Question to Radhanath Swami: If everything is fixed by our previous karma, i.e. ‘whatever is destined to happen will happen,’ why should we bother about doing the right things in life?
Radhanath Swami: Not everything is ‘fixed.’ What we have done in the past has fixed our present destiny. But now, how we react to that destiny will create our future destiny. For example, one may get one million dollars due to his past pious work.But what he does with that money decides his future destiny. If he invests that money in heroine or cocaine and makes ten million dollars, his future destiny might be that he gets smashed in a car accident, or gets robbed of everything. Conversely, if he uses it to feed the poor or to hospitalize the sick he gets pious results, and if he uses that one million for illuminating people’s hearts in service to God he gets tremendous spiritual benefit. One should never mistakenly think that what one does with that money is also fixed by one’s past karma. This is a very serious and dangerous misconception. We always have free will and it will never be taken away from us, though we may use it for a wrong purpose impelled by strong inclinations which we have developed because of our previous activities.
It is very important to associate with people who have pure aspirations. Because in their association it is easier to overcome our previous conditionings and use our free will in a beneficial way than in a harmful way. There may be a drug addict and due to his/her previous conditionings the natural state of his/her mind is to be on drugs 7 days a week. And if he/she lives with other drug addicts, that association will only perpetuate that consciousness. But that person always has a free will to give up the addiction and if that person has some sincerity, the first thing he/she will do is to associate with people who are not taking drugs. That will give him/her the strength to give up those strong tendencies.
Similarly, if with our free will we choose to associate with people who have pure and spiritual aspirations, we get the strength to use our higher self to conquer lower propensities. If we nourish our lower propensities, the divine virtues become weak and helpless. Then it is very difficult to make the right choice.
Finally, if we had no free will and whatever was going to happen would happen, why did Lord Krishna speak Bhagavad Gita? Why did Prophet Mohammed give the holy Koran? Why did Jesus Christ give the New Testament? Why there are so many incarnations, prophets and yogis that descend in the world to teach us how to live, how to make the right choice—if we have no choice at all?