Free will and Karma in Astrology
October 9, 2020
A question that frequently arises when I do astrological readings is about free will and karma; is Astrology written in stone, or can it change according to my choices? This is a very intelligent and important question to ask about and concerns the fundamental topic of past life karma, destiny, and our choices.
We have karma, which refers to our action, and then we have the results of our karma, which refers to the reaction. We have a choice in every decision we make at every moment of our life. In other words, we are deciding our karma at every moment. We do not have a choice over the reaction that we receive once we execute our decision. If we engage in good activities, the effect will be good. If we engage in wrong actions, the consequences will be bad. The situation we are in at the moment, is due to the choices we have made in the past, this life or another. Our current choices will determine our future life.
Choice has never been taken away from us; at every moment, we decide how we react to a particular situation. We may not be able to change the situation we are in now, but we can determine how we will respond to it. Suppose an astrological chart shows a problematic situation–accident, surgery, financial loss, slander, dishonor, illness, legal problem, etc. There are a countless number of difficulties that can come upon us. We may not be able to avoid past karmic results, but we can choose how we react to the situation now. If we respond to our difficulties with extremes of bitterness, anger, fear, worry, stress, depression, attacking others, engaging in activities that worsen the situation, blaming others, dishonestly manipulating the problem, etc; the cycle of bad karmic reaction continues. Some of these feelings can’t be avoided to some degree, but in the extreme, they cause difficulty to oneself and others. If we respond to our difficulties with wisdom, calmness, peace, acceptance, and gratitude, future results will be beneficial.
This does not mean that we do not fight for our rights or protect ourselves in difficulties. It does not mean we do not hire a lawyer when you have a legal problem or see a doctor when we are ill. We perform the practical activities required to resolve the situation. The difference is that we do it in a mood of acceptance, gratitude, detachment, tolerance, and mental stability. When we respond to difficulties in this way, we attain the grace of God and receive His love, kindness, strength, and realization in return.
Radhanath Swami gives the example of the ocean waves. The ocean waves are continuously hitting up against the rocks; this is like the difficulties in life, one after another. One wave represents a health problem, another a legal issue, another fighting with your spouse, another trouble from your children or friends, etc. etc. These waves are continuously coming and going in our life. At the surface we are getting slammed. If we go deep below into the ocean, what we see is calmness and a constant current. It doesn’t matter how turbulent it may be on the surface, but deep below we experience tranquility. This current is divine consciousness and it can flow through our life if we choose. We are unaware of it when we remain at the surface because we are merely dealing with problems. When we go deeper into our spiritual life, it is not that these problems don’t come, and it is not that we don’t have to deal with them, but we deal with them with a greater understanding. This allows us to deal with them in a much more peaceful, practical, and powerful way. With a greater understanding of who we really are, we receive the ability to understand at a deeper level. We deal with difficulties in a way that will enable us to succeed and turn these obstacles into opportunities which allows us to grow and learn. Our current situation is due to the choices we have made in the past and the future is determined by the choice we make now.
Many times astrology shows an impulse towards certain destructive behaviors. Abuse, addiction, adultery, criminal activity, or cheating. It can also reveal a tendency towards the right actions like obtaining an education, meditation, kindness, giving charity, and being courageous. Even though our chart shows these inclinations, the choice is ours, whether we act upon them. Radhanath Swami gives the example of someone who smokes cigarettes; they choose to pick up the first cigarette, then the second and the third and the fourth; eventually, they become addicted. Though these actions can tend them toward addictive behaviors in this life, it is still their choice to act upon them. It may be more challenging for them than some other people, but they always have a choice.
Another example is someone who has been an alcoholic in their life but gave up alcohol ten years ago. They are much more likely to be tempted when they walk past a bar than someone who has never taken liquor in their life, but they still have a choice. So even though astrologically, there are inclinations toward certain behaviors, we always can choose how we will act. Similarly, someone’s chart shows great intelligence, a predisposition towards charity, and caring for society. That person still has to choose to engage in those positive behaviors. They may be inclined toward engaging in right actions, but every moment they have to decide to help someone else, study, give their hard earned money to charity, etc. To the extent we engage in good, positive actions, we get good results for our future life, and to the degree that we perform wrong actions, we obtain bad results in the long term.
Therefore, astrology can show inclinations and predisposition for our future and the results of reactions from our previous karma. It is a roadmap of the things that may happen in this life. Using our free will, which we have every moment, we can maximize the good karma, minimize the bad karma in our lives, and live happily and peacefully.