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Free Will vs Predestination - Easily Explained

By: for ISKCON News on Dec. 16, 2011
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"Have a seat, Kermit. What I`m about the tell you might come to as a big shock..."
Many times devotees try to reconcile this essentially Christian concept with Vedic understanding, but end up writing lengthy explanations that do not always satisfy the curiosity. This is because it is mostly incompatible with the truths of Bhagavad-Gita, for it has to be broken down in a simplified manner to give a satisfactory and brief explanation.


As we may know, the five truths covered by Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, namely Krishna, the jiva souls, nature, time and action or karma are revealed. Of these, karma or action does not fit in to the predestination scheme. Yes, we can argue that our actions determine our ‘predestination’ or fate, but this is not the predestination of God’s doing.

The normal understanding is that God determines our fate, which rules out our own responsibility to earn good or bad fruits of our actions. It is simply a matter of God disposing what we propose. The fact that we ourselves are responsible for whatever happens to us by our proposals, makes predestination a misfit. It should really be called self-destination. Or, we can label it as proposed-destination.

Otherwise, predestination dominates in the four other truths. Ever free Krishna comes and acts according to Vedic timing, although He has no obligation to. We jiva souls are destined to be eternal and live conditioned or liberated, by use or misuse of our minute independence. Material nature is an on-going process complete with punctual creations and devastations and the changing of the yugas. And Time ensures that all things must happen in predetermined fashion.

Free Will

There is no such thing as free will for us eternal jiva souls. It is more accurate to call it bound will. The only times we can speak of free will are when, somehow we misused our minute independence to end up here in this material world, and, when we take to the process of devotion to Krishna aided by the guidance of free agents like the Supersoul within our hearts, and those pure devotees who are already liberated.

If we are fortunate to be endowed with buddhi yoga, this can inspire us to act freely and to also appreciate all freedom givers related to the Lord such as His holy names, His devotees, the sastras, prasada, mercy and so on.

Because the jiva souls are bound, every decision or action they take is also bound. Impelled by bound desires it appears as if the jiva souls have a free choice to act, but the three modes of material nature are acting or enforcing matters.

The notion of free will can properly be explained as in determining our future or destination through our bound desires. For the sake of argument we sometimes need to use the term free will, but we have to correct it to bound or conditioned will. When our desires become free, then we will be acting on free will.
[ free-will ] [ karma ]