Dealing with Loss. Fatalism & Freewill. What is Will of God? (104)


Lesson 104 speaks about your relationship to time, healthy attitudes towards loss/destruction, compares freewill-fate-fatalism and what it means to surrender to Will of God (dharma).

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11: Verse 32, 33, 34, 35


  • Arjuna’s likes/dislikes are temporarily suspended, by which his vision becomes sensitive to realities previously neglected.
    • He initially expresses wonderment, seeing magnitude of Viśva rūpa, which encompasses universe along with time. Because time is intrinsic property of universe. (Demonstrated via deep sleep in previous session).
  • And time (kāla) is two fold śakti:
    • Creative / manifestation principle.
      • Because there is a time factor attached to any object manifesting (micro/macro).
    • Destructive / unmanifestation principle.
      • The very same time is the cause of decay, aging, disappearance of objects/universe.
      • So time from standpoint of destructive śakti is named Lord Śiva in Vedic culture.
      • Furthermore, we’ve seen this all pervading time is symbolized as mouth of Īśvara, devouring or swallowing living beings who are rushing into His mouth. Like rivers gushing into the One ocean or insects flying into flame of lamp.
        • This Arjuna couldn’t totally accept because seeing reality partially.
  • Then Arjuna, confused/frightened, says “I see you destroying everything. Are you Viṣṇu protector, or Śiva destroyer? What is your function, I don’t know? Where is place for compassion, seeing everything eaten?
  • Bhagavān answers 32-34…

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, Verse 32

kālaḥ asmi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddhaḥ
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ
ṛte api tvām na bhaviṣyanti sarve
ye avasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ
The Lord said – I am the mighty Time, the destroyer of the world. I am proceeding to destroy the people here. All the warriors who are arrayed in both the armies will cease to exist even without you.

  • Kālaḥ asmi: Bhagavān answer, I am reality of time itself.
    • Meaning the attitude one has of time reveals one’s understanding of Īśvara.
      • That’s why a true bhakta enjoys a devotional attitude while living. Because living is time, and time is Īśvara, who I am at one with.
      • Meaning even time itself can be used as reminder of presence of Īśvara here and now.
      • To understand time better, let’s look at the One Reality from 2 standpoints:
        • Vyāvahārika satyam:
          • Empirical, transactional universe of time-space-objects.
          • Seeming duality of opposites.
            • EG: Arrival-departure. Up-down. Growth-decay. Union-separation. Birth-death. Dharma-adharma.
          • Mithyā resolving into mithyā.
          • 3 states of experience.
          • Creation, maintenance, destruction. Born. Is. Gone.
          • It is governed by laws-orders such as:
            • Law of karma: cause-effect.
            • Law of dharma: intrinsic moral principles that sustain harmony in universe.
              • To gain knowledge and take a stand in dharma takes time.
              • Therefore the best way of devotion to Īśvara is by aligning oneself each day to dharma. How? By involving oneself in śāstra.
              • Why should I live according to dharma? Because dharma makes your thinking in harmony with the WHOLE.
              • What is WHOLE referring to?…
        • pāramārthika satyam:
          • Truth of vyāvahārika. No pairs of opposites. Brahman.
          • Only way for intellect to fully capture pāramārthika – is by having a healthy relationship to vyāvahārika.
  • What is a healthy relationship to vyāvahārika in reference to destruction? Seeing destruction/loss is as necessary as creation.
    • For example, without destruction:
      • Can’t grow. It’s growth that brings joy.
      • Unable to develop a healthy mind because maturing is replacing old notions with new.
        • EG: If mind is not ripe, then it will distort reality of pāramārthika, and live in it's own imagination.
    • What is a healthy mind in context of embracing loss/destruction? Asking:
      • What is cause of thoughts coming to my mind right now?
      • How will I use my freewill today?
        • Exercising jñāna (know), iccha (desire), kriyā (do).
        • 2 options in freewill:
          • Doing things differently.
          • Doing nothing. (Deliberate, wisdom-based non-action).
            • Because it's not important (according to understanding).
            • Because of fear. EG: I'm a nice person, so I'll let it go. Like Yuddhisthira.
      • Understanding, if you don't embrace Īśvara as destroyer, then one puts destruction into category of: Devil, sin.
        • And when see sin winning over benevolence (God) in the world, person concludes: Who wants God (one that’s unable to fight sin/evil in the world)?
      • Acknowledging old moment has to go to give rise to new moment.
  • So in context of Mahābhārata, sarve na bhaviṣyanti: right now, my function is destroying these people who have allotted enough past pāpa-karma, thus can’t escape the momentum of their inevitable destruction.
    • Therefore Arjuna, ṛte api tvām: their destruction is going to happen whether you’re involved or not.
  • Furthermore, pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ: soldiers on both sides, whether dharma/adharma, will have to die, because of the situation they find themselves in.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, Verse 33

tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha yaśaḥ labhasva
jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyam samṛddham
mayā eva ete nihatāḥ pūrvam eva
nimitta-mātram bhava savya-sācin
Therefore get up (and) attain fame. Conquering the enemies, enjoy the prosperous kingdom. Indeed, they have been already killed by Me. Be a mere instrument Oh ! Arjuna, the ambidextrous bowman.

  • Because their time has come to perish, and the momentum is too great, this war of destruction WILL happen.
  • Krishna motivates Arjuna:
    • If you do get involved, you will enjoy name and fame for protecting side of dharma.
    • If you run away from world, in your own comfort zone, gullably believing you can get away with overriding dharma with personal likes-dislikes… then you will gain an unpleasant position (including next lifetime)… even pāpa-karma.
      • Because a kṣatriya has relinquished his duty. Called pratyavāya dośa (omission).
        • What is omission? Denying what is facing me right now.
    • Knowing this Arjuna, you decide.
  • mayā eva ete nihatāḥ pūrvam eva: All these people like Bhīṣma, Droṇa, Karṇa have already been destroyed by Me, because their prārabdha-karma has reached the next logical step… elimination.
    • The means of elimination varies (disease, war) – but elimination is inevitable.
  • Because of their inevitability, he savya-sācin: Even if you use just your left hand in battle, they will all fall.
    • Just act, that’s all that’s needed to fulfill your svadharma (getting involved with what’s facing me, according to my strengths/talents).
      • EG: Hostile person VS Negotiator & Policeman.
  • nimitta mātram bhava: may you become instrument in My hands. Do not waste time protesting, running away from life into other seemingly easier paths, nor complain of your apparent shortcomings.
    • Instead, be My mere instrument of eliminating adharma, because their destruction is assured.
    • It seems Bhagavān is saying:
      • Arjuna, you are only an instrument, a puppet in hands of the Lord.
      • Everything is already decided in advance. You’re only here to fulfill My Will.
      • Everything is pre-determined. This was meant to happen according to grand script.
    • This line is boost to fatalistic thinkers. “We are humble puppets on a stage… dancing on a string. Just surrender. Free-will is an illusion. Bhagvān is karta/bhokta”.
      • Irony is it creates self-fulfilling prophecy.
        • EG: I don’t believe I have freewill, then won’t respond appropriately. Which will produce undesirable results. Which validates “my fate is a hard life”.
    • So let’s analyse this line…
    • It implies two arguments:
      • Everything is already determined.
      • Consequently be only an instrument. And any resistance to being God’s puppet, produces pain.
    • Firstly, rejection of freewill is against teaching of śāstram.
    • In śāstra, fate (what is happening to me now) is defined: result of actions done in past (includes prior lives).
      • Fate/destiny = Karma phalam (fruits of actions).
      • In Sanskrit, fate/destiny is called: prārabdha.
      • In Vedic horoscope, planetary position at time of birth are indicators of prārabdha.
        • Just like Fuel-meter (planetary position) indicates petrol (prārabdha) responsible for moment of car.
          • Therefore it’s not position of planets that influences life. But prārabdha does.
    • What is difference between FATE and FATALISM?
      • FATALISM:
        • If think that fate alone determines everything = fatalism.
          • In fatalism, freewill is rejected. Everything determined in advance. Pre-determined.
        • Creates 2 distortions:
          • Doesn’t take responsibility for hurts onto others, and other’s hurts onto self.
          • Blames a higher power for everything. Escapist route.
        • Minor advantage in isolated cases:
          • Since Bhagavān is never unjust, then He is giving me suffering to purify me. Makes hardships more bearable.
          • EG: Sections in Rāmāyaṇa imply fatalism.
      • FATE:
        • If say that interplay of fate AND freewill decide your future = śāstra / proper knowledge.
    • Ādi Śaṅkara mentions 6 logical inconsistencies about notion of “everything is predetermined” (absence of freewill):
      • Inconsistency #1: Īśvarasya samāritvam.
        • Since Īśvara is doing everything (karta/bhokta), then according to Law of Karma:
          • Whoever is doer of any action, must reap karma-phalam in form of puṇya/pāpa.
          • Meaning all our sañcita, āgāmi, prārabdha goes to Bhagavān.
        • And whoever has puṇya-pāpa is a saṃsāri.
        • Saṃsāri means unknowingly entangled in false notions (I don’t know what I don’t know).
          • Meaning Īśvara is the most ignorant one, who mixes up truth/falsehood.
          • However since everything is Īśvara, this contradicts our experience, because our viveka clearly can discern truth/falsehood.
      • Inconsistency #2: jīvasya asamāritvam.
        • Since jīva’s don’t get karma-phalam (since it all goes to God), that means jīva is free from puṇya/pāpa.
        • But freedom from puṇya/pāpa is mokṣa.
        • Mokṣa is contentment with what-is / clarity / non-confused.
          • But this contradicts jīva’s behavior constantly modifying circumstances to suit it’s likes/dislikes. Implying discontent.
      • Inconsistency #3: Nairgrinnyam doṣa (compassionless)
        • If God does everything, and nothing is in our hands… then all wars, diseases, false claims, poverty is because of God.
        • Which means God is not compassionate… but a sadist… responsible for all unpleasantness.
        • Furthermore, if He is omniscient/omnipotent… why can’t He put end to all suffering?
      • Inconsistency #4: Vaiṣamya doṣam (partiality).
        • If Lord is doer/enjoyer, then it creates a love/hate relationship to divinity.
        • Since people don’t enjoy uniformly, it means God is partial.
      • Inconsistency #5:
        • Since Bhagavān is doer of all actions, then jīva (instruments) don’t need to know proper/improper action.
        • Dharma śāstra is futile because He is author of Dharma.
        • Contradicts our experience, which is desire to evolve (dharma). Implying presence of free will.
      • Inconsistency #6:
        • Since we’re only instruments, it means we don’t have freewill. And not having freewill = no conflict in life, since don’t need to choose course of action.
        • Reality is, we all experience conflict every day (should I snooze extra 5 min or get up), because we’re in a helpless position of having to choose A/B.
          • Wherever there is option of choice making (freewill), there is conflict.
          • Meaning: Freewill, choice, conflict are always together.
        • So the very fact that we experience conflict… indicates we are blessed with capacity to choose… called freewill.
        • If there was no freewill, you wouldn’t feel any conflict or need to think.
        • What’s more, according to śāstra, only animals are free of conflict, because they’re not blessed with freewill. So they are instrument of instincts based on environmental circumstances.
          • EG: Cow doesn’t have conflict whether to go veg/non-veg. Because it’s program is: grass = survival.
        • Animals VS Humans:
          • Animals: Only fate contributes present.
          • Humans: Fate & freewill contributes present.
    • SUMMARY: Our future is constantly shaped by present freewill (planning, thinking), interacting with present fate.
    • Again, why did Krishna say, nimitta mātram bhava? What do you mean by “become an instrument”?
      • To become instrument of God means to align oneself with His laws-orders through dharmic actions. Because harmony of universe is governed by dharma.
      • So through gift of freewill, we can either:
        • Choose dharma (what is healthy for me and the other, now and in future. More in CH13).
          • Dharma = Surrendering to Will of God (per religion).
          • Meaning, I put my intellectual knowledge of dharma above emotional attachments.
        • Submit to bondage of rāga/dveṣa.
      • Therefore when gift of freewill is aligned with dharma śāstra, you become instrument of Īśvara, which has unimaginable rewards in future.
  • According to dharma, Arjuna’s duty is to fight the war because he is a kṣatriya (protector of society).
    • But before fight, Arjuna’s likes/dislikes arose with a narrative: Bhīṣma, Droṇa are my dear family.  Hence conflict between dharma/adharma in Arjuna’s mind.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, Verse 34

droṇam ca bhīṣmam ca jayadratham ca
karṇam tathā anyān api yodha-vīrān
mayā hatān tvam jahi mā vyathiṣṭhāḥ
yudhyasva jetā asi raṇe sapatnān
Kill Droṇa, Bhiṣma, Jayadratha, Karna, as well as other great warriors (who are already) killed by Me. Do not fear. Fight, you will conquer the enemies in battle.

  • Mayā hatān: According to law of karma and dharma… Droṇa, Bhīṣma, Jayadratha, Karṇa are already dead. Their next life is setup.
    • Yes, Droṇa is your guru, but he is on side of adharma. And universal Dharma is more important then individual guru. So Arjuna, use your viveka to see this. You are fighting for what is eternal.
    • In case of Arjuna, he is explicitly told what is fate of his dear ones. In our case, fate is unknowable.
      • Even astrology isn’t entirely accurate. Because our past freewilled actions have changed fate many times over.
      • So in our case, can’t say to sick person “She’s already dead. Why go extra mile to take care of soon-to-be-corpse!”. Because that’s adharmic thought which will sting back in future as guilt/shame.
  • mā vyathiṣṭāḥ: For this reason, don’t be upset.
  • Yudhyasva (fight): Just like policeman doesn’t say “I don’t touch gun”, in same way boldly and proudly take to this battle because you are born kṣatriya.
    • Unlike a brāḥmana, he can sit and study all day.
  • Finally, Krishna reassures Arjuna he will win the war, not because he is powerful, but Dharma is on his side.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, Verse 35

sañjayaḥ uvāca
etat śrutvā vacanam keśavasya
kṛta-añjaliḥ vepamānaḥ kirīṭī
namaskṛtvā bhūyaḥ eva āha kṛṣṇam
sagadgadam bhīta-bhītaḥ praṇamya
Sañjaya said – having heard these words of Krishna, the trembling Arjuna saluted and, bowing down with great fear, falteringly spoke to Krishna once again with joined palms.

  • Sañjaya mentions Arjuna’s condition…
  • Arjuna understands Bhagavān is not responsible for sufferings/enjoyments of anyone.
    • Bhagavān’s function is karma-phala-dātā according to jīva’s actions.
    • EG: A murderer is already dead even before he faces the judge in court.
      • It’s not the judge who sends the killer to prison, but killers own actions.
      • Judge’s only function is to uphold/reaffirm the existence of dharma.
  • How does this apply to Lord’s compassion?
    • Lord’s compassion doesn’t mean He alters karma-phalam (results of past actions).
    • Compassion is in form of maintenance of universal orders, like law of karma. EG:
      • Lord compassionately delivers pāpa-phalam (undesirable fruits) to one who is irresponsible. Since irresponsibility hurts others.
      • And when irresponsible person corrects her/her decisions, Bhagavān compassionately brings puṇya-phalam (desirable fruits).
    • Meaning God has no power to create exceptions for anyone. No pardon is given.
      • EG: Suppose parachute doesn’t open, and you pray to compassionate Lord to stop gravity. No matter how many donations/good causes you gave in past… God won’t suspend gravity for you.
        • Else millions will die around the world, floating up then falling down.
      • In other words… laws have to continue uninterrupted for universe to work harmoniously.
        • Just like traffic light has to give Red, even if it means the extra 5 sec waiting = death of sick person in car.
    • So Arjuna’s question of “What is function of Bhagavān respect to jīvās?” is answered:
      • Lord is dharma rāja and karma phala dātā.
      • All-knowledge-power is neither cruel nor compassionate.
  • Understanding the 2 impersonal functions of God, what does this mean to us (relative person)?
    • If any pāpa karma brings suffering, attitude is of acceptance, and not complaining.
    • How to accept pāpa-karma?
      • Every time something unpleasant happens to me, that’s one more pāpa-point Meaning less pāpam weight to bear in future.
        • Can be observed in young children. Once intellect sufficiently develops, they’re attracted to accident prone events.
          • This is mixture of past life habits and this life events. Eitherway, it’s pāpa exhaustion as it teaches child what is self-hurtful.
  • If Law of Karma has to take it’s course, what’s the point of praying / prāyaścitta-karma? Isn’t it waste of time?
    • Prāyaścitta-karma is a puṇya-karma. Which is opposite of pāpa. So it has a neutralizing force. EG:
      • If stone is falling DOWN towards head, don’t have to wait to suffer. Can throw another stone UP to neutralize the force.
      • If take allergy reacting food, don’t have to suffer. Can counter with neutralizing medicine.
      • In physics, called: Law of resultant forces.
      • Hence prāyaścitta creates āgāmi-karma which can neutralize prārabdha.
    • Objection: I’ve done prayer / prāyaścitta-karma, but didn’t neutralize unpleasant event.
      • It means force of āgāmi is lesser compared to prārabdha.
        • EG: If meteor falling, no amount of throwing rocks is going to neutralize it’s momentum.
      • Therefore, neutralization depends on relative strength of prāyaścitta & prārabdha.
      • EG: If ask if doctor can cure your disease, doctor says: depends on 3 conditions…
        • Condition is totally curable.
          • EG: injection, surgery removal.
        • Condition is partially curable.
          • EG: Take lifelong tablets. Disease can be managed, but not totally eliminated.
        • Condition has no remedy.
          • EG: AIDS, cancer.
        • Meaning can never say definitively if prārabdha can be neutralized, because prārabdha is made up of many past conditions. There’s no one individual prārabdha.
  • keśavasya etad vacanam śrutvā: Arjuna’s knowledge gathers that Lord is neither cruel nor all-compassionate.
    • In presence of Īśvara, laws-orders are meticulously coordinated according to each jīva’s prārabdha.
  • vepamānaḥ: Arjuna is trembling, realizing he also can’t escape his own position to be in this battlefield and kill his guru/grandsire.
    • Just as you can’t escape gravity. It’s always acting on you. No point resisting it. No question of liking/disliking gravity.
    • We can only surrender to presence of ever present law-order called gravity.
    • In reference to surrendering to dharma: Surrender is a physical expression of intellectual appreciation of cause-effect (law of karma).
  • bhīta-bhītaḥ: Arjuna frightened seeing inescapability of dharma/karma.
    • Initially fear is reaction.
    • Through time, converts to bhakti. No point of finite individual resisting the infinite force of dharma.
  • Thus, bhūyaḥ eva āha kṛṣṇam namaḥ kṛtvā: Arjuna gives namaskāra, indicating surrender of personal will to the Will of God.
  • However, sagadgadam, Arjuna has a choked voice. He speaks as if unable to assimilate what he saw.
    • This is because artificial divya-cakṣuḥ (EG: temporary drug experience) is not born from natural comprehension, but through help of emotional high… giving convincing appearance of permanent knowledge.
    • Natural divya cakṣuḥ is gained through karma yoga.
  • Seeing the vastness of Bhagavān’s power, Arjuna praises Him between 36-44…
    • We will see attitudes of a ripened bhakta.


Keywords: adi sankara, agami, bhagavan, bhishma, bhisma, brahmana, cakshu, caksu, dharma raja, drona, ishvara, isvara, jnana, kala, karma phala data, karna, kriya, ksatriya, kshatriya, moksa, moksha, namaskara, papa, paramarthika, prarabdha, prayascitta, prayashcitta, punya, ramayana, sakti, samsari, sanchita, sancita, sanjaya, sastra, shakti, shankara, shastra, shiva, siva, vishnu, vishva, visnu, visva rupa, vyavaharika

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 1 Dec, 2020


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