WHO DECIDES OUR FATE?
GOD OR US?
Recently, we received a rather unusual letter from one of
our listeners about a young person who had committed suicide.
The event had greatly disturbed our listener who wanted to
know many things such as: “Is suicide also fated? Why
did not Swami overpower this boy and save him? He was so devoted
to Swami. Can we blame everything on Karma?
Should I console myself saying this is all Karma? When all
are Swami’s children and when He loves all equally,
why did He not save this young man?” So on the questions
This is not the first time I have been asked about fate and
its inevitability. The business of what is fated and what
is not, etc., has come up again and again. By the way, I have
already recorded a full talk on the questions raised by the
listener, but I thought that nevertheless, I might perhaps
write a few lines for the benefit of those who might have
missed the broadcast.
The writer of the letter is evidently overwhelmed by sorrow
and since sorrow belongs to world of duality [in which, incidentally,
all of us are deeply immersed], may be I should deal with
this entire question from the perspective of duality. Now
in the dual picture, we have two basic entities, God and man.
That is point number one.
number two; God is the puppeteer, and man is the puppet –
this all of us know. But this is a quite a unique kind of
puppet show. In what way? Well, you see there are two strings
but God does not hold both; instead, He keeps one string and
hands over the other to man. That is point number three.
Now why on earth does God do this strange thing? Because
He wants to test us, that is why. Remember what Swami says:
TEST IS TASTE FOR GOD!
OK, God keeps one string and gives the other to man; what
happens next? Well, God now holds the string loose and just
watches, or, to use Swami’s language, He functions as
Sakshibhootam, that is, as a
Witness! Meanwhile, man takes firm hold of the string available
to him and pulls it. In what manner? According to what his
Mind advises. Why on earth does man do that? Because man is
a slave of the Mind, that is why!
OK, what happens then? Simple. The Mind is dragged by the
senses into the outer world with all its illusions, and man
follows the Mind. Net result is that man becomes accountable
for his actions; and the accounts are settled through the
famous Law of Reflection, Reaction, Resound
[which is really another name for the famous Law of Karma].
As Shakespeare said, we ourselves are the masters of our fate
and our fault does not lie in our stars!
But is this not patently unfair? Not at all. You see, God
has been gracious and told man, “Son, why do you bother
to hold on to that string and keep pulling it? Instead why
don’t you just give it Me? Relax and leave the driving
to Me!” But man is not prepared to do that; so, how
can he complain?
May be I ought to explain all this a bit more in detail.
Basically, what God says is that “If you drive, you
take the responsibility. If I drive, I take the responsibility.”
In terms of practical details, what it means is that if we
let our Mind run our lives, then we become accountable, and
the accounts are settled, as I described earlier, through
the Law of Karma. Sometimes the accounts are settled early,
and sometimes they are settled late. This is the general principle.
This now raises the question: “How exactly does one
hand over the string in our hand back to God?” That
is what surrender is all about. Swami has spoken about surrender
so many times but few of us have the patience to study in
depth what He has said. I shall not repeat
all that Swami has said earlier but would instead like to
place before you one or two pertinent facts.
In worldly battles, when a person surrenders to another,
one person emerges as the victor and the other as the vanquished.
But when one surrenders to God, there is no victor nor vanquished;
God and the person who has surrendered become One! OK, so
what? How does it affect daily life? And how does that lead
to escape from the clutches of Karma?
Let me illustrate first the impact on daily life, by considering
a conflict between two persons, A and B say. Now we all know
that the world is full of conflicts from the individual level
– like between husband and wife, for example –
to conflict between communities and even nations. Right now,
there is a big row in Africa where ten countries are having
a huge argument about the waters of the Nile, as to who is
entitled to how much of that water. Keeping this sort of thing
mind, let us turn now to A and B. It so happens that they
have come together to discuss their long-standing differences.
They have had many meetings before and bitter arguments. But
this time, just before the meeting, both of them have independently
surrendered to God. When they meet, this is how the conversation
“Sai Ram. Nice to meet you again. So, what’s
your problem really? I want to understand it clearly.”
“My problem? I don’t have any because I have
surrendered to God! What’s your problem?”
“This is really strange. I don’t have any problem
because I too have surrendered to God! Now isn’t this
“Sure! But then there appear to be some practical difficulties.
Now that we have met, what do you say to our taking a close
look at these difficulties so that they can be put out of
“I entirely agree with you. Let’s examine all
the practical issues and make sure that everything is absolutely
fine in the future.”
I am sure you are getting the hang of what I am trying to
say. You might object and say, “Listen, you are being
utterly naïve and even stupid! Do you think such a thing
is ever possible? Not even in dreams! Be realistic man!”
That is the problem, is it not? When we say it is not realistic,
what we mean is that we simply are not prepared to look at
issues and problems, giving up even an iota of self- interest.
Why are we so attached to self-interest? Because of body-consciousness.
Is body-consciousness a desirable thing? Not at all, and Swami
has spoken out against it so many times. But still we want
to hang on to it. Why? Because we are dominated by the Mind
and not the Heart [read Swami]. What if we give up body-consciousness?
Then God takes over and we get out of the clutches of Karma.
As Jesus says, we can serve only one Master and have to choose
between God and Mammon. We cannot say we love Swami dearly
and yet allow our Mind to be the Master. When the Mind is
the Master it means we are its slave. That is not correct.
We must instead be the slave of the Heart i.e., God. It is
to drive home this point that Swami repeatedly says: MASTER
THE MIND AND BECOME A MASTER-MIND.
People may say: “All this we know. Has not even Arjuna
complained how difficult it is to conquer the Mind?”
Agreed. But you know what? Our beloved Swami is not asking
us to actually conquer the Mind. He says instead, just try
and show Me that you are serious. That is enough; but we are
shy of even trying; that really is our problem.
Take a simple thing like Unity. It is no secret that there
is a lot of disunity even amongst devotees. Recently a big
group of devotees sent a letter to Swami, complete with over
a hundred signatures and all that, complaining and carrying
tales about other devotees. Is this proper? Is this how we
should treat Swami? Would it not pain Him to see how divided
His children are [at the human level that is]?
A few words now about how Swami actually helps, even though
we often think He is indifferent and all that. Let me give
an example. When I was in Japan many years ago and was speaking
to the devotees in Tokyo, a young lady said that she had once
come to Prashanti Nilayam with her mother who was suffering
from what was believed to be terminal illness. But during
Darshan, Swami gave the mother
of that woman just one look and she was cured. Was that not
On the other hand, there have been devotees who were afflicted
with cancer and died, right here. One may ask: “Why
did not Swami save them?” Who can say? God has His reasons.
But this I do know; in a number of cases, the persons having
cancer did not have any pain whatsoever. Few realise what
a great miracle this is. Cancer patients suffer tremendous
pain especially in the last stages, and often doctors administer
morphine to drug them. If a cancer patient is relieved of
pain, it is only because of Swami’s Grace.
As Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once pointed out, God’s
Grace works in most mysterious ways. Let me give an example.
Many years ago when Swami went to North India, there was a
lady in one town who received much Grace from Bhagavan. However,
Swami appeared to ignore the child of that lady. The child
was blind and the lady repeatedly begged Swami to give eyesight
to that child. But Swami did not respond. One day, Swami Karunyananda
who was accompanying Swami on the tour asked, “Bhagavan,
why are so indifferent to the pleas of that woman? Why don’t
you bring some joy into her life?” Swami sternly asked
Karunyananda, “Do you think just because of your name,
you have more compassion than Me? I know the past, the present
and the future whereas you can see only the present. In its
previous birth, this person was a very cruel man who kidnapped
young children, blinded them and made them into beggars. The
money they earned was taken away by him. In this birth, that
Jiva is paying the dues. If I
grant eyesight now, that debt re-payment would be delayed.
Moreover, the person, not having purified, would behave badly
and add to his debt burden. Do you want all that to happen?
I know what to give, whom to give and when to give.”
There is a deep message in the above. Let me now move on
to a few residual questions. Firstly, do we really have to
exhaust all of past Karma? Can there be no rebate at all?
Who says not? God is so gracious that in fact if He sees the
slightest improvement in us, He goes out of the way to be
kind to us. Only, we must have faith in this.
Secondly, any simple formula for ensuring surrender? Indeed
there is, and it has been given by the Lord Himself. He says:
1) Always think of Me [read, constantly chant My Name]. 2)
Always think you are working for Me, though you may have a
worldly boss. 3) Do whatever you are doing as if you are doing
it to please Me. 4) Offer whatever it is you are doing to
Me. [It is assumed that one is doing good and not bad actions!]
Just keep doing this and God will take care of everything
– this is His Solemn Promise. We need not be bothered
about debt cancellation, Karma being wiped out, surrender
and all that sort of thing.
Swami is so kind, He says, “Listen, just give up your
bad habits and say you are doing it for Me!” Can one
ever get a better bargain? Sometimes, people say all this
is very difficult. But I ask in return, “If we love
Swami deeply, is it difficult to do something that would please
Him?” The power of Love is infinite and if we truly
love Swami, then things that we would normally consider difficult
do become possible.
Love also implies deep faith. Sometimes, Swami may test and
we should be ready to go through the test. There is a poem
that I recently came across, that is relevant in this context.
We reproduce that poem elsewhere in this issue. So on this
subject, I shall not say anything more.
But this I would like to say by way of concluding this reflection.
Recall what happened to Ramana Maharishi and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
Both of them suffered from cancer. Why these noble souls?
Surely they must have exhausted all their past Karma. This
is where a new dimension enters the picture. You see, suffering
is not always the result of past Karma. Sometimes, God makes
noble souls suffer so that they set examples for others. Just
recently, Swami went through a hip fracture. Why? To teach
us a lesson on how to rise above body-consciousness. I am
not making this up; you can go to many of His Discourses delivered
soon after He recovered from the fracture.
Some years ago, Swami was telling a few of us about His experiences
as a school boy in Kamalapuram, when He was subjected to much
punishment. I then ventured to ask, “Swami, we have
to suffer on account of past Karma.
You are different. Why then did You have to face punishment?”
He smiled and replied, “Bangaru, how else could I teach
the lesson of Kshama [forbearance]?”
Yes, God does move in mysterious ways and we can never fathom
His actions. But of this we can be sure: Whatever He does
is always for our good, even though it might superficially
not appear to be so. But then, we must allow Him to be good
to us. If we hang on to one string, we cannot expect Him to
come to our rescue. Being devoted is not enough. It is necessary
but not sufficient, as mathematicians would put it. What God
expects is surrender, or at least an attempt to surrender.
If we take that step firmly, He certainly will take not just
ten but hundreds. Many have tried and discovered this to be
absolutely true. It is for us to make that discovery once
Thank you and Jai Sai Ram.