There is a story of Gandhiji told to me by one of his close disciples. A palmist went to Gandhiji to see his palm and maybe predict his future. He was informed that he will have to wait since Gandhiji was spinning his charkha. After a couple of hours of waiting the palmist enquired as to how long he will have to wait further. Gandhiji informed him, “Till I get Sampoorn Swarajya (complete freedom)”!
Gandhiji never believed in any palmist, soothsayer etc. He was a great karma yogi who believed in the power of action and work. Yet most of our political leaders who have Gandhiji’s photo in their offices, believe in astrologers, palmists, etc.
Why is there so much proliferation of soothsayers, astrologers, palmists, etc. who are very eager to foretell the future? Internet is full of sites for such services. The main reason is that all these soothsayers prey upon fear and insecurities of these ambitious people. Ambition together with insecurity is a very potent combination for the soothsayers to prey on.
Ambition is an emotion which comes basically from insecurity. It is an outcome of emotional state in which a person wants to achieve something in order to show off to his/her family, peers or to the world. This is different from knowledge gain or desire to achieve something for the benefit of mankind.
Thus very ambitious people are also insecure people and as they rise higher in their profession the stakes become higher. The higher the stakes, higher is the insecurity and hence the brain seeks a pillar of support about the future. Soothsayers provide such a support by stressing on fate.
In our ancient scriptures like Vedas, Patanjali Yoga Darshan, Gita etc. there is hardly any discussion on fate. It is mostly focused on Karma Yoga. In Patanjali Yoga it is clearly written that the progress in Yoga is only dependent on the hard work of Sadhak or practioner. The only time Patanjali talks about future in his Yoga darshan is when he describes the powers of an advanced Yogi who may know the time of his death by doing Sanyam on his own thoughts and sanskars.
I think the concept of astrology, palmistry, fate, etc. came as the science of Yoga declined. In order to suppress the inquiry and question the sequence of events the concept of fate was brought in. Since then there has been a continuous debate about fate and free will.
I believe that what we are and what we will become is only controlled by our actions. If it is not so then the whole notion of evolution will be negated. Hence we are all endowed with free will and have the power to change our destiny.
Recently scientists have shown that by our actions we can change our genes and hence our future. The science of epigenetics, as it is called, shows that genes are not only inherited but can also be altered by our actions and the environment. This genetic change is more pronounced during our early years and hence the environment of childhood and formative years plays an important role in what type of human being we will become. It is not only the memories but the genetic changes in our childhood that decide our future.
Also these altered genes can be transferred to our progeny. This is the basis of evolution and it is dependent on our actions. Maybe our ancient rishis knew about this process and hence stressed early education through Gurukul schools. Similarly the genetic alterations could also be the basis of Sanskars that Patanjali talks about.
Thus individually we have the free will and can change the course of our life but collectively, as mankind living on this planet earth, our evolution is guided by the cosmic forces of sun, moon and the resulting forces of environment. These forces guide the destiny of mankind and not the sayings of soothsayers.
Comments on this Blog
The heavenly bodies and the lines on the palm of the right hand show, not only unavoidable events, but also mere tendencies, so they don't contradict the concept of "free will". In the course of my 61 years I've had the chance to corroborate this. Lines on the hand have vanished after life-saving changes in lifestyle. If it weren't too personal I'd describe two examples.
"Ambition is an emotion which comes basically from insecurity" This is true but also sketchy. It doesn't get to the source from which our ambition springs, which is the hoarding instinct. It's present in many species of animals, and even in plants, which have structures for storing nutrients (like what we call "potatoes", and the fleshy parts of desert flora). The hoarding instinct is like planning for an ever uncertain future, and when it runs out of control and one starts to accumulate things far beyond one's needs one becomes a penny-pinching nabob.