Beautiful discourse by Swami Mukundananda on the Vedic teachings on Free Will & Agency.

JUN 26, 2011

When God is the actual Doer, why are the souls subjected to the results of their karmas?
I added this discourse by Swami Mukundananda here because of its sheer explanatory excellence in illuminating the Vaishnava Vedantic principles of Agency & Free Will.

Question asked by a devotee: When God is the actual Doer, why are the souls subjected to the results of their karmas?  

Answer by Swamiji:  Many people diminish the need for self-effort in their minds by saying, “Nothing is in our hands.  God is seated within us.  He is the doer of all our actions, and we act as He inspires us.”  However, this philosophy is not really true, as the following points will illustrate: 
If God were the doer of all our actions, we would never have committed any mistakes.  All of our works would have been perfect, since God can never make a blunder.  The fact that we make innumerable mistakes implies that we are performing actions with our own free will.  If God were the doer of our actions, we would not have to bear the karmic reactions.  Why would we suffer for works that God did through us?  He would either bear the karmic reactions on His own, or forgive Himself.  But there is the Law of Karma, “As you do, so you shall reap.”  This implies that we ourselves are responsible for what we do. God is impartial towards all souls and perfectly just.  If He was the doer of our actions, He would either have made everyone do good works and become Saints; or He would have made everyone do bad works and become demons.  But there is so much of variety in the world.  One is a Saint, like Prahlad, while the other is a demon, like Hiranyakashipu.  This variety implies that we have the freedom to choose our own actions, and we are responsible for them, not God.   If God were the inspirer of our actions, there would have be no need for Him to reveal the Vedas or any other scriptures.  There would be no need for Him to explain to us the path to perfection.  He would simply have to say two sentences: “O souls, I am the doer of everything.  So you do not have to understand what proper and improper action is.” 

It is true that God is seated within us, and He gives us the power to act.  However, what we do with that power is decided by our own free will.  This is just as the powerhouse supplies electricity to your house.  If it did not give the power, you would not have been able to use any electric appliances in your home.  However, once you do have that power, what you do with it, is your own choice.  You could operate the fan, light the lamp, or heat/cool the house, as you wish.  

Similarly, God gives our eyes the power to see.  If He did not give us this power, we would not have been able to see anything.  But once we do have this power, what we see is in our own hands.  You could go to the temple and see the Deities, or you could see dirty pictures on theinternet.  God is merely giving you the power to see.  What you decide to see is your own choice decided by your free will.  Hence, we must not blame God for our mistakes.  If we do something wrong, we should take responsibility for the error and strive to correct it.

Swami Mukunananda

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