“I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
~ Stephen Hawking.
To start off this post, let me introduce you to Sam Harris and his take on the subject, a very dangerous idea! Please do spend the full hour and twenty odd minutes listening to this very interesting clip on the delusion of free will.
In the Indian system it is addressed in great detail and the crux of the commentaries is in studying the statement: “It is the problem of the eternal conflict between fate and free-will.”
What are their respective provinces and how can the conflict be avoided?”
The answer is brilliant in its simplicity.
Fate is past karma; free-will is present karma. Both are really one, that is, karma, though they may differ in the matter of time. There can be no conflict when they are really one.
The present is before you and, by the exercise of free-will, you can attempt to shape it. The past is past and is therefore beyond your vision and is rightly called the unseen. You cannot reasonably attempt to find out the relative strength of two things unless both of them are before you. But, by our very definition, free-will, the present karma, alone is before you and fate, the past karma, is invisible.
Fate, as we have seen, is the resultant of the past exercise of one’s free-will. By exercising free-will in the past, one brought on the resultant fate. By exercising free-will in the present, we can wipe out our past record if it hurts us, or to add to it if we find it enjoyable.
In any case, whether for acquiring more happiness or for reducing misery, we have to exercise our free-will in the present.
Let me make it simpler. In a game of bridge, the cards dealt is fate and how you bid and play your hand is Free Will.