What is your intention, O Lord? Will you uplift me as a virtuous man? Or, Oh Doer, will you abandon me?
Today is a day of celebration for my family. After six years of study, our son can finally add Dr before his name! My young one, a doctor?!! It seems rather surreal to me. Images flash past in my mind, superimposed one over the other, a kaleidoscope of life. I remember my pride at my six month old when he overcame his fear of crawling down the single step between the bedroom and the corridor. How I rejoiced at his first step at ten months, his first words soon after, his first foray into reading at three, his first entry to school soon after, his first hat-trick at seven, his first musical performance at eight, his first……ah! He has been my pride and joy for 23 years. As a mother, I can only pray for his well being and continued success in life.
Much as I am proud of my son’s achievements, I wonder how much credit should any individual get for what one does? What exactly are we taking joy and pride in? Do not Karma and the hand of God play a really large part in our destinies? My son tells me that there is no free will; he believes that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen. For a going-to-be-psychiatrist, this is a good position because one can treat everyone with kindness, absolving them of blame for their behaviour. On the other hand, it denies them credit for their achievements as well.
I have been thinking about this on and off for the past few days. I decide that though I understand causality, I disagree with any theory which absolves people from personal responsibility. So what do I believe in? In essence it is this : Every point in our lives is determined by two sets of causality. First, there is a holistic causality determined by everything in the world around us – from national and international politics to weather patterns. Second, there is personal causality, determined by our genetics, our upbringing, our experiences, our intellectual and emotional intelligence, by karma from this and other lives. Both holistic and individual causality brings us to decision points, while individual causality gives us an impulse to act in a certain manner (or not act). In that brief gap between impulse and action, free will comes into play. We take personal responsibility for bridging that gap, designing the karmic debt of the future. An overriding factor for all this is the hand of God.
Ramalinga Swamigal, also called Vallalar (1823-~1874) seems to ascribe more control to the will of God than individual free will. In a verse from Tiruvarutpa, he says in a most beautiful manner :
பதியே, நின்னைக் கூட்டுவித்தால் கூடுகின்றேன்,
குறித்த ஊணை ஊட்டுவித்தால் உண்கின்றேன்,
உறங்காதென்றும் ஆட்டுவித்தால் ஆடுகின்றேன்,
அந்தோ, இச்சிறியேனால் ஆவது என்னே !
Tiruvarutpa of Vallalar, Tirumurai-VI part I , verse 3369
padiyE, ninnai kUTTuvittAl kUDuginDREn
kuRitta UNai UTTuvittAl uNginDREn
uRangAdenDRu ATTuvittAl ADuginDREn
andO, ichchiRiyEnAl Avadu ennE!
If you allow me to sing, I sing. If you allow me to serve, I serve. O Lord, if you allow me to join you, I join you. If you allow me soften with love, I soften. When you allow me to eat appropriate food, I eat. When you allow me to sleep, I sleep. When you forbid me to sleep and make me dance instead, I dance. Alas, what is in the control of this lowly being ?
This soul stirring poetry is sung by Aruna Sairam in raga Shubhapantuvarali and then Nadanamakriya before my song presentation of the day. Chittam Eppadiyo by Vedanayagam Pillai (1826-1889) is an emotive and contemplative song in which the poet asks ‘What is your intention, O Lord? Will you uplift me as a virtuous man or will you abandon me?’. Again, the implication here is that it is all under the control of God, saying little about free will. To know more about the raga, click here.
Alternate Link : Click here.
சித்தம் எப்படியோ ஐயா நின்
உத்தமனாக என்னை உயர்த்திடுவாயோ
கர்த்தனே நீ என்னை கைவிடுவாயோ
(note, Aruna Sairam sings kAntanE instead of karttane. I believe this is an important word here – God as the Doer – and should not be changed)
வாடி நொந்தேனே மெய்ஞானக் கண் மூடி நைந்தேனே
நாடி ஆள்வாய் என்று நம்பி வந்தேனே
பாடும் வேதநாயகன் பருகும் செந்தேனே
chittam eppaDiyO ayyA nin
uttamanAga ennai uyartiDUvAyO
karttanE nI ennai kai viDuvAyO
vADi nondEnE mei jnAna kaN mUDi naindEnE
nADi ALvAi enDRu nambi vandEnE
pADum vEdanAyakan parugum sen tEnE
What is your intention, O Lord?
Will you uplift me as a virtuous man? Or, Oh Doer, will you abandon me?
Alas, I was wilted and wounded! Closing my true eyes of wisdom, I became frayed! Believing that you would search me out and rule me, I came here. O the pure honey that is imbibed by this singing Vedanayakan, what is you intention?