Free Will According to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

I have been contemplating about the concept of free will for a while. I looked back into my life, into all that happened and all that I accomplished. When I contemplated on things that just happened it felt like I had no control over them. However, when I looked at things that I felt I accomplished—at least felt that way at the time of their accomplishment—initially, I felt I had done them out of my own will—free will. But, when I contemplated deeper, I realized that they also just happened like anything else. I wrongly attributed them to be my accomplishment, because I paid a lot of attention to the “doing” when they happened. It was like, I was compelled to do them, by some force. That is all. This compulsion had been nicely described by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj in the book, I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. (This is one of the best books, I am now reading).

Instead of paraphrasing, I will directly quote him here. The quote is from pages 355-356 of Chapter 72 of the book. You can contemplate and arrive at your own conclusions. Below Q stands for questioner and M stands for Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.

Q: Surely, I am not the master of what happens. Its slave rather.
M: Be neither master, nor slave. Stand aloof.
Q: Does it imply avoidance of action?
M: You cannot avoid action. It happens, like everything else.
Q: My actions, surely, I can control.
M: Try. You will soon see that you do what you must.
Q: I can act according to my will.
M: You know your will only after you have acted.
Q: I remember my desires, the choices made, the decisions taken and act accordingly.
M: Then your memory decides, not you.
Q: Where do I come in?
M: You make it possible by giving it attention.
Q: Is there no such thing as free will? Am I not free to desire?
M: Oh no. You are compelled to desire. In Hinduism the very idea of free will is non-existent, so there is no word for it. Will is commitment, fixation, bondage.
Q: I am free to choose my limitations.
M: You must be free first. To be free in the world you must be free of the world. Otherwise your past decides for you and your future. Between what had happened and what must happen you are caught. Call it destiny or karma, but never—freedom. First return to your true being and then act from the heart of love.
Q: Within the manifested what is the stamp of the unmanifested?
M: There is none. The moment you begin to look for the stamp of the unmanifested, the manifested dissolves. If you try to understand the unmanifested wtih the mind, you at once go beyond the mind, like when you stir the fire with a wooden stick, you burn the stick. Use the mind to investigate the manifested. Be like the chick that pecks at the shell. Speculating about life outside the shell would have been of little use to it, but pecking at the shell breaks the shell from within and liberates the chick. Similarly, break the mind from within by investigation and exposure of its contradictions and absurdities.
Q: The longing to break the shell, where does it come from?
M: From the unmanifested.

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19 thoughts on “Free Will According to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj”

  1. “To be free in the world, you must be free of the world.” This is a very powerful statement. Letting go of judgements about a decision is your free will. you have the fee will to choose whatever you wish, be it Love or Fear. But the point of this statement and free will, is not to make judgements on those decisions. Life takes both the good and the bad, the up and the down. To deny one is to only live or experience half of the other. We know something conceptually, like the cold, but unless we experience hot, we will never appreciate the cold. In the same way, uneless we experience hell, we will never appreciate heaven. By this I mean heaven and hell as a frame of mind, peace and chaos. The ying-Yang depicts this perfectly. There is both dark and light in the world, and it takes a small amount of each to make the other exist. Another way to look at this is if you are dieting or fasting, and you decide you really want a hamburger or pizza, then don’t judge your decision, eat the hamburger or pizza. Saying that it is wrong for you to is a judgment about something you were doing in the past, dieting or fasting. If in the next few moments, you decide you want to continue dieting or fasting, then do that, but don’t judge yourself by saying it wouldn’t be right because you just decided to eat a burger or pizza. Living life in the moment if God’s will for you, and it is your freedom to choose whatever you desire. So sit back, relax, eat some popcorn, with salt and butter, and enjoy the movie of life. Sometimes you will laugh, and sometimes you will cry. Sometimes you will be calm, and sometimes you will get angry. But you will still enjoy the show. Living in the moment is not easy by any means, it’s a matter of doing it, you mid always wants to flee to the past or project to the future. But, Living in the moment is the only way to freely and willfuly live your life, and the freewill you have. There is something always happening, So enjoy it!

  2. Hey, it should be so perfect timing that I had mentioned about free will in my latest entry in my blog http://insidemybubbletoday.blogspot.com/2009/02/law-of-attraction-why-it-works-for.html yesterday. We are cause and effect in action everyday of our lives. Each decision taken and each act made after that decision determines our path in this journey of life. I do not believe that we should live as destined. I believe we can change our destiny and we have the free will to do it, only if we so DESIRE, life’s one common meaning:
    1. A desire to live
    2. A desire to love
    3. A desire to pro-create
    4. A desire to change
    5. A desire for Happiness

  3. I was meaning to respond to this article the moment it came out.

    I have had a new experience in my life that has caused an awareness that I never quite experienced. I understood this awareness logically but never emotionally.Yet, even while I am in this awareness with logic and emotion, I see that neither one of them are relevant.

    My whole life I was trying to be spiritual. Trying to take the nonphysical (my idea of it) and project it into this physical place. Of course I saw the nonphysical to be pure, perfect, positive energy.

    Now in this awareness there is no perfect or imperfect (or any opposites) and therefore either or is irrelevant, it just is. Ever present beingness, nothingness, awareness.

    Just trying to explain it, you must reach the level of the mind/ego. It really is not explainable.

    However, It’s not what you do, what you say, how you say it, the actions people see. It’s the instillness in your voice, the no thoughts in your pausing, the non-movement in your actions that spreads this awareness.

    To actually understand this is one side, but to be it… Is an experience of OH THAT… yeah.

    I understand now what all the gurus where teaching. They were teaching this awareness, but it’s not a teaching and can’t be taught or learned. I thought I understood before but I was not in this awareness to experience it because I was trying. The trying is what holds the illusion in place.

    I heard that guru derives from meaning gu=dark ru=light. I thought I understood that. They merge both and see no duality/mind/ego, I get that… but to ‘get that (the ego)’ and actually ‘BE (instilled nothing awareness) that’ is such an obvious difference once you are allowing this awareness.

    (as you know) I slept on a sleeping pattern were I was only sleeping 15 minutes every 4 hours around the clock. It averaged 1.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. I did this for 273 days. When I did this, my mind stopped. There was no thoughts going in or out. It has been that way ever since, even when I returned back to monophasic sleep and even as I merged into Powiull sleep. However even with the mind/ego/fear/opposites stopping. This awareness I am now was not my experience.

    It’s funny for me to be in this now when I was always in it, just was not experiencing it. Even as the struggle was stopped, I still didn’t experience this awareness even though it was present. Never-ending it is present.

    Yet, I can not pin-point a time or thing that caused this awareness to be present in this experience now (even though it was always there). Yes it was earlier today in that aspect and yes it was a building up of many things in my whole physical experience in that aspect. And yes there is no time associated with it, in that aspect. The merging of the logical aspect of this with the emotion aspect.

    This awareness is so instilled of silence and there is much silence in the noise. This awareness is the all of everything, the oneness. That is a flood of emotion to just cry in this awareness for no reason of it but that is just is.

    I could be in this awareness and be here always, there is no sense to do anything or say anything and not react to anything other than this awareness.

  4. Hi Anmol, BuddhaOfHollywood, Tait, Wenny, Nicholas,

    Sorry for not replying to your comments sooner. As you know, when on a spiritual path (or any path for that matter) you need to take sometime off from outer expression and spend some time in inner silence and figure out a few things.

    I am really grateful for your comments. You are all correct.

    What I realized recently is that Sri Nisargadatta and Sri Ramana chose a different path of going into and staying in the void, and that is what they advocated. It was fine during the times and places they lived in. However, during my contemplative period, I realized that it is their truth, and I can choose my truth, and live differently. And, that is my free-will.

    I hope to share my realizations soon in an article.

    Thanks,
    Desika

  5. Welcome back my friend, so delighted to hear from you indeed!

    Your energy feels vibrate and alive with such clarity and light.

    I look forward to your next article my friend.

    Thank you for being you and doing what you do through your beingness. 🙂

  6. When you study your thoughts I mean observe them objectively without bias you begin to realize your not in control of your thoughts at all. They just seem to jump, pop up from now-where but where that is I don’t know and according to our programming we choose the most appropriate action. Yes we are robots, but this is all done unconsciously but the funny thing is most people are not ware of it and attribute it to so called free-will which I suppose is the snare of Maya. If you seriously want to study free-will start observing your own thoughts and how you came to those decisions that you think you chose, if you seriously scrutinize it enough the free-will concept just seems to break-fall apart and you begin to realize who is really doing the choosing and it’s not you. Try this some time, reflect on major events of your day and examine how much they really happened through your free will?

  7. When you study your thoughts I mean observe them objectively without bias you begin to realize your not in control of your thoughts at all. They just seem to jump, pop up from now-where but where that is I don’t know and according to our programming we choose the most appropriate action.

    Yes we are robots, but this is all done unconsciously but the funny thing is most people are not ware of it and attribute it to so called free-will which I suppose is the snare of Maya. If you seriously want to study free-will start observing your own thoughts and how you came to those decisions that you think you chose, if you seriously scrutinize it enough the free-will concept just seems to break-fall apart and you begin to realize who is really doing the choosing and it’s not you.

    Here is an exercise try this some time, reflect on major events of your day and examine how much they really happened through your free will?

  8. Mits,

    You are right. This was also my experience as I mentioned in the first paragraph of my article.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments you have been posting on my blog.

    -Desika

  9. Interesting article about the existence or non-existence of free will. You are saying that there is no such a thing that free will. I agree that will is a commitment, a goal to move forward. You have to have something you want in order to use your will to accomplish it.
    You have to have a strong desire to ‘give birth” to your will. So basically is not free since it has been created by your desire or want. The question is: Do you have the freedom to choose your desires?

  10. I think too that we form our future and can create basically whatever we want from it. You need strong desire, stamina and motivation in order to succeed.

  11. It’s the easiest thing you can do. True mediation acts like a mind emptier, leaving you open to the whole flow of the sensations and experiences you would otherwise ignore. You don’t even need a complicated technique, meditate as you see fit.

  12. It’s pretty easy to mess up your own life. A wrong move here, a misunderstanding there, and you suddenly feel like your whole world’s falling apart. However, most of the trouble seems to come from within. With tips like “Take no notice of your internal critic” and “Don’t let others use you to avoid being responsible for their own decisions”, you’ll eventually find that all-elusive inner peace.

  13. Getting to know yourself is the first thing you can do. Once you are clear about your true being than you can start re-building yourself from a very different perspective. Everyone should look inside for answers and the guidance for a better and more prosperous future.
    There are temptations though you have to be aware of. Follow your heart and everything will fall into its own place.

  14. Hello, you used to write fantastic, but the last few posts have been kinda boring… I miss your tremendous writings. Past several posts are just a little bit out of track! come on!

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