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Article LXXXIV: Karma Yoga and Predestination

"[W]e are the makers of our own lives. There is no such thing as fate. Our lives are the result of our previous actions, our Karma. And it naturally follows that having been ourselves the makers of our Karma, we must also be able to unmake it." Swami Vivekananda (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 9, Lectures and Discourses, The First Step Towards Jnana)

Karma described by Vedanta is often misunderstood as a form of predestination, i.e. a person has no control over their life because it is predetermined by their previous karma in this life and in past lives. It may be true that where you are now is determined by your past actions, but more importantly, where you will be is determined by your current actions. Your future is not predestined. It may be affected by your past actions in this life and in previous births, but your future is determined by your actions or karma at present. Hence, the concepts of karma do not necessitate a pessimistic view of life with no control. In contrast, the law of karma states that you indeed have control over your future by the actions or karma that you do now.

"This is the law of Karma. Each one of us is the maker of his own fate. This law knocks on the head at once all doctrines of predestination and fate and gives us the only means of reconciliation between God and man. We, we, and none else, are responsible for what we suffer. We are the effects, and we are the causes. We are free therefore. If I am unhappy, it has been of my own making, and that very thing shows that I can be happy if I will. If I am impure, that is also of my own making, and that very thing shows that I can be pure if I will. The human will stands beyond all circumstance. Before it — the strong, gigantic, infinite will and freedom in man — all the powers, even of nature, must bow down, succumb, and become its servants. This is the result of the law of Karma." (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 3, Lectures From Colombo to Almora, Vedantism)

"Therefore the better explanation is that one is responsible for the miseries one suffers. If I set the wheel in motion, I am responsible for the result. And if I can bring misery, I can also stop it. It necessarily follows that we are free. There is no such thing as fate. There is nothing to compel us. What we have done, that we can undo." (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1, Lectures and Discourses, Soul, God, and Religion)

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