Free Will Versus Destiny : A Debate between Rama and Lakshmana

As Rama was getting ready to leave for forest,there was an interesting dialogue between the brothers on the issue of Rama opting to go to forest.
Seeing that Lakshmana was upset with the developments,Rama put forth His views on the issue. According to Him the entire episode was a consequence of divine will. Without invoking the principle of Divine will,it would be very difficult to explain how or why Kaikeyi who was normally given to very noble disposition could indulge in such a cruel act. All the events were completely unforeseen and whatever is unforeseen or unforeseeable has to be accepted as the decree of the Divine.
Lakshmana,like everyone else, was quite convinced that Rama didn’t deserve to go to forest. He summoned courage and tried to put across his views quite forcefully,knowing fully that Rama was determined to carry out His father’s wish at all costs. Lakshmana’s measured and calculated outburst was a manifestation of his righteous indignation. And the manner in which he presented the case for Rama to return to Ayodhya was too good to be dismissed as histrionics. Here is a gist of what he said to Rama:
Fate,Destiny or ‘Divine will’ are invoked only by the weak minded as an excuse for inaction. Only the cowardly and people incapable of action trust and seek shelter in Fate. Free will can very easily offset the harm and injustice perpetrated in the name of destiny. To the extent the whole act was plotted and engineered by wicked Kaikeyi and meekly accepted by the weak king Dasaradha,there was no justification for accepting the same as Divine Will. On the contrary,injustice done to Rama and the people of Ayodhya should be instantly corrected by resorting to a show of strength. Expressing himself thus in such a forceful manner,Lakshmana was rearing to have a go at the plotters of injustice and show to the world the superiority of Free Will over Divine Will.
Lakshmana also made yet another interesting point to convince Rama. He quoted the code of righteous conduct for kings which lays down the principle of abdicating one’s kingdom only after ruling for a long time and handing over the same to sons. Having passed on the responsibility to the next generation,the king could then retire to forests.

However,none of the arguments (so nicely articulated by Lakshmana) impressed Rama. He was not willing to disobey His father and compromise on the issue.

Evidently,Rama held views which were quite different from those of Lakshmana. As He reasoned with Bharata much later (when the latter came to plead with Rama to return to Ayodhya),Soul is not independent and does not enjoy Free Will. The journey of the Soul is completely influenced and dictated by Divine Will and dispensation.

The question that arises now is how does one reconcile the two completely different positions held by Rama and Lakshmana?
My own view is that Free will does exist but in a limited context. The parents one is born to,the kind of surroundings one grows up in are perhaps part of Divine will. Free will probably can not change all that. Within that broad context,one could make minor modifications to one’s life. If one adds to these constraints the principles and code of conduct enshrined in dharma shastras and scriptures,one will see a very limited sphere in which Free will can operate. In fact this was precisely the dilemma faced by Rama. Although He could very clearly see injustice,He found Himself helpless to act according to His Free Will because He was bound by Dharma. Dharma,in this particular case,dictates that He should simply obey His father irrespective of consequences.

Published in: on December 27, 2009 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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