“I Am Awed!” Series – Self-Effort vs Destiny

“I Am Awed!” Hindu Youth Q & A Series

Which is more powerful – Self Effort or Destiny?

A series of “Little Questions and Lucid Answers” sessions were conducted to explore the greatness and depth of Hinduism through questions posed by global Hindu Youth to Sri Ramanujamji.

The excerpts of each of these questions and answers are being presented every month by our youth, as they understand and absorb it.

The original Q & As are also presented as short videos on our YouTube channel as the “I Am Awed” series. Here is the link to the original video, where Sri Ramuji answers this question – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdn4NH5Cvo8&list=PLf2GTja1Pr3MIGF9TiFxemag89ZwPExvP&index=3

Many people have this question – what are the deciding factors for an end result? Does a result depend on self-effort or on destiny? Which is more powerful?

We should all understand the fact that both play a role in any situation. It is true that we get our results not just from our efforts alone, but there are also factors that are out of our reach.  But in practice, when one aspires to be something, they must not worry about the unknown, as it is not in their hands. And when once the result is given, one must not believe that it is only because of their own self-effort. 

The important takeaway however is that when we are equipping ourselves for a result, we should not worry about destiny. We must throw it away as if it does not exist. Thus, our mind will not be confused by the unknown factors and will only focus on our efforts completely. 

This great wisdom is being well explained in Bhagavatam and Mahabharata.  In Mahabharata, Yudhishtira asks Bhishmacharya, 

“pitAmahA mahAprAgnya sarva shAstra vishAradA 
 daivE purushkAre cha kim svit shreshta tarambhavet”

Yudhishtira is asking Bhishmacharya who is well versed in all the scriptures and who is great in putting his knowledge into action, “Tell me O learned seer, which is the most powerful? Destiny or efforts?” 

Bhishmacharya explains, 

“yathA bijam vinA kshetramuptam bhavati nishphalam
 tathA purushakArane vina deivam na sidhyati.” 

Meaning, destiny is like a seed. The seed has embedded in it, the property of the plant. But if we do not take care of it by sowing it properly in fertile land, giving it sunlight, watering it, etc. the seed will not grow in the best way.

From this explanation, we learn that even if we have the best destiny, efforts matter in order to yield the best result. Bhishmacharya concludes, “Exertion is far superior than destiny!” 

He also gives another example,

 “yathAgnih pavanoddhutah sukshmopi bhavet mahAn
 tathA karmasamAyuktam deivam sAdhu vivardhate.” 

When translated, Bhishmacharya is saying, “Destiny is like a spark. WIth the right amount of air (wind), it can turn into fire.” This shows that our effort is more important than our destiny. So putting our focus on nothing but exertion will help us reach or even go beyond our destiny.

           Another example which Bhishmacharya mentions is of the lamp and oil. The glowing lamp is our destiny and the oil needed for the lamp to glow is our efforts. If we don’t feed the lamp with enough oil (efforts), slowly, the lamp is left with no fuel and it dies down. Hence we can infer that with no efforts, the lamp of destiny will be extinguished.

In Thirukural, Sage Tiruvalluvar says, “deivathAl AgAdheninum muyarchi than mei varutha kUli tharum.” By ‘deivam’, Tiruvalluvar means destiny. Here, deivam represents our past karma. We are responsible for both our past karma and our present efforts that we make. Sanatana Dharma makes us responsible for both. This deivam or destiny is unknown or not seen which is why it is known as ‘adrishtam’ meaning ‘not seen.’ We have not seen it, so it is ‘unknown’. How do we deal with this unknown? Srimad Bhagavatam says prayers to Bhagavan and getting Bhagavan’s anugraham is the only way to deal with adrishtam (the unknown). 

So even if our destiny is favorable, if we don’t put the right efforts, we will not achieve the desired result. Ultimately our sincere efforts in the positive direction along with earnest prayers to Bhagavan will help us cross the hurdles in our path and lead us to success.

So to conclude, we have learned that both destiny and efforts are inter connected and also that effort is far superior than destiny. With prayers and with the blessings of Bhagavan,we can cross the factors that are beyond our reach.

Saichinmayi Dhantu, 12yrs, Atlanta, GA

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