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Fate and Human Endeavour

09 Oct

I recently read some posts which presented in ingenious ways their take on irrational and rational  faiths and beliefs. The term rational–faith seemed rather confronting, with the two contradictions placed face to face, as if one was challenging the other.  In that context, the fate and its inevitable part in human life were also mulled over. And, I found the posts interesting. I reckon there is a bit more to fate and its related issue: the human endeavor; hence this post.

What is fate?

1.1. It is common experience that most of the things that happen in one’s life result from one’s efforts or in the process of trying to do something. One is naturally gratified to see his endeavours crowned with success either immediately or after a passage of time. And, the persons who succeed deservedly congratulate themselves over their efforts.  However, there are also occasions, though seldom, when things seem to just happen almost on their own accord.  And at times things seem to happen despite oneself. Such rare happenings could either be a delightful surprise or be a cause for  agonizing distress.

1.2. When a person is happy; when life is easy and pleasant; when things are flowing like milk and honey; or when one is overwhelmed in joy from a windfall, then it is the good- fortune that smiles on him/her. When you or your dear one is suddenly cured of an ailment, it is then a miracle. When you just escaped an accident that could have grievously injured you or could even have killed you, it is then providence or divine intervention. You thank god profusely for his mercy.  You also come to accept providence as the divine will, the divine notion or plan that governs all events in the universe.

1.3. There also comes a time when ones effort does not bring forth fruits as expected; or the things that started well begin to show signs of going weary. And it is worse when your project slides into an abject wreck, for no fault of yours. Nothing seems to reasonably explain your failures. The disappointments, sufferings and sorrow that follow are then blamed on fate.

2.1. Thus, a windfall or bright fortune is good luck. But, Fate  has come to  be understood as  one that is  inseparably linked to prolonged or acute suffering, undeserved punishment , reverses in life, unexpected losses , humiliation, poverty, disease , loss , death of near and dear ones etc. It is especially agonizing when the suffering is undeserved and unjust. What should one conclude when such acute loss or sorrow is brought about by no apparent fault of hers/ his; and when failures are not rationally linked to any agent or any action?  It is his Fate, he laments.

2.2. Fate serves as a gap-filler to fill the vacuum in his understanding of the world around him when other visible explanations fail. The concept is reinforced further, in a negative way, at the sight of an evil person enjoying happiness and good things in life while a righteous one suffers eking out a miserable existence. Since neither the comfort nor the misery – undeserved in either case – can be explained in a rational way, they are routinely blamed on the inevitable play of the fate.

3.1. Having said that, what one calls Fate is not an objective reality. It cannot be perceived by human senses. Some call it a creation of human imagination or at best is a default-inference. One could even say that man invented fate by re-ordering his moral world , so that he could ascribe to it whatever that did not fit into its paradigm. It may also have been born of man’s refusal to accept the idea that life is wholly irrational; and out of his pet-belief that there is an unknown area beyond all that is known which would explain life and its mystique. In a way of speaking, it might not be wrong to call fate a projection of man’s fears and helplessness in the face of strange, untoward, unexpected, undeserved occurrences for which he is wholly not-responsible and unprepared; and for which he has no explanation. It is something towards which he feels is driven, going by his hard experiences in the world.

3. 2. Fate by its very concept is, thus, irrational. One could lament that Fate is blind; It gives solace but not light; but not guidance. Yet, one cannot entirely deny the unknown and the unpredictable elements of life.  Man therefore calls fate: a capricious phantom.  And yet he manfully challenges this caprice, unwilling to surrender to its whims, to deflect its moves through precaution, valour, and various other brave and crafty ways. That is the crux of life.

Fate in Indian ethos

4.1. Surprisingly, the concept and the belief in fate is a late entry into the Indian ethos. None of the four Samhitas, the Aranyakas, the Brahmanas or the Upanishads speaks of fate. In Rig Veda, particularly, prayers are addressed to benevolent gods who are gently or fervently persuaded to grant fertility in crops and cattle, to bless with plenty of sons and wealth. There is a joyous optimism looking forward with hope to be truly alive over a ‘span-of hundred – sharad ritus’, the best of the seasons. These texts do not have trace of fatalism. But, the concept of fate and fatalism gained prominence much later in the Epics and the Puranas. We shall talk a bit more of that in the paragraphs to follow.

4.2. The first philosopher to formally propound the theory of fatalism (Niyati-vada) was Makkhali Gosala, an early contemporary of the Buddha. Some say; he was called Gosala because he was born in a cow-shed. Panini the Grammarian (around 5th century BCE) described him as Maskarin (one who carries a bamboo staff).  Makkhali Gosala was a follower of Parsvanatha the twenty-third Tirthankara,    in the Nigantha Nataputta Order of Jainism. Gosala too was a naked ascetic. Due to differences with the main Jaina Sangha, Makkhali Gosala left the Order and founded his own sect: Ajivika.

[ Dr. Benimadhab Barua (A History of pre-Buddhistic Indian Philosophy) says, Ajivikas cannot be entirely identified with naked recluse/ascetics. They were, in general, independent and self-respecting individuals who had following among the Jains as also Buddhists. The Ajivika thesis, in main, according to him, is that the universe is a purposive order where everything is assigned its place and function (niyati).The law of change is universal and all beings are capable of transformation; and most attain perfection in due time. The man’s life has to pass through eight stages of development at each of which physical growth proceeds along with the development of senses, moral and spiritual faculties. And, finally leading to purity of mind; purging it of all impurities that have stained it.

Thus Dr. Barua’s rendition varies from the popular versions of the Ajivika-beliefs.

Dr. Barua gives some biographic details of Gosala that are not mentioned by others: The Jain sources mention his name as Maskarin – one who carries a staff; also known as Ekadandin.  Maskarin preceded Mahavira by sixteen years. His actual name was Gosala Mankhaliputta – son of Mankhali and Bhaddha; and was born at Saravana near Savastthi. His father Mankhali derived his name from the profession he followed a dealer in pictures. Gosala followed his father’s profession until he turned a monk.]

4.3. Ajivika sect was perhaps the first to put forward fatalism as being absolute and final. It embraced the concept of fate rather too tightly and affirmed fate as the ultimate reality in human life. It believed: ‘there is no such thing as human endower, human strength or determination; all things are pre-determined’. His parent body the Jainas did not however quite approve of Gosala’s theory and promptly labelled it ‘ajnana-vada’, the doctrine of ignorance.

4.4. Gosala seems to say you are free to take the first step; but as soon as you take it, you are bound by the outcome of your act and have lost your freedom of choice. For instance, let’s say you are about to plant a sapling. As long as you have not done it, almost all options are open to you. But once you decide on your choice, its outcome is also determined.  If you plant a mango tree, then you reap only mangos and no other fruit. In other words, you can act, but its outcome is predestined.

[This sounds very similar to Prof. Cassius .J. Keyser’s concept of Logical Fate which essentially means that from premises consequences follow. Choices differ . . . and when we have made it, we are at once bound by a destiny of consequences   beyond our will to control or to modify (See his Mathematical Philosophy). ]

5.1. Makkhali Gosala had declared:” There is neither cause nor basis for sins of human beings. None of the deeds of man can affect his future births. All beings, all that have breath, all that are born, all that have life, are without power, strength, or virtue, but are developed by destiny, chance and nature. All existence is unalterably fixed (niyata). Suffering and happiness, therefore, do not depend on any cause or effect; but are pre-determined by niyati (fate). And, niyati being adrsta is unseen and preordained . Suffering and happiness, therefore, do not depend on any cause or effect ”.”

5.2. The Buddha totally disliked the fatalistic theory and called its promoter Gosala as the most dangerous of the heretic teachers; and remarked  : “Just as the hair blanket is  the meanest of all woven garments , even so, of all the teachings of nagga-samanas (naked recluse) that of Makkhali is the meanest” (Majjhima  Nikaya :1:513).

5.3. The reason that the Buddha summarily dismissed the fatalism of Gosala was perhaps because it rendered human life utterly irresponsible, robbing it of accountability for man’s evil or even good deeds. Gosala had said man was not responsible for his deeds as he was under the control of fate.  Further, Gosala had discounted the role of Karman in life as also in life-after-life of all beings; but had put faith in fate. Gosala had thus attacked the very foundation of the Buddha’s fundamental theory of the chain of cause-and- effect, where the effect is produced by a cause through modifications. The Buddhist law of causation – Pratītyasamutpāda – was the basis of every other doctrine in Buddhism including rebirth, karma, samsara, dukkha etc.

[But the later forms of Buddhism could not keep out the element of fate. For instance, a Jataka tale (No.257 Gamanichanda) makes out that chance predominates and takes over the course of human life as the agent of fate. And in another Jataka (No.538 Mugapakka)   a king chased by ill-luck for long period says “I know not where I go, the fate watching never sleeps”.]

Karman and rebirth

6.1. But what is Karman? Simply put, it is action, any action, good, bad or indifferent which involves a moral decision. But, occasionally, unwitting action – good or bad- also counts for Karman. It is the belief that ‘as a man decides, he acts; and, as he acts he gets the fruits of action  ‘.

6.2. It was much later that rebirth came to be associated with Karman: a man was born and lived according to what he did in his life on earth. This association had many facets. Initially, the rebirth had reference only to the future. But, with Karman it became a two-ended proposition: a man’s past Karman determines his present station; and, his present station determines how he will fare in the future. It also meant that Karman took time to mature and to yield its results. This time gap (karma-paripaka) was compared to the interval between sowing and harvesting; or between administering medicine and regaining health.

6.3. Karman in association with rebirth was largely an assumption (just as many of these concepts) and not proved by any of the valid means of knowledge or the methods of cognition. But, Karman seemed to offer an explanation to the illogical inequalities and relative-injustices that one comes across in the world. That made it easy to explain the fact that certain persons occupy higher positions in the social hierarchy, enjoy the power and all the benefits that come with their status because of their Karman in their past births.

7. 1. But, these elucidations seemed to have a limited range, as they   did not adequately explain all events in human life. It was pointed out that similar actions do not always produce similar results. And, it did not explain the vast range of variations that occur even among the fortunate ones better placed in life. Further, it was argued,   how could an individuals’ Karman explain a natural calamity like famine, epidemic, accidents, disasters etc involving mass-deaths. Does it mean that all those victims had identical Karman which matured at precisely the same instant?

7.2. It was then put forward that   there had to be another factor which influenced human life in tandem with Karman and rebirth. That unknown factor came to be accepted as the fate. It was brought in as a powerful agent to reinforce and to strengthen the Karman theory. The apparent injustices were ascribed to fate whose mystiques could not be remedied or unveiled.

Thus, along with Karman and rebirth, fate became the third factor in controlling human existence, life and destiny.

Fate and religion

8.1. All religions, cultures and sects have element of fatalism in some form or other. A faith in an unknown force which controls human destiny is at the base of most religions and mythologies. Elaborate tales are spun to drive home the conviction that a mystery surrounds human existence; and it will never be fully revealed.

8.2. Most systems seek to see God or the gods and fate as distinct powers. In some theologies, God is seen playing with the fate , the grief and joys of his creatures; in some others , gods are subservient to fate; and , in few others, the gods and fate together exercise power over human destiny. In some cases, the fate in one or other names occupies a key position in the pantheon. For instance, Fate is also equated with Time, kaala: ‘if kaala is adverse and angry, how, then, shall we escape’. Time in human life runs along a single direction; and it rushes towards death. Hence Time becomes synonymous with death. And, death becomes an essential constituent of fate.

8.3. In the Vedic religion which has a fluid pantheon where new gods come and old gods fade away rather quietly, Karman, rebirth and fate continued to play a role. The fate here is both dependent and independent of Karman, as it was deemed possible for an individual to exercise his free-will in order to correct himself and to improve his future.

8.4. In monotheism where nothing can happen without the will of God, the God will necessarily have to assume the role of fate too. Otherwise, if its follower believes in destiny as determined by fate then there would be no room for God as the dispenser of destiny.

9.1. The things get bit more complicated when you put together fate, Karman, the grace of god and the human effort. If one strongly believes in fate and its role in determining human destiny, then Karman becomes redundant. If on the other hand one subscribes to the faith  and belief   that it is the Law of  Karman that governs human life and its future , then fate has no place in such a  scheme of things. And, if one has immense faith in God who in his infinite grace over rides Karman and fate, then either are rendered ineffective. In which case, total submission to god’s grace is the ultimate panacea for all worldly ills.

The diversity of the views regarding the relative merits of Karman, fate, divine favor and personal effort represent or depend upon the different anchors of human faith. Most theologies seek to reconcile these factors.

9.2. As regards human endeavour, one can never discount its efficacy in life. It is after all the man who decides the attitudes to adopt at varying times as he battles with life. It is also his decision to discard all or any of those approaches, or to relay on his own effort and judgment. Life has no meaning and is not worth living when human endeavour is not valued. Therefore, in day-to-day life, human endower runs alongside some sort of faith.

Fate in Epics and Puranas

10.1. It is in the Epics and the Puranas that fate seems to take the centre stage.

In the Ramayana and Mahabharata Epics, several situations are so crafted as if to bring human endeavour face-to-face with fate. In the many incidents narrated in the epics, fate does not act directly but takes subtler methods of clouding its victim’s wits. Sometimes, fate acts as a living human enemy hurting the unsuspecting victims.

10.2. There are homilies that acknowledge the supremacy of fate as that which cannot be grasped by thought; and as that which is not destroyed in creatures”(Ram: 2.20:20). There are also remarkably brave statements which applaud human effort (purusakara or purusha-prayatna) and decry  dependence on fate as ‘false-games that people play and delude themselves ‘; “when he  cleaves to fate without conducting himself like a man, he  labours in vain like a woman with an impotent husband (Mbh: 8:6:20); and, that ‘Low men given to indulgence of the passions blame the fate for their own evil deeds ‘ (Mbh: 8:67:1).

11.1. The principle characters of the Epics – Sri Rama and Yudhistira- lament and blame their miseries on fate: Who can fight against fate?”(Ram -2:22:20);”The man to whom fate allots defeat it robs him of his intellect first and then he begins to see things in a reverse order. Fate robs him of vision, falling like an eye of fire on him” (Mbh: 2.73:8; 3:295:1).

But what is more important here is that the heroes of the Epics, despite their miseries and delusions, do not give up but keep on fighting till the end.

11.2. But it is the relatively minor characters that stand up for human endeavour and refuse to accept the verdict of fate. For instance, Lakshmana argues with his   dejected brother “why an able bodied man with his faculties intact should accept unjust verdicts of fate without protest”. His argument has a subtle point: when success is achieved by ones brave efforts, people tend to ascribe it to fate and destiny. That is unfair, according Lakshmana, as it robs the brave man of his well deserved glory. To Lakshmana, it is cowardly to submit to fate, to suffer injustice without protest while it is possible to do so, and then blame the fate for his misery (Ram: Kishkinda Kanda).

11.3. Karna the tragic hero of Mahabharata though a Kshatriya by birth was not aware of his origin because he grew up as a charioteers son. When others jeered him of his low extract, Karna retorted “A charioteer or a charioteer’s son, whoever I may be, my birth was decreed by fate, but I am the master of my valour”. Here was an instance of a proud self-confident person who undertakes tasks and performs with faith in Purushakara.

11.4. The great battle of Mahabharata was in one sense a battle between fate and human effort. The warriors on either side knew well that victory was essentially uncertain; and their own life was highly threatened .Yet, heroic men fought with great courage. Every warrior, mighty and small,  had realized that meek acceptance of fate meant negating the glory of his manhood. Yet, each one was also prepared to conditionally accept his fate as a venture into an unknown zone riddled with startling events. And, regardless of the outcome each fighter , even the ordinary one, was determined to battle courageously, more manfully and to fight against the mightier odds, if only to redeem his  pride and that  of his clan.

11.5. Mahabharata has some great statements on fate and human endeavour: Whatever the enterprising man ever does, he must do it fearlessly, and the success however depends on fate (Mbh: 8:1.47); as a lamp grows weak as the oil runs out, so the fate grows weak when the fruits of action are exhausted (Mbh: 8:6:44).

12.1. Puranas were written mainly to glorify the powers, the splendour and supremacy of their principle gods or goddesses. They urge the devotee to surrender to the will and mercy of gods and goddesses. But, at the same time they call upon men not to give up their efforts: “Some wise men call fate as the false hope that feeble cling to. For the powerful men no fate is ever noticed. The heroic and the feeble take recourse to effort and fate respectively “(Devibhagavata: 5:12:28-30); and, “the wise hold that prowess is the best. Even an adverse fate can be overcome by the prowess of those of good conduct who are ever active and dedicated” (Matsya Purana).

Here, emphasis is laid on human effort without which even fate is powerless to achieve anything. Here cleaving of fate is not condemned, but doing so and abandoning personal effort is.

12.2. The Puranas tried to reconcile fate and human effort. There are several statements that emphasize that one should always be active in ones prescribed field of activity. And that only the people without prowess talk of fate; and many alas do not realize that it is primarily their effort (purusha-prayatna) that paves way for their salvation. They emphasize the importance of self-initiative. Puranas and its legends assured that human effort (purushakara) blessed by fate would surely bear fruit in due time.

Fate and Human endeavour

13.1. It can be seen that absolute dependence on fate and the absolute reliance on human endeavour are projected as two extreme positions. It would however be prudent to recognize the limits of both; that is to say, one is powerless without the other or that where the one ends the other begins. Human endeavour, for instance, is the very act of living and life has no meaning when human endeavour is not valued. Therefore, in day-to-day life, human endower runs alongside some sort of faith. But one has also to recognize that even the most sophisticated of all human endeavours – let’s say launching of a space shuttle- involves and is subject to an element of unknown and unpredictable. You might assign that unpredictability in life whatever name you choose.

13.2. Shri DSamapath elsewhere remarked that in situations where one is faced with extremes there always are other possibilities open for resolving the conflicts. Those options might range from   the middle path to the simultaneity of all possibilities. These he calls as the metaphors of thought. Such multi-pointed approach would naturally take into account not merely the whole of a ‘metaphor’ but also its specific variations. It is in that context that the Vedic religion re-worked on the theory of Karman and rendered it more dynamic by providing for the freedom of individual will, enabling him to correct the errors and to improve upon his good-performance. That was  meant to convince  that the outcome of one’s past action is not always beyond control or beyond modification,  provided there is a strong will to so.

13.3. Shri DSampath’s observation also implies that there could be as many approaches or attitudes to life as there are individuals. I agree with him. It appears to me that amidst all those options   what is important is to retain a  sense of balance in life recognizing the limits of each of the factors that play an effective role in the different contexts  of the varied spheres of human life. As Uddalaka Aruni counsels his son, one has to understand life through reason grasped in faith: ‘śraddhatsva somyeti; Have faith, my dear’ (Ch. Up. 6.12.2).What that faith is at the very core of each being.

To sum up:

Haman initiative and endeavour is highly essential in life; and without that life would collapse on itself. But that does not say everything. At almost all levels , even at its most sophisticated and highest level , human effort involves and is subject to elements of unknown and unpredictable; you may assign them any name/s . Which suggests that human freedom is operational; but it is not absolute freedom.

Roger Sperry (1913-1994) a psycho biologist (neuro-psychologist and neuro-biologist) who won the Nobel Prize for his split-brain research) explained free will as follows

What one wants of free will is not to be totally freed from causation, but rather, to have the kind of control that allows one to determine one’s own actions according to one’s own wishes, one’s own judgment, perspective, cognitive aims, emotional desires and other mental inclinations.

We are free to select our assumptions. But to exercise this freedom, man must first know that he is thus free. There could be as many assumptions and beliefs as there are individuals. Fate, god or such others could also be one of those beliefs. If one has firm conviction in ones belief and strives towards that, then ‘that’ would become the reality for him in due time.  And that is his faith, the very core of his being.

Leaving aside remarkable sages and saints, it appears to me, for the men and women of the world it is important to retain a sense of balance and to understand life through reason grasped in faith, as said.

flower-design

 
14 Comments

Posted by on October 9, 2012 in General Interest, Speculation

 

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14 responses to “Fate and Human Endeavour

  1. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 5:19 am

    This is a very interesting topic.I shall express here my world view or my belief system which guides my actions.Fate is an innate predilection for feelings,thoughts and actions of a ‘sentient being’ born; to be guided by an identity matrix, which is the true’him’ .The identity matrix is a complex combination of his belief systems which guide his rationality and a structure of emotive map which is coded on his psyche.This coding is due to the effect of years of cultural heritage,his parents psyche, conditions at the time of conception,being in the womb and also the birth,his early years of ego formation.This codes the individual’s emotions,thoughts and cation frames in a certain way.This codes his meanings in every situation,and influences the choice he makes and also the role he takes in his life.

    The cosmic entity -self -acts through the ‘being’ to express itself in the world.The strong identity frame inherent in the being usually channelizes the direction of expression on the basis of the predilections of the identity..the spiritual endeavor of the ‘being’ is to give a free reign to the expression of the ‘self ‘to realizing the potential of the identity.”Fate” to me is this decree.

    Human being has choice of enlarging his individual identity and ultimately become one with the universal identity.so the direction of ‘fate’ keeps changing with each addition to the structure of the identity.

    The spirtual goal of any being is to become a universal man by continuous addition to the identity…Advaita…a person who becomes one with the universal identity.He then becomes a ‘jeevan muktha’ ;since he has a choice of mobilizing all aspects of his identity which covers all possibilities.He becomes the one who is totality of simultaneous, multiple possibilities.In short he becomes free of his specific individual identity he started with.

    To become a ‘jeevan muktha’ who is freed form his fate there is another route of human effort which is to dissolve the identity and reach the state of sunyata or nullness.
    Given an identity there is a certain direction of movement of life.When one adds to or deletes from himself.there is a change in direction.for both these processes has been availble in our mantric ,tantric and yogic lore.

    So there is a choice of addition or dissolution.The choice does not end here.A human being can either have the effects of the accretion of his identity by taking it in his body,or taking it in his mental sphere,or allow it to come upon oneself through outer actions attracted by his psyche..

    The story to me does not end here ; through deep relatedness we are also probably capable of taking either community’s collective identity (archetypes,avtars,shamans) or some other indivdual’s into our being and even experience part of their fate.Shirdi Sai gave up his life and died by giving his life to a devotee.Ramana and Ramakrishna took the pain and pathos of others into the body which became cancerous.

    The addition and deletion to the identity can be done by creating new paths for ourselves which are beyond the strong dictates of the identity. The ethos that you build up not succumbing to the strong natural predilections create ‘karma’ which add or delete guiding the direction of individual identity or fate.They create new neural paths in the brain and create different emotive maps which morph the identity and the fate.

    To me these are very scientific.The analogy is like the transformation of fundamental elements to more dense elements(addition to the identity) and the destruction of complex elements to fundamental elements(deletions) through various energy infusions in the periodic table.,

    If this does not sound cogent to you..please ignore this..I am sharing with you my myth which directs my life..I am also clear that everyone else have their myths or beliefs and all are perhaps true.The effect of Maya may be such that reality of a person is a function of his beliefs..so fate could also be a function of your beliefs.If I have faith in my beliefs may be belief becomes a reality.May be there is no such thing as absolute universal truth.After all Ramkrishna conversed with Kali.and saint Gnan dev forced the lord got come and eat with him..Why do these happens to people who have unshakable faith?.I wonder.

    DSampath

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 18, 2015 at 5:20 am

      Dear Shri Sampath, Wow…That is truly wonderful. You have elevated the issue to a very high level. I had not even thought of those sublime truths. I respect you for your convictions and your vision of life.

      The blog tried to address a limited issue. Human initiative and endeavor is highly essential in life; and without that life would collapse on itself. But that does not say everything. Even at its most sophisticated and highest level, human effort involves and is subject to elements of unknown and unpredictable; you may call those by any name. Which suggests that human freedom is operational; but it is not absolute freedom.

      We are free to select our assumptions; But to exercise this freedom, man must first know that he is thus free. There could be as many assumptions and beliefs as there are individuals. Fate, god or such others could also be one of those beliefs. If one has firm conviction in ones belief and strives towards that; that could become a reality for him. And that is his faith, the very core of his being.

      Leaving aside remarkable sages and saints, it appears to me, for the men and women of the world it is important to retain a sense of balance and to understand life through reason grasped in faith, as said.

      I am grateful to you for your observation. It opened a new vista.

      I have since added a short summary.

      Regards

       
  2. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 5:22 am

    Shree Rao

    This is a very very interesting blog. I agree human endeavour is needed to battle the adverse events that trouble our lives. We have to be strong mentally to tackle all that happens in life. I believe in Geethacharya’s words that the realised ones will treat the good and the bad events with equal reaction…a sthithaprakgna. But it is very difficult to reach this stage.
    We have been brought up in a particular format where Fate or “what is written in your head ” holds sway over us. But our grandfathers ( and those before them ) have also added that clinging on to the Supreme’s feet can change our fate. Surrender…whether it is to Siva, Vishnu or Devi….they will change things for you. And so Fate is subject to change.
    (This comment is going to be a long one, Shree Rao..So if you need a break, just go and have a coffee or tea and come back. )

    We have a friend who sought a Nadi Josya and the things that were read out to him from the palm leaves were amazing. We meet up once in a while and he and his wife are very close to us and very often we make temple trips together. . The palm leaves, written by the Kakabhujanda Muni eons back had our friend’s parents’ names, occupation, his occupation and the fact he would quit his Bank Job and start a business on his own astounded him. But he shuffled aside the quitting job..saying who would want to quit a Bank Job and risk a business venture. But FATE was that he quit his job and is now doing very well in his business.
    My husband and I are hard core believers of Nadi ( amazing how the long-sighted Rishi wrote a whole lot of palm leaves !! )but we do not wish to know what is in store…we’ll take things as they come by.
    Now, my husband’s cousin on one of his visits here was awed by this Nadi Theory and last month he took from us the telephone number of the Nadi Jyosya at Vaitheeswaran Koil..who is the best and most authentic there.
    This cousin who is in BMY came all the way from there carrying with him the thumb impressions of his mother, and two sisters and ofcourse own. He did not reveal to the Jyosya that the other three were his family members.
    He came back here after reading the Nadis of all the four which was also recorded and given to him. He was stunned and wanted us to listen to the recordings.
    The most astounding thing was…
    all the four palm leaves has identical facts about the two sisters’ and his father right from “the father had a job connected with one of the life giving gases ” (Our Uncle s with Indian Oxygen). He said that my husband’s cousin has in his Nadi that his job was dealing with metals and machinery and he was on his own !! He also said that all three(the two sisters and the brother) have no Wedding Praaptha..true. To this day their marriages never happened..He is 65 and the two sisters are 63 and 61. And all the details of what they do. Their illnesses ..it was amazing Shree Rao.
    What else is it, but one’s FATE recorded in these Palm Leaves ?
    But wait. There were also pariharams in the Palm leaves. The Muni KaakaBhujanda had also written out the Parihaarams to overcome the diseases and misfortunes …which would make life better…like visiting a few particular Temples, lighting lamps for Gnapathy, giving Vasthra daanam. Mind you..my cousin did all that and went back home a thoroughly satisfied human being. !!
    It was mind blowing.
    I conclude…our FATE is charted. But fate can be over come as you say with endeavours,. I for my part believe that bad things can be obliterated by chanting and concentrating on God – the ishta Devatha,
    We are clueless human beings. We don’t really understand half the things that are taking place in our lives. Over the years our culture has been tarnished so much we have lost a lot of valuable knowledge our ancient Rishis had. May be our FATE ?

    Usha Suryamani

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 18, 2015 at 5:22 am

      Dear Usha, Welcome back. I am glad you read this; and grateful you gave thought to it. Regarding Naadi jothishya I am not familiar with it. But I heard from my younger brother (a medical doctor) of his similar experiences while he recently visited a temple-town near Pondicherry. (He could not readily recall the name of the temple.)

      Yes I agree “We are clueless human beings. We don’t really understand half the things that are taking place in our lives.”. As I mentioned under ‘To Sum Up’, while human man endeavor is highly essential, at almost all levels of life human effort involves and is subject to elements of unknown and unpredictable; you may call those by any name. . Human freedom is operational; but it is not absolute freedom.

      Shri Sampath had brought in another essential aspect of human life: the Faith. I tend to agree that there could be as many assumptions, beliefs and faiths as there are individuals. Fate, god or such others could also be one of those beliefs. If one has firm conviction in one’s belief and strives towards that; that would become the reality for her/him in due time. And, perhaps at the end, it is the faith that is at the very core of ones being that matters.

      The men and women of the world have also to retain a sense of balance and to understand life through reason grasped in faith, as said.

      Regards.

       
      • sreenivasaraos

        March 18, 2015 at 5:24 am

        I read Sampath’s comment too. Faith I agree is the substance of all worship. Without faith we are like rudderless ships. Faith consoles. Faith gives us strength. Faith heals. Faith clears our vision too.
        You have rightly said that ” The men and women of the world have also toretain a sense of balance and to understand life through reason grasped in faith…”
        Unfortunately in most cases emotions rule the hearts and the sense of balance becomes hard to get.

        Usha Suryamani

         
  3. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 5:24 am

    Dear sribilash , This is in addition to what was said in the main blog (paragraphs : from 4.2 to 5.3); and in continuation of the response I posted the page of Sribilsh..

    By the 6th century BCE a class of teachers and wandering philosophers called Sramanas came into prominence. They claimed to teach how to live and how to attain real happiness in life. They rejected the Vedic sanctions and its rituals; and offered another means of knowing the Truth. the Vedic tradition differs from Sramana teachings in three respects; viz. (a) attitude to society, (b) goal of life, and (c) outlook towards living creatures. Consequently, both these cults were so opposed to each other that Panini and Patanjali referred to them as having Sasvat-virodha and Govyaghravat-virodha.

    The leaders of Sramanas were referred to as “Heretical Teachers”. These contemporary teachers were, like the Buddha himself, inspired by the wave of dissatisfaction with the system of orthodox Brahmanism. Six such teachers are mentioned in the Pali Canon: — (i) Purana Kassapa; (ii) Makkhali Gosala ;( iii) Ajita Kesakambal; (iv) Pakudha Kaccayana; (v) Sanjaya Belatthiputta; and (vi) Nigantha Natputta.

    Among these Makkhali Gosala was a follower of Jainism of the Parsvanatha tradition. He too was a naked ascetic. Some say, as he was not appointed a Ganadhara (leader) in Nigantha Nataputta’s order, he left the Jain Sangha and founded another sect called Ajivikas. The Ajivika sect was founded in the city of Savasthi perhaps around 489 BCE.

    According to Makkhali Gosala’s Niyativada (fatalism) : “There is neither cause nor basis for the sins of living beings; they become pure without cause or basis. There is no deed performed either by oneself or by others which can affect one’s future births, no human action, no strength, no courage, no human endurance or human prowess can affect one’s destiny in this life. All beings, all that have breath, all that are born, all that have life, are without power, strength, or virtue, but are developed by destiny, chance and nature, and experience joy and sorrow in the six levels for existence. Salvation, in his opinion, can be attained only by death and existence which are unalterably fixed (niyata). Suffering and happiness,, therefore, do not depend on any cause or effect.”

    Since according to Ajivikas the future was already predetermined one could through insight into various natural phenomena read into future and predict events to come. And, that would also help one to be prepared for its blows and shocks.

    As in the case of Lokayatas and other Heretic Schools the Ajivika sect too has not survived. All its texts are lost; and whatever we know of the sect is through versions of it as given by its opponents.

    Sribilash, now you have to tell me how the Ajivikas are related to Srivaisnava doctrine?

    Regards

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 18, 2015 at 5:26 am

      Chanakya was a Ajvika and also a devotee of God Vishnu. So were Bimbasara and Ashoka till his conversion.
      These were mentioned in Wikipedia item of Chankya but have now been edited to make him a Jain.
      Ajvikas were present in Tamilnadu and Karnataka till 14th century or even later,
      I have read that there are stones which mention Ajvikas being given land by the rulers of that period.. A God Makkali worshipped in TN is supposed to be Makkali Gosala.
      Astrology was certainly propelled by Ajvikas.
      The reason I believe they influenced Srivaishnava thought process, is that there is a commonality of thought that the human being’s fate is preordained.
      Lord Narayana ordains the fate in Srivaishnavism. Everything is his lila. Once you realise this, you have no recourse except for Sharanagati and acknowledge that my mind process, body and everything is Narayana’s.
      This thought process of surrender to attain mukti is not very clearly mentioned in the teachings of Sri Ramanuja.
      They are the basis of teachings of Sri Vedanta Deshikar and Sri Manaval Mamuni, the founders of Vadagalai and Tengalai sects.
      Hence the thought whether Ajvikas influenced other sects.
      Comment

      Sribilash

       
  4. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 5:26 am

    Dear Shri Sribilash, Your views of the influence of Niyati-vada on SriVaisnava doctrine is very interesting. I was not aware of that. Thank you very much.

    Yes; as you mentioned, it is said, Ajivikas were employed by kings of ancient India to predict future (e.g. Emperor Bindusara). The inscriptions of Asoka also often refer to the Ajivika sect. For instance the Brahmi inscription in Barabara caves in Bihar mentions that the cave named ‘Nogodha-kumbha’ (banyan tree cave) was dedicated by Asoka in the twelfth year of his reign (261 BCE). It reads:’”This Banyan-tree cave was granted to Ajivikas by the King’s Grace when he had been consecrated twelve years.”

    Perhaps among the books devoted entirely to the Ajivika sect ‘The History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas: A Vanished Indian Religion’ by Prof AL Basham is most well known (Motilal Banarsidass – 2002). The Chapter Ten of the Book deals with ‘The Southern Ajivikas’ where he talks of the inscriptions in South India as also on the Ajivikas in Tamil Literature.

    He says; Inscriptions of village tax for temple upkeep mention Ajivikas; and from this evidence the main concentration was in Karnataka, east and northeast of Bangalore, and in the Kolar district. Ajivikas, also, were found as far as Guntur district, south of the Krishna River, and Kilur, inland from Pondicherry.

    Quoting from his inscription- sources Dr. Basham mentions of an inscription located in the Penner valley, Nellore district, and in the Palar valley, Arcot district : “If all future occurrences are rigidly determined …, coming events may in some sense be said to exist already. The future exists in the present, and both exist in the past. Time is thus on ultimate analysis illusory……. This is the doctrine of the Ajivika teacher in the Nilakeci. ”

    Nilakeci declares: “Though we may speak of moments there is (really) no time at all. Every phase of a process is always present. Just as the stars still exist after the sun has risen, so in a soul which has attained salvation its earthly births are still present. Nothing is destroyed and nothing is produced. … Not only are all things determined, but their change and development is a cosmic illusion.”(pp. 187-188).

    Under the Ajivikas in Tamil Literature he mentions:The South Indian Ajivikas seem to have made Gosala a deity called Markali in Tamil. The Nilakesi says he has become a tevan (Devan), god, who occasionally comes to earth to inspire the faith of his devotees.

    ***

    Dr. Benimadhab Barua (A History of pre-Buddhistic Indian Philosophy) writes much of what is known of Ajivika sect is through Buddhist sources; and a lot of it is distorted. The Ajivikas, he says, cannot be entirely identified with naked recluse/ascetics. They were, in general, independent and self-respecting individuals who had following among the Jains as also Buddhists. The Ajivika thesis, in main, according to him, is that the universe is a purposive order where everything is assigned its place and function (niyati).The law of change is universal and all beings are capable of transformation; and most attain perfection in due time. The man’s life has to pass through eight stages of development at each of which physical growth proceeds along with the development of senses, moral and spiritual faculties. And , finally to purity of mind , purging it of all impurities that have stained it.

    Thus Dr.Barua’s rendition varies from the popular versions of the Ajivika-beliefs.

    Dr. Barua gives some biographic details of Gosala that are not mentioned by others: The Jain sources mention his name as Maskarin – one who carries a staff; also known as Ekadandin. Maskarin preceded Mahavira by sixteen years. His actual name was Gosala Mankhaliputta – son of Mankhali and Bhaddha; and was born at Saravana near Savastthi.His father Mankhali derived his name from the profession he followed a dealer in pictures. Gosala followed his father’s profession until he turned a monk.

    I trust you find these useful for your study.

    Regards

     
  5. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 5:26 am

    Dear Sir,

    If Ajvikas are connected to the sects that seem to have been present “kapalika” and “Kalamukha ” were described as Veera Saivas ( extremists in Saivisim with no tolerance to other sects )in historical references in the Pallava period from areas near Badami ( border of Maharashtra/Konkan ) known as vathapi of Pulikesi. They did not contribute to Tamil literature or there is any connection to Vaishnavisam.

    Neelakesi is a Tamil Jain epic. Tamil literary tradition places it among the five lesser Tamil epics, along with Naga kumara kaviyam, Udhyana kumara Kaviyam, Yasodhara Kaviyam and Soolamani. It is a polemical work written as a Jain rebuttal to the Buddhist criticism in the Great Tamil epic Kundalakesi But kundalakesi original text is lost and the author of neelkesi is not known.This is not a popular work in Tamil literature.

    NK Ravi

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 18, 2015 at 5:27 am

      Dear Shri Ravi, Thank you for reading through the blog and other comments, as also for your detailed reply.

      Yes Sir; as you mentioned the Jain influence on Tamil literature dates back to second century .Silappadikaram, by all standards a great work, detailing the story of Kovalan and Kannagi is ascribed to prince of Vanji, Illangovadigal who became a Jain monk.

      Some say that his friend Kulavanigan-Sittalai-Sattar, a grain merchant, composed Manimekhalai with Buddhist leaning.

      As regards Kural which is accorded a very high position in Tamil literature; it is ascribed by some to the Jain monk –scholar Kundakunda (first century). There is another belief that Tiruvalluvar was the author; and he was the disciple of Kundakunda. In any case, the reason stated for linking the Classic to Jain influence is said to be that the preface to Nilakesi, another early Tamil classic, quotes Kural verses saying “as mentioned in our scripture”. I am aware these issues and highly contested; and it is best left alone.

      The other Jain classics mentioned in this context are : Jivakachintamani ascribed to a Jain ascetic Tirukattadevar (8th-9th century) who hailed from Mylapore and studied at Madurai; Sripurana by an unknown author dealing with 63 Jain saints; and Perungadai , a Tamil version of Brihadkatha, written by a Jain monk though the subject is not Jaina.

      No; the Ajivikas were not connected to Kapalikas. Regarding the influence on the Srivaishnava doctrine, it was surmised by Sribilash in his comments. He remarked “The reason I believe they influenced Srivaishnava thought process, is that there is a commonality of thought that the human being’s fate is preordained”. I was, of course, not aware of this.(please also see his comments and my responses)

      Regarding the belief in fate: As I mentioned under ‘To Sum Up’, while human man endeavor is highly essential, at almost all levels of life human effort involves and is subject to elements of unknown and unpredictable; you may call those by any name. . Human freedom is operational; but it is not absolute freedom.

      I agree with you: “May be we should ignore destiny – live the life presented to us as life is only for the living.

      Thank you for the well researched comments. I am grateful.

      Regards

       
  6. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 5:29 am

    i 200% agree to whatever u say – but most that fate is a gap-filler and also yes life not born with power – but shaped by destiny etc, – u alwasy enlighten ur readers with vedas,
    yes i too beaive in Karma – as gosala sai – outcome of an act is predetermined – may be and its predetermined so we act in that way – a cyclic process as we plant mango seeds to get mangos – before that no doubt there was an option to plant a guava tree also – but i wanted mango -s o i feel is cyclical too – Buddha was right too – u cant leave eveything to fate – then if one commits crime and say – i didn’t do it – its my hands that id di it – and the hands were guided by fate
    regarding struck by natural calamity etc- they are fate – yes how people are affected by the rays of the distant planets as we r in equilibrium with our surroundings, the rays from say Mars are more reddish wavelenghts that is longer frequnecy waves – how a set of people react to these, my mom – adoctor said that – in general outdoor of her hospital one day all aptints with some disorders in their hands came, the next day – most had problems iwth kidney/legs came – how can there be such coincidence? the flood earthquake is also like that,
    yes death is indeed liked to time – and fate – says Tagore – that death says – i steer the life’s boat,
    yes reconciliation should be there – as i feel they are to some extent interlinked too – the macrocosmic and microcosmic asoects after all merge
    i too agree with Laksman
    and Puranas were also right – fate and will need to be combined,
    best
    KK

     
  7. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 5:29 am

    Sri Vaishnava doctrine evolved from three different streams:

    1) The concept of Atman as being different from Paramatma which existed from vedic times. Sri Ramanuja’s guru was a follower of bheda abheda doctrine.

    Sri Vaishnava doctrine was the first to reject Maya doctrine.
    It was the first to affirm the existence of Jeevatama as different from Paramatma, but dependent. Usual analogy is a pearl on the string.

    Theoretically: ”
    Tat Tvam Asi (Sanskrit: तत् त्वम् असि or तत्त्वमसि), a Sanskrit sentence, translated variously as “That thou are,” “Thou are that,” “You are that,” or “That you are,” is one of the Mahāvākyas (Grand Pronouncements) in Vedantic Sanatana Dharma. It originally occurs in the Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7,[1] in the dialogue between Uddalaka and his son Śvetaketu; it appears at the end of a section, and is repeated at the end of the subsequent sections as a refrain. The meaning of this saying is that the Self – in its original, pure, primordial state – is wholly or partially identifiable or identical with the Ultimate Reality that is the ground and origin of all phenomena.

    Major Vedantic schools offer different interpretations of the phrase:

    Advaita – absolute equality of ‘tat’, the Ultimate Reality, Brahman, and ‘tvam’, the Self, Jiva.
    Vishishtadvaita – identity of individual self as a part of the whole which is ‘tat’, Brahman.
    Ātmā, being localized Paramātmā consequently has localized consciousness. Paramātma, being the reservoir of Ātmā is situated within every heart is aware of all its localized undivided parts. Therefore ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ falls short to understand that the Soul is not equal to the Absolute Truth in all respects. For example, as a single drop of water has the same qualities as an ocean of water, so has our consciousness the qualities of God’s consciousness but is proportionally subordinate. Furthermore, if Ātmā and Paramātmā were indeed one and the same, it would be possible for any ordinary person to claim omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence in equivalence to God. Scientifically we know this to be false.

    Ramanuja on the Mahavakya

    In the expression ‘Blue Lotus’ for example, the two attributes of ‘blueness’ and ‘lotus nature’ both inhere in a common substratum without losing their individuality. Such subsistence of many attributes in a common substratum is the correct apposition (samānādhikaranya), rather than the mere apposition as propounded by the advaita school. Direct meanings of the expressions should be taken, simultaneously fulfilling the conditions of Samānādhikaranya.”

    2) The worship of Krishna (Heracles!) and Balarama hose temples existed in Mahavira’s time also. Makkali Goshala is eaten up for desecrating a Balarama temple.
    Sri Vasudeva was identified with Sri Vishnu and Sri Narayana by the twelfth century.His worship was prevalent in South. Sri Nammalwar, the saint who provided the underpinnings to the Srivaishnava doctrine, declared the supremacy of Narayana.

    3) The Ajvika thought process of preordained fate, which existed in the South, provided the last piece to solve the puzzle. Fate was preordained, because Sriman Narayana’s lele.
    The whole universe is within him and he creates the world for his pleasure.
    You enjoy or suffer since he wills it. Your karma matters little.
    If he wishes it you will be given salvation.

    Bhakti movement was given a start with this thought process.

    The culmination of these thought processes was provided by sri Vedanta Deshikar and Sri Manavala Mamuni, who declared that our actions are useless.
    Only solution is sharanagati, complete surrender to Sriman Narayana to do with us as he wills.

    This is the theistic Ajvika thought.

    Sribilash

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 18, 2015 at 5:35 am

      The concept of purva janma karma is a concept established by the exploiters to exploit the poor. What is good karma and what is bad is determined by the ethical values of the society. But they keep changing to favour the exploiters.
      For example, both the notion of homosexuality and chastity are different in different society’s. In India, a vysya or a kshatriya could cheat or kill as it was his duty.
      Typical is the story of a rishi who sinned by misdirecting a tiger which was seeking a deer, its natural prey.
      There is no sin, there is no karma. We live like any other animal on earth, mostly by instinctual behaviour of what will help us survive in the society’s in which we live.
      Never accept the premise that any thing bad happening to you is because you did something wrong in this life or in the previous. People in power are there because of fate. The ancient’s saying is “Na Vishnu prithivi pathi”
      Sankhya, the most logically infallible of all systems of philosophy, Hegel whose logic is incontrovertible, have no concept of Karma of Purva Janma.
      We live and die as is our fate, with little control either over the present or future.
      May be the only thing we can control, is to make the most of the good moments and muddle through the worst.
      If you believe in God, think that it is his lila. If not just accept life as it comes.

      Sribilash

       

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