which life did we perform independent actions that created that destiny?
- And if in no past life we performed actions with our free will, then how was destiny created?
- Again, if we did actions with our free will in any past life, we can do them now as well.
Thus, we see the premise that everything is predestined, leads to a logical absurdity and is disproved. The scriptures say that it is lazy people who blame destiny for their substandard achievements:
“While working, don’t bring destiny into your mind, or it will make you lazy.” If you do, you will start running to astrologers to know what your destiny is, rather than focusing on performing your work properly.
It is a fact that there is an element of destiny in our lives. However, we also possess the freedom to act as we wish in the present. This is called purusharth, or the work we do in the present, by using our freedom of choice. The example is given of a game of cards. The hand that is dealt to a person gets fixed; it cannot be changed. But how one plays with the cards is not fixed. If someone is a good player, he or she may win even with bad cards, while if someone is a bad player, he or she may lose even with good cards.
Similarly, if you were destined to win a jackpot of a million dollars, you will win it. But beyond that it is your self-effort. If you work hard, you could multiply it into ten million dollars, and if you develop profligate habits, you could squander it away in drinking and gambling. That would not be decided by destiny; that would be your own purusharth, or self-effort.