In the past, there was no free will in astrology. I think now it’s as fatalistic as it always was, but there seems to be some degree of freedom for those who are spiritually awake.
For example, for the unaware ones, astrological symbols manifest very physically. Someone can hurt them, they can fall down, and so forth. For those who are spiritually aware, often these negative symbols manifest as confusion in the mind, unpleasant people, or a sudden emotion of anger.
I always try to grasp the awareness level of a client to interpret accordingly. Yet, even this doesn’t prove that this wasn’t actually already arranged.
Also, you cannot escape from some events, no matter what you do.
Nisargadatta Maharaj on free will
Awakened people such as Nisargadatta Maharaj didn’t believe in free will. Maharaj told that the body would do what it’s supposed to do, and the only freedom that we have is to stay detached from it.
Here is a typical conversation he had with the people who came to learn from him:
Q: Surely, I am not the master of what happens. Its slave rather.I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj.
Maharaj: Be neither master, nor slave. Stand aloof.
Q: Does it imply avoidance of action?
M: You cannot avoid action. It happens, like everything else.
Q: My actions, surely, I can control.
M: Try. You will soon see that you do what you must.
Q: I can act according to my will.
M: You know your will only after you have acted.
Q: I remember my desires, the choices made, the decisions taken and act accordingly.
M: Then your memory decides, not you.
Q: Where do I come in?
M: You make it possible by giving it attention.
Dreams help us understand that we are not the doers
The body would act however it would have to act, whether you are observing it or not. But like in a dream, we identify with the hero of the story. Our interest in the hero makes us attached to him, until we think we are the hero. Then we follow its actions as though we are the decision-makers and not the body.
In a dream, the very same thing happens. We find ourselves in a fantastic scene, but we really think we are the characters in the scene. Then we wake up and know that this was just a dream, though we were unable to question this when we were dreaming.
The very same applies to this world, though this dream is much longer as it’s a collective one. Though the story has already been written and the actors are at play, our focus on specific characters makes us think we are them, and that we are the ones making all the decisions.
We can change such a perception through mindfulness practice.
Ramana Maharshi on the freedom to act
Another awakened person, Ramana Maharshi, had this to say about free will:
The only freedom man has is to strive for and acquire jnana (knowledge). Through knowledge comes free will. The freedom to either accept your destiny or to struggle with it, leading to further entanglements.
When Ramana Maharshi left his home to meditate on Arunchala mountain, his mother went searching for him. When she found him and pleaded with him to return home, he wrote this on a piece of paper (as he was observing silence then):
In accordance with the Prarabdha [past karma responsible for the present body] of each person, the Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their past deeds. Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, however hard you may try. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, however hard you may try to stop it.
This fact terrifies the ego. But in truth, knowing that everything has already been written, is very freeing. After all, we are not these bodies, so we can detach from the story and watch it as a movie.
My readers often comment that I’m always at peace no matter what I’m going through. It’s because of this knowledge that I’m not the doer. Isn’t it relaxing when you know you are not the one making decisions?
Bhagavat Gita on free will
Bhagavat Gita also shows that everything is already in place:
Under illusion you are now declining to act according to My direction. But, compelled by your own nature, you will act all the same, O son of Kunti.Bhagavat Gita, verse 60.
The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.Bhagavat Gita, verse 61.
Don’t these verses reflect what the other two saints have said? They all say the same thing, in different words.
Resistance is futile. It will cause you mental breakdowns, diseases, struggle, and stress. It will cause low moods. Yet, what is arranged to happen would still happen, and what isn’t – won’t. So it’s best to remain detached whether you are going through a heavenly or hellish experience.
My own understanding of free will
Though I’m nowhere close to the enlightenment level of these two great men, I do understand that I’m not the doer. Because of my years of spiritual practices, I maintain a certain detachment from my body, though in no way total or anywhere close to it.
So this made me understand that I’m not the one making decisions, that everything has already been arranged.
I was not the one to suddenly get interested in astrology and become an astrologer. It just happened by itself because this was written, so to speak.
I was not the one having the desire to buy land. Thoughts suddenly started reaching my mind about it, the mind kept dwelling on it, until it materialized. I had no desire to own land (though now I’m glad I do, because of covid:)).
Indeed, this made me realize that the body has a prearranged plan. It will act how it should act. All I can do is to watch all this with great interest, like a movie. Resistance would certainly not help.
The only true freedom
Our only real freedom is detachment. If you detach from the workings of the body, be it your personal movie a romance, or more like a horror story, it will simply fascinate you. That’s because you will know you are not the one acting.
But this detachment doesn’t just come. You need to do spiritual practices for it to appear. Then this awareness would arrive at the right time. So you don’t even need to force yourself to do spiritual practices because when the time comes, you will. Isn’t it freeing to know this?
And if you want to know the story of your physical life, astrology shows it so that you can prepare. But like before watching a movie, some choose not to read the plot in advance, for the element of surprise.