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Is life predestined? || IIT Bombay (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Questioner (Q): There are some scriptures in the Hindu tradition which suggest that everything we do is predestined and we are actually being controlled by Brahman . If that is the case, what is the incentive for me to put any hard work into my life?

Acharya Prashant (AP): No, there is no such scripture, please. Or if there is I do not know; kindly come and quote! At least over the last one decade, in fact more than that, I have been absorbed in scriptures, and never have I come across anything that suggests that Brahman controls the strings of this universe. No, no way. All that is just popular iconography. Those things are figments of popular culture and imagination. This is not spirituality. This is some kind of fatalism that Vedanta has nothing to do with.

You, as you are, are the ego—first thing—and the ego is characterized by choice. If there is no choice, the ego is gone. So, you have choice. Nobody is operating you through a remote control from some other loka (world). You have choice. Now, that choice can be a boon or a bane. It depends on you. Choose rightly, and life is heavenly. Choose wrongly, and you will live as commoners do.

So, you are aham (ego), and aham is aham precisely because it at least thinks it has choice. And you are choiceless in having a choice. Even if you tell yourself you don’t have a choice, it is a choice you have made. You are condemned to be a choosing agency.

So, choose rightly and do not play the dirty game of attributing your wrong choices to some god. If you suffer today, it is because somewhere you have been making wrong choices. Now, do not say this is what God has had in store for you. No, it is not about your horoscope or God or something; don’t even call it a random event. Random events can inflict pain on you; suffering is always a choice. You chose wrongly, therefore you suffered.

Advaita Vedanta is a thing of immense power— immense power. It takes away everything that is feeble within you. It won’t allow you to continue feeling a victim of circumstances. It will take away everything from you that makes you lifeless, dull, insipid, fragile, fearful—none of that will be allowed to remain. That’s Vedanta for you.

And that is why Vedanta is the mother of all Indian philosophies and religious streams. Irrespective of where you are coming from in India, directly or obliquely, you are a Vedanti. In fact, I dare say that everything in the world that is beautiful today actually has its philosophical roots in Vedanta. If there is something that can be called as the core of Indian religion, rather all religiosity, it is Vedanta. You can’t be religious if you do not have anything to do with Vedanta. And if you are religious, then you are a Vedanti even if you haven’t ever studied Vedanta.

Vedanta is the very essence of religion. Vedanta is spirituality itself. I didn’t say one particular religion; I said religion, Dharma .

Q: If God is unbiased, why is there so much suffering in the world and why do people suffer differently? And if suffering is due to the person’s past karma, why should we offer the fellow help at all or stand against injustice?

AP: No, no, you are coming to me with a lot of stories—too many stories. And you are taking your stories as absolute and you want me to participate in your stories. You are saying, “If God is unbiased, why is there so much suffering in the world and why do people suffer differently? And if there is somebody suffering, why should we offer the fellow help at all?” and such things.

First of all, let’s address the fundamental assumption. The fundamental assumption is that there is something called a God who made the world, and that justice or equanimity must be a value with that God. You are projecting and probably not even realizing that you are projecting, or maybe, as I said, you have a stake in that projection.

Why do you think that, first of all, a creating entity, a creator does exist in the same way this world exists? Secondly, why do you think that all the values that you hold dear to your chest must be espoused by that God as well? You like somebody to be merciful to you, so you say, “Oh, God is merciful.” How do you know God is merciful? Are you bigger than God? Have you penetrated God’s head—if there exists somebody called God at all in the first place.

Please see, let’s go step by step. What we are doing is: in this world, we find that everything that stands created has a creator as well, correct? So we extrapolate; we say, “You know, this mobile phone, for example, came from a factory. There was a creating agency; there was a principle involving causation. Similarly, this universe is there, the planets are there, so there has to be a creator.”

Don’t you see what you are doing? You are taking yourself as the absolute. You are saying, “Because in my world and my experience everything has a creator, therefore this universe must have a creator.” So, what is at the core of your argument? You are at the center of your argument. You are saying, “It is my experience and my experience is absolute; therefore the world must have a creator.” If this argument is to hold, then the world has only one creator and that is you, because you are the absolute in your own eyes.

Look at the construction of the argument, please. These are very juvenile, childish things—some God sitting somewhere and deciding to create the universe one fine day, and he has nothing better to do than control the strings and pull up someone and punish the other one and reward someone and answer prayers and do this and that. These things are good for five-year-olds.

The world as you perceive it is your own creation. Kindly do not attribute some other creating agency.

Therefore, Advaita Vedanta has no space for God. Ātman or Brahman are not God. Truth is not God. In fact, there are only two kinds of people in the world: one, who speak the language of God or absence of God—theists and atheists, they belong to one bracket—and then there are those who speak the language of Truth.

If you speak the language of God and no God and such things—“I believe in God, I don’t believe in God” and there are huge debates—then essentially you are an egoist. Not only are you an egoist, you want to continue being an egoist because the God that man talks of is nothing but his ego. And the God that man denies is, again, nothing but his ego. So, I bracketed these two together: theists and atheists. And then there are those who want to transcend themselves, who want to go beyond the ego. They say, “The ego is, for sure, false. I want to proceed into the Truth.” That is an entirely different category, a different dimension.

When you start seeing the falseness within, then all this that you call as the creation also starts dissolving for you, starts losing its meanings. The two stand together and fall together—the experiencer and the experienced object, the seer and the seen. When you want to come to the Truth, then both these suffer a dissolution, and that is called spiritual progress. That is called alleviation of suffering.

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