Acharya Prashant: Well, here is this flower, it’s been plucked, its fate now is to shrivel down, lose its moisture, tenderness, and then meet the soil. If I toss it up, its fate is to? It’s entirely predictable. If I tell you, how much force I exert in tossing it up, with what velocity does it go up, you can accurately predict the time it will take to hit my hand again. This is cause and effect.
In the classical parlance, this is called Karma (The Action) and Karma Phal (Result/ Fruit of the Action). And both go together and are inseparable. And if time is removed, both are one. The moment of this flower leaving my hand and the moment of this flower hitting my hand back, are absolutely one, what separates them is just time. I am calling them one because the moment this flower leaves my hand it is certain that it will hit the earth or the hand, or any other thing again. Nobody can violate that certainty.
And when two events are one, when the happening of one guarantees the happening of the other, then we better not call them separate events at all. If two events are one in the sense that the happening of one, the occurrence of one, is a sure shot guarantee of the occurrence of the other, then we are needlessly calling the two events as separate. What separates them is just time. Remove time and, this is one my hand (tossing the flower up), and this is again on my hand (the flower comes back). Is there a difference? If I do it with a little more skill and you picture me with my flower on my palm, on both the occasions you will hardly find any difference in the photographs.
If ever any difference will be found, that too that too will be attributable to time. For example, if it hits my hand after a really long time, let’s say one year, then my hand could have grown a little older, but even that is time.
Now, this is Fate as seen within the context of cause and effect.
Whatever is material, shall have material consequences. And, no consequence can change the material into nonmaterial.
Whatever you do to the flower, will only change its material state. It can vaporize, from one form, one shape, one color, one kind of molecular configuration it can change to another. But nevertheless, it will always remain? Material.
That is the law of cause and effect.
Material changes into material. And material changing into material is a certainty which is very much predictable. You very well know what will happen to a water molecule upon electrolysis. You very well know, what happens when Sodium and chlorine are put together, right? The effect is known, even before the cause. It is predictable, it is programmable, and it is called conditioning.
There is nothing of the unforeseen in it. There is nothing unpredictable in it. The flower goes up, the flower has to come down. Sodium and chlorine meet each other, there has to be a certain reaction. Hormones rise, there has to be a certain activity in the body. Certain juices are secreted, the body will react in a certain way. Some stimulus is applied to the brain, the brain ‘will’ respond in a certain way.
All of this is material cause and effect. There is certainty and security in it, but hardly any fun. Why is there no fun? Because repetitiveness bores down everybody. Whatever I do this (tossing up a flower), this keeps coming back to me, and in the same fashion and in the same time. Come on, this is so boring. Whenever hormones rise, the same thing happens. Whenever age increases, the same things happen. Whenever glucose levels in the body fall down, the same thing happens. Whenever somebody calls me an ugly word, the same reaction comes from me, and that is so boring.
Who wants to live like that?
I very well know what will happen to me whenever I come upon a certain name. I very well know what will happen to me, whenever somebody calls my nation a bad word. I very well know what happens to me whenever someone appreciates my looks. I very well know what happens to me when someone condemns me, and all of that is just material cause and effect, driven by bodily juices.
There is nothing ‘wrong’ with that. Except that it tires one down. There is no delight of the new in it. One remains caught and stuck in the same cycle. Flower goes up, flower comes down, flower goes up, flower comes down, and then one day, this body falls apart. Having been in the same cycle of cause and effect, cause and effect, the body expires. This is fate as seen in the context of the material.
But then surprisingly, fortunately, there is another kind of fate.
That fate is freedom from boredom. And that fate becomes possible only because nobody really likes to live in a joyless state. Nobody likes to live in a state where there is no newness, where there are only four walls and everything within the walls is within the domain of knowledge – known, predictable, and hence controllable. One likes to be set a little mad. One likes such things to happen to life, which leave one wide-eyed, astounded, amazed, even if shocked. One likes those things to happen, even if they leave one a little insecure, probably even afraid.
Hence, the material fate has to make way for some other fate. That other fate is classically called as Destiny or Niyati.
The Destiny is freedom from boredom. But that destiny is not predictable, not controllable, not something that remains within the cycle of the material. The body burns down into ashes, the body becomes soil. That is understandable. The body does not like strong Sun, that is also understandable, all of that is cause and effect.
The skin is material and radiation beyond a certain limit destroys this material, so this material avoids Sun. All of that is within the known laws of material physics. But then, certain things happen to the material, which are not explainable within physical contexts. Even at the cost of life, one looks for freedom. Even at the cost of reputation and security, one reaches out for love. Even if everything is put to stake, even if it appears like madness, one still flies away to freedom.
Now, that does not look like a material characteristic. And that which we call as material is hardly ever satisfied till it gains ‘that’ non-material freedom. That special fate is called as Destiny.
But that Destiny can happen, not by virtue of planning, because obviously, planning applies only to that which can be controlled and planned. I can plan for this flower to fall at a certain time, but I cannot plan for me to fall in love with this flower. That is impossible. That is a result of grace that is also a result of prayer. Now, prayer is not the cause of grace. It is just that grace enables prayer, and prayer activates grace. What comes first? One does not know. So, let us not call that as cause and effect.
Your Destiny is to meet peace. Your Destiny is to go beyond all that limits you. Your Destiny is to be liberated from the trap of the material. Till the time you do not meet your Destiny, you will be caught in the cycle of fate.
Within fate, there is only repetition, boredom, confinement, predictability, with a false sense of security and control. Till the time, you are not prepared to give these up, you will continue to have them, and that which is real, that which is your Destiny, will continue to elude you.
Mind you, the Destiny that we are talking of, is not something to be achieved in future. This Destiny is our very nature. This Destiny is something that was with you, even before you were born. You do not ‘reach’ this Destiny. You just make yourselves available to it.
The word ‘Destination’ and ‘Destiny’ are obviously close. It is that Destination, which you started off from. It is not the destination you will end at. It is the destination from where you launched yourself off. It is the destination from where you set out from your home, and to which you have to again return. It is that to which no returning is possible because you have only forgotten that you are already there.
That is Destiny.
Fate is varied, fate is cause dependent, fate manifests itself, according to the time, space, situation, energy, and the wines of the doer. Destiny is dissolution. That Destiny total liberation. Your fate will be different from that of your neighbor. But your Destinies are always the same. And till the time fates are different, it means that you are only caught in the trap of the different and only personalities are different.
From that which appears diverse, different, personal, divided, one moves to that which is not at all marked by anything subjective, anything personal. That cannot even be called as the same for everybody, because even to say that it as same for everybody is to assert that it is something in particular.
I may say that this fan (pointing upwards) is same for everybody who looks at it. But that Destiny, which we are referring to, is not even same for everybody, because it is not in time and space like this fan. You cannot put your finger on it. You cannot control it, like you control the fan. You cannot define it, like you define the fan. And you cannot have a relationship with it, similar to the relationship that you have with the fan. You can remain yourself, and the fan will still work for you. But when it comes to Destiny, Your Destiny will not be available to you, your destiny will not work for you if you remain yourself.
Remaining yourself, you can switch on the fan; remaining yourself, you can never switch on your Destiny. So, Destiny is even not even the same for everybody. Destiny is when you decide that you have had enough of yourself. Then, the Destination is there. Till the time, you want to frolic with yourself, flirt with everything that is offered by the vagaries of the mind, the Destiny will remain with you, keep smiling at you, but will remain invisible ‘to you’. Firmly with you, it will still remain outside your grasp. Right in front of you, it will still remain invisible to you.
You can plan your fate, you cannot plan your Destiny.
Destiny is when the planner is gone. Destiny is when the urge to seek security in planning, is gone. Destiny is when you have met your total death. Funnily that is also when you really start living. That ‘total life’ is your death and Destiny.
If it appears paradoxical and contradictory, it is only because we are used to linear cause and effect. Linearity nourishes us, linearity assures us, in linearity we are the master. We say, “I have tossed it up, it will come down. See, I controlled it.”
In Destiny, you are no more the controller. In Destiny, you do not need to control anymore. Such is the total assurance. A demand to control comes only from fear. Total fearlessness is your death and destiny both. Depends on you, whether you allow it or not, whether you see it as the total blossoming of life or not.
Whatever you will do, remaining the controller, planner, and doer will always keep the material as the material, will never take you to your Destiny. Because the Destiny itself is your vaporization, then how can anything you intend, plan, and do, through a self-cultivated process, through anything that is a product of man’s mind will ever take you to your Destiny? Be it reading a book, be it following a spiritual method, be it following a yogic process, whatever you do as a process of your own cultivated vision and thought will keep you firmly trapped within yourself. And there is no trap, as difficult to get out of, as when one is trapped within himself.
Destiny is another name for surrender. Destiny is when you realize that your methods are ultimately, ‘YOUR’ methods. And ‘YOUR’ methods will never take you beyond yourself. Even if the method appears to succeed for a while, it will push you into greater illusion, because it will increase your trust upon yourself.
You can control your fate, or you can dissolve into Destiny.
Most people, just want to progress and rise higher, and evolve by controlling and manipulating their fate. This is the path of effort.
“Make your own life, build yourself up. Have a vision and then move to accomplish the vision.” This is the path of reaching where you want to. This is the path in which you set your goal, and then do everything to reach to the goal. And then, there is the other path, which is not a path at all. There you say, “What foolishness it is, to set my aim in the dark, shoot, and then randomly believe that I have hit the jackpot. What’s wrong with fundamentally the way I am? What revolution do I need? Do I really need betterment? Do I really need to get well? First of all, am I sick at all? All the Doctors, all the vendors, who are only making me believe more deeply that my sickness is terrible. And that is why such fancy methods are needed to cure me. But first of all, am I really sick? Am I in need of any treatment? Have I really diagnosed, myself well? Or, is even my diagnosis, something that I have internalized from outside, from influences.”
In fate, you believe in a disease that does not really exist, and then keep trying to rid yourself of that illusory disease. In Destiny, you observe that disease itself, carefully. And the observation sublimates the disease. No movement is required, only realization is required. That realization is Destiny. A lot of self-affirmed, self-controlled and then self-verified movement, is fate.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Destiny and fate
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