Chapter 6 — Fate Is the Result of Former Efforts

Vasishta resumed, saying:—

Fate is nothing but the result of our actions in former existences. Therefore it is possible to leave it at a distance and extricate oneself by keeping good company and studying moral scriptures. Whatever one attempts to do, he readily meets with its reward. This is the effect of effort. Fate is nothing but the same thing. Men laboring hard are heard to exclaim, “O how painful it is!” Men suffering under fate cry out, “O hard is fate!” Thus fate, being nothing but a name for our past actions, it is as easily overcome (by present acts) as a boy (is subdued) by an adult youth. As some bad conduct of yesterday is corrected by proper behavior of the present day, so is past fate is removed by present acts.

Carnal minded libertines who make no effort but depend upon the favor of fortune are perverted in their nature and marked for misery. Thus, if acts of courage are capable of averting one’s misfortunes, then it must be acknowledged that such courage which destroys the other is the mightier of the two. Just like two fruit growing on the same branch, one empty within and the other full of juice, so does courage render the fruit of fate empty. Seeing the decay of the best things in the world, we must own the predominant power of the cause of this decay. 10 Like two rams, our fate and efforts are fighting one another. Victory is always on the side of the stronger.

11 In the case of a royal elephant taking up a beggar boy to be made a ruler, its cause is to be attributed more to the vote of countrymen and citizens (than to chance). 12 As a man takes his food and grinds it under his teeth, so is one (depending on fate) crushed by the stronger party relying on his efforts. 13 Thus, more active masters employ inferior servants like clods of earth in any work the masters like. 14 Silly and impotent men seeing the strong thrive by their efforts, whether apparent or unseen, are apt to attribute it to their good luck. 15 The strong efforts of men truly constitute the fortune that governs them, and these two are viewed alike by the wise.

16 In the case of the a beggar boy who is installed into the position of ruling and protecting the people of a kingdom, it is the unanimous concurrence of the law and ministers and of the elephant and of citizens (that is to be taken as the chief cause). 17 Should it be only the royal elephant who elects the beggar boy, then in that case it would be attributed to the boy’s good fortune only.

18 Present acts destroy those of the past life, and those of the past life can destroy the effect of present acts, but the exertions of a man are undoubtedly successful. 19 Of these two powers, that of the present is manifestly superior to the past. Hence it is as possible for the present to overcome the past just like it is for an adult to overcome a boy.

20 As a hail shower lays waste the cultivation of a whole year, so also does predominant fate sometimes overpower the attempts of this life. 21 However it does not behoove us to be sorry at the loss of our long earned treasure, for what does it serve to have sorrow for something that is beyond our control? 22 If I have sorrow for what I am powerless to prevent, then I may as well weep all the days of my life because death will not spare me.

23 All our acts are subject to their proper time and place, and to the modes of their operation and combination according to the course of nature. That is why the more diligent are the most successful. 24 Therefore, in order to cross the ocean of this world, we ought to rely upon our efforts and the clarity of our understanding from the help of scriptures and association with the wise.

25 Actions of the past and present lives are the two fruit trees growing in the garden of humanity. Whichever is cultivated the best thrives and bears most fruit. 26 He who is unable to overcome his false fate by his best efforts is no better than an ignorant beast that has no power over its pain or pleasure. 27 He who thinks of going to heaven or hell by the will of the Maker is also a slave to destiny and is no better than a beast. 28 The man of a noble mind who is employed in acts of goodness, breaks off from the errors of the world like a lion from its cage. 29 Those who vainly imagine themselves to be led about by some supernatural power, and so slight their necessary duties, are to be shunned at a distance as the mean and base.

30 There are thousands of acts that are attended with gain or loss to their doers, but it is the duty of man to do what is right whether they be pleasant or painful. 31 He who does not transgress the bounds of law and does not forsake his duties is attended by every blessing abundant as the pearls in the sea.

32 The wise describe courage as devoted diligence in acts leading to one’s object. Being guided by the scriptures leads to his success. 33 An act accompanied by exertion accomplishes one’s object, and the company of the wise and the study of good books serve to raise a man by brightening his understanding. 34 The wise know infinite happiness or a tranquil spirit is the supreme good, and those good works are fit for study which lead to that state.

35 The acts of our former lives constitute what we call our fate (daivam) or destiny and they return to us from the region of the gods for our good in both worlds. 36 We blame a fate that is the creation of the fancy of the ignorant, who by their adoration of such passivity meet their own destruction. 37 One benefits himself always by his activity in both worlds, as the good acts of today gives a grace to those of yesterday. 38 Therefore, whoever applies himself with diligence to his acts, reaps their fruit like that of an amalaki in his palm, which though it is within his grasp, yet it could not be obtained without the cost of some labor.

39 Only the ignorant depart from the beaten path and fall into the error of fatalism. Therefore give up that false faith in an unreal fate, which is a mere creation of the imagination and devoid of any cause or effect. Apply your manly exertions. 40 The fruit of following the scriptures and observing good customs and local usages is long known (to be wholesome), exciting the heart and the exertion of the limbs to action. This is what is called “manly activity.”

41 All wise men, after discussion of the subject of fate and acts, have applied themselves to action by utter rejection of fatality and have accomplished their ends by attendance on the good and the wise. 42 Knowing the efficacy of activity, every one should work on personal effort and attain to his highest perfection by attending to good scriptures and the wise counsels of learned men. 43 Knowing that the bondage of our births is full of pain, let people listen to the wise and strive to exercise their efforts to obtain the true and sweet blessing of tranquility.