Destiny & freedom of choice
THE SCIENCE OF SPIRITUALITY
Evolution of Consciousness Series
Sometimes I am caught up in a whirlpool of troubling thoughts: Why do tragedies happen to noble people who are so good? Especially, I have been thinking about the life of Mother Sita from the ancient Indian epic tale, the Ramayana. The Ramayana is the classic hero’s journey, as described by Joseph Campbell; a tale of good versus evil, where good eventually triumphs over evil in a great battle. But it is not a ‘happily ever after’ tale by any means. After being abducted by the evil Ravana, and rescued by her noble husband, the avatar Lord Rama, Mother Sita was then humiliated by him in public and who knows how many times behind closed doors in the palace. Eventually she was exiled to the forest without her husband, and finally swallowed up by Mother Earth.
Swami Vivekananda said about her, “To say that she was pure is a blasphemy. She was purity itself embodied – the most beautiful character that ever lived on Earth.” Despite everything that happened in the epic, she did not mind her sufferings or the injustice that was dealt to her. She stayed centred in her Lord. It was a tragic story on par with any of the greatest love stories of world literature. Lord Rama never remarried, always remained faithful to her, and ended his life by voluntarily walking into the Sarayu River.
Now, was this tragedy foretold? None other than the great Saptarishi Vashistha – one of the seven sages – prophesied her marriage to Lord Rama as the perfect match. According to this great Rishi nothing could go wrong, but instead their whole life was packed with misery to the extent that Lord Rama, the ‘all-knower’, rejected his wife so many times. Philosophers give all sorts of logical reasons and explanations, but nothing satisfies the heart. This fundamental question keeps coming to me – how is it possible that Rishi Vashishta fixed a supposedly perfect marriage and yet so many people suffered, especially the main actors in the epic, Lord Rama and Mother Sita?
Nothing makes any sense until we discover the understanding that Heartfulness gives to us about destiny and the consequences of our choices. And even then, many things are often misunderstood. For example, many people come to a spiritual path and Guide to relinquish all responsibility for their destiny, with the hope that the Guide will somehow wave a magic wand and their lives will become peaceful and harmonious, and all their troubles disappear. Times of crisis are also when most people turn to God, in desperation, with the hope that somehow he will fix their misery. But that is not what this life is about. It is one extreme end of the spectrum of possibilities and is a big misunderstanding.
Our lives are guided by our hearts,
and our hearts are constantly changing like the weather,
based on our samskaras – the impressions, habits, likes
and dislikes we have accumulated in the past.
Our lives are guided by our hearts, and our hearts are constantly changing like the weather, based on our samskaras – the impressions, habits, likes and dislikes we have accumulated in the past. But if samskaras are everything, if our destinies are everything, if the Gods have decided our futures, we would be like robots responding to a program. There would not be any need to take birth after birth; it would have ended a long time back.
Think about this: If our destiny is completely fixed, then why would we need to make choices? And are the choices that we make every day also determined by our destiny? If it were so, then why would we need to be concerned about ethics and the consequences of our actions? Why would we need to relinquish our desires?
Desires create problems; in fact the problems they create are what prevent our evolution. Many of these stem from our samskaras that have come from our past, and they trouble us. But what about the desires we create in the present environment? It is these desires that interfere with our destiny.
We always have the freedom to choose. Let me give you an example: say you want an iPhone, can that desire come from the past? There were no iPhones earlier to create that samskara in you, so where does your wish come from? It falls into a category of samskaras called ‘acquisitiveness’. It could be for an iPhone or a big house or a million dollars. This acquisitiveness in turn creates many other impulses or tendencies. It diverts us from our main destiny.
Going back to the Ramayana, could Lord Rama have chosen differently? Could he have done something for his wife? He could have announced, “I accept her as she is. I have full confidence in her purity,” but he did not. Instead he abandoned her and she was exiled to the forest for a second time, because he was influenced by his people, by their judgments and his sense of duty to them.
He tested Mother Sita’s purity by asking, “You were with Ravana for almost a year. Can you prove that you did nothing wrong?” Why did he ask this? He wanted his people to see and be convinced that the king’s wife was pure. She had no argument, for she knew that she was pure. She could walk through fire with confidence, and prove her sanctity and purity.
She also could have asked Lord Rama, “My beloved, you were also a year away from me. What did you do in the jungle alone?” but she kept quiet; she could not believe it. Lord Rama interrogated Mother Sita publically because of the pressure he felt to please his people. In this case, destiny was altered by the interference of others and the consequences of his choice.
Earlier in the epic there was another instance of interference, this time from family members, leading to the first exile of Rama and Sita. Rama’s father, King Dasharatha, had a younger wife who wanted her son to rule the kingdom instead of Rama. As a result of her influence over her husband, and Rama’s obedience and sense of duty, the couple were exiled to the forest where Ravana kidnapped Sita. Once again we could ask: Could Lord Rama have chosen differently?
In a similar way, we are also not islands. We are influenced by others and decisions are made on our behalf by so many people. Such interference changes destinies. Lord Rama did not have a difficult destiny in his fortune, but others created turbulence and the rest of the epic speaks for itself.
The second avatar of ancient India, Lord Krishna, tried to change people’s notion of duty. He said, “Yes, you must perform your duty as a king, as prescribed,” but hundreds of times during the great epic of the Mahabharata, he told Bhishma, “You are doing the wrong thing by pledging an oath of loyalty to the throne of Hastinapur. There is nothing like loyalty to a kingdom. Our loyalty is to the truth, to dharma. Take the side of right.” Bhishma didn’t understand these concepts because he was still living with the old values, with his sense of loyalty to the throne of Hastinapur.
Lord Krishna introduced a great concept: even if you perform a good action, with very noble, pious intentions, if it is done with some motive it will turn out to be a sinful action. Why? Because at the base of it is the desire of gratification for doing something good. This aspect, of doing good things for self-satisfaction, promotes and fuels the ego, and the ego is the biggest culprit that keeps us separate, not only from each other, but also from the Source itself.
Imagine there is a big ocean and we put an earthenware pot in it. It will quickly fill up with water, and the water inside the pot and outside is the same. Imagine balloons floating in the sky – there is air inside and outside, separated by plastic. We are like those earthenware pots and balloons, with our own individual existence immersed in the universal existence. We remain individuals floating in the entire existence, and we are like that because of our own individualized creation, which began with the first separation.
So how can we re-unite with the original Source once again? Heartfulness comes to our rescue with methods to transcend all that separates us, and it gives us a higher purpose to life, the ultimate destiny of re-uniting with the Source.
It is easy to read the following passage from the Bhagavad Gita: “You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.” We can understand the concept, but it is difficult to implement. Even for simple things like going to a restaurant to have lunch, we must plan; we must decide to walk or drive, choose which way to go, and go in a way that will not disturb the people around us.
The goal of our choices is always in sight, whether it is big or small. It is always there. How can I not think of the fruits before I engage myself in any action? Why would I not think of my higher goal before I attempt to meditate? We practice Heartfulness with this higher goal in mind. Is not the goal the fruit of our actions? We do not forget the result – we keep the goal in mind, and lead a lifestyle suitable for fulfilling that goal. Anything less and we fail. It is the same principle for an athlete, an astronaut or a spiritual seeker.
The fruit of our meditation and lifestyle changes is union with the highest principle – to be one with that Ultimate state. It is only possible when the drop merges with the ocean, and how can the water in the earthenware pot merge in the ocean? When the earthenware pot breaks.
Our dream is to bring about such oneness, such unity,
though we are separate individuals,
so that we dissolve into each other,
with harmony and mutual respect at the very least.
And with this harmony, with this unity, we will trigger a new society.
The earthenware pot within us is related to consciousness. There is no special entity called the ego that we can pinpoint and say, “The ego is here.” The ego has a lot to do with consciousness. If the sun and other stars were not there in the sky, what would happen? Imagine the color of space before creation; there was utter darkness, no light. The Vedas and Upanishads praise light so much, and that makes sense when we understand light as knowledge, light as Realization, light as understanding, light as a function of consciousness.
And knowledge and understanding are not absolute – they come in stages of enlightenment, as we continue on our inner journey towards a higher destiny. When we meditate for the first time, the oneness we feel is a certain experience. We feel peace, but that peace at the beginning is different from the peace we feel when entering the Cosmic Region, or the peace we feel at chakra 12. In chakra 2 of the heart region, the peace we feel is very intense, yet the peace we feel at chakra 12 is sublime and so different. There is no contradiction in it, no opposite to it. In the heart region, from chakras 1 to 5, all the worldly polarities or opposites remain. As we move into the cosmic region, there is a unity of a different order, and some time after crossing chakra 8, we can truly appreciate the meaning of bramacharya.
What is brahmacharya? One who dwells in Brahman all the time. It has nothing to do with celibacy. We transcend, by unifying the duality of the masculine and feminine currents within, the positive and negative polarities within. Everything settles down and we find absolute oneness from inside, though there may be so many contradictions all around us. Thus the state of brahmacharya finds its true meaning when we start dwelling in the cosmic region, Brahmanda Mandal.
Sublimating the ego dissolves all barriers so that we can become one with everything. We become one wholesome entity, no longer partisan towards this or that, no longer affected by likes and dislikes, and no longer suffering the gravitational pulls of the heart region. Our dream is to bring about such oneness, such unity, though we are separate individuals, so that we dissolve into each other, with harmony and mutual respect at the very least. And with this harmony, with this unity, we will trigger a new society.
The oneness within us will create oneness all around,
just as the world can only be at peace if we are individually at peace.
The world may be in a state of unrest,
but when each one of us is at peace it is a lot better.
And when there are many of us at peace there will be world peace.
There is a lot of talk about mutation, as mutation is the fastest way of evolution. Whatever genetic pattern we have inherited from our parents is fixed – as fixed as our destiny. But we have freedom of choice to change our destiny, and similarly we can also change our genetic pattern. For example, when we are angry, our thoughts become erratic. What happens to our heart rate? What happens to our blood pressure? All this affects the mind. The mind is not a neutral witness to what happens inside; even the physical structure of the brain is affected.
What happens when we are afraid, depressed or anxious? What happens when we are happy, joyful and inwardly peaceful? What happens to the fetus inside a mother who is reverential, understanding, wise, peaceful and compassionate? Neurotransmitters are released that promote wellbeing, so imagine the lasting effects mothers can have, not just by transferring their genetic code to their child, but also by their thoughts and behavior. This is called the science of epigenetics. The effects of the mother’s thoughts, the father’s thoughts, their behavior, environmental circumstances and television can change everything.
That is why the tradition in India was always to send a pregnant woman to her parents’ home. She was happier there, and did not have to work so hard in the fields. She could give creative time, quality time to the child growing inside her, and give birth in familiar, comfortable, loving surroundings. Our elders were wise and scientific, but they made a rule out of it so people would follow, and this became a religious ritual. This is how most rituals came into being.
Although the genes from parents are fixed, the environment plays a major role in the development of a fetus. External things change the epigenetic pattern. Likewise, although our destiny, our fate, our samskaras may be fixed, they can also be changed. It depends upon how flexible we are. We have the freedom to choose. And what brings about this flexibility? A mind and heart free of the rigidity of samskaras from the past.
If you want your destiny to be oneness, the first step is to be truthful. That is a choice you can make. Whatever you have in your heart, recognize it, become aware of it. It is a simple exercise to start with, and you will soon see how being truthful helps you to evolve so fast.
And if you like meditation, expand the possibilities that meditation can bring by remembering the five vowels – a, e, i, o, u. First acquire the condition by meditating. Then hold onto it, enrich it, give life to it by remembering it again and again; enliven it. Then imbibe it in every cell and ultimately in your heart. And then bring about oneness; unite with the one who gives it to us. It is very simple:
With every meditation,
with every condition that we acquire,
we must be able to enliven it,
and then be one with it,
unite with it.
The oneness within us will create oneness all around, just as the world can only be at peace if we are individually at peace. The world may be in a state of unrest, but when each one of us is at peace it is a lot better. And when there are many of us at peace there will be world peace. It is sufficient that we change ourselves – that is more than enough. If we try to change the world we will fail. The Heartfulness movement is not about changing the world, but the world will change when people embrace meditation.
Article by KAMLESH D. PATEL
November 01, 2017
November 01, 2017
November 01, 2017