In our last letter, Devi wrote about karma and free will. I would like to look at another aspect of this fascinating question.

Once, during a satsang, Swami Kriyananda was asked, “How much of what happens to us is determined by our karma?” His reply brought a gasp from the audience, “Virtually everything is pre-determined, even the choice of the shirt you put on this morning.”

Although no one actually spoke it aloud, one could feel the reaction of the audience: “That’s unfair! Don’t I have any freedom of choice?”

The answer to this question is tricky and depends almost entirely upon how we define “I.” If we think of ourselves as the ego (the soul attached to this body and personality), then we have little free will. But the soul, free from ego, has a great deal. This illustration may be helpful:

Recently I dreamt about trekking in the Himalayas, no doubt because we will visit Babaji’s cave in a few days. In this dream, one character represented “me.” It moved through the time/space of the dream world and interacted with other characters. Just as in this world, there was a clear sense that only this one actor was “me” and all the others were, well, “others.” When I awoke I realized, of course, that the dream, the mountains, and all the many characters were simply creations of my own mind.

So, what if that dream “me” suddenly demanded to have free will, wanting to change his shirt color, or walk ahead of one of the other dream actors, or be alone? Is his lack of free will unfair? Not really, because at another level, as the creator of the dream, I was in control. Similarly, freedom of choice in this life rightly belongs to the real you—your awakened soul rather than the dreaming ego.

If the purpose of life is to awaken from the dream of maya, do we really want the limited ego to be in charge? Isn’t it better to joyfully cede control to the soul, allowing the soul to draw the karmic lessons that will help it become free? The whole drama of life is, as Paramhansa Yogananda said, “for our education and entertainment.” And then he wryly added, “But how few are either educated or entertained.”

Although our conditions are largely determined by past karma, how we (the soul acting as the ego) react to our circumstances is very important. Enlightened reactions such as gratitude, love, and forgiveness free us, while ego-centered reactions create more bondage. Gyanamata, Yogananda’s most advanced woman disciple, once faced a difficult test. When she asked God what prayer He would hear, the answer came, “Change no circumstance of my life. Change me.”

Towards soul-freedom,
Nayaswami Jyotish

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  1. Dearest Jyotish,

    Wow, so profound and exactly the distinction I came to myself yesterday prior to reading this. It must be in the “air” and came from you in India all the way to the West Coast with a little lag time (haha).

    You wrote:
    “…freedom of choice in this life rightly belongs to the real you—your awakened soul rather than the dreaming ego.
    If the purpose of life is to awaken from the dream of maya, do we really want the limited ego to be in charge? Isn’t it better to joyfully cede control to the soul, allowing the soul to draw the karmic lessons that will help it become free?”

    I was experiencing a similar distinction when I found myself resisting a certain life experience. I saw myself putting up barriers. I thought to myself, why am I resisting? what is this small self (ego) trying to accomplish or hold onto, or hold me back from?

    I sought guidance outside of my small self and asked “what is for my highest good?”

    I received my answer clearly . . . Yoga.

    I had to laugh at myself. That small self, or limited ego really wants to be in charge, doesn’t it! It was so clear, and it happened so quickly.

    I am beyond grateful that I am here at The Expanding Light. Being here speeds up this process and the clarity is more readily available due to the high vibration and the amazing Satsang.

    Needless to say, I surrendered the resistance and found such peace, contentment and joy in my day afterward that I thanked Master and all the higher beings that guide me for their patience and unconditional love. All I could do was share it with everyone that I met; after all, isn’t that why we are here.

    Bless you!
    ~~~Peace, Josette

  2. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish ji ,

    Thank you for this article. I have a vague question 🙂
    Do we act according to our Ego ? Is that the Karma ? Or when we try to come out of Ego and try to walk in the path of truth, Is that Karma too ?

    And on the other note, How blissful it was to be in Himalayas with your presence & Deviji’s presence. Visiting the Babaji’s Cave and meditating on the foot hills of the himalayas with all beautiful souls.

    Thank you 🙂

    Aum
    Prem

  3. Dear Jyotish, your comments on the concept of free will struck me as both alarming and so very hopeful. When I sing in the choir, whether solo or in 4 parts, as a bass, the more “me” is able to let go of being or thinking about me, the more beautiful the sound and vibration of what comes forth becomes. The deepest spiritual experiences I have had have all been beyond the ‘me’ that I think I am With the Grace of God and Guru, moving beyond “me” feels attainable. Thank you.

  4. Thank you Jyotish. It is interesting that we do not tend to “cling” so much to the idea that “I am the doer” in our nightly dreams, since we usually dismiss it by saying “I was only dreaming”, while the opposite seems to hold true during the daytime…

  5. Thank you, very helpful and elucidating on a subject that has always had question marks around it for me.
    blessings and joy

  6. So well said, Jyotish. Thank you for your valuable insights. It is quite a trip, isn’t it? But what a lovely thing Master did through Swamiji for all of us ready to try to grasp the truth of this existence. He gave us the opportunity to work through our karma with the guidance and support of many great souls. Thank you, God. Thank you, Swamiji, Thank you, Jyotish and Devi. And thank you to all the other wise and caring people who are reading and enjoying this column. Love to you all.

  7. This morning, I was thinking of past events in my life… and then I read your letter… and then I smiled with gratitude …”change me”. God alone! Thank you dearest Nayaswami Jyotish! Blessings to all.

  8. Dear Friends, You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. It’s a grace when one understands the meaning of a dream upon awakening. You were meant to share it and thank you for doing so. It’s only in giving our lives to God, that we can be truly free, and truly happy. In Gioia, Mary.

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