Free Will vs Destiny

“What’s the truth of destiny versus free will? Well, the real truth of it is that they’re both true simultaneously.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

It’s the ultimate bout, Destiny vs Free Will, the subject that’s had philosophers debating for centuries. 

Despite the centuries of debate, the subject still remains unresolved. Or does it?

The Vedic perspective is quite simple. In fact, there isn’t even a contest because Free Will and Destiny are actually both on the same team. 

Will you exercise Free Will to listen to this podcast, or is it part of your Destiny? You’ll have to listen to find out…

Subscribe to Vedic Worldview

Apple Podcast logo
Stitcher Podcast logo
Spotify Podcast logo
Google Podcast logo

Episode Highlights


How Much Free Will Do We Have?



“I’m Going to Change My Mind”



The Truth of the Destiny Vs. Free Will Thing



There is Only One Consciousness State



“I Am That. You Are That…”



“I Am the Source of All the Thoughts.”



We Make Arrangements for Our Suffering



“Oh No. What Did I Do?”



Seeing Cause and Effect



Becoming a True Revolutionary, Practicing Vedic Meditation



Losing Our Rage



We Are Not the Judge of Others



Realization of Free-Willed Determining Consciousness


Jai Guru Deva


Free Will vs Destiny

[00:00:46] How Much Free Will Do We Have?

[00:00:46] People often ask me, really a hackneyed old question, in the academic sphere, in the academic world, “How much free will actually do we have?” versus the destiny concept, which is that there is a third party somewhere, a thing that is already scheduling all of our thoughts, scheduling our experiences, scheduling our activity.

[00:01:13] So to what extent are we prescheduled, and bound to some kind of destiny schedule by some third party, or to what extent do I actually have the capability of free thought, free capability to change my mind, to do what I want to do?

[00:01:32] And sometimes people will say, well, the people who are very sold on the idea of destiny, they’ll be having a conversation, I watched this once when I was at university, it was quite entertaining, a young man saying “I have complete freedom.”

[00:01:47] For example, as he picked up his little carton of chocolate milk with a straw sticking out of it, “I think I’ll drink my chocolate milk. No, I’ve changed my mind. I won’t drink it.” To which, the other party across the table at the cafeteria said, “Well, you see, from my point of view, your change of mind was also scheduled, and that was destined. You think that you changed your mind, but actually, it was scheduled for you to change your mind.”

[00:02:10] “I’m Going to Change My Mind”

[00:02:10] To which the guy said, “Well, now I’m going to change my mind again and drink the milk.” And he did. And the other person said,” Well, see that was also scheduled. That was part of your destiny, and you just think that you have choice, but you actually don’t. You’re scheduled to be experiencing whatever you’re experiencing at any given time.”

[00:02:28] And then chocolate milk man said, “By whom?” And the destiny person said, “This is for you to contemplate and figure out. By whom or by what?”

[00:02:40] And I have to say the destiny person had what was rather an egregious smile on her face, like, “I’ve got you, no matter what you say, I have you cornered.” And the free will man was getting increasingly frustrated. Evidently from the destiny point of view, that was also scheduled. That was part of the destiny for him to become flustered.

[00:03:02] And you can see these kinds of arguments going on. And really, this is, from a Vedic perspective, there’s a major point being missed. A major point, and now we need to come to that point.

[00:03:15] The Truth of Destiny Vs. Free Will

[00:03:15] What’s the truth of this destiny versus free will thing? Well, the real truth of it is that they’re both true simultaneously. And how’s that so?

[00:03:25] The Vedic Worldview has no problem with any of this. Why? Because there’s only one consciousness, actually one consciousness, and you are it. Yes, there is a consciousness using its free will to determine that which you experience. You are that consciousness. To what extent are you aware of it?

[00:03:51] Does Universal Consciousness have free will? From the Vedic perspective, yes, Universal Consciousness has free will. Does it determine all activities of all things? Yes, it does determine all activities, all experiences of all things. But who is “That”? It’s not separate to you. You are, in fact, “That.”

[00:04:16] And there’s this beautiful saying that comes out of Vedanta. Vedanta is the ultimate viewpoint. It is the graduate science of Vedic science. Vedanta, veda and then anta. Veda is all of the knowledge that’s possible to be had in the consciousness field, and then anta, the end.

[00:04:41] When we speak Sanskrit, we very often drop the final A. So anta becomes end. What does end mean in this context? The conclusion, the final conclusion of what? The Veda. Vedanta, Vedanta.

[00:04:55] The final conclusion of the Veda states this, “I am that free-willed determining consciousness, free-willed determining consciousness. I am That. You are That, free-willed determining consciousness. All of this is nothing but ‘That.’”

[00:05:17] There is Only One Consciousness State

[00:05:17] There’s only one consciousness state. To what extent are you realized in that consciousness state? If you have less realization of that truth, that there’s one consciousness field and you are it, and the argument of Vedanta is simply this, that field is omnipresent.

[00:05:37] If there is anything at all that is omnipresent, then all things must be that thing. There can’t be one omnipresent thing, and other things that are not omnipresent, because the first thing, the omnipresent thing, must be all things.

[00:05:55] It doesn’t simply pervade or permeate all things. That would be a different argument because there is a thing, and another thing that goes through and through that first thing that’s pervading or permeating. That’s not what Vedanta says. It says, “All things are this thing.”

[00:06:15] The easy way to understand this is through our famous analogy of an ocean. So we have the ocean of consciousness. Let’s think of it as flat with a mirror-like surface for the moment. Now let’s, in our imagination, let the ocean curve on its surface into a swell or a wave. We’ll call it a wave. It’s curving into a swell.

[00:06:40] Is that swell that now is moving across the surface of the ocean, is it in any way non-ocean? This is a rhetorical question, the answer to which is no. It is in no way non-ocean. A localized curvature of ocean is simply undulating ocean.

[00:07:00] “I Am That. You Are That…”

[00:07:00] We can’t say that a wave on an ocean is in any way separate from the ocean itself. Whatever it appears to be to a sailor who’s on the surface of the ocean, who sees a wave coming, in fact, what’s coming is a curve of the overall and fundamental body on which the sailor is sailing.

[00:07:22] The wave is simply curvature of the entire oceanic pass. Individuality is simply a curvature or an undulation of an oceanic, a cosmic oceanic mass of consciousness.

[00:07:38] Individuality is a wave and the cosmic mass, the ocean, is the ocean of consciousness. There is no separation. There is absolutely no separation, but to what extent are you able to ground yourself in that realization and act accordingly?

[00:07:58] You are, in fact, the Unified Field. Individuality is, in fact, cosmic intelligence. This is the Vedic statement. “I am That. You are That. And all of this is nothing but That.” That here is spelled with a capital T. I am That you are That, all of this is nothing but That.

[00:08:20] When there’s only one consciousness, they’re not two consciousness-es. There’s not an independent consciousness that is the overlord consciousness, that is determining all things, and everyone else is simply subject to those determinations. This would require there to be two things. The Vedic perspective is there are no two things, there’s only one thing, and you’re It, you’re That.

[00:08:46] “I Am the Source of All the Thoughts.”

[00:08:46] Now getting right down to the practical, to what extent can we capture any of this and make it practical and useful in our daily life? When we go beyond thought in our practice of Vedic Meditation, this is what we do. This is what we’re best at. This is what our technique is known to do.

[00:09:03] It takes our individual awareness beyond the thinking process, to use our analogy of a curved surface, a wave on the oceanic mass of consciousness, we allow the wave to settle down, settle down and go flat. When the wave goes flat, wave and ocean are experiencing themself as one. Individuality transcending thoughts, stepping beyond thought, does not experience Being.

[00:09:33] Individuality becomes Being, and Being, the oceanic mass of consciousness, experiences itself, then it curves itself and comes back into thought forms.

[00:09:46] But this quiet inner realization that, “I’m not only these thoughts that I’ve been having, I am the source of all the thoughts I’ve been having. I am the unbounded consciousness field, the source of the thoughts. I’m the source. I am the source of the thoughts, and I am experiencing the thoughts.

[00:10:08] “So I am the thoughts to whatever extent they can explain what I am. And I am the source of all of the thoughts. My consciousness is That consciousness, which is making determinations and setting into action cascades of all the laws of Nature.”

[00:10:30] We Make Arrangements for Our Suffering

[00:10:30] So, as meditators, we begin to experience a great revelation in our lives.

[00:10:35] And the revelation is, “Now I can understand how my individual thoughts and behavior trigger certain cascades of laws of Nature. There’s cause and effect. I may not have been able to see prior to this cause and effect. Now I’m a meditator, I start to notice that I arrange for myself to suffer less often.”

[00:10:58] Suffering is, in the Vedic perspective, something that we make arrangements for.

[00:11:04] And how do we make arrangements for it? We don’t realize we’re doing that. We think we’re trying to make ourselves happy. “Let me go to the party and, drink the poison,” and the body says, “I don’t like the poison,” and the mind says, “But you have to drink it because everyone else is drinking it. And they look happy, don’t they? All the poisoned people, let’s drink poison together.”

[00:11:24] And then some kind of goofy happiness happens to come from that, where you find that all of your other thoughts and concerns and all that fade into the background. While the intoxicated… by the way, intoxicated means poisoned, toxic, intoxicated like that.

[00:11:40] “Oh No. What Did I Do?”

[00:11:40] “I’m in the intoxicated state and, poisoned in the way that I am. I’m not able to be aware of all the problems of everyday life. And I can forget about all of that and just experience the delightful poison state, like all the other people in the party.”

[00:11:55] And then we come out of the party, and the next day we think, “Oh no, what did I do? Oh my God, my body. Oh, this feels so terrible. And, oh, what are all the cures for intoxication? Let me consult Dr. Google. Oh, tomato juice with Tabasco sauce,” and all of that.

[00:12:11] Whatever it is that is, your special thing for detoxifying over the next day. Something you might call a hangover. “So, somehow I thought I was going to make myself happy and what I did was I ended up making myself miserable.

[00:12:23] “And, after a few years of this, my doctor tells me that I’m having cirrhosis of the liver, because my liver just can’t take all of this demand to purify all of this out of my body on a regular basis.”

[00:12:34] So what’s happening? Without realizing it, I can’t see cause and effect, but when I go beyond thought, I experience oneness with that underlying big consciousness.

[00:12:46] Seeing Cause and Effect

[00:12:46] “I am one with That.” Then when I come back into relativity, I began to realize I am the determiner of the cascades of the laws of Nature. I am not just an individual. I am the consciousness state that can see all causes, and not just proximate causes, ultimate causes, actual causes and the cascade of effects that come from that.

[00:13:12] And what are those ultimate causes? The ultimate cause of arranging for oneself to suffer ultimately is, “I am convinced that I am something small. I’m a body. I’m just a body. I have a limited number of years in a body, and I have to get through a checklist of things that you’re supposed to get through in order to,die at the end of the body life with at least a completed checklist of stuff.

[00:13:37] And thenhopefully it’ll be easier to die when I feel like I’ve got a lot of things checked off my checklist,” and this is a miserable state to be in.

[00:13:46] The truth is you’re the one, indivisible, whole unbounded consciousness field. You are the ocean having a human experience. What kind of arrangements are you making?

[00:13:57] And so then, as we continue meditating, we start to note that we can see cause and effect, and we can start letting go of some of those things that are causing us, and others, because we can’t suffer in isolation, so we can start letting go of those things that are making us miserable.

[00:14:16] Becoming a True Revolutionary, Practicing Vedic Meditation

[00:14:16] And why do we do that with such ease, as meditators, letting go of toxic behaviors, of toxic substances, letting go of these trends of, “I am just really nothing but an eminently offended individual who’s just constantly being assailed by the offensive environment. Instead, I am, I seem to be, something other than that, I feel invincible. I feel unboundedness.”

[00:14:45] And from this, we can segue into an experience that meditators sometimes have, which is “Thom, I feel as though I’m starting to become, not the great roaring lion of anger and change that I once was. I feel as though I’m starting to become complacent. I feel as though I’m no longer making myself relevant to all of the change that needs to occur in the world. And is my meditation making me into a kind of a satisfied blob of contentment and complacency?”

[00:15:22] My answer to this is “No, this is not what’s happening. What’s happening is, in fact, you’re becoming a true revolutionary.”

[00:15:32] What is a true revolutionary? Someone who actually is an agent of progressive change. So what’s an agent of progressive change? It’s not someone who is a better hater, a better hater of others. “I’m a great hater of others. I can shout at those people who I considered to be on the other side of me, politically or religiously or philosophically, and, I can hate and shout.”

[00:16:00] Losing Our Rage

[00:16:00] We considered that to be productive once upon a time. Lots of good hating, lots of very satisfactory hating, lots of satisfactory anger, lots of satisfactory writing terrible things about people, and making the assumption that everybody is simply stuck in one consciousness state and will never change. The idea of turning “them” into “It’s,” they’re “It’s.”

[00:16:25] This is preparation for war. In preparation for war, what a government has to do is to allow the populous to treat other human beings, not as humans, but as “It’s.” Only an “It” could possibly ever vote for that person, only an “It,” and if you’re an “It,” very easy to pull the trigger.

[00:16:47] Whereas, “If you’re anything like me and you’re human, if I can identify with you, it’s not so easy to pull the trigger because I’m not convinced that you’re an ‘It.’ I may be looking spontaneously for elements of unity in you. I might be a bridge-builder instead of a wall builder. And instead of building walls and seceding and creating boundaries, I’m somebody who is looking for opportunities for common experience, looking for opportunities for common and shared experience in humanity.”

[00:17:24] And this is the basis on which we can create the cooperative enterprise that’s required in society. As meditators, when we begin to lose our rage, rage is based on the idea that people can behave in ways that are outside of their state of consciousness, that someone should be behaving in a way that is more intelligent than what their state of consciousness allows.

[00:17:50] We Are Not the Judge of Others

[00:17:50] The rejection of somebody else is a rejection of what we were like once upon a time. Perhaps we have a short memory. Once upon a time, we were far less sophisticated, far less intelligent, far less savvy about what the world really is. And now we consider ourselves to be so terribly sophisticated, so terribly civilized, so terribly accepting of everyone.

[00:18:14] And then there are these “It’s” out there who are not quite where I am now, but sometimes we forget, if we have narrow consciousness, we were once upon a time just like that. And so then, as our consciousness grows and grows, we find it more and more acceptable that people are simply in the state of consciousness they’re in, but we as meditators are exemplars.

[00:18:39] We’re able to behave in ways that are inclusive. We’re able to behave in ways that are not rejecting. We’re able to behave in ways that do not draw the false conclusion that other people are constantly stuck in whatever state of consciousness they’re stuck in.

[00:18:58] We are not the judge of others, we are the assessors of others, and we are going to inspire worthy inquiry in everyone through our own growing, inner, cosmic consciousness.

[00:19:15] We’re going to inspire in all observers the worthy inquiry that might bring them to say, “I noticed that you don’t suffer as much as me. What’s your secret? What is your secret?”

[00:19:31] Realization of Free-Willed Determining Consciousness

[00:19:31] And so from this thing of, there’s determinism and destiny versus free will, all the way up to what happens to us as meditators, as our awareness expands more and more, are we actually being effective by raging, hating, shouting, carrying on, or being rejecting of other’s consciousness state and feeling that that was productive, and satisfactorily productive?

[00:20:01] No, as we move away from that, we start to find greater and greater acceptability of consciousness states of others. But in ourselves, we are also beginning to radiate life for all to enjoy.

[00:20:16] And when we radiate life for all to enjoy, we’re going to inspire worthy inquiry from all of those who can change their consciousness state, and rise into a status where they have that realization, “I am that free-willed determining consciousness. You are that free-willed determining consciousness. All of this is nothing but that free-willed determining conscious.”

[00:20:42] Jai Guru Deva.

Read more