Are we the makers of our destiny?

by January 27, 2012

Socrates wondered about it. Lao­Tzu pondered it. So did our own ancient rishis. Is our success predestined? Or is it in our hands? It’s in our hands alone, says Bharat, who hopes to get into IIT. But when his chances for making it have so much to do with how many other kids apply, what quotas are reserved for the scheduled castes, and what sort of mood the examiner is in when he looks at Bharat’s paper, Bharat cannot but wonder: Are we just unwitting players in a cosmic lottery, with chance as the supreme arbiter? Or are results handed down by destiny, under the sanction of a just God? But others like Vijay recoil at the very mention of destiny. He fears that lazy people may opportunistically argue, “As the result is predestined, why work hard?” and so become irresponsible and fatalistic. However knowledge of destiny does not justify fatalism because the Mahabharata clarifies, “Destiny determines the results of our actions, not our actions themselves.”

The Vedic texts explain that these two ideologies, karmavada (endeavor, karma, alone determines success) and daivavada (destiny, daiva, alone determines success) are the two extremes of the pendulum of human imagination. In reality, success requires both endeavor and destiny. For example, in agriculture, a good harvest requires both diligent ploughing and timely rains. Ploughing represents endeavor and rains signify destiny. Despite ploughing, no harvest can result, if there are no rains. Similarly sometimes, despite our best efforts, we may fail, due to adverse destiny. When people are uninformed about the role of destiny in determining results, failures make them feel hopeless, “I am worthless and cannot do anything well”, even when they have the potential to perform in the future. Consequently today many of our brothers and sisters are unfortu­nately and needlessly suffering from mental problems like inferiority complex, low self­esteem, depression and self­pity.

Thoughwedon’tdeterminetheresult, we do play a significant role. Going back to the farmer analogy, the farmer must plough the field for favorable rainfall to produce crops. Similarly we must endeavor for destiny to produce results. Hence the Gita (2.47) urges us to perform our God­given duty — without attachment. Why without attachment? Because our present material happiness and distress are predestined by our own past karma from this and previous lives. We cannot change that karma and its results, no matter how hard we work. But by doing our present duties industriously and honestly, we can, not only get the happiness that is due to us, but also create a bright future destiny, even if our present is bleak.

Moreover, even at present, destiny limits only our material happiness, not our spiritual happiness. All of us have equal and complete opportunity to awaken our dormant love for God and experience oceanic happiness thereof. This supreme fulfillment is available at

our tongue tips, just by the chanting of the Holy Names of God, Krishna. No inimical destiny can obstruct us in achieving divine bliss; rather when we take one step towards God, He takes a thousand steps towards us. Even a little spiritual dynamism brings enormous returns. And as we are intrinsically spiritual beings and as our lasting satisfaction comes from spiritual devotion, we can rejoice in knowing that our real happiness is not destined, but is in our own hands. Hence, intelligent people are cautious to not let over­endeavor for flickering material aggrandizement deprive them of the time and energy to strive for lasting spiritual enlightenment.

Let us therefore do our best (materially and spiritually) and leave the rest (to God faithfully)

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  • August 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Very nice explanation of fate and destiny. Destiny is like an arrow we have released from our bow, we may say it is predestined to fly in a certain way once released. Can there be a change in destiny? Yes. Krsna’s mercy may effect the flight of the arrow in the same way the wind can deflect the arrow. Thus, destiny can be changed for a devotee.

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