A Tamil proverb warns us: “What you see with your eyes is false; what you hear with your ears is also false.” When you go to an ashram, remember this. You will have great inspiration: meaning, you will ‘inhale’ the holy man and his wisdom. The air that you breathe in sustains your physical life; the holy man and his wisdom will sustain the spirit, not by merely seeing him or hearing him but by inhaling him.
What is free will? What is predestined? Who knows? When you cannot find a satisfactory answer you resort to doctrines like ‘God’s will’ or ‘God’s grace’. Who knows what these are? Only God. To borrow a vedic expression, “Perhaps even He does not know!” He who wants to know God’s will often hopes that that will enable him to avoid suffering the consequences of his own past evil action; or, he wonders if he could engineer a happy future without caring for present action. In all this speculations, the immediate action is ignored. Perhaps that is why God has veiled our destiny from us.
When you go to holy men with this problem, they exhort you to be good and to do good, to be righteous and to abide by the injunctions of the scriptures. When you try to do all this, you will find that the mind is selective: you do what suits you and there is inner revolt when you try to do what does not suit you. You discover that your will projects a number of ambitions and cravings. These are the rebels. They cause all your problems. And they are totally unnecessary for living. Life flows on regardless. When this is realised, your ambitions and cravings drop away. You have the free will to do this much.
One thing remains. It is the source of your cravings – ego. You cannot drop it. Only God’s Grace can do this. But if you have done what you had to do, this will happen, by God’s Grace. Free will or destiny? Why not both!