Is the Individual Helpless? Where Is Our Freewill? – Part 28


In previous part 27, it attempted to show that the world which you experience everyday, consists of an endless combination of forms and color, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings.

Isn't that your experience?

From the moment we wake up in the morning, what happens?

Without effort, if eyes are working, sight of form and color takes place in the mind.

Without effort, if ears are working, hearing takes place in the mind.

Without effort, if nostrils are not congested, various smells are captured in the mind.

We need not do anything. Just wake up! And a world is captured in the mind (antaḥkaraṇa). A world of experiences effortlessly takes place.

Then we said the mind is mithyā, dependent.

Dependent on what? On Awareness of it.

Which means Awareness can't be any mind experience — no matter how subtle or profound, mystical or ordinary.

If Awareness was an experience, then if one person feels the experience of sadness, the entire world would be simultaneously sad.

This is obviously not the case.

For one person, there is Awareness of mind's suffering. For another person, there is Awareness of mind's peacefulness.

One Awareness. Two minds.

One Awareness. Eight billion minds. Makes no difference.

Even willingness to dispute above statement depends on Awareness.

There is Awareness of mind's thought which agrees.

There is Awareness of mind's thought which disagrees.

In other words, Awareness pervades in and through every thought of every individual.

Awareness is called ātmā (Self). Or satyam.

While ever-changing experiences are mithyā, dependent on never-changing satyam.

This is the crux of Vedanta. You (ātmā) are the underlining reality of everything in the universe.

Put another way: Awareness alone is real. Everything else is a modification of Awareness owning to māyā.

However our mind is ingenious — it creates new doubts which are certainly real and legit for the individual.

Therefore we never dismiss doubts or questions pertaining to the world.

Yes, the world is mithyā. But it doesn't justify one to dismiss the world. Else it's living in denial which can only give unhappiness.

Unfortunately most use Vedanta to escape the challenges of living. Such seekers setup an artificial bubble of safety. Fortunately it bursts.

However our student certainly is not an escapist nor denying reality. For this reason…

The student asks “So everything is the One Awareness. And the entire universe, including our body-mind, is a dependent-reality. The universe is a figment of One's imagination through power of maya. This sounds like individuals are helpless puppets of the master puppeteer?  In which case, where is the need for individual effort? Can we drift through life on the river of fate?”

” No, we cannot drift aimlessly.

Life is packed with effort.

There is not a moment when we do not work.

Our body functions ceaselessly when it's alive.

And our mind works incessantly.

There is no mind without thought.

And thinking is an effort, whether we are aware or not.

Every second we make a choice.

For example, I could tell you to walk onto a road with fast moving vehicles.

You won't do it!


Because you are human being with capacity for rational thinking.

Another name for rational thinking is discernment (viveka). Ability to choose “yes” or “no” on bases of our conclusion.

Discernment is the capacity to identify one from the other.

Discernment is freewill. They are synonymous words.

Freewill is freedom to will the car's steering wheel “left” or “right” on bases of my discernment.

However discernment is limited based on past knowledge and experience.

Meaning our freewill expands the more we are educated.

For example…

A victim threatened with a knife will exercise her freewill up to a certain point. Giving the wallet.

A Ninja threatened with a knife will exercise her freewill up to a certain point. Give wallet OR self-defense OR distract and hit in throat.

Whether it's an action, no action or a different action — eitherway an effortful choice is being made.

Therefore, effort, discernment, rational thinking and freewill are inseparable.  They are one mechanism looked at from four points of views.

If we choose to drift through life, it is a deliberate choice, an effort.

If we choose instead the path of Truth in search of a solution to our problems, it is also an effort.

Unaware of the truth of our self (ātmā), we separate ourselves from the world. We become subtle escape artists.

Escape to food. Escape to holiday. Escape to new lover. Escape to different book. Escape to another teacher. Always escaping outwards.

Such individual stands apart from the world isolated.

Fearing the world is against him or her.

Abandoned, one feels alone and helpless.

The stance of a human who distorts the meaning of freewill into one of fate (everything is predestined) — is like an antelope intentionally standing in Safari of lions.

Such mind wastes it's power of alertness and concentration on fear and anxiety or worry, which can be avoided through one's efforts.

Fear and anxiety is the price we pay for failing to discover the Truth.

Such failure produces experience of struggle in search for fulfillment.

And struggle prevents us from taking time to understand the root cause of fear and worry.

The cause is, we are born of our not-knowing who and what we are.

Since ignorance is the cause, knowledge must be the solution. Knowledge of our self, called self-knowledge (brahmavidyā).

When we choose the path of knowledge which ultimately leads to liberation (freedom from limitation; mokṣa) — it too involves effort.

Therefore, immediately release the notion that everything is destined to happen, and we are a mere witness to our misery.

This false notion of “fate” is deeply ingrained in all cultures. First step is to let go this dis-empowering idea.

We cannot be studio props in the theater of the world. Then it's better to be born of an carnivorous animal who is denied freedom to enjoy vegetarian for even one meal in it's lifetime.

As human beings, we are actors and act we must, selecting the script of self-knowledge.

This requires an alert, contemplative and disciplined mind. “

The student asks How can we discipline our mind when our perception is prone to subjectivity? Every mind is clouded by traces of prejudice. Freewill is meant to offer us choice. But choice is determined by our individual prejudices (or ego). How can we OVERCOME the pull of ego influencing where and how much freewill is to be exercised? “

” Understand that sense of individuality (ego) itself is a dependent-real, with no real existence.

All prejudices depend on Awareness of them.

Just like all objects (thoughts) in a room (mind) depend on the one light (Awareness) to illumine them.

Awareness is your real nature.

Meaning, you (Awareness) are actually free of all prejudices in the mind.

Knowing this much, we should not use this understanding to fall into trap of denial or escapism from a troubled mind.

Large proportion use Vedanta to escape from life, to avoid confronting what needs urgent attention. This is irresponsible and immature use of free will.

Every prejudice through our effort should be questioned and challenged. For how long? Until it's pull is neutralized or weakened.

An example of a prejudice is, “I need to please everyone at cost of my happiness“. Or “All gurus are frauds!“. Or “I'm not smart enough to figure this out!“. Or jealousy of another's fortune.

Eliminating such deeply rooted judgements of others and oneself is supposed to be challenging at first, effortful and time consuming.

Find me one worthwhile pursuit in life which doesn't take lot of time, energy and effort!

However the rewards of neutralizing prejudices (unhelpful biases, beliefs or values) are enormous.

It leads to total objectivity. I see things as they really are. My filters are no longer distorting reality“.

Moksha (liberation) is result of clarity of mind.

Clarity comes from objectivity.

Objectivity comes from effort to look into one's prejudices. Then weakening them by doing a counter-action or thinking a counter-thought.

Effort implies freedom to will. I will ___!

Freewill is a privilege a human being.

Since we are humans, there is no excuse to not succeed.

If you want to use the word “fate”, then it can only apply in one single context: You are fated to succeed because you're given the capacity of free will, else you'd be born an animal. 

In other words, the all-knowing Lord doesn't make mistakes.  “

Conversation in part 29 is result of student's false over-confidence in free will. “Since I have freewill to succeed in realizing my nature, then what's the point of the teacher (guru)?”


  1. Q & A from readers:

    …we are not willing or powerless to take action to change. How does one overcome this problem. ?

    In fact this is the main challenge.

    We can select one weakness of ours. EG: Tendency to quickly judge a situation without second thought.

    We set goal for 1 day. Whatever thoughts come today about anyone, I will follow up with  “Is this really true or it’s my limited opinion?”.

    Where to find empowering values to live by? Can find in book called “Value of Values”, by Swami Dayananda

    Contains 20 values from Lord Krishna to live by. Try to live each for 1 week.

    I am more concerned about the fact that we are aware of the consequences but not act ? I think that is the most fundamental problem.

    Indeed. It’s a deeper problem not covered in article. Excellent thinking.

    To rephrase: We know what we SHOULD do. We even find it easy to LECTURE others. But we don’t do it ourselves.

    Reason is:

    There are universal values. EG: Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t hurt.

    There are personal values. EG: Money is important. Keeping my job is crucial.

    If there is opportunity to make money or keep the job by lying (like inflating one’s qualifications), most will take advantage.

    Why is this? Because we don’t see the COST of lying or cheating.

    The COST is: It will create guilt, shame, lowers self-confidence,  creates mental agitation in the future. Prevents liberation (which needs a dharmic mind), which leads to another rebirth.

    So the answer is: We must get clear that the COST is way greater then the REWARD of lying.

    If we don’t do this, we’ll continue gladly lying, cheating.

    …what is the use of prayer, when Ishvara is neutral.

    Yes, Īśvara is neutral.

    For example, suppose you drop a precious cup from your grandparents.

    While the cup is falling, no amount of prayer, is going to suspend the law of gravity.

    In above example, prayer is useless, irrational and silly.

    But where prayer does become useful is understanding it is an ACTION.

    Every ACTION has a REACTION.

    Every CAUSE (prayer) has an EFFECT.

    This is the law of universe. Law of karma.

    So how does prayer ACTION help? For example, it encourages the mind with confidence and positivity.

    Confident/positive state of mind in turn modifies one’s actions.

    Actions in turn produce consistent EFFECTS/RESULTS.

    ORDER: Prayer > influences state of mind > influences thinking > influences actions > produces results.

    For eg: Pray to get secure job > increases confidence > employer picks up your positivity > you get hired.

    Therefore prayer can help in above example.

    We need to look at prayer as an action. No different then any other action meant to make life easier.

    Prayer or rituals (basically entire karma-kāṇḍa section of Vedās) is just another MEANS to help you move forward.

  2. Hi. I’m new to this group so please excuse any oddities. I have been studying Advaita for about 5yrs. (Nisargadatta, Ramana, T. Gray and R. Balsekar)
    Do they not very clearly state that we do not have ‘freewill’ ? We do not live our lives, we are lived? Allowing ourselves to be lived is an important aspect of detachment.
    I’m not particularly good at it but that’s what I understand them to have said.

    1. Hi Hugh,

      Common question.

      Yes, Nisargadatta, Ramana and especially Balsekar (the most prominent on absence of free will) certainly implied lack of free will.

      Balsekar did most damage with this false message on freewill. Adding massive confusion and delay to seekers sincere desire for freedom.

      Regarding all names mentioned…


      Just because someone may know the truth, it does NOT qualify them to CLEARLY explain or teach.

      So what if we have the best mathematician. It doesn’t mean he can explain step-by-step how to arrive to the equation.

      A knower AND a knower-plus-teacher are TWO different people.

      Most of our gurus, especially the one’s Westerns are attracted to, are knowers.

      A knower teaching a fellow seeker leads to more false notions then corrections. That’s why we have abundance of seekers from knower types, stating 20-40 years later, they didn’t learn anything significant, even though it felt like it at the time. This is because it’s not traditional methodology, but random sections from Upanishads, without any structure.

      Whereas a knower-plus-teacher leads to CLARITY.


      Context is everything. If a statement is out of context, it is prone to MISINTERPRETATION.

      That’s why 40 years later, minds continue quacking 1 liner statements like “There’s no free will”, “There is only Self”. But they’re superficial intellectual statements. Lacks depth.

      We first have to ask, what kind of people went or go to to Nisargadatta, Ramana , Balsekar , OSHO, Mooji, Gangai, Andrew Cohen, etc?

      Entry level, confused, beginner spiritual seekers. Mainly looking for escape from hardships of life.

      Indian families with children, dropouts (unwilling to be involved in the world), busy people, successful people. All walks of life.

      Meaning each answer had to be customized to each seekers stage of life.

      Then when we put all the given answers inside a single book, it’s literally filled with contradictions. Which creates further distortions in the readers mind.

      In fact, it’s not different today. Most spiritual seekers are escapees, rebels, self-deniers. Angry with the world.

      In other words, unwilling to participate in the world. Unwilling to step up.

      And such escapism or laziness absolutely adores statements like “I have no control over anything. There’s no free will. We are puppets”. Because it justifies the persons lack of purpose, lack of courage to ACT.


      Imagine walking into a math class and being taught addition, then algebra, then calculus, then subtraction, then trigonometry, then multiplication.

      What kind of a disorganized class is that? No order. No logic. A rational person would walk out immediately and seek a proper teacher.

      Thus when spiritual seeker lets go of these famous partial gurus with no structure in the teaching, no order, no Sanskrit… finally will the seeker progress more in 1 month then 40 years of following aforementioned names.

      Again, we’re not putting down anyone. Only making a distinction between: Knower (AND) Knower-plus-Teacher.

  3. Absolutely wonderful teachings Andre… I’ve learnt so much from you and removed a lot of ignorance.

    I’m wondering, how did you learn the rules of Logical thinking?

    I learnt thinking clearly from Eli Goldratt, a Physicist, who created or discovered the Theory Of Constraints and The Thinking Tools all base on Logic…

    I’m still learning and you are a true inspiration my friend 😍

    1. Delighted to hear John. There are indeed layers of mini-ignorances to get rid of, and my mind is no exception. So it’s ongoing work for all. Regarding logic, it’s mostly product of 12+- years of business/sales; involving analytical thinking & deductive reasoning.

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