I have been contemplating about the concept of free will for a while. I looked back into my life, into all that happened and all that I accomplished. When I contemplated on things that just happened it felt like I had no control over them. However, when I looked at things that I felt I accomplished—at least felt that way at the time of their accomplishment—initially, I felt I had done them out of my own will—free will. But, when I contemplated deeper, I realized that they also just happened like anything else. I wrongly attributed them to be my accomplishment, because I paid a lot of attention to the “doing” when they happened. It was like, I was compelled to do them, by some force. That is all. This compulsion had been nicely described by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj in the book, I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. (This is one of the best books, I am now reading).
Instead of paraphrasing, I will directly quote him here. The quote is from pages 355–356 of Chapter 72 of the book. You can contemplate and arrive at your own conclusions. Below Q stands for questioner and M stands for Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.
Q: Surely, I am not the master of what happens. Its slave rather.
M: Be neither master, nor slave. Stand aloof.
Q: Does it imply avoidance of action?
M: You cannot avoid action. It happens, like everything else.
Q: My actions, surely, I can control.
M: Try. You will soon see that you do what you must.
Q: I can act according to my will.
M: You know your will only after you have acted.
Q: I remember my desires, the choices made, the decisions taken and act accordingly.
M: Then your memory decides, not you.
Q: Where do I come in?
M: You make it possible by giving it attention.
Q: Is there no such thing as free will? Am I not free to desire?
M: Oh no. You are compelled to desire. In Hinduism the very idea of free will is non-existent, so there is no word for it. Will is commitment, fixation, bondage.
Q: I am free to choose my limitations.
M: You must be free first. To be free in the world you must be free of the world. Otherwise your past decides for you and your future. Between what had happened and what must happen you are caught. Call it destiny or karma, but never—freedom. First return to your true being and then act from the heart of love.
Q: Within the manifested what is the stamp of the unmanifested?
M: There is none. The moment you begin to look for the stamp of the unmanifested, the manifested dissolves. If you try to understand the unmanifested wtih the mind, you at once go beyond the mind, like when you stir the fire with a wooden stick, you burn the stick. Use the mind to investigate the manifested. Be like the chick that pecks at the shell. Speculating about life outside the shell would have been of little use to it, but pecking at the shell breaks the shell from within and liberates the chick. Similarly, break the mind from within by investigation and exposure of its contradictions and absurdities.
Q: The longing to break the shell, where does it come from?
M: From the unmanifested.
I would like to extend some link love to the following blogs:
- Nicholas Powiull’s Conscious Flex, where you can read inspiring articles on personal development, for example, his fearless experiements with sleep in articles like, What is Powiull’s Sleep. This is one of the fast growing personal development sites on the blogosphere.
- Tait Hunter’s One World Enlightenment is very contemplative and you can find articles like, healing body through internal attention.
- Buddha of Hollywood’s Zen and the Art of Mind Blogging is another contemplative blog on philosophical and spiritual matters, where you can read articles like, Enlightenment 106