'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.
On Wings and Wheels is the publication we are delving into currently. It takes the form of a series of Q&As from devotees to HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda. There are many sections and subsections to this book - not all will be given, but it is hoped that the general thought-flow will not be broken for those omissions. To obtain the full picture and essence of the discussions, do consider attempting to purchase the text from the link above; it is currently only available from India.
Q - we are faced with choice at any given moment, and the responsibility of consequence is ours to bear. Sometimes one feels impelled to take a particular direction… is choice really ours? How free are we?
A - Man alone is the animal who can, at each challenge in life, discriminate the path of 'good' or 'evil'. To not utilise that power of the intellect is to flout the privilege of being a 'human being'. When one has, of one's own free will, chosen to be only an animal, certainly nature brings about only sorrow and limitation. We must cultivate and train the mind and intellect; if we attune to the lower values, we become insensitive animals. Training to think beyond the basic needs and wants, to higher and permanent values of Love, Tolerance and Mercy, we become cultured architects of our future.
Our whole future is based upon how we act today. Life is a series of challenges. Moment to moment we are faced with decisions and each must be assessed independently, hence no choice is the same as any other. The wise and discriminating will always opt for the path of 'good'; the ignorant may, on the other hand, take the path of least resistance, which may or may not be 'good'.
Self-development requires self-effort and as a race we have been given the gift of freedom in choice in order to determine our futures. Generally, in Vedantic terms, we understand that we are being given the very challenges which we have earned in previous existence - the law of karma - and if we have been learning our lessons well, we will be able to overcome with positive outlook.
Q - which is more powerful - purushartha (free will) or praarabdha (destiny)?
A - be careful of your understanding of praarabdha and thinking that it represents only the negativity of life! Destiny is destiny in all its forms and to think otherwise is defeatist; we throw up our hands and make no effort to rise because we assign it to 'oh this is my praarabdha!'
That we have been given a limited freedom is the truth. What we meet in life is praarabdha, how we meet it is purushaartha. The challenges will come, no doubt, but the difference within a group of people faced with the same challenge is how each will handle it and the consequences which may arise from it; there is much which will colour it, but from the point of view of karma, this is due to the way we have lived previously and our level of experience in related circumstances. Your responsibility grows as you grow - thus, in relation to our topic, your moral responsibility will increase accordingly.
Q - in circumstances outwith one's control, how morally responsible can one be?
A - When you enter spiritual life, you are following yoga in order to exhaust your vaasanas. To the extent you unload them and get free within, your moral responsibility increases; in situations outside the parameters of your immediate responsibility, you remain self-responsible. For example, in a crowd who is perhaps raising havoc at a political rally, if your morality is high, you will not stoop to the same shouting and name calling. You cannot have any say in the general situation, but you can remain responsible to yourself.