Chakra Discussions

The Highest Aspect of Free Will

by Satyadeva das

Posted October 31, 2007

I would like to respond to the article submitted by April Hammond ("Happiness or Distress: Taking Responsibility").

I thank April for bringing awareness to such pressing questions as: "What does Krishna want me to do?" Trust. "What is my dharma?" To discover one's God-given gifts and purpose: service.

"Is this really my dharma?" Free will. The sky is the limit. Well, actually our conditioned beliefs about ourselves, other people and the world are what limit us. Our dharma is to serve as we choose to.

Perhaps the key word here, referred to in the article's title, is "responsibility" — a word defined as "ability to respond." We have the ability to choose our response to what occurs to us in our environment. We can choose what thoughts to focus on, which in turn determines how we feel and act.

We can also allow our minds to run on automatic pilot, in which case it may appear to us that our thoughts and feelings are somehow being generated by forces outside of us and, therefore, beyond our control. We may feel as if we are victims and ask: "Why is Krsna doing this to me?" But is He — or are we — doing these things to ourselves?

Viktor Frankl discovered during his ordeal in a Nazi concentration camp that there is one thing we have total control over:

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms: to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." (Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, Beacon Press, 1959 and Washington Square Press, 1985, translation of Ein Psycholog erlegt das Konzentrationslager, Jugend und Volk, Vienna, 1946)

Out of inconceivable love, Krsna gives us free will. He gives us 100-percent accountability for our mind, and how we decide to take up the reins of our chariot. "For one who has controlled his mind, the mind is the best of friends, but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind becomes the worst of enemies." (Bhagavad-gita 6.6)

Maybe we stay in dead-end jobs or abusive relationships because we prefer what is familiar over change. Mistakenly we call these unsatisfactory life situations our "destiny," and forfeit our ability to respond.

Certainly, much of what happens to us is beyond our control, but if it rains, we grab an umbrella. If we develop a flesh-eating bacterial infection, we go see an allopathic doctor, pronto.

Our purpose is to awaken our soul and our love for Krsna. The first and last thing we must do in order to accomplish our mission is to elevate and brighten ourself by chanting the holy names. This will automatically achieve our purpose.

By the Lord's grace we can learn to distinguish between what is within and what is beyond our ability to change — and in all circumstances confidently call out the Lord's holy name.