Does destiny decide everything?

Dhritharashtra gives his assent to Duryodhana’s plan of killing Pandavas at Varanavarta. Dhritharashtra says – “Everything lay in the hands of Providence. What could he, a mere mortal filled with desire and fears, do against destiny?”

Are we really helpless?

Is everything really controlled by destiny? Are we really helpless? No. We always choose our responses. We choose how to react and respond to situations. We also change our responses based on our association and education. Our agency is a critical factor in determining the consequence of our actions.  But apart from our agency, there are other factors that are not in our control which influence the result. They are the time and place of action, the instrument, the effort and destiny (BG 18.14). Everything is not decided by destiny. But what is decided by destiny? Let us now study how destiny works.

How destiny works?

Every one of us is an individual. We have a particular set of desires, preferences and abilities. When we, as individuals stay together in this world which has finite resources, there is always a possibility that our individual interests and choices conflict with others’ interests and choices. We need a set of rules and regulations to ensure cooperation and harmony in the world. This is evident at local, national and international levels. There is also a similar arrangement at cosmic level. This is called as destiny or karma (BG 3.10-11). A pious act is an adherence to these cosmic laws that result in a reward. A sinful act is transgression of these cosmic laws that result in punishment with an intention to reform. These rewards and punishments are given in due course of our existence which can be across different lives.

Therefore, destiny is a product of our previous choices and actions. We define our destiny. No one else does it. Destiny defines what happens to us, not how we respond to what happens to us. Therefore destiny cannot be a justification for our wrong acts and choices. Destiny is not justification for our indolence i.e. inaction (BG 2.47). Here Dhritharashtra is justifying his evil acts in the name of destiny.

Destiny empowers us

Destiny helps us to define our future. Our present choices define our future consequences. We need to make conscious consistent correct choices. How to do this? We can learn about correct and wrong choices and action through study of wisdom texts like Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Ramayana, Mahabharat etc. Apart from the knowledge, we will also receive inspiration to make correct choices from these texts. We can also associate with people practicing these teachings in their lives.

Every one of us to some extent have some inclinations for wrong acts. These inclinations can be minimized through gradual purification by the process of yoga (BG 2.50) i.e. spiritualized work, knowledge, meditation and worship.