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Gur Fateh!

What are the sangat's thoughts on 'free will' within the framework of Gurmat? Below are some common questions that most religious commentaries work through (notably in the West, although I believe Adi Sankarchaya and others like him have done the same in their writings on Vedanta).

Ordinarily, this discussion (re: free will) reduces to the following three possibilities:

1) no: a determinist position in which freedom is an illusion and human will is predetermined?

2) a moralist view in which humans only exist in the mind, where free will is located,but that physical processes are predetermined?

3) compatablist approach is which will is free unless coerced by force or intimidation?

Please could the forum provide their views in relation to the above three positions in answering the wider question of Free Will from a Sikh perspective.

Secondly, for those who feel that free will does exist, please could you reconcile this with issues such as:

a) What is the relation between free will and karma?

B) How does God have knowledge of our actions (past, present and future) if free will exists?

c) What is God's grand plan and how does free will feature in this?

e) How does one explain sins committed by Humans if free will exists, yet God has foreknowledge of all actions with God being all powerful, loving, caring, protector etc.

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I tried to understand this for many years and have given up - just seeing everything as Waheguru's tamasha.

I heard an interesting Katha the other day, that when in the stage of Brahmgyanta, there are no punn/paap, because the ego is no longer there - only Waheguru. This implies that punn/papp and hence freewill are tied in to the ego/haumai.

On one hand we have "Hukmai Andar Sabh Ko" and on the other "Jo Meh Kiya So Meh Paya" or " Karmi Aapo Aapni".

Seriously, to understand this, you'd have to be one with Waheguru and look 'from the outside - in'.

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Matheen wrote:

"I tried to understand this for many years and have given up - just seeing everything as Waheguru's tamasha."

Question: Does this not amount to simple self-delusion to avoid addressing the basic underlying issue?

"I heard an interesting Katha the other day, that when in the stage of Brahmgyanta, there are no punn/paap, because the ego is no longer there - only Waheguru. This implies that punn/papp and hence freewill are tied in to the ego/haumai"

Question: As the vast majority of us are not Brahmgyanis, does this assertion not amount to little more than glossing over the reality of paaps/punns that we are witness to in our daily lives?

If freewill is a figment of the ego, then are you looking to align with position number 2) above:

2) a moralist view in which humans only exist in the mind, where free will is located,but that physical processes are predetermined?

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"2) a moralist view in which humans only exist in the mind, where free will is located,but that physical processes are predetermined?"

How can free will and physical processes be seperate? Is a physical process not an outcome of freewill?

I believe the only true free will in existence is that of Vaheguru.

Sure we have decision making ability, but Parm-atma decides who recieves pain and who recieves blessings, who remains in ignorence and who is enlightened.

Our problem is that at Matheen rightly says, our ego clouds the truth. We seek to understand the "thinking" of God, when all we are asked to do is accept his will.

In my view, the fundemental error in this sort of discussion is working to limited options and more importantly, thinking that will, or anything for that matter only exists on one plane, whereby it either belongs to us or the creator, as Matheen suggests via his quoted bani.

We all umlitmately operate freely (in varying environmental capacity), but our freedom to think, decide and act all operate under his supreme command.

"On one hand we have "Hukmai Andar Sabh Ko" and on the other "Jo Meh Kiya So Meh Paya" or " Karmi Aapo Aapni"."

We reap what we sow, but there is no reason that these actions and re-actions can not be pre-determined or operating under a divine eye, which is beyond human comprehension.

It is a difficult subject for many of us to grasp, but if we try and understand that "freewill" operates under his supreme will, in my opinion life and bani becomes much easier to understand.

Apologies for veering off the well organised approach to this question Niranjana Ji.

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Shaheediyan asked:

"2) a moralist view in which humans only exist in the mind, where free will is located,but that physical processes are predetermined?"

How can free will and physical processes be seperate? Is a physical process not an outcome of freewill?

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I have the same issue with the above position, however is this not too far from what you imply by suggesting that "the only true free will in existence is that of Vaheguru", hence freewill from the human perspective freewill appears to exist in the mind ("we have decision making ability"), however physical processes are pre-determined ("but our freedom to think, decide and act all operate under his supreme command").

I fully agree with you in that this "is a difficult subject for many of us to grasp", so would be grateful for learned members of the forum to bring forth their understanding.

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1) no: a determinist position in which freedom is an illusion and human will is predetermined?

This statement would be in keeping with gurbani, the other statements are true but on lower 'levels' which i will attempt to explain below.

The statement above must be only true for an individual when he is perfected or partly perfected. Free will if to be made sense of must be viewed from different levels. From our level this statement is false as we feel as though we act. Free will can be envisioned as a continuum with the above statement at the top and at the bottom the idea that I am the doer of everything i.e. the illusion that the I posseses free will. So it is also a continuum of falseness to truth. But any point on the continuum will be 'true' for the individual so situated. True in the sense that, he does or he does not do. So an individual higher up the continuum will begin to understand he does less and things just 'happen'. The ideas that humans posses free will or possess it to an extent, can be viewed as stages of ignorance. The aim for a potential gurmukh must be to live in gods will, a will which is THE complete will. The stages of ignorance leading upto THE will are smaller or lesser wills. Only true free will is at the level of god, whereas varying degrees of will are available at lower levels. Working your way up involves hard efforts, to gain self knowledge, of how to live in hukam, and a certain amount of free will is available to make these efforts. This free will is limited, it is partial will, which is akin to sitting in a dark room, when the door is open a little bit a shaft of light enters the room this is the bakshish of some of the creators light/will to work with, eventually the whole room will be light when the door is fully open and you stop bumping into things. This view negates the negative or demonic view that chalo its all his hukam what can I do.

As regards the word predetermined. Will is not in a sense pre-determined, in that no change is possible. To examine this, action is determined by the jeev, who acts within hukam, i.e. the law of cause and effect. His actions cause results, which are pre-determined by nature, therefore if the jeev carries on thinking in the same pattern his future becomes determined. I am sure many of you know from practical experience how elders are 'set in their ways' in other words they have no free will as they will continue to act in the same way as change mentally is painful. From this base point let us speculate a shaft of light of some free will enters you in the form of being intiated into naam simran and living to the precepts. The individual breaks some of his previous habits and bad tendencies by naam simran which is some of the creators free will. As the individual is moving up vertically due to naam simran he is acting with some free will. But this free will is not complete until he reaches the param pad. I equate free will with 'knowledge of free will' partial free will equates with partial knowledge. True knowledge embodies the known. To know free will is to live in perfect balance with hukam. Only ignorance, as pre stated, is opposition to hukam, ironically the highest level of ignorance must be asserted by those who say free will exists, (they must possess the lowest amount of free will :cry: )

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I have the same issue with the above position, however is this not too far from what you imply by suggesting that "the only true free will in existence is that of Vaheguru", hence freewill from the human perspective freewill appears to exist in the mind ("we have decision making ability"), however physical processes are pre-determined ("but our freedom to think, decide and act all operate under his supreme command").

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the decision making ability you speak of i would group within physical processes, this 'freewill' is a physical process akin to gravity. Its is not an illusion, but an unknowing or ignorance. The reality of the decision making process cannot be denied, it follows rules like gravity, the knowledge of these rules is liberation from their effects. i would rather speak of ignorance instead of saying an 'appearence of freewill' it may be anal but it avoids associations of the world illusion etc.

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I think free will in itself is a paradox. I have free will to be lazy and not do kirtan, but I have also reached this state through my previous Karams which have given me this mindset or in another words my previous Karams have limited my options in my present free-will.

So do i really have free-will to do kirtan or am I a product of my past karma?

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Here is the review of all the karams.

Sanchit Karams: It is the sum of one's past karmas – all actions (good and bad) from one's past life follow through to the next life.

Kriyamana karma: It's the karma that human beings are creating in the present, the fruits of which will be experienced in the future.

Pralabdha: Its is that portion of the past karma which is responsible for the present body. That portion of the sanchita karma which influences human life in the present incarnation is called prarabdha. It is ripe for reaping. It cannot be avoided or changed. It is only exhausted by being experienced. You pay your past debts. Prarabdha karma is that which has begun and is actually bearing fruit. It is selected out of the mass of the sanchita karma."

In vedantic literature, there is a beautiful analogy. The bowman has already sent an arrow and it has left his hands. He cannot recall it. He is about to shoot another arrow. The bundle of arrows in the quiver on his back is the sanchita; the arrow he has shot is pralabdha; and the arrow which he is about to shoot from his bow is agami. Of these, he has perfect control over the sanchita and the agami, but he must surely work out his prarabdha. The past which has begun to take effect he has to experience.

There is another beautiful analogy also. The granary represents the sanchita karma; that portion taken from the granary and put in the shop for future daily sale corresponds to agami; that which is sold daily represents prarabdha.

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