Is it up to your effort? Or due to destiny?

This question has been asked for thousands of years. Is what we do really due to our effort? Or does everything occur as a result of pre-determined destiny?

Theists would often argue that it is all in Gods hands, that everything occurs due to the will of God. Others may argue that everything is in our own hands, and we can shape our own life as we see fit. I have always found this an intriguing issue and one that is discussed in great detail in the Mahabharata.  The  Mahabharata rather than dictating to us, explores areas and shows the failings of being overly dogmatic.  It is the greatest guide to Hinduism and is the tallest sky scraper of all of the literature I have come across. (You can download the english translation by Kisari Ganguli for free on amazon Kindle or download the individual pdf files here).

With regards to this question the great sage Kripacharya says:

 Listen,   All men are subjected to and governed by these two forces, Destiny and Exertion. There is nothing higher than these two. Our acts do not become successful in consequence of destiny alone, nor of exertion alone. Success springs from the union of the two. All purposes, high and low, are dependent on a union of those two. In the whole world, it is through these two that men are seen to act as also to abstain. What result is produced by the clouds pouring on a mountain? What results are not produced by them pouring upon a cultivated field?

Exertion, where destiny is not auspicious, and absence of exertion where destiny is auspicious, both these are fruitless! What I have said before (about the union of the two) is the truth. If the rains properly moisten a well-tilled soil, the seed produces great results. This is how we humans achieve success.

Sometimes, Destiny, having settled a course of events, acts of itself (without waiting for exertion). For all that, the wise, aided by skill have recourse to exertion. All the purposes of human acts, are accomplished by the aid of those two together. Influenced by these two, men are seen to strive or abstain. Recourse may be had to exertion. But exertion succeeds through destiny. It is in consequence also of destiny that one who sets himself to work, depending on exertion, attains to success. The exertion, however, of even a competent man, even when well directed, is without the concurrence of destiny, seen in the world to be unproductive of fruit. Those, therefore, among men, that are idle and without intelligence, disapprove of exertion. This however, is not the opinion of the wise.

 One who is busy in action is capable of supporting life. He, on the other hand, that is idle, never obtains happiness. In this world of men it is generally seen that they that are addicted to action are always inspired by the desire of successful outcomes. If one devoted to action succeeds in gaining his object or fails to obtain the fruit of his acts, he does not become censurable in any respect. If anyone in the world is seen to luxuriously enjoy the fruits of action without doing any action, he is generally seen to incur ridicule and become an object of hatred. This is the opinion of those that are endued with intelligence.

I thought about this on the train to London this morning and it became clear as people began to stand up waiting for the doors to open.  As the train slows down as it approaches its destination, people normally start making their way towards the doors to exit, so the isles normally fill up quite quickly.  If you stay in your seat and do nothing, perhaps choosing to stare out of the window, there is a very slim chance anybody will let you out.  This is what Kripacharya regards as the most unproductive approach.  If you stand up, there is still a chance that nobody will be kind enough to let you onto the isle (exertion only). But if destiny and exertion are in perfect unison somebody will let you go.

So I would always say, stand up and act. If you are successful you will have done everything possible to make sure the land was perfectly cultivated in time for the rains. Do not leave things to destiny, this is the opinion of the wise ones..

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With Best Wishes,

राम राम

Hanuman Dass


Hanuman Dass's blogs directly here. He is founder of as is the co-author of The Power of Dharma and The Eternal Path

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