How Free is the ‘Free Will’

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  • #13958
    Sri Vasudeva Das
    Participant

    Hare Krishna prabhuji

    Speaking about free will from our Vedic perspective, we know form Gita 3.27 that actually the three modes are only the doers, what we identify as our doing is only the Svabhav acquired under modes ,5.14. So is my understanding correct?

    #13959
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    See this presentation entitled “Free Will and Determinism“.

     

    #13960
    Sri Vasudeva Das
    Participant

    Thank you very much prabhuji, I had tried finding articles on your blog but couldn’t, I didn’t search in the presentations.
    The presentation is wonderful and very elaborately answered the question. I wanted to ask few things in that, in the slide 13 it is mentioned ‘free will exists only when true religion is practiced’

    1. Does this true religion include apara dharma?
    2. How do we get the freedom to practice true religion, astrologers say that is deterministic(the opportunities to practice)
    3. Can those who are free give freedom to those who are bound?(i.e. can they provide the freedom to practice true religion even though it was not deterministically there in there fortune)

    #13961
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    Free will is always there. Freedom is limited. Freedom means the opportunities to practice religion. Free will means how you use the available opportunities. Those opportunities are decided by our previous karma. For example, if you have performed bad deeds in the past, then you may be born in an atheistic family. Then your opportunities to practice religion are limited at home. But even then you can constantly remember Krishna in your mind. Your free will is that even in a bad situation, you can try to remember Krishna. If you use your free will properly, then your freedom will increase over time. For example, if you remember Krishna constantly in your mind, then sometime in the future you will get the association of the pure devotees and would not be forced to accept the association of atheists.

    1. Yes, any kind of dharma increases freedom, which means more opportunities. The free will is always constant. Even in the worst situation, you can remember Krishna in your mind. If you use your freedom properly, then freedom will increase. If you misuse freedom, then it will decrease. This is a simple “law of nature”.

    2. Did we not discuss Prarabdha karma earlier? We have noted that even karma is not fixed although it seems to be fixed for many people due to their repeated misuse of freedom. By correct use of freedom, a person is freed from karma.

    3. We have to earn our freedom by our actions and proper use of free will. Krishna’s devotees give us association, but they are not going to change our life situation. That we have to do. By association, we understand how to use our free will. But we have to use it correctly to change the situation. Guru guides, not do our work for us.

    #13979
    Sri Vasudeva Das
    Participant

    Thank you very much prabhuji, everything makes sense now.

    Just a last clarification, in your first statement of ‘free will is always there, freedom is limited’, we know from the presentation that until we practice religion we are only like an animal in the hands of Prakriti thinking ourselves the ‘doer’. Otherwise when practicing religion we have free will.

    #13981
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    There is a common saying that we cannot control what happens to us but we can control how we respond to it. Karma determines what happens to us and Guna determines how we respond. We have earlier discussed how Prarabdha Karma can be changed, so even what happens to us is not absolutely fixed although it seems to be fixed for most people. However, Gunas are not fixed, which means how we respond to what happens to us is not fixed. Our life is determined in the sense that what happens to us is often out of our control. It is undetermined in the sense that how we respond is in our control, although we have to change our Guna for that.

    Spiritual life is about changing the Guna from tamas to rajas to sattva to something beyond these three modes. The capacity to reject these three Guna is sometimes called free won’t rather than free will. We call this “detachment” and “renunciation”. In the materially conditioned state of life, we have to cultivate free won’t, which means rejecting material tendencies. When we are liberated from these material influences, which means the free won’t is perfected, then free will becomes prominent, and it pertains to the choice of a spiritual nature in relationship to God.

    The soul’s free won’t or free will are eternal. If we associate with material tendencies, that is a choice. And if we reject the material tendencies, that is also a choice. The accept-reject capacity is never reduced. However, what we are accepting or rejecting may be constrained. When we accept, consciousness moves outward and associates with the Guna. When we reject, consciousness moves inward and dissociates from the Guna. This inward and outward movement of consciousness is never impaired. Hence free will and free won’t is never diminished.

    If someone thinks that this free will and free won’t don’t exist, then it means that they don’t have detachment or renunciation. If we don’t use the free won’t to reject the material tendencies, then the consciousness is completely controlled by the material influences. Under such a situation, not only is what happens to us out of our control, but even how we respond to it is out of our control. Such a person may advocate determinism, because they have no idea about the free nature of the spirit.

    #13983
    Sri Vasudeva Das
    Participant

    Thank you so much prabhuji, for your time, patience,  with deep and prompt replies. I feel so indebted everytime.

    #14014
    Sri Vasudeva Das
    Participant

    I was reflecting on our discussions prabhuji, do you have a book on this topic also?
    Also with regards to the slide 10 of the presentation, in the deterministic cycle of how nature controls a soul usually there is a phase of ‘good deeds’ aren’t these the actions as per our apara dharma and should thus give us freedom, so how does this in a deterministic way lead to bad deeds further.

    Also you mentioned how spiritual life is about improving from tamo Guna to rajas and further on. But can we choose the modes(independent of spiritual life) as the only choice which Gita describes is  to surrender to Krishna. Can you give a reference for this if possible.

    Also what is the situation of a jivan Mukta as per 14.22-25 it feels he merely witnesses the modes acting now and does not engage the modes for a purpose.

    #14015
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    do you have a book on this topic also?

    Yes, the book Moral Materialism is all about free will vs. determinism.

    Also with regards to the slide 10 of the presentation, in the deterministic cycle of how nature controls a soul usually there is a phase of ‘good deeds’ aren’t these the actions as per our apara dharma and should thus give us freedom, so how does this in a deterministic way lead to bad deeds further.

    Yes, when dharma is performed with the desire for results, then one ascends to heavenly planets, where one has more freedom to enjoy. However, when that good phase is over, the soul falls back to the earth. But because he is already accustomed to heavenly enjoyment, he is unable to accept that he no longer has the opportunities to enjoy. So, he starts performing bad deeds to enjoy.

    A poor man can live in poverty continuously. However, if that poor man becomes rich, and then poor again, he is unable to accept poverty the second time around. Material pleasure conditions a person to repeatedly seek that pleasure. If that pleasure is given and then taken away, the person has a harder time accepting it. So, after falling to the earth into human life, there is a very high chance of further falling down into animal existence due to the acclimatization to sense pleasure.

    This is of course not necessary. One can understand that there is pleasure and pain, and one has to adjust. But that realization is quite rare. Most people fall, and keep falling lower. This progressive degradation continues until one reaches rock bottom, and then progressive upliftment restarts. This is because a person who is already suffering a lot doesn’t mind some additional austerity. This is the general cycle. Free will is to change this general cycle, which means stopping the continuous degradation, starting the ascendence earlier than the general cycle, etc.

    But can we choose the modes (independent of spiritual life)? Or the only choice which Gita describes is to surrender to Krishna? Can you give a reference for this if possible?

    Yes, you can choose. Most people naturally sleep till 8 AM. But if they start a spiritual practice, they wake up at 4 AM. Initially, this is a struggle, because they are acting against their Guna. They have to set an alarm clock, splash their body with cold water to be awake, etc. It doesn’t come naturally. Why? Because the body is used to tamas and by choice we are forcing ourselves to sattva. This is free will.

    There is no reference for the obvious. For example, there is no Vedic text that says that the sky is blue. Vedic texts assume a certain culture and a class of people. If someone is lower than that, then instruction is not imparted to them. A level is always assumed before teaching.

    Also, what is the situation of a Jeevan Mukta as per 14.22-25? It feels he merely witnesses the modes acting now and does not engage the modes for a purpose.

    Witnessing the modes means detachment from the modes. Unless you are detached, you cannot witness. When you rise above tamas into rajas, then you can grasp the difference between rajas and tamas. But you cannot understand sattva yet. You will think that sattva is also tamas. This means if someone is not running around for economic development due to sattva, the person in rajas will say that he is lazy and incompetent due to tamas. Then, if you rise to sattva, you can understand the difference between sattva, rajas, and tamas. But you still cannot understand the person beyond the three modes. You will think that a person beyond the three modes is either in rajas or tamas. For example, if a devotee becomes angry against an atheist, a sattvic person will say: Why is he getting angry? He must be a tamasic person. Or, if he is working very hard to spread the knowledge of God, such a person will say: Why is he working so hard? He must be a rajasic person. So, even if you reach sattva, you cannot understand the state of transcendence. Only if you go beyond the three modes, can you see transcendence and the three modes clearly.

    The meaning of hierarchy is clear: We have to rise above a level and then we can see below that level. We cannot understand something higher from a lower level. So, the fact that rajas is higher than tamas means that a person in tamas cannot understand rajas. He will say: What is the use of running around, working so hard, and then getting a little bit of enjoyment? It is better to steal because it involves lesser effort, and then you can get the same amount of enjoyment.

    So, to understand something, one has to be in a state higher than the thing they are trying to grasp. Likewise, to explain something one has to have gone beyond that topic or subject. If they cannot explain, it means that they have not transcended it. For example, scientists cannot understand quantum mechanics today, nor can they explain it to anyone. This is because they are thinking of clocks and engines. Unless they go beyond that way of thinking, they cannot understand it. So, one has to rise higher, and then they can see something clearly and then explain it clearly.

    So, Jeevan Mukta is one who has transcended the three modes of material nature. He can observe everything clearly. And he can explain everything clearly. Detachment, observation, and explanation are interlinked. This is why jñāna is not possible without vairāgya. And vairāgya is not possible without bhakti. So, when there is bhakti, there is vairāgya. And where there is vairāgya, there is jñāna. However, to practice bhakti, there must be some jñāna and vairāgya. This is why the triad of jñāna-vairāgya-bhakti is stipulated. Bhakti sustains vairāgya, which sustains jñāna. So, materialistic people don’t have any jñāna. It is ignorance all the way.

    #14036
    Sri Vasudeva Das
    Participant

    Thank you for clarifying prabhuji

    #14520
    Sri Vasudeva Das
    Participant

    https://blog.shabda.co/2022/07/12/free-will-self-control-vs-other-control/

    Glad to see a wonderful article dedicated to this. This so clearly explains our role in the whole free will vs determinism. But in regards to this you explain how our free will is merely to dissociate with matter which you usually call ‘free won’t’ and associate with spiritual aspects which you call ‘free will’. So as we know we cannot control matter, so how does it happen with reference to the mechanism explained in the article. to choose the ‘Guna’ we associate with, which is not as per our Prakriti. This should be possible as even Krishna refers that in SB 11.19.37 that we can overcome our svabhav.

    #14528
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    The answer is already given in the post:

    The soul’s choice lies in associating or dissociating itself from matter and thereby changing the chitta, guna, and karma. For instance, as we associate with the world, we form new habits, impressions, and consequences of the association. When we dissociate, the old habits, impressions, and consequences slowly disappear. Through selective association and dissociation, we change our chitta, guna, and karma. When these three change, the successive mixtures produced by time also change. This is how we change our life—associate and dissociate, alter the chitta, guna, and karma, and then alter our life. Hence, free will is about changing our life rather than changing the world.

    The same thing was also mentioned earlier in this answer:

    The soul’s free won’t or free will are eternal. If we associate with material tendencies, that is a choice. And if we reject the material tendencies, that is also a choice. The accept-reject capacity is never reduced. However, what we are accepting or rejecting may be constrained. When we accept, consciousness moves outward and associates with the Guna. When we reject, consciousness moves inward and dissociates from the Guna. This inward and outward movement of consciousness is never impaired. Hence free will and free won’t is never diminished.

    The question you are asking above assumes that we don’t have the guna at all. That is not true.

    So as we know we cannot control matter, so how does it happen with reference to the mechanism explained in the article. to choose the ‘Guna’ we associate with, which is not as per our Prakriti.

    There is a famous saying: Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good and they fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, the one I feed the most.

    I have explained this earlier that change always happens due to contradictions. That is the fight between the dogs. Each side tries to dominate. But you can encourage one dog and discourage another one. The  good dog may be a needle in the haystack. If so, then keep rejecting the haystack and by method of elimination you will find the needle. You can decide to starve the bad tendencies in a moment, and never feed it again. Or, you can slowly starve the bad tendencies. That is up to you.

    Most of the time, most of the people, do it slowly. That means even as they are starving the bad tendencies, they are also feeding it sometimes. That elongates the process of purification. But if we ask them to starve their bad tendencies suddenly, then they will not be able to do anything. So, they can choose what they want. If someone doesn’t like the struggle, then what can we do?

    #14530
    Sri Vasudeva Das
    Participant

    Thank you Prabhuji, yes the question had the assumption that we don’t have the Guna. The post you quoted was also helpful.
    Thank you very much again.

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