Spiritual Essays #5

Free Will is Divine Will Only

Mindful Awareness

by Jayaram V

Summary: Free will is divine will only. The duality between them is an illusion. Free will becomes divine will to the extent we surrender to God or Isvara.


The Isa Upanishad declares that all this is for the habitation and enjoyment of Isvara (Isvara) only. All this is Isvara only. You cannot claim ownership or doership of anything. Consecrating everything in the service of Isvara, you must live; and remembering that on the death bed, you must die.

The Upanishadic ideal suggests that one shall cultivate the soul vision or the self-vision in which one sees all in oneself and oneself in all. That vision is the culmination of all knowledge and wisdom one acquires through study, practice and observation on the path of liberation. It is attained by stepping back from the ego-driven and desire-ridden actions and thinking.

Free will is an illusion

The theistic schools and sects of Hinduism hold that Isvara (or Brahman) is the source of all. It means that all actions, movements, duties, causes and manifestations arise from Isvara only. The free will is just an illusion. This may confuse you if you perceive the world with duality as you and the world or as you and Isvara. When you think that way, you will start wondering, “What about me, my will and freedom? Am I a slave to Isvara? If everything is done by Isvara and exists for Isvara, what am I doing here? Don’t I exercise my free will. If it isn’t true, how am I even asking these questions?”

These are legitimate questions. The skepticism is justified, when you look at the world from a narrow perspective of “you and me” and perceive God as other than you. To the ordinary mind and senses which are accustomed to the duality of subject and object, the idea that the world around you is an extension of you or part of you does not make sense. It will make sense only when you perceive or regard the whole world, or all this, as Isvara only.

Isvara is all this, and so also all that which you cannot perceive, conceive or imagine. He is both gross and subtle. A part of him exists within our mental realm and a part, beyond our minds and imagination. He is the sum of all. All things arise in him, exist in him and subside him. From this perspective Isvara is all. There is nothing, which he is not.

Your will is but his will only. You are but him only. When you perceive the world from this perspective, you will realize that there is no individual will. What you consider your will is also a reflection of Isvara’s will only. It does not have the same manifesting power because it is separated from Isvara by your own beliefs and perception, and limited by impurities such as egoism, attachments and delusion. The being (pasu) is an ignorant lord (pati). It does not nessarily mean that beings remain bound forever to their animal nature.

The truth is that the same being appears as many. The same Will appears in many. It is his will which makes possible everything, appearing as individual will in each. All actions arise from that one Will. It is a part of the same consciousness which manifests in all. In each it becomes separate and different due to the presence of gunas and impurities in different permutations and combinations. It is that one universal power, which performs numerous duties in diverse forms, planes, worlds and even universes, some through his creations and some by himself as Isvara, the lord of the universe.

What does this mean? It means that you may think that you are different from Isvara and others, but in Isvara’s consciousness we all represent one reality. We all are part of one manifestation. We may not perceive it, but it is the hidden reality. Therefore, we have an onerous duty upon earth to represent Isvara or Brahman in every possible way. We have to live upon earth as Isvara himself would have lived.

The word Isvara may not settle your mind upon a particular form, because it is a too broad a concept, and in many ways an abstract idea. The word may conjure up in your mind numerous thoughts, forms and ideas according to your social and cultural beliefs and your religious practice. How can you envision a divine reality, which is the sum of all, which has forms and no forms, and which is gross and subtle, visible and invisible and known and unknown?

Worship the deity within

The best way to worship Isvara is to worship him within yourself. You carry within you the light and power of Isvara. He is the source of your consciousness, will and power. You embody the universal Self. He remains hidden until you let him be. When you yield, he appears. When you seek help, he helps. If you let him, he will take control and help you in your transformation. Shakti, the associate power of Isvara in its purest form, will descend into your mind and body and cleanse you and consecrate you

Through a gradual, transformative process, she will make you a pure and radiant vessel, so that Isvara’s pure will work through you as your own will, his voice as your voice, his vision as your vision, and his power as your power. When you yield your ego and give up your narrow-mindedness and selfishness, the deity will incarnate in your consciousness and become a living and breathing divinity. This is how one should consecrate Isvara in the temple of one’s own mind and body. It is how Prana Prathistha (installing an idol) should truly be done within oneself, installing and pouring life and breath into the envisioned image of Isvara in the temple of the inner sanctum.

You may worship stone images in the temples to fulfill your desires or achieve some aims. Without corresponding inner transformation, it will not take you far on the path of liberation. Spiritual practice can be integrated into your daily life without having to search for Isvara outside yourself. You can identify yourself with the highest deity you can envision and gradually merge your identity and individuality in him, so that eventually only the best of you remains as the reflective divinity of Isvara. This is what we mean by yoga (union), so that only one remains, or Kaivalya, the state of aloneness (oneness), which is free from duality.

Let the divine will manifest through you

Do not fall for the romantic idea of self-realization as somewhat magical or supernatural experience, which you do not deserve or which happens to some great gurus, or happened because they appear so. Enlightenment is the culmination of a gradual, transformative process, not an instantaneous, glorious event, accompanied by thunder and lightning and flashes of light, as if the sky has opened. It is a silent process, which happens quietly and gradually just as a tree blooms after it has been nourished for years by the earth, or just as the light from the sun spreads through the world and removes the darkness of the night. God awakens in the stoical silence of an aspiring heart, not in the din of a restless mind.

Let the Isvara in you emerge through the layers of darkness and become a living and breathing Isvara. Let his knowledge, radiance and power shine through you, and the fragrance of his divine qualities spread around you. Submit to the light of Isvara which reside in you in your heart. Let that radiance glow through your mind and body. Let its brilliance fuel your thoughts and intelligence. When you envision and install the light of Isvara in you and yield to him through unconditional surrender and total identification, he becomes firmly established in your consciousness as you. He manifests in you to the extent you disappear.

I am (aham) is the only reality. “I” is Brahman, the eternal Self. “Am” is the temporary projection of that Self in its dynamic state. “I” is the subject. “Am” is the predicate, the dynamic aspect of “I”. Now, one may be rich or poor, black or white, young or old, man or woman, good or bad, but no one can live without the self-concept or the feeling or awareness of “I am.” When you confine this notion of Self (I am) to your mind and body or to your name and form, you remain constricted and narrow minded. We recognize this narrow-mindedness as egoism (anavatvam). When you expand it to encompass all existence, you enter the realm of infinity and attain godliness (daivatvm or isvaratvam). The ego is an impurity over the soul. You remove it, and the soul shines like the sun in a cloudless sky.

Nondualism (Advaita) is not a mere speculative or intellectual philosophy. It is the ultimate reality and ideal goal (parandhama) to be attained. We resist it because of our own limited perspective and thinking about ourselves and the self-images we build in our own minds about us. We resist it because society puts every obstacle on our path to prevent us from knowing that we all represent one eternal reality. The institutions want you to worship Isvara as an entity because it keeps them in business and in control. If liberation is your true aim, know that you have to become liberated from your own limited self and from the authority of institutions and your own conditioned mind.

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy,Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis