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Man is the Master of his Destiny

by Swami Sivananda

Some ignorant people say: "Karma does everything. It is all destiny. If I am destined by my Karma to be like this or like that, why then should I exert? It is my destiny only." This is fatalism. This will bring inertia, stagnation and misery. This is perfect misunderstanding of the laws of Karma. This is a fallacious argument. An intelligent man will certainly not put such a question. You have made your own destiny from within by your thoughts and actions. You have a free will to choose now. You have Svatantrata in action. A rogue is not an eternal rogue. Put him in the company of a saint. He will change in no time. He will think and act now in a different way and will change his destiny. He will become saintly in character. Dacoit Ratnakar was changed into Sage Valmiki by the current of Rishi Narada. Jagai and Madhai, two rogues of the first order were changed by the current of Nityananda, disciple of Lord Gouranga. You will have to desire, to think, and act only. You can change Karma in any way you like. You can become a Yogi or Jnani by right desire, by right thinking and by right action. You can attain the position of Indra or Brahma by good Karma. Man is not a helpless being. He has a free will of his own.

Man sows an action or thought and reaps a habit of doing or thinking. He sows a habit and reaps a character. He sows a character and reaps a destiny. Habit is second nature or rather first nature itself. Man has made his own destiny by thinking and acting. He can change his destiny. He is the master of his own destiny. There is no doubt of this. By right thinking and Vichara and strong Purushartha he can become master of his destiny. Markandeya changed his destiny through Tapas and worship of Lord Siva. Vishwamitra became a Brahmarshi through vigorous Tapas and changed his destiny. You can also do so, if you have strong will and iron determination. Vasishthaji preaches Purushartha to Sri Rama in Yoga Vasishtha. Savitri changed the destiny of her husband Satyavan through the power of her Pativrata Dharma. Just as you can change your way of writing from a slant style to a vertical style, so also you can change your destiny by changing your mode of thinking. Now you are thinking: "I am Mr. So and So," by identifying yourself with the body and other Upadhis or limiting adjuncts. Now start the anti current. Think: "I am Brahman. I am the immortal Self in all. I am all-pervading light, intelligence or pure consciousness." Your destiny will be changed. Just as you think, so you will become. This is the Sadhana. This is the Ahamgraha-Upasana. Practise it steadily. Feel and realise.

An advocate of Lahore once asked me: "Swamiji, you say that the law of Karma operates with unerring precision in all men. A man desires, thinks and acts. If the actions that I perform now are the outcome of my past thoughts, and if my past thoughts are the resultant of my desires of the still distant past, am I not helplessly bound? I am like a piece of straw tossed about hither and thither. I must act in accordance with my thought. I must think in accordance with my desire. There is no hope for my freedom of action and thinking. This does not appeal to my reason at all. Kindly throw light on this important subject."

I replied: "Look here, Mr. Dowlatram! Man is gaining new experiences and new knowledge everyday. Mind is evolving every second. There is every possibility for him to change his desires, thoughts and actions. Suppose there is a thief and he does pilfering. He removes the things of other people without their knowledge and he is put into jail. People hate him. He gains many experiences. He always feels he is very miserable. He now decides to give up pilfering. He changes his desires. He now wants to lead an honest life. His old Samskaras, his old thoughts try to resist and recur again and again. But through resolute efforts he can change his thoughts, desires and actions and can become a very good charitable man and attain perfection, freedom and immortality."


1. Mark the words of the Yoga Vasishtha in this connection:-
"There is nothing like destiny other than the effect of our previous efforts (II-6-4). Our previous efforts are called our destiny (II-6-36). Our achievements are determined by our efforts. Our effort is therefore our destiny (II-6-2). Our previous and present efforts, in case they are in contrary directions, are the two rams fighting against each other. The more powerful of the two always overthrows the other (II-6-10). Whether they are the past or the present efforts, it is the stronger ones that determine our destiny. In either case, it is man's own effort that determines his destiny by virtue of its strength (II-6-8). Man determines his own destiny by his thought. He can make those things also happen which were not destined to happen (V-24-28). The soul of man is powerful enough. Only those things happen in this world which it creates by its own free efforts, and not others (V-24, 35, 36). One should therefore overcome one's unfavourable destiny (the effect of one's past efforts) by greater effort in the present, gnawing his teeth (II-5-11). There is nothing in the world which cannot be achieved by man by right sort of efforts." (III-96-8).

2. "Destiny is simply the limitation imposed by an already exercised freedom of choice, or what is commonly called free will." (Kingsland: Rational Mysticism, p.353).

3. "The past can never be cancelled though it may be utilised. We have a good deal of the present constraint and previous necessity in human life. But necessity is not to be mistaken for destiny which we can neither defy nor delude.

Though the self is not free from the bonds of determination, it can subjugate the past to a certain extent and turn it into a new course. Choice is the assertion of freedom over necessity by which it converts necessity to its own use and thus frees itself from it. The human agent is free-he is not the plaything of fate or driftwood on the tide of uncontrolled events. He can actively mould the future instead of passively suffering the past. The past may become an opportunity or an obstacle. Everything depends on what we make of it and not what it makes of us." (Prof. S. Radhakrishnan: An Idealist View of Life. p.279).

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