Have you ever found yourself thinking ……
- ‘Why me? What did I do to deserve this?’
- ‘Why do these things happen? It is just so cruel’
- ‘Oh he didn’t deserve this end. He was such a good man.’
- ‘Life is so unpredictable. Why do kids who have a whole life ahead of them die tragically when an aged person with no will to live continues to and suffers the indignity of old age.’
There are fatalists who live by the belief that everything in life is preordained. And then there are those who rubbish the theory of fate and believe in their capacity to shape their destiny.
Most cultures in some way acknowledge or subscribe to the inevitability of Fate.
Followers of Ajivika, a contemporary philosophy to Buddhism and Jainism believed that a cycle of reincarnation of the soul was determined by Niyati (destiny or fate). Niyati was believed to be a precise and non-personal cosmic principle that was completely independent of the person’s actions. Ajivika’s absolutely and totally believed in Fatalism.
Hinduism believes in a combination of fate and free will. Fate is one of the fundamental tenets of the religion. The religion believes that the moment of our birth, the family into which we are born, the trials we will face in this life, all are created by Samskara (the result of Karma). Despite being largely fatalistic and feeling that they are chained to the fruits of their actions, Hindus also believe that it is possible to shape destiny. There is an ancient Sanskrit sloka supposedly authored by Kalidasa (although this is debated in literary circles), that roughly translates to:
Yesterday is nothing but a dream and tomorrow is merely a vision.
Today well-lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day – such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!
Buddhism believes that life and its events are not controlled by an external force but by their previous karma. Buddhists use the term destiny to explain the cause for events. Destiny they believe is the direct result of an individual’s karma from his/her previous lives. The belief is that Karma (both wholesome and unwholesome) may be accumulated.
Ancient Romans and Greeks believed in Moirai. The Moirai were the three goddesses of fate who personified the inevitable destiny of man that could just not be changed. Goddess Klotho, the Spinner, spun the thread of life. Goddess Lakhesis, the opportioner, who measured the thread of life and Goddess Aisa, the leveller cut it short. Zeus, the God of fate was their leader.
Fate and predestination, Qadar is a major premise of Islam, one of the six articles of faith. The general faith is that that God wrote the divine destiny in the Preserved Tablet – all that has happened, will happen, which will come to pass, has been written. However, human acts also affect what is stated in the Tablet.
In Christianity, the Bible teaches that Man was created with the capacity to make moral choices and that has responsibility for all these choices. There are some verses indicate the belief that God does have a plan, but humans do have some control over their own direction.
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
And then there is the theory of Determinism. Fatalism implies the existence of a conscious omniscient force that personally plans the course of events in the past, present and future, none of which can be altered. Determinism believes that human actions affect the future but that human action is itself determined by a causal chain of prior events. Their view does not accentuate a “submission” to fate or destiny. Determinists, holding a more generic view, believe that each event is caused by recent prior events and also by such far-extending and unbroken events as those going back in time to the universe’s very origins. Determinism does not believe that the course of fate is controlled by an unseen power.
There is a famous proverb in Tamil ‘விதியை மதியால் வெல்லலாம்’ or ‘fate can be conquered by intellect’. I’ve always questioned the truth of this proverb. At a superficial level, this may be true but is it really? Events and incidents that contradict this proverb are many. My friend aged forty five died of a massive cardiac arrest last week with no prior warning or indication. Despite being young, fit and healthy, she didn’t wake up from her sleep. The end was as simple as that – no warning signs whatsoever. Nothing she did could have intervened with destiny.
The whole idea of Fatalism just does not seem remotely plausible in my mind. Personally, the existence of an omniscient force that holds the remote control to our lives is a bit too farfetched for me. What this also does is encourages a resignation to destiny and acceptance of fate. It dissuades effort. Determinism is a little bit more acceptable as it places greater value on individual effort and action – it is aligned with the popular theory of Karma that is more palatable as a concept.
As I process all this information, I realise that I am left with more questions than answers. In an effort to add some colour to this discussion in my headspace, I write this imaginary conversation between the Supreme Power and I in Tamil! Needless to say, this is written tongue in cheek and I don’t profess to be a scholar of merit. So I apologise upfront for possible errors : )
புவியிலே யாவுமே சமம் எனில்
ஈசனே ஏன் இந்த பேதம்
விண்ணின் உச்சத்தில் சிலர்
அதள பாதாளத்தில் பலர்
வாசம் வீசும் வண்ண மலர்கள்
எத்தனை எத்தனை வகைகள்
தெய்வ சன்னதி அடைந்தன சில
மண்ணில் வீழ்ந்து மடிந்தன பல
கொஞ்சிக் கொஞ்சி கதைகள்
பேசும் பஞ்சவர்ண கிளிகள்
மனம் போல் பறந்தன சில – கூட்டில்
அடைபட்டு தவித்தன பல
மணை மக்கள் செல்வத்துடன்
சுகமாய் வாழ்வோர் சிலர்
வறுமை வெறுமை வேதனையே
சகித்து மாண்டோர் பலர்
அடுக்கடுக்காய் வினவிய எனைக்கண்டு
நயமாக நகைத்தான் ஈசன்
பிள்ளாய் நீ அறிந்ததோ மிகச்சில