How Predestined Is Life? How Free Is Our Will?

Question

If fate isn’t predestined then how could Sri Yukteshwar Giri predict accurately that Sri Yogananda would be eating sweet strawberries 20 yrs later in time? Also, why does Autobiography of a Yogi mention that in superconsciousness we can accurately foresee the cosmos trillions of years ahead in time? If it’s not predestined what does the superconscious soul see? All the permutations and combinations?

—Varadaraya, India

Answer

Dear Varadaraya,
The question you ask addresses a very tough (and ancient) topic, which is hard to grasp for our limited human mind: predestination versus free will.

One one hand the Masters say that everything in time – past, present, future – is contained in the Eternal Now. In other words, the entire book of life is already written, and great Masters are able to open that book on any page, freely reading the past or future. True superconsciousness in other words accurately sees what is written there, not “permutations and combinations.”

On the other hand the opposite is equally true: we have free will. Nothing is predestined. Yogananda explains: “An animal’s life is predestined; man’s is not.” And “Man must change his slothful mental habit and cease to think his present status is predestined.”

How can both statements be true?

Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi (already in its second paragraph!) writes about “some dimensionless link,” which made him perceive a past incarnation, as well as future events.

Even more astounding: you might have heard about the “out-of-this-world”-book, called: the Book of Brighu. It was written in ancient times by the great rishi and astrologer Brighu, who with his disciples wrote horoscopes for people who would be born thousands of years later. Even today, if you discover the proper place (and there are many fake ones), you may find your own horoscope, written ages ago in ancient Sanskrit, describing your past, present, and future. Amazing, but a fact. Swami Kriyananda for example found his personal Brighu horoscope and had it researched scientifically. The ink used was indeed hundreds of years old. The horoscope, made in his name, revealed precise knowledge of his life, his present situation, and accurately predicted future events.

Hearing this we may naturally ask: “In this case, is it not clear that our life is predetermined?” No. Brighu, from above time, perceived the entire book of life, including all past and future chapters. But within time, within that book of life, a law is written which is called free will. There is no fate.

Within the book (and that is where we find ourselves) free will is a basic principle of life: freedom of choice is given to everyone. In short, free will does exist, and can defeat any “fate.” Yogananda writes in his Autobiography: “Any apparent insurrection of bodily or cerebral cells toward Emperor Soul, manifesting as disease or depression, is due to no disloyalty among the humble citizens, but to past or present misuse by man of his individuality or free will, given to him simultaneous with a soul, and revocable never.” And: “Every individual in the world has inalienable right to his free will.”

Again: the rational mind does not easily grasp these paradoxical teachings. Intuition alone will be able to answer you accurately. To develop it, you might find it helpful to mediate on the following statements by Yogananda:

“In reality there is no time.
There is only one thing that is real –
the present tense.
Everything is happening NOW.”

“Past, present, and future:
These three states arise, wave-like,
on the surface of the ETERNAL NOW.”

“Look to the past as a guideline
to improving the future,
but seek perfection beyond time,
in the ETERNAL NOW.”

Sri Yukteswar said:

“Everything in future will improve
if you are making a spiritual effort now.”

These last words seem the most practical for us. They call us to shape our future, working on ourselves now, improving our life, meditating, raising our consciousness. The call is this: Do it now, and reap the good fruit! The thought of predestination, even if valid from some cosmic viewpoint, is rather stifling, and is even untrue on this level of existence.

In divine friendship,
Jayadev