ACHARYA DAS: Namaste and welcome. So we’re continuing today with our eight part series on the Bhagavad-gita: “From the Vision of Eternity,” and today the topic we’re going to be dealing with is Destiny. But before we begin speaking on the subject I’d like to invite you to join us in kirtan meditation, and as usual the mantra will appear on the bottom of the screen. So I’d like to invite you to join in with us.
Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana kirtan
ACHARYA DAS: So the subject today: destiny. Many people ask this question. I think anybody that has not considered it for themself is, if they say they haven’t considered it, they’re being probably untruthful. Most people like to really—they wonder about, “What does the future have in store for me?” Not so much for others, for me, this is like a big focus. People question, “Am I controlled by some higher force? Am I controlled by the stars?” This is the big fascination with astrology. Everybody likes to get the paper or on their newsfeed or whatever and look at their astrological predictions for the day or for the year.
We question, “Is my course, the course in my life somehow divinely ordained?” And this falls more within the scope of people that are more religiously inclined, you know, “Does God have a particular plan for me and what is that plan? Or is my life simply an arbitrary course of events?” as many people in the scientific community would state. The big question is, “Is my destiny actually set in stone? Is it rock solid? Is it something that is not going to change? Or do I play some kind of a role in determining my future? Do we have some role in our own future? And can we, in fact, change our destiny?”
Before—well I think that things that we’ve just pretty much run over, is the opposing arguments of, “Are things in my life pre-ordained? Or do I have free will to determine and to set the course for things?” But before we get into discussing it, when anybody thinks about destiny and they think about what is going to be in store for me in my life, there’s a certain premise or certain foundation they have. When you think about “my life” we generally are trying to think about all of the positive things that can happen and how those things that I consider to be positive, or good things, are actually going to make my life really wonderful, if not perfect, at least way better than it is.
And these are the questions that people put to themselves and to anybody else they that think can sort of help them. When people, for instance, if they find out that you’ve made any, even rudimentary, study of Vedic astrology, Jyotish, then immediately you get peppered with all these kind of questions. It’s quite—actually quite selfish and a little bit—not unexpected but it’s really—because we live in this dimension. We’re sort of obsessing: “What’s going to happen to me? Where is things going? Am I going to find someone to love and to love me? Am I going to be able to do what I want? Am I going to have a career? Am I going to succeed? Am I going to be able to have these talents?” You know.
We have this preconceived idea that somehow if I acquire all of these things that I’ve just mentioned that somehow my life is going to be more perfect or more wonderful. You know, we don’t stop to consider that people that are more advanced in these areas, like the big movie stars and the rock stars and everything. I mean, how perfect is your life when you feel the need to get a little bit lost in intoxication or lost in a pornographic addiction or lost in, you know, the use of mind-altering substances to just sort of like help you to get through the day?
So we will touch on that as we go a little bit further into the conversation.
What we have to, I think, understand and appreciate, is that there are three, probably three, primary things that principally shape our destiny. Everybody’s going like, “Okay, what are these three things?” If I ask you what they would be most people will kind of like get a little startled and start thinking rather hard and trying to figure out. It is actually good to think about and consider.
One of them is what I will call inescapable events - events which are sort of hardwired into or are part of the material existence. So I’m going to talk a little bit in detail about that after I’ve gone through the other couple of things because it really warrants some deep consideration because it really does affect, you know, the question. It answers to some degree the question that we may pose about destiny.
So a second thing has to do with past karma. The word ‘karma’ in Sanskrit means action and according to the law or laws of karma, then due to actions that I have performed, they will bear a fruit, and that fruit we may consider sweet, that fruit we may consider very bitter, but it does play a very big role in our experience of destiny.
They—these kind of things are basically categorised as stuff that almost seems to come of its own accord; like out of nowhere something shows up, something that—I suddenly win the lottery or I get hit by a car, you know, when I’m just driving peacefully down the street not doing anything wrong. These types of events in our life, according to the understanding that we receive from Bhagavad-gita and all of the Vedic scripture, these events are not just attributed to actions that we have taken in this life. They can be attributed to actions that we have taken in a previous life.
Now this understanding of what’s sometimes called reincarnation and probably more accurately described as the transmigration of the soul, is a reality. Every single person born into this world comes—they show up with baggage. People see a new born baby and everybody just like gushes and it’s like, “Oh it’s so cute,” and, you know, we think it’s just like so amazingly wonderful. And it’s really quite an amazing event to see the birth of a child and to experience that event. It is quite wondrous.
But what we are not seeing is that child, number one, it is not a child. It is a being, a living being who is temporarily in that body. Ten months prior to the birth you may not have thought, looking at that person in whatever body they were in, that it is so brilliantly attractive and so cute. Could have been a 90-year-old person with no teeth, coughing up mucous, hardly able to talk, passing urine and stool uncontrollably in their bed or whatever, and you just would be like just so uninclined to go anywhere near that person and cuddle it and whatever, unless you were a particularly compassionate person.
But now that there’s been a change of body caused by the event of death, all of a sudden we think that the slate has been wiped clean, and that is not a fact. The family that you are born into, the type of society that you will be born into, the economic status, the opportunity for learning, all of these things, the country, all of these things, have been predetermined, predetermined by activity that you have undertaken in a former life.
And so that baby, that looks like it’s showing up all fresh and brand spanking new and ready to roll has come with an enormous amount of baggage, and throughout that person’s life these bags will be opened and will start unpacking. We will see the fruits of past karmic action, things that we have done, beginning to manifest. This you do not have any control over.
And I will speak to the reality that you can escape from the influence of these things through a spiritual process but they do form a large part of our destiny and they are inescapable.
In addition to this, there is the karma, or the action that we are performing day to day. This is going to affect our life. I don’t know if you’ve heard the saying: “The harder I worked, the luckier I got.” (laughs) Have you? I don’t know if you’ve heard that or not. It’s a really—it’s actually a really good expression because it reflects the actual reality of the situation that you can shape your so-called luck or fortune by things. Certain things come and we—like for instance there are people in this world that are born sometimes into great poverty or great difficulty, and within their lifetime they may rise to become multi-millionaires. I know a number of people like this.
Unfortunately sometimes people think, “Oh well, I created my own luck. It was all because of my intelligence, my hard work.” That is a part of it, maybe a big part of it but being in the right time at the right place to be able to have an opportunity offered to you and for you to be equipped adequately to be able to take advantage of that opportunity is not solely your own doing. It may not be your own doing at all. But that does not mean that this idea: “The harder I work, the luckier I got,” is not also a reality.
In spite of where you find yourself due to past karma or karmic reaction you can still alter events in your life or you—not so much alter as shape what is going to happen and how your life is going to move. This lies within your control.
So these three things are there.
I’m now going to just, as I mentioned, go back to talking about the inescapable events that I mentioned before that will happen in your life. Four of them are considered really significant and they simply come with the territory. The fact that you have a material body, the fact that you have been born, you’ve taken birth in this world, you will experience four things, and as I stated, they are inescapable.
One is of course, once you have been born, your body is going to go through a process of aging. And in spite of what science tells you or people like to think that you’re going to be able to live forever in this particular body, this body can live forever; it is simply not true. Perpetual youthfulness is also not a reality. This is part of the nature of the material world that when you are born, you are going to go through the process of aging.
Second, is that during your lifetime you will encounter disease. According to the level of bad karma that you reap the result of; the disease may become frequent or they may become very grave. But even if you don’t have a lot of bad health karma or the fruit of bad health karma coming your way, nonetheless, you will experience the reality of disease because it is part of material existence.
With life in this body, in this world, comes death. Death is inescapable. When you showed up, when a little baby shows up, most people don’t see that its death is born along with it. The amount of time that you will live within this body, unless you artificially do something to terminate your life in this body, committing suicide; if you run the normal course, your death is certain. It is inescapable. And having died, taking birth again is also inescapable. It is part of the reality of things.
So I’ll read a couple of verses from the Bhagavad-gita and the first one describes the nature of the aging process and the different stages in life that one must go through. It says; it is from the Second Chapter Thirteenth verse of the Bhagavad-gita;
As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.Bhagavad-gita 2.13
So this is part of the inescapable reality of life in this body in this world.
And in the next verse that I’ll quote from, it’s fom the Fourteenth Chapter, the Twentieth verse, it says;
When the embodied being is able to transcend the three modes associated with the material body, he can become free from birth, from death, old age and their distresses and can enjoy nectar even in this life.Bhagavad-gita 14.20
So while on one hand we have some rather morbid news, I mean, most people if they ask, what’s in my future? There is one thing that you can reply to everyone; your death. This is the only thing that you can actually guarantee. Most of things you cannot guarantee. This one, you can guarantee. What’s in my future? Death. And then everybody goes, “Why did you have to say that?” Like it’s going to bring some bad fortune or misfortune just by raising that. It’s like, you know, hello, you know, wake up! This is the reality of material existence.
But one does not have to be a prisoner of these realities and it talks about how it is possible even while within this life, one is able to transcend these inescapable realities. What does it mean “transcend”? Does it mean that when you become very spiritually advanced that your body is not going to die? No. But a transcendentally situated person does not experience these events in the same way as a materialistic person. And what I mean by that is, just as like when I go to take a shower, I don’t get in to the shower with my clothes. I take them off and I drop them on the floor and I step into the shower and I have a shower. And I don’t have any second thought about the clothes I’ve discarded, left them in the laundry basket or whatever. It’s like not a big deal. In exactly the same way for one who has come to a platform of actual spiritual understanding, they have attained at least the beginnings even of an actual self-realization. For them, the experience of death is not a concern. It is just something that you go through. Like every day, you get a little hungry and you put some nutrition in your body. Your body has an urge to, you know, pass urine or stool and you just go do it. It’s just like, it’s not a big deal. In a similar manner for an actual yogi or a saintly person, their death is similarly, not a traumatic event. It is just something that you go through and you are untouched and unfazed by this event.
Another part of the inescapable realities of this world are what are called the dualities. The material world, the nature of the material world, you will always see things come in pairs. Happiness is always paired or matched with distress. And it’s not like--it’s like a coin; you got heads and tails on a coin. Can you have a coin that’s just got heads on it and no tails? Like you cut a coin in half, it’s no longer considered currency, it’s no longer a coin. It’s an artificial thing.
Life is also of this nature. When you are encaged in a material body and you are living in this consciousness that this body is me and I’m travelling through this world, I will be confronted with dualities. Happiness and distress, the idea of honour and dishonour which has become like this huge thing on social media when someone friends you, you’re so, I’m so flattered (laughs) and you like boast how many so-called friends you’ve got which is so--it’s another subject.
I just had an encounter with someone who wanted some advice and they told me that it’s about another person. They said they’ve been friends with them for a couple of years. And I said, “What exactly do you mean by a friend?”
“Well I friended them on Facebook and we sort of like sent some messages.”
“So, you’ve never actually met this person and talk to him?”
“I mean, are you serious that this is—“
No, this is not a friend. And when you finally get to know this person, you may have a falling out and consider them not really your friend. Not really your well-wisher and benefactor.
So you know this is—it’s become such a huge thing. Everybody is looking for—they want acceptance. They want to be honored. They want to be spoken highly of. They want to be praised. This all—all these things—like when we use this term, honor and dishonor. It’s not like a very small or limited thing. It’s quite, it’s quite significant. It covers a whole slew or a whole range of things. But anyway if, if you are raised up and honored you will also fall from that and experience dishonour.
In this world you know you will experience the realities of heat and cold. All of these types of things. So there are unlimited myriad of things that come in pairs. And we cannot just have one side of these dualities. And which is what we want. We want the weather to be perfect. We want to have all of these wonderful friends. We want people to think highly of us. We want to have a beautiful voice. We want to have nice physical looks. We want to be youthful. We want all these stuff without understanding and accepting that if you accept and embrace one-half of the picture, the other half will follow. You cannot have just one half. You will also have the other side of the coin. So there are a whole slew of things like this that I’ve just generally discussed and categorized as the duality of the material world.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna is speaking to Arjuna in the 2nd chapter, 15th verse. It says;
O best amongst men [Arjuna], the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.Bhagavad-gita 2.15
Now when liberation is mentioned here we are talking to become free from all, all forms of suffering, all of the inebrieties that can be experienced in relation to this world. And people are just like hungry for this perfect situation. Not understanding that this perfect situation they desire does not exist within the plain of material existence. It exists in a liberated state; a state that a person can even experience while being embodied and within this world.
In another couple of verses from the 12th chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, 18 and 19. There are these two verses;
One who is equal to friends and enemies who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, in heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contaminating association, who is silent and satisfied with anything, who doesn’t care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge, and who is engaged in devotional service - such a person is very dear to Me.Bhagavad-gita 12.18-19
So in this verse Krishna has stated or outlined. at least, an understanding or appreciation of someone who has attained the transcendental position and how they have become freed from these influences of these dualities.
And yet in another verse in the 5th chapter, 3rd verse. Another verse dealing with this subject of dualities;
One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced. Such a person free from all dualities easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna.Bhagavad-gita 5.3
So from the discussion so far in summary we can say that our destiny is shaped by our actions. Whether those actions were previous actions or actions that we are performing now or will perform in the future. Our actions are caused by what? What is the cause of our action? We decide to make any act; why do we do it? What is the cause? What’s pushing us to act? Desire. According to the nature of our desires we are going to engage in different activity. And then those activities will shape, at least to a large part, our destiny. And what is it that is causing desire? What is shaping our desire? It’s the kind of consciousness that we have. When you are in certain type of consciousness you will desire certain type of things. Desiring those things will cause you to seek to fulfil those desires through activity. And that will result in a karmic result or fruit of your karma, your action which will shape or be your destiny in this life.
So when you consider that change, action caused by desire, caused by your state of consciousness, it becomes very apparent that it is really important to determine your state of consciousness. You, by your free will and choice can largely determine this outcome. What type of consciousness that you will have.
So most people they approach the question of destiny with a preconceived idea of what is desirable or what is not desirable. What they consider good or what they consider bad. But from the perspective of someone that is actually interested in spiritual life, someone that is actually interested in their happiness, they must recognize that the things that we desire and things that we may consider good, these same things will always contribute to our continued bondage in the material world. This is the law of karma. If you—as you sow, so you shall reap.
In order to really understand what action is all about, because it really plays such a big role in your destiny, it is important to also understand and appreciate that action is the key to happiness. And it is the key to your liberation from material suffering. This topic is dealt with, and it’s a big subject in and of itself. We are just going to brush through it rather quickly here.
In the Bhagavad-gita in the 4th Chapter, 17th verse it states that;
The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is, and what inaction is.Bhagavad-gita 4.17
So I’m not going to talk at any length on that subject. I’m just raising it as something that you can be aware of and something that you need to look into and consider in your life if you want to actually become happy and freed from all forms of suffering.
The fact that material activity equals bondage is something that everybody needs to really think about. Because now that really plays quite heavily on—I mean I’m thinking I’ve got this idea that certain things are desirable. I want them. And certain things are going to bring me happiness. I think this way. And therefore I act in certain ways without any due consideration as to whether my course of action - my choice, the path I’m going to follow and I’m setting for myself I will follow in this world - whether it will actually bring me the happiness that I desire. This topic is also dealt with extensively in the whole yoga system.
In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali says that;
All the fruits of past actions both pleasurable and painful are considered sorrowful because—
Before I give the because I mean just think about that. He is saying that things that are considered pleasurable and things that are considered painful are both equal. They are equal because they bring sorrowfulness to the living being. How do they bring sorrowfulness? Because they all, meaning all action, both joyful, what’s considered pleasurable or joyful and painful. They all result in further bondage and suffering through three things. These three things are manifest as the anxiety and fearfulness from losing what I have gained. If I seek to run after something in this world and gain it I will experience an anxiety and a sorrowfulness that I’m afraid to lose this thing.
The second thing is that there will be a resulting, latent impression left on the mind which lead to renewed material desire. When you engage in material activity it conditions you to continue to do that. And if you continue to do that, you continue to be bound to the material world.
And thirdly, the constant stimulation of the energy known as the modes of material nature, the—my my mind becomes—let me put it this way: the mind becomes very stimulated by the desire for material activity and then engaging in it. And the effect is that it leads to an increased control of my mind and a conditioning, that I feel I must chase this thing again and again even if I come up with, you know, a less than satisfactory result. I mean I chase an experience, I’m so much hoping, I know that this is just going to be so perfect. And I fall in love with someone, I try to live a life with them and then that thing goes to crap and then I’m totally distressed. But because I have gone through that experience I feel increasingly conditioned to look again. To look again. Whether it’s, you know, looking for food, looking for whatever - any type of so-called happiness in this world.
So there needs to be a recognition that simply chasing after material things, engaging endlessly in material activity, it leads, even though I may find a temporary buzz here and there or a temporary flash here and there, overall it leads to an unfortunate condition.
Acting spiritually—we’re talking about action, so now engaging in action that is spiritually based means to live in transcendence. Such actions are liberating and they have absolutely no karmic results. So now what we are speaking about, it is possible to now alter the direction of your life to live a life, to engage in activity, but for that activity to be founded on spiritual understanding and to be, in fact, enlightening.
Krishna speaks to this subject in the Fourth Chapter, Twentieth verse. He says:
Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings.Bhagavad-gita 4:20
So here Krishna is speaking about a transcendental personality. Someone that is actually a yogi, someone that is truly a spiritual personality. They may appear to be like everyone else. They may be engaged in a whole variety of undertakings but they are living their life with a different focus and with a different purpose.
So I’ll just read that verse again. The description of a person in this condition:
Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action although engaged in all kinds of undertakings.Bhagavad-gita 4:20
And in yet another verse:
One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results to the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, just as a lotus leaf is untouched by water.Bhagavad-gita 5:10
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen what it’s like to see water on a lotus leaf. It’s like you sprinkle water and it instantly gathers into these little balls, these beads which can roll around on the leaf. It’s like the leaf is completely untouched by water. Water isn’t absorbed in it. In a similar manner, a person that is transcendentally situated, who is living for a higher purpose, a higher cause, can live in this world and be untouched by the result of any of their actions.
So this principle is really important and it distinguishes two different types of person. One person that is greedy to try and enjoy this world and to find happiness here cannot escape the reality that their destiny will be one of bondage and to be able to experience simultaneously suffering along with so-called happy experiences. You cannot divide. You cannot separate these things.
When a person has chosen the material course of action their destiny is determined by how they are living and how they have lived. The outcome is determined. It is not simply that I can wish that things will be different. If I want things to be different I must choose a new course of action. A course where my actions are not being determined simply by material desire, desire that is always constantly growing and expanding in my mind. If I am able to cultivate what is truly spiritual desire, the actual desires of my inner heart, the desire for true happiness, for true love, the desire to be pleasing to this object, or the greatest object of my love, this Supreme Soul, the Lord of my heart, then my life begins to take another course. Those inescapable events, like some experience of disease, or old age and death for this body, yes, that will still continue, but I will be absolutely untouched by that. This is not the focus of my life.
The reality is, is that by the exercise of your own free will, your destiny will be determined. If you are going to misuse your free will and chase things in this world, laying claim to property which is not yours, if you are not going to live in spiritual harmony then there will be a certain result. If on the other hand you live with a clear understanding of who you are, what is this world, who are these other people, other living entities existing here with me, and if I choose a course where I seek a spiritual outcome then these actions will also determine my destiny. But my destiny is not going to be shaped by the laws of material nature. It is going to be shaped by spiritual principle.
So in conclusion, there are a couple of very nice verses, one in the Ninth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Twenty-seventh Verse, where Krishna says:
O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, they should be done as an offering unto Me.Bhagavad-gita 9:27
So this is like, wow. This is a whole new focus. I mean, throughout my life I have been living in this idea that it’s all about trying to serve and fulfil and satisfy my desires and by doing that I will be happy. And yet the reality is when I do that, even if I am completely successful in doing that, I am utterly dissatisfied, utterly unfulfilled. And then at the end of everything I will be violently ripped away from everything I’ve grown attached to through the experience of death.
If your life has another focus, as Krishna explains here, where one’s activities are being undertaken as a higher spiritual offering rather than as an attempt to try and fill up this emptiness within myself, if I act in this way I am acting in harmony with my actual spiritual nature. Krishna says in another verse that in relation to this undertaking of having now a spiritual focus in your life, He says if a person lives this way that,
That is the way of the spiritual and godly life, after attaining which a man is not bewildered. If one is thus situated, even at the hour of death, one can enter into the Supreme Abode (the kingdom of God).Bhagavad-gita 2:72
So I mean, just on this verse alone there is so much to discuss but I will simply leave it with you and if you wish - and I do encourage you - that perhaps you can come back to this video at some later time and replay it and pause on some of these quotes and contemplate on it and consider the meaning of it and consider the relevance in relation to my own life.
So as a recap, yes, your destiny is in your hands: what you are due to experience, inescapably, is going to be there, the result of your past choices, the result of the choices that you are making at this very juncture in your life. If you want to come to a spiritual position in which you do not have to taste the bitter fruit of karma - and all fruits of karma, whether considered good or bad, actually become bitter. As Patanjali says, they deliver sorrow. You can, by your own choice, by the exercise of your own will, determine your greatest good fortune, your spiritual destiny. It is completely up to you. It is entirely in your hands.
So, with that I would like to thank you very much and we will do a little kirtan meditation again. I’ll use the mahamantra, one of my favorites, and I invite you to join with us.
Thank you very much and look forward to seeing you next week when we continue with this series. Thank you. Namaste.