Imagine living in a world where your every move is already planned and scheduled for you. All you’ve been doing is merely playing your assigned role. Some people call this fate while others deny the very idea.
If I had to map out pivotal moments in my life, I’d dare say almost 90 percent of them are either coincidence or unplanned. So I ask myself, do I really have control over my own life? Or am I under the illusion that I can control my own future with some free will?
I wasn’t sure why I applied for a boarding school in the first place. It was just a gut feeling that I needed a change of “air”. When I received my offer, I had no idea that I’ll be the only Hindu surrounded by hundreds of Muslims in my school. I found myself helplessly outnumbered. Even worse, I found no way out from this situation. I knew this was beyond my control. I was completely locked. To me, this was fate.
My days at school were not easy. For many of my friends, I was their first encounter with diversity, and they were my first encounter with ignorance. I was served anchovies as a vegetarian. My religious idols were often questioned and misunderstood. The sacred ash on my forehead was mocked upon. More than that, I’d be the victim of continuous religious jokes.
That was when I knew I had to change things. I had to make my friends understand that accepting religious diversity does not mean compromising their religious values. I began to draw out similarities between Hinduism and Islam, helping me explain Hinduism in their own terms. I took actions to preserve my identity such as providing the cooks with a “Dos and Don’ts of Vegetarianism”, which saved me from hidden “surprises” in my food. Soon, people began to understand Hinduism better and the jokes began to fade away. Of course this was a process, and it didn’t happen over night. I had to pave a way to make sure people began to embrace other religions and not just tolerate them. To me, this was free will.
W.E Henley once said, “ You are the master of your fate and captain of your soul”. To one extent, Henley was right. We do make choices in life out of our own free will. These are decisions that govern how we respond and react to our surroundings. These decisions set us apart and give us our individual character. We choose who we want to be.
The other set of rules we abide by are governed by fate. They are beyond our comprehension or control. More importantly, fate governs where we start and finish. Every time we come at a crossroad, we are nudged to the direction we’re meant to go towards. In that sense, I consider fate as a governess, teaching and molding us to reach our final destination.
In my quest to understand religion, fate, and free will, I have learned that there is no single life governing force that is present in our life. There is an interaction between factors within our control and beyond us to make us who we are. Fate decides our outcome, while free will decides our journey leading to that outcome.
I’ve never found the answer to what happens if fate and free will are in conflict. I’ve always chosen to believe that even if they conflict, it is merely a different route leading to the same destination. To many people, the concept of fate and free will is a sign of our subordination to God. To me, it is God’s way of communicating.