Free Will or Plain Determinism?


There is a story in the Ramayana about Hanuman, the beloved devotee of Ram. The protagonist of the story, Ram, knows that it is time that he must take a samadhi and end the lifetime of this incarnation. He also knows that Hanuman is so devoted to him that he would never let him leave. So Ram drops one of his rings into a small crack in the earth. Hanuman is sent to get the ring while Ram makes his way to his samadhi.
Hanuman travels legions down the small crack in search of the ring and finally reaches Naaglok, the underworld land of the mystical creatures called Nagas. Hanuman meets the king of the Nagas and tells him that the ring of Ram must be somewhere near this place. The king identifies Hanuman and points to a heap of rings. He asks Hanuman to find the ring of Ram from this heap. Hanuman tries to do so but to no avail. After all, the rings look alike, almost like clones. When Hanuman is finally tired, he tells the king about his plea who smiles and suggests that all of the rings belong to Ram.
Hanuman is not only surprised but also shocked. Ram only dropped one of his rings. How do the Nagas have so many rings of Ram? The king finally explains to him that fate has decided so. The loop of life keeps playing again and again. Every time when Ram has to take samadhi, he drops a ring into the crack and sends a vaanar Hanuman in search of the ring. In the meantime, he takes a samadhi in the river and ends the life cycle of this incarnation. All the rings there belong to Ram which were collected millions of times Ram was born.
Determinism? Yes. Free will? No.

A lot has changed in the past week. I have come back (or at least near) the city I was shying away from 2011. Once again, my life has started the same old loop that I was trying to avoid from so long. Sometimes, I feel it is a shame that I had absolutely no control over events and sometimes I bash myself for thinking that I made a choice to come back here again. Nonetheless, my belief in determinism has been growing stronger than ever. Why so? Things have been happening that way.

Though I still think that we can definitely make a choice but I wonder if our choices are already determined by our mental and emotional conditioning. No matter how much and how long we experiment, will we always chose the same old thing, time and time again? No matter how we travel back and forth in time and try to change things, is it true that in the end, the course of time will correct itself? Maybe. For someone looking for a rational explanation to things, it is baffling to even think about the possibilities of a predetermined fate, doing things that we were meant to do.
It all starts with a few roller coaster events from my own life where the tables have turned 180 degrees, back to the spot where it was in 2008. Everything is so familiar yet so new. I am trying to change the experience slightly, but in the end, it feels like yesterday. It feels like the 9 year cycle is coming back to the beginning and there is definitely something new in store. When 2017 hits, you never know what new things fate is going to bring up to my table, if fate exists.
So is everything predetermined? Is the story about Ram and Hanuman trying to convey a message? is everything decided in advance? Do we have little to no control over what we do and how we feel? If I hate someone, is it predetermined? If I love someone, is that fate? We love to talk about fate so much that we have almost degraded the meaning of this word.
Let’s take the example of my life. Even though I kind of explored the possibility of shifting into the city mentally, I was never up for a real change. Living here was the last thing on earth left to do. The circumstances were such that I could not, in my sane mind, think about living here and leaving my beloved Doon back. In a dramatic turn of events, everything changed. Limiting factors changed to support systems and opportunities started pouring like rain. It is almost like life changed while I slept (or didn’t). It was all against my will. All against whatever I had thought about myself. Yes, in 2008, I thought I was going according to my will when I moved to this city. This time, I am not so sure.
Free will- this baffling and confusing concept has now started to make me feel restless. Can I still make a change to my life or things are as they are supposed to be? Should I just play along or carve a path that I always wanted? Either way, we will land somewhere we are supposed to or where we want to.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. “Just playing along” is also choosing a path.

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