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Monday, 2 May 2016

Free Will in Gaudiya Siddhanta and Christianity

According to Gaudiya Siddhanta, as Jiva is qualitatively one with Bhagavan, he has Free Will, but quantitatively, he is infinitesimal, so his Free Will is infinitesimally minute. So, Jiva has infinitesimally minute Free Will.

Christian Idea of Free Will
Free Will is a Christian concept. Since God, the Creator is all good, then what is the origin of evil? The Christian theologians gave the answer that Adam and Eve had Free Will, they disobeyed God and so fell down from the Garden of Eden. That is the origin of evil. Thus, God is not responsible for the existence of evil. Since we are the progenies of Adam and Eve, we also have Free Will. If we accept Jesus Christ, the Only Son and Incarnation of God, as our Lord and Saviour, we shall attain eternal life in Heaven, if not, we shall go to Hell forever. Thus, we have Free Will to decide our fate and God cannot be held responsible.

However, our Free Will is limited because we are born of the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, when they disobeyed God, leading to the emergence of sexual awareness. As sinners, we have to suffer the mundane existence of hunger, thirst, disease, pain, temptation, etc. But the tribulations of mundane existence cannot be the creation of God, who is all good, so they are attributed to Satan, a fallen angel, who had grown envious of God in Heaven, revolted against him, got defeated, banished from Heaven, assumed the reign of Hell and tempted Eve and through her, Adam to disobey God. Until death, Satan would continue to trouble all of us and after death, only those who have exercised their Free Will to accept Jesus Christ would be freed from the clutches of Satan and live in the Heaven with God and his Son. The rest will be transferred eternally to the control of Satan in the burning fire of Hell.

In the end, there would be a Second Coming of Christ, he would fight the agents of Satan and establish his 1000 year reign on Earth. All the non-Christians will be slaughtered and the Satan would escape to Hell. After 1000 years, there would be the final battle between Christ and Satan, in which the Satan along with his hellish slaves would be defeated and permanently restricted to Hell, while the Christians would serve God and his Son in Heaven. I don't know if the Earth will be destroyed or become a part of Heaven.

Our Free Will determines whether we become the slaves of Satan or the servants of God and Christ. There is a debate with regard to predestination, whether God has only foreknowledge of our choice or he actually determines the choice. Most Christians believe in Free Will or God's non-interference with our choice, only Calvinists believe in absence of Free Will or absolute determination by God of our choice.

Gaudiya Idea of Free Will
At the time of our modern Acharyas, Christianity was the dominant worldview and so they had to explain the Vaishnava doctrine in Christian categories. Therefore, the idea of Free Will, Fall from Grace and Incarnation of Christ became popular in Vaishnava circles. I don't know if these categories are still relevant in a post-Christian paradigm.

Sunil Krishna Prabhu has applied scriptural logic to establish that Bhagavan is Svatantra (Free) and we are Anu (minute) parts of Bhagavan, so we are Anu Svatantra (minutely Free). From another angle, we have Chetana (sentience), so we have choice, otherwise we would be Achetana (insentient). Hence, Anu Svatantrata leads to Chetana and ability to make choices. But these choices cannot have the adjective Free because we are conditioned by either Maya or Bhakti in our choices. I think, conventionally, by Freedom, Liberation or Mukti, we mean controlled by Bhakti that is supposed to be the natural state of Atma. Thus, Bhagavan remains the only Svatantra, who controls everything either through Maya or Bhakti and we are Asvatantra (Not Free), the conditioned or dependent.

Only Bhagavan is absolutely independent, our desires and choices can be Free only in relation to something else. For instance, transcendent to three modes of nature means Mukti from Maya, not from Bhagavan. On the other hand, our independent desires mean unconnected to Bhakti, but under the control of Maya. So, our desires are induced by Maya, although they are our own because another Jiva has different desires. Thus, individual responsibility or karma principle is not violated by Asvatantrata or Anu Svatantrata. It only means that we are fatally entangled by Maya and none of our choices are Free. Only by the mercy of Bhagavan, we can engage in Bhakti, untouched by Maya. Bhakti grants us Freedom from Maya, but not from Bhagavan. It makes us Servant of Bhagavan. So, there are only two choices Maya or Bhakti, both controlled by Bhagavan.

Sunil Krishna Prabhu interprets the statement, "It only means that we are fatally entangled by Maya and none of our choices are Free" as "Our choices are out of our Free Will although that independence is infinitesimally small, but significant enough that we do not fall under the category of dull matter but conscious matter ." This interpretation conforms to Gaudiya Siddhanta.

After a point, it is only semantics. Free Will has a specific theological meaning in Christianity and has led to confusion in Vaishnava circles. My objection is why call it Free, when it is conditioned or dependent. We can say infinitesimally Free, but it gives the same meaning as conditioned or dependent. The Jiva has Will or choice, it is conditioned Will. That is why, he is not Bhagavan who has Free Will and not Jada that has no Will. I prefer Not Free or Asvatantrata as it clearly removes the confusion with Christian theology and is also the conclusion of Bhagavadpad Madhvacharya (Tattva Sankhyan 1-2): 

Svatantram Asvatantram Cha, Dvividham Tattvam Ishyate. Svatantrah Bhagavan Vishnuh. Bhava Abhavau Dvidha Itarat

"Free and Not Free, these are two categories of What Is. Free is only Bhagavan Vishnu, Not Free consists of Existent and Non-existent."  

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