Is There Such a Thing as Free Will?

 

“Only the wise know just where predestination ends and free will begins.”
– Sri Paramahansa Yogananda


Are we merely conditioned beings, choicelessly driven moment-to-moment by the forces of the past, but still experiencing an illusion of “free will”? These forces, of course, are not only physical, but also mental, i.e., thoughts and emotions driven by the conditionings of the past. If only these forces (mental and physical, internal and external) coming from the past, push us to the next moment, then the next moment is fully determined.


Yes, the number of these forces is very large and difficult to calculate, but if we had a huge super computer that could calculate all these forces, it would predict our next move accurately. If this is true, then we are just automatons (or robots) − though very complex and complicated ones − imagining ourselves to be free. Unless of course, within that moment, there is something that can act and change the relentless push of the past towards a predetermined future.


“Free will” implies two things.


One is the ability to choose between different alternatives and not being forced onto a predetermined path. The second is the existence of some intentionality or purpose which exercises this choice.


Is there something truly intelligent and creative about us which can exercise this free will in the moment and take us in a different direction from this incessant, crushing force of the past? This intelligence must be beyond the forces of our past conditioning and current circumstances. This book is written from the perspective of the chief protagonist and my alter ego: “Amit,” and his search for this intelligence. Amit looks to science as well as the spiritual traditions of the past, whetting all this on the anvil of his own personal experience, till the answer that finally arrives amazes and transforms him forever.


Personally, it has been a long journey ‒ extending nearly two decades ‒ as I have wrestled with the above thoughts. It all started with an unsuspecting dream many years ago, where I was a fly. Yes, an ordinary house fly! I seemed to be moving up and down. Interestingly, I felt that I was causing this up-and-down motion due to something I was doing. But after some time of experiencing the up-and-down motion − which was alternatively making me happy and sad − I was suddenly transported to a larger view of the situation (I was now half awake). It was then that I realized that I was nothing more than an ordinary fly sitting on the side of the wheel rim of a bullock cart as it trundled along a rustic village road. I experienced a sudden shock or change in paradigm as I saw this reality and realized the foolishness and limitations of my previous experience, where I felt I was the cause of the different outcomes.


Mind you, while I was peering out of the eyes of the fly on the side of the cart wheel, the emotions were intense as I remember the clanking sounds and feeling the rocking movement of the cart as it moved, and I was struggling hard to maintain certain positions versus others. So, when I saw the larger picture, it was quite a shock!


This dream remained sharply edged in my mind, continuously nudging at my consciousness from a subliminal unconscious level, till I realized that this was a message from the Universe and a purpose I had to fulfill. The key question that this dream threw up was – Is there such a thing as free will, or are we all like this fly on the cart wheel enjoying (or suffering) this experience of free will, where there is none? The more I explored this, the more I realized that the seemingly simple question had so many dimensions that it could take a lifetime to fully answer it . . . and that is the journey which I started.


Do I have all the answers today after so many years? Definitely Not!


But have I progressed and transformed as an individual due to this journey? Definitely!


I believe it would be unwise and lazy of me not to share this journey with all of you. More so, I think this intentional, purposeful and extremely intelligent Universe would want me to share this with you. Or even better said, this infinitely intelligent Universe is just sharing this story itself, using this highly intricate, human mechanism that I call “me.”


I would urge you to participate in, and take away some pieces of this journey which could help you along your own journey. I acknowledge and appreciate that this journey, which is extremely close to my heart and has been my path to transformation, may not be your path. Uniqueness in all individuals in the world is part of the design of this infinite intelligence. No two beings are the same. It never ceases to amaze me that in a population of over seven billion human beings ‒ and the many more who have existed in past ‒ there are no two fingerprints alike! Every person has a different fingerprint set. How does this come about? Simply by chance?


Could all this be something more than blind luck? No, there is something very apparent which we have missed all this while.


I would not want to spoil it for you by answering all the questions and killing the suspense, so I leave you to experience this journey yourself through this book!

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