If everything happens through the will of God, then what is the need for purushartha, self-effort?

No one has been able to give a final answer to this question as yet. So we will only discuss it. The Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, other scriptures and all philosophies discuss this question. If God is the doer, then what is our role? You are looking for a conclusive answer to this question, but you will not find it because your mind is not ready for it. And when you do get the final answer, the questioner would have ceased to exist.

On the basis of my experiences in the eighty years of my life, I can say this. Whatever has happened in my life has not been due to my effort or purushartha. Even if I had made no effort, it would have happened. Yet I made the effort, because that in itself was a part of the will of God. This is the important point. God wanted me to achieve and, therefore, it was not possible to not make the effort. God gave me the inspiration to make the effort; he gave me such a mind that I could make the effort.

In our tradition, sanatana dharma or vedic dharma, God has been described as beyond definition. Other races, religions and sects have tried to explain, give a form and definition to God so that you may step on at least the first rung of the ladder that will take you to the roof. It is only to help you that avataras and sages have spoken of Ishwara, Allah, Khuda and God. People have said that God has a form, and also that he is formless, that he lives in Kashi Vishwanath, and that he lives everywhere, is everywhere. This is the statement that Prahlad made to Hiranyakashyapa.

Jale Vishnuh thale Vishnurvishnuh parvatamastake
Jwaalaamaalaakule Vishnuh sarvam Vishnumayam jagat.

Vishnu is in the waters, in space, on the mountain tops, in the garland of flames, in every nook and corner of the world.

God lives in Vaikuntha, Kailash, Kashi Vishwanath, the little temple in your house and everywhere else. It has been said that there is nothing other than God: Aham Brahmasmi. Formless was not how God was defined in the beginning. In our tradition, at the beginning God was defined through millions of gods and goddesses: Indra, Varuna, Agni, Surya . . . everything was described as God. There is nothing other than God, and if there is none but God, then who is the other one? There is no one else.

So there is no need to go into these things. Just follow whatever precept is required to live a balanced life. Your house gets cobwebs and dust every day, and you have to clean it. It is the nature of the body to accumulate waste matter, and you have to eliminate it. The biggest obstacle in the way of experiencing the soul is the bondage of illusion, maya. Just as the light cannot come out if there is carbon on the glass of a lantern, in the same way maya holds every person in bondage. If you can free yourself of the bonds, there is no way the light will not come out. However, we like to keep ourselves tied up so we can call for help if needed. We are all animals tied to poles. It is not possible for an animal that is tied to a pole to graze in the forest even it wants to. It will have to break the bond. The breaking of bonds means expansion of one’s energy field. Whether you are a sannyasin or householder, you should stay free of bonds.

I would like to hear more about the importance of fate and purushartha.

Everyone has to do purushartha, exert, whether or not fate exists. The train will arrive at the station at its prescribed time, not earlier. If you reach the station two hours early, you will have to go for a stroll. In the same way, we will get whatever destiny has decided for us. So the question arises, why should we do anything at all?

We have to exert because we cannot exist without action. What will you do if you do not do anything? If you get money, a house and everything else that you wanted, what will you do? People work out of a sense of self, out of their ahamkara, ego; they work because life demands work, because work is an inseparable part of life.

Destiny and purushartha are two different things. This is what I have seen in my life. I did not desire whatever I got. I could not even have believed that all this would happen. I spent twelve years in my guru’s ashram in Rishikesh, and I used to work very hard there. After that, I became a bhikshuk, beggar. I would spread a blanket and put a bowl in front of me at fairs. From whatever money people gave, I would buy my meals and then sleep in a dharmashala. I would keep wandering. I could never have imagined that I would spread yoga to every corner of the world! Yoga is not my subject either, I never studied it. I studied Vedanta and Sanskrit. I have asked myself, “How did all this happen? You did not think or act, you did not have the capability or even the courage.” Then I studied the lives of many people and thought about it. I came to the conclusion that whatever one has to receive from destiny, one will receive, and the work that one does is the need of ahamkara, the ego.

If you can stay without action, there is no problem. For as long as I could not stay without work, I worked. Now, for the last several years I have lived without work. I sit the whole day through and it is not a problem. I am comfortable, no thoughts come, no worries come. I do not feel any sense of responsibility, do not get any desires. I just keep on sitting. When a person comes to this state, he can give up work.

Do we achieve artha and kama through prarabdha karma or through purushartha?

Different people have different notions about artha and kama. Some people say that everything is achieved through prarabdha (actions of past lives bound to fructify in the present life). They say that if there is grace, we will receive ample. However, from what we see in the world today, from what is obvious, it appears that the basis of wealth is purushartha and industry.

Today, the most developed country in the world is the United States of America, it is the super-power. The second most economically advanced country is Japan. Look at these two countries. What is the behaviour of their people, how do they live, study, bring up their children, look after their parents? What is the law and order situation there? When you look at all these things, then it seems that the basis of wealth is not prarabdha, but purushartha.

What is purushartha or industry? Who is an industrious person? A shopkeeper cannot be called industrious. A farmer who is ploughing the fields cannot be called industrious. A hardworking person is not necessarily industrious. ‘Industry’ is a complicated word. Many things are included in it. Take life: what is the definition of life? It is not just the motion of the heart and the lungs. In the same way, the definition of industry includes all things from childhood to old age. The biggest example of industry right now is America. The Anglo-Saxon race in particular is very industrious. We do not have the kind of wealth and facilities that they do. The amount that some people earn over their whole lives in India, they earn in a month.

Artha means wealth, and kama means wish, not carnal desire. You wish for a family, a man, woman or children. These are different kinds of wishes. When one’s wish is not fulfilled, it remains a dream. There are many boys in this village who want to become something, but cannot because the facilities do not exist.

For any person to become big, for progress, it is necessary to have the facilities of an education that is in keeping with the times. In our country education does not keep up with the times. A boy who has received a BA degree does not even know how to write a job application. It is possible to get a job only by coming into contact with the right people. It is not as if people are not talented or worthy of jobs. However, the governing system of our country is such that the education system suffers. In a country where the governing system is good, the education system will also be good. If you receive a good education, you will get a job. If there are jobs, money will be generated. If money is generated, the market will benefit. If the market is benefited, industries will produce more, and the demand and supply chain will go up. Here, a village woman wears the same sari for six years. There is no demand, because money is necessary for demand. To spend you have to have the ability to earn. To have the ability to earn, you have to have the skill to earn, and for this the right education is necessary. None of this exists. Then why do you speak of prarabdha?

What, after all, is the effect of prarabdha on life?

The word ‘prarabdha’ is used only for your satisfaction. Make a person drink the alcohol of prarabdha so he can go on saying, “God, only this much was written for me in my fate.” This is just mental drunkenness. Not you, but your future generations will have to answer for this.

When I went to Rishikesh, I did not know anything. When Swami Satsangi came to Deoghar, she did not know anything. The university students of today do not know anything. I received all my education at my guru’s ashram: civil engineering, electrical engineering, accountancy, banking, prayer and worship, driving, and so on. I received the kind of training that, no matter what conditions you place me in, I can do the work. Make me the managing director of a company and I will run it because I know what management is and how it is executed. It was what I learnt in my guru’s ashram that has been of use to me till today. What I studied at school was of no use. What did I learn? The name of Aurangzeb’s daughter and how many brothers Ashoka had. Do you get a job with all this? You get a job, artha and kama, through industry.

I am not saying that there is nothing like prarabdha. I believe in the vedic point of view, but to explain everything away through the notion of prarabdha is not what even our ancestors prescribed. Vedanta speaks of sanchita karma, prarabdha karma, agami karma, etc. and explains the principle of karma, cause and effect, very well. I am not negating the idea of prarabdha karma, but what I said about the Americans remains true as well. They really did work hard, and the results are visible to everyone.

It has also been said, “First prarabdha was created, then the body. So don’t worry too much, just sing God’s name.”

Where does prarabdha begin? Who is prarabdha’s father? The father of prarabdha is karma. And the father of karma is prarabdha. The egg came from the chicken, and the chicken came from the egg. When you understand this, you will find the balance between the two, which is essential.

Without action, there is no cause and without cause there is no action. After all, what was prarabdha born of? Is the egg the cause or the chicken the cause? Is action the cause or prarabdha the cause? The sages say that action is the cause, not prarabdha. Why is action the cause? The Upanishads say that first He was one, then He wanted to become many, so He created the whole world. Therefore, the first action was performed by God. The creation of the universe was the first action. The universe is formed of the formless, attributeless Brahman. How did a formless thing assume form? A formless thing assumed form because this was the action performed by God. It is from God that action has come into being, and it is from action that prarabdha has begun.

There has to be prarabdha. If a fruit comes from the mango tree, the seed will follow. When the seed emerges, again the tree will be born, and then fruits, seeds, and so on. The pattern will continue. In the same way, karma arose from God. The father of adi karma, first action, is not prarabdha but Param Purusha. From Param Purusha, karma was born. What was that karma? It was the creation of Vishnu, the preserver of creation, and Shiva, the destroyer of creation. From these two karmas, prarabdha was born, gods and goddesses were born, nature was born, maya was born.

Similarly, whichever race worked and acted, performed karma and received the results of that karma. India was under foreign rule for so many years. Many people like Mangal Pandey, the queen of Jhansi, Tatya Tope, Dhudhu Pant, etc. worked to free India, but it was only through the effort of Mahatma Gandhi that India became independent. Gandhi was successful because his karma synchronized with India’s prarabdha karma. If he, too, had picked up the sword, perhaps he would not have been successful. His arrow of non-violence hit the mark. Through it, the prarabdha karma of India was eliminated.