31 August 2008

Is destiny a superstition? Do we have free will?

Last week, I got the award/scholarship for "Excellent student 2008" at Hiroshima University due to my over all performance in the academic year 2007/08. As I was selected for this award among several 'deserving' candidates both from Japan & other foreign countries, I was obviously delighted. I was complimented by many friends. Few of them added: ' I know you have worked hard, but you are also lucky, mate!'...

Yesterday, I was talking to one of my Nepalese friend, who is now a permanent resident of USA thanks to the DV (Diversity Visa) lottery scheme. He said "no matter how hard you try, outcome is not in your control. what & how we get things are actually predetermined". He just gave the example of how he got the DV lottery...

& there could be a number of examples...Though, there is a difference between the two above mentioned instances, both have been associated to a term called 'luck'. So, is 'every' event in human's life is governed by 'destiny'? Why the terms like luck, fortune, fate, kismet, destiny etc. overshadow our achievements & activities? Why 'destiny', which is the most super-natural thing, appears to be so natural? Do we have any free will or not? I don't have a concrete answer to these queries. Do you have one?

In a bid to understand 'destiny' in a greater detail, I first saw the definition of it; which says: "An event (or a course of events) that will inevitably happen in the future". The role of 'destiny' in human beings has always been a matter of everlasting debate since evolution of the society. Astrology, particularly in the east, is considered as a science. Though, destiny as a concept lost some weight with the advancements in modern science & I have seen many people considering 'destiny' a mere superstion. They believe that there is nothing called destiny or fate & all our successes and failures are actually result of our own activities. Consider the following conversation:

Morpheus: "Do you believe in fate, Neo?"
Neo: "No."
Morpheus: "Why not?"
Neo: "Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life"
Morpheus: "I know exactly what you mean."

The above conversation explains about most of the people's perspective about fate or destiny. They simply don't want to believe in it. This line of thought exists mostly in those people who are considered as 'successful' in the society & those who have hardly faced any 'failure' in their lives.

However, this school of thought leaves several questions of life unanswered. For instance: why some people are born to rich parents and another to poors? Why some are healthy and some are handicapped by birth? Answers to these queries are obviously inconclusive.

The people who think destiny as mere superstion, take for granted that they have the 'free will' to make conscious decisions to choose between various possible courses of action. However, recently conducted experiments at the Max Planck institute in Germany, on functioning of the human brain doubts this presumption. The experiments suggest that our subconscious mind decides on & dictates our action long before our conscious mind actually realises it. On the human's ability to decide & act independently, one of the researchers writes "...little more than automatons, mere machines, pieces of biological clock-work that have no more free will than a swiss watch".

So, what's the indication of the research results? Does it suggest that an unseen/supernatural power exists, who thinks of us & decides our course of action? If yes, then it may encourage inactiveness & pessimism in most of the people. Don't we have even some limited free will/ choice?

Existance of this limited free will gives rise to another school of thought: "neighter is everything predestined, nor do we have the free will in everything". It says that we are free to take the first decision; but as soon as we take it, our next step becomes inevitable and predictable. We are bound by the laws of life which govern the outcome of an act. For example: if we decide to plant apple tree in our garden; once we do it, no matter what we do, we can not get any other fruit from the tree. So, after the first action (i.e. decision to plant apple tree) our choice becomes limited & our freedom is curtailed. Also, we have to keep our finger crossed that even after planting apple tree, we will be able to eat apple from the tree or not!

The Hindu or Buddhist philosophy says that cycle of birth & death has been continuing since eternity and will keep on repeating itself till a human body attains 'enlightenment', which has been termed as 'self realization' or Moksha or nirvana. This is the concept of "Law of Karma". This law says that everything that happens in our life is the result of our own activities and we have to bear the result of such activities someday even in our next life!

So, out of the three school of thoughts (1. There is nothing called destiny and it's a mere superstition; 2. Everything is controlled by some super-natural power and we are just like puppets; & 3. nothing is predestined & we choose our own courses of action, however, the outcome is not in our's control), which one you believe in? Have you ever felt that something was destined to happen? Or think that you are in full control of what you are doing?? Is the word 'destiny' just a psychological defense system to cover our failures in life?

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Ramesh B on September 1, 2008 at 4:39 PM said...

Deependra ji,

First of all, congratulations for being awarded the excellent student scholarship! I think your achievement is 99% due to your genius and karma, and only 1% due to luck.

I believe that every outcome is influenced by many factors, one of which is luck. In some cases luck is the major, or the sole factor (such as winning lotteries, or being born rich), whereas in other cases one's actions and skills are the most influential factors.

And you are also an excellent intellectual writer! Keep it up!

Alok said...

Congrats for being selected for Excellent studentship by your university! however, I am not surprised with this news. you have always been right there...!

The topic you have choosen is really impressive. few people wants to talk about destiny & free-will stuffs. I think that human beings have limited free-will to think and act independently. moreover, the law of 'karma', which is based on the concept of cause & effect makes us the architects of our own destiny.we could use this limited free-will to pursue the ultimate goal of life, i.e. moksha!
However, 'luck' also exists and 'destiny' is certainly NOT a psychological defense system to cover our failures in life.
Thanks for posting such a brain-storming article.

Anonymous said...

Hey! what a pleasant surprise...congrats!!! I hope to hear more good news about you. This is all from your "good Karma" not the anything "luck". Beleive in Karma, your destiny is very close.


Mukesh Jha said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am not surprised at all after finding this news. I am pretty sure wherever you can go, you'll end up with the best place...no matter what & which field of the study & job...
An answer to your question: I strongly believe in fate. You can take an example of mine, I wasn't even dreaming to come to USA & now I am here. Initially this was my fate, but now I am working hard to achieve name & fame which is due to my hard work & only hard work,this can't be a fate but to get to USA was my preset fate by the controller who controls the whole universe.
Thank you
Your Brother

Anonymous said...

Deependra Jee
Congratulation!!! I do believe in fate but not only fate make your dream come true. Fate is free any body can have it, there is always fate waiting for us, we just need to know.
Your Friend

Anonymous said...

congratulation being selected Excellent student Adard, this good news gave me quite happiness,as i know how genius and brillient you are from the very begining.I donot believe that without hardworking,understanding and vibrant analyzing capacity and inherent excilence nobody could achieve such a great achievement in such academic field.I know very well about your such quality.There is no doubt in coming days also you achieve many more. Nobody could get series of such great achievemnt without great effort thinking that i have great LUCK.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to have your comments. As a matter of fact, you have been truly inspirational for many people including myself, when it comes to academia. I agree with your perception that outcome of our activities is influenced by many factors, one of which is 'luck'.
hope to hear from you again...

Dear Alok, Shyamji, Mukesh & Narendraji,
Thanks for your compliments! I feel encouraged.
Though, we can't deny the factor 'destiny'but at the same time we should not stop doing our 'karma'.

Kaji sir,
Welcome to this blog! & thanks for your compliments.I still recall those 'good days' at Dharan campus. I really 'miss' that! However, I had to move, probably, for the better cause.
I know what you mean by 'Nobody could get series of great achievemnst without great effort thinking that i have great LUCK'; but I have seen people who try hard but without success. so, probably, 'luck' & 'labour' should go side by side to achieve success in the longer run.

Sujan said...

Dear Dependra dai
Congratulation for ure great achievement. You deserve to be awarded. It's an inspiration and a proud moment for all the Nepalese studing in Hiroshima University.
Regarding your brain stromming debate,i view karma and luck as a pair which is void without each other. So do your karma and believe in luck.
I hope to hear more good news in the coming days. Best of luck....but follow your karma.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a nice comment.
and probably yes, we should do our karma AND believe in our 'luck'! I mean, that's the 'only' thing we can do...(?)

Arun said...

Hi Deepandra Ji
Congrate for your excellent performance there in Hiroshima University

Arun KC.
West Virginia

Anonymous said...

Arun ji,
Thanks for your words. I haven't heard about your whereabouts since long. seems you are doing fine.
Hope that the exchange of words continues in future as well.

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