We all know that we have free will – to choose our actions. It is not always that we can choose what we want. But we can always choose to have patience after not getting what we wanted rather than feeling desperate. When someone criticizes us, hurls an insult at us or right away abuses us, we can react with anger and pick up a quarrel or let it go and maintain our calmness.
How do I know that my will is right? There are so many sounds in my head, each asking me to do this or that. Shrimad Bhagavad Gita (16.21) cautions about the three gates to hell:
त्रिविधं नरकस्येदं द्वारं नाशनमात्मन: |
काम: क्रोधस्तथा लोभस्तस्मादेतत्त्रयं त्यजेत् ||
There is this threefold gate of hell, leading to the destruction of the self: Lust, anger, and greed; therefore, one should abandon these three. So, all actions done with a will that is emerging out of lust, anger and greed must be avoided.
We are all born with consciousness smeared with traces of our past deeds – some are good, and many are bad. Thus, we have innate motivations to do things that are good and meritorious or bad and harmful. If we are vigilant about the impulses and drives that are emerging out of our minds and keep not acting upon them, a lot of harm can be avoided.
This world is a net weaved out of two threads of “Attachment” and “Aversion”. I go for all that “I like”, I run away from all that “I don’t like”. But who is this “I”? The sense of “I” can be understood as mind, intellect, ego and consciousness. We must examine which “I” we are dealing with before going ahead and acting upon it. The mind is indeed restless, turbulent, strong and obstinate (Gita 6.34):
चञ्चलं हि मन: कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम् |
तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् ||
Katha Upanishad (1.3.10) gives the solution. Objects control the senses, but the mind is superior to these objects. The faculty of knowledge can overrule the mind, but the Great Self is the most powerful.
इन्द्रियेभ्यः परा ह्यर्था अर्थेभ्यश्च परं मनः।
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्बुद्धेरात्मा महान्परः ॥
The best technique to know your mind is meditation. Sit alone quietly, close your eyes and watch thoughts emerging like smoke from a chimney. Don’t react. Keep sitting, watching the worst and the most horrendous thoughts appearing. Even the most pleasant and lustful thoughts must not arouse you. All thoughts will soon disperse and disappear as smoke. This is the simplest and surest way of removing your conditioning.
Your free will is all about freeing yourself from your conditioning of past experiences, which go back to numerous earlier lives also. Innate human nature is generous, caring and wise. Only our acquired lust, anger and greed cover it up like smoke covers a fire, dust masks a mirror and a womb hides an embryo (Gita 3.38).
धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथादर्शो मलेन च |
यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम् ||
Discover your truth by piercing through your desires and progress to advance your spiritual evolution. Our free will is to know what God wills and once that is done, who can stop us from succeeding and flourishing in this world?