An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Divinity and Fate is Ignorance, Only Self Effort is Supreme!

I personally think that Yoga Vasistha – is probably the most profound book ever written in the entire mankind. Gita is probably the second most profound in my estimation. And it is because they do NOT talk about what a person ought to eat or drink primarily – but what the "Truth" of creation is. It is at a higher plane than most scriptures.

Yoga Vasistha is basically the minutes of the class where Vasistha is teaching Ram and other students. And in one such conversations, Vasistha is explaining about how Prahlad got enlightenment – "with the grace of Vishnu". Although at the start of the book, Vasistha tells very clearly that it is self effort that is everything and god and divinity is ignorance.

The Holy ones emphasise: persistently tread the path that leads to the eternal good. And the wise seeker knows: the fruit of my endeavors will be commensurate with the intensity of my self effort and neither fate nor a god can ordain it otherwise.

So, Ram asked Vasistha – so how come he would say now that "Vishnu" was responsible for the enlightenment?

"If everything is achieved by self-effort, why was he not able to attain enlightenment without Vishnu’s grace?" queries Ram. And Vasistha replied:

Surely, whatever Prahlad attained was through self-effort, O Ram, not otherwise. Vishnu is the self and self is Vishnu: the distinction is verbal. It was the self of Prahlad that generated in itself devotion to Vishnu. Prahlad obtained from Vishnu, who was his own self, the boon of self-enquiry, and through such enquiry attained self-knowledge.

So, there is no such thing as divinity or fate that really affects your future – Vasistha claims. And then he explains two types of self-efforts.

Self efforts are of two caegories: that of past births and that of this birth. The latter effectively counteracts the former. "Fate" is none other than self effort of a past incarnation.

Here while talking of Self-effort, he is really talking of Karmas. And the Vedas say that there are three types of karmas – Sanchit (total accumulated), Prarabdh (used in this current birth), and Agami (those that are being done in future). It is said that you cannot do anything about the Prarabdh Karmas, but you can counter the Sanchit (those that have been committed but still left to be used for future lives) through Agami karmas. Which is in line with Vasistha prognosis. Here is some information on the three types of Karmas:

Our Scriptures speak of 3 kinds of KARMAS (Actions or Deeds) SANCHITA, PRARABDA and AGAMI (OR KRIYAMANA ). We saw that souls with mind integrated into them in a subtle manner take different bodies from beginningless time – all the time accumulating Vasanas – both good and bad. This total accumulation is called ‘Sanchita karma’. This is like the opening balance in a Bank account at the time of birth of the current life.

A portion of this Sanchita karma’ starts yielding results to be experienced by the soul in the current life. This is called ‘Prarabda karma’. This can be said to represent a Bank withdrawal for current use. No force on earth can change this or its course. The Prarabda decides our parentage, sex, time and place of our birth, whether and if so, whom we are destined to marry, the length of our life span, the time and place of our death and even the manner of our death. In other words, it constitutes the limitations under which we are born and are destined to live and work. It determines the initial conditions under which this life has to be carried on. It contributes to our character and tendencies according to the Vasanas of our previous births – which have been brought into this life for being experienced. And, this is called ‘fate’.( Incidentally, the word ‘fate’ is derived from the Latin ‘fatum’ which means ‘ a prophetic pronouncement’ like the ‘oracle’)

While nothing can be done about ‘Prarabda’, the ‘Sanchita Karma’ can be modified by what is called the ‘Agami karma’ (i.e.) the future Karma a.k.a. Kriyamana karma (Oncoming or accruing) or ‘Varthamana karma ( that which sets in motion) just as we can alter the Bank balance by deposit or withdrawal. Agami karma is entirely in our hands.

Every action and every thought of ours today contributes to this ‘Agami karma’. It is for us to think and act in a way that our Agami Karma opens up a better future for us, if not in this life, certainly in our future lives.

While ‘Prarabda Karma’ regards initial conditions as determined, ‘Agami Karma’ determines the future as amenable to being conditioned. Human beings are not just mechanisms of instincts. The spiritual elements in man can help in trampling over the forces that try to enslave him.

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4 Comments
  1. Sudeep Goyal says

    Thanks Desh. This article really made me your fan. I too am a great lover of “Yoga Vasishtha” and fully agree that it is the most profound book ever written. Your point that self-effort is supreme just flashed an old thing I read from Ramana Maharishi:
    “Neither is everything predestined, nor do we have free will in everything,”

    Just because there is no difference between Self and Vishnu, one and many, there is no difference between destiny free-will 🙂 But, for us mortals who cannot go beyond and think beyond, I think it is free will that we chose, since, we cannot see “ONENESS” and “NON-DUALITY” in every thing.

    Beautiful article indeed.

  2. Sudeep Goyal says

    Thanks Desh. This article really made me your fan. I too am a great lover of “Yoga Vasishtha” and fully agree that it is the most profound book ever written. Your point that self-effort is supreme just flashed an old thing I read from Ramana Maharishi:
    “Neither is everything predestined, nor do we have free will in everything,”

    Just because there is no difference between Self and Vishnu, one and many, there is no difference between destiny free-will 🙂 But, for us mortals who cannot go beyond and think beyond, I think it is free will that we chose, since, we cannot see “ONENESS” and “NON-DUALITY” in every thing.

    Beautiful article indeed.

  3. Desh says

    Thanks so much Sudeep for such kind words! I agree with you.

    It is unfortunate that the original message of our ancient philosophy has been messed up over the years.

    It is the ONLY intellectual paradigm that explains how you can use free will yet your life is governed by something that has happened (your own deeds). It is amazing that a religion that is supposed to be related to polytheistic, has at its base a philosophy that denies the existence of a “magical” God!

  4. Desh says

    Thanks so much Sudeep for such kind words! I agree with you.

    It is unfortunate that the original message of our ancient philosophy has been messed up over the years.

    It is the ONLY intellectual paradigm that explains how you can use free will yet your life is governed by something that has happened (your own deeds). It is amazing that a religion that is supposed to be related to polytheistic, has at its base a philosophy that denies the existence of a “magical” God!

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