Free Will and Hinduism

Do we have free will? Many scientists believe that we do not. They believe that our minds are simply machines, computers following a program. At first glance their argument appears to have merit. After all, when we working things out logically we are not using free will. We would all expect that given well defined facts such as “all cats are animals” and “tibby is a cat” everyone would come up with the same answer when asked “is tibby an animal”.

Similarly we cannot say that we are using free will when we are giving in to the desires of our emotions and senses without consideration. Hinduism teaches us that this path leads to degeneration, and distracts from our true divine nature. It is also clear that all people living at this level will act the same way, seeking pleasure where they can.

If a person were just made from these two components; an ability to reason logically plus the drive of sensual pleasure and emotions then the scientists would be right, we would have no free will.

Hinduism teaches us that there is more to us than mind and body, there is the Atman or divine spark within us all. Hinduism teaches us not to be distracted by sensual pleasure or by routine thoughts, but to follow the divine truth within us. I am only beginning to understand the difference between routine thoughts and divinely inspired thoughts, though divinely inspired thoughts come during contemplation, after meditation or can spring up from our souls as unexpected gifts and help at any time! Routine thoughts are of the mind rather than the spirit. They may be necessary but spiritually empty, such as “I need some more milk, shall I get some on my way back from work or shall I go to the shop now”. They may be mental justifications for emotions, “I don’t like him, and it’s all his fault”, which can be harmful.

Some scientists have seen the possibility of free will. In “The Emperor’s New Mind Roger Penrose suggests that our mind brains may be able to amplify quantum randomness. But Quantum randomness is seen by the standard interpretation of quantum physics as saying that something can be in one of many states in an objectively random way, i.e. nothing in the Universe could predict or determine the outcome. Could this be the connection of the Atman to our physical selves?

Interestingly in my “Quantum theory and Vishnu” post I described how Quantum Physics fits the Hindu idea of consciousness being necessary for creation. It seems also that Quantum theory might explain the Vedic idea that true freedom can only come from following our divine souls.

Again I am amazed at how modern science confirms the beliefs of Hinduism, even though Hinduism does not predict that Maya will reflect spiritual truth. How ironic that other religions that do predict that science will support them have to distort science to make it fit, whereas our beliefs fit science even though we don’t need physical science of maya for support!

Coming back to the question of free will, I believe that Hinduism says  that we do have free will. We only exercise it however when we look to the truth within us.

6 responses to “Free Will and Hinduism

  1. Yes most humans don’t have a free will, but they do, if only one realises what his heart and mind says. What is it actually that you want to do? And what are you doing? Put these 2 together. And a third : what you are destined to accomplish in this lifetime. Its Your will. We have to work to make ends meet, some are more relaxed. Use your will to do nothing for anything, and start looking at it all from the outside. If possible, part your soul from your material body, and look at it sleeping. That soul sees something else more purposeful in that life being.

  2. i differe most of us have free will but the questione is how to express it. if you know any method or have any idea please recomand.

  3. godrealized

    The concept of free will is best explained in sacred Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism! As per Bhagavad Gita human form is but a small sojourn in the entire lifespan of a soul atman… the spirit within! (Soul is termed atman in Hinduism). As laid down in scriptures our soul atman… the spirit within is absolute master and controller of body (including human beings) and not vice versa!

    It is not within the capability of a body… including human beings to manifest a soul atman! Every soul atman starts its cosmic journey to manifest karma… remove dross impurities within! The moment complete dross impurities within soul atman removed… human beings (the highest form of manifest life in cosmic system) reached stage of enlightenment (kaivalya jnana)!

    From the first manifestation to last… the 8.4 millionth manifestation when human beings gained enlightenment… goal of life for a soul atman remains liberation from cycle of birth and death at the earliest! Travel in human form is the most pleasant experience for a soul atman… it is only in human form a soul atman regained its lost original pure prime pristine primordial form.

    The concept of free will stems from the fact that we are a living consciousness… a spirit that has manifested human form to work out its karma! Every soul atman is always independent of other… no matter what! Human beings are invested with power of discrimination that makes us exercise free will… the dominant cosmic force that distinguishes us from animals!

  4. If we really do have free will how can yogis tell the past present and future of a person

    • Namashkar Sai,
      This is a very interesting question. If yogis could tell a person’s future without doubt then it would be hard to see how the person could have free will. However I think that yogis often give warnings in their predictions, things that can be changed or avoided by free will. They show a possible course, perhaps the most likely, but in knowing the prediction someone can choose to change it. This is my opinion, not a teaching!

  5. Radhae Krishna,

    I think the freewill is only in our reaction to the Prarabda Karma. What is happening cannot be altered but how we react the happenings is our free will.

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