Friday, July 4, 2014

Bob O’Hearn - Fate or Free Will

Are we ruled by some pre-determined destiny, or are we endowed with the capacity for the exercise of free will? This question has been the source of ceaseless debate among philosophers, religious pundits, and expounders of every persuasion through the ages, and convincing arguments have been made by believers in both camps, as well as those who have thoughtfully proposed some sort of middle way.

Rather than merely re-hashing positions that have already been staked out at length by better minds and more articulate voices than mine, I would simply like to suggest that the crux of the whole issue invariably depends upon one’s level of awareness, or interpretation on perception, which is in turn conditioned by factors such as belief and experience, but more often than not, by second-hand information.

In brief, depending one’s angle of vision, it may appear that we as human individuals are “programmed” prior to our first breath, and that everything that is to happen to us is indeed pre-determined. I will refrain from speculation at this time on the mechanics of such programming — whether it is performed by us ourselves, or in collusion with some “life-between-life” guides, or even by some higher powers who are directing our “soul” evolution.

From another (and perhaps more pragmatic) point of view, it may appear that we do indeed have the power to make changes in the quality of our life, whether in positive or negative ways, and so can indeed transcend our apparent fate by the application of will. This viewpoint can lead to a circular argument, however, since it could be noted that this supposed power is itself pre-determined, or “down-loaded” into the entity like software into an operating system in order to fulfill a destiny.

In and of themselves, both views (and/or some variation of the two) are provisionally true, but all such views are based on the assumed concrete reality of the “person”. However, the presumption of such a reality is not borne out by thorough deeper inquiry, and that is the salient point of this brief consideration. Indeed, the more we investigate, “To whom does fate or free will apply?”, the more we will discover that the so-called “person” is nothing but a bundle of dependently arising thoughts, sensations, memories, and perceptions, all strung together on an imaginary clothes-line called “I”, and in fact no such independent and enduring person has ever really existed, except in the realm of narrative fiction. That is, the persistent sense we have of some individual person (“me”) is based on a story – a fiction which is comprised of all that we may yet take ourselves to be in our ignorance, or amnesia.

Upon awakening, we realize that both destiny and free will ultimately do not apply. How could they? After all, if there is no concrete and independent person, than there is no place for the concepts themselves to land. Nevertheless, as long as we are occupying these human vehicles, there are two truths that constitute our experience of this realm — the relative and the absolute.

On the absolute level, with the liberating recognition that there is no substantial person, opposing notions of fate and free will are de facto rendered moot. However, since we are currently incarnating in the objective world, and in the sphere of our everyday relations here, we certainly have the power to direct our human hosts towards better behavior and an increasingly more conscious and loving response to life. Conversely, we can refrain from taking responsibility, thereby allowing the “animal” to have its way, with the consequent violence and selfishness that is characteristic of the species when left to its own uncontrolled nature.

In other words, there is choice and there is choicelessness, depending upon one’s relative level of awareness, while in Reality, there is neither. As the great sage Ramana Maharshi noted:

“Find out to whom free will or destiny matters. Find out where they come from, and abide in their source. If you do this, both of them are transcended. That is the only purpose of discussing these questions. To whom do these questions arise? Find out and be at peace.”

Bob O’Hearn 's site:  here

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