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Prayer versus Destiny

Qestion: Swamiji, can you please explain Prayer versus Destiny? How can we explain the significance of prayer to our children?

Answer: Thank you for your excellent questions. First of all, the Hindu doctrine of karma should not be confused with the concept of predestination. According to Hinduism, your future is not predetermined or predestined. Your karmas from past lives (and earlier in this life) do indeed affect you, but they do not necessarily determine your future. Why not? Because the Lord has blessed us all with the power of free will. This power or shakti is so strong, we can overcome the effects of most karmas if we make a sufficient effort.

Traditional teachers compare the force of karma to the current of a river. If you are swimming across the river, the force of the current will carry you a bit downstream. But if you are a very strong swimmer, you can even swim upstream, against the current! In the same way, if we employ our power of free will and strive with enough effort, we can overcome most of our karmas.

Suppose we are faced with a crisis like the loss of a job or a health problem. The crisis could be the result of our bad karmas in a past life. Yet, we are not helpless in the face of that crisis. We have no choice over the situation that confronts us, but we have a choice in how we respond to it. Perhaps karma determines the situations we encounter, but we have free will in choosing how we respond to the situation.

No matter how desperate the situation, we can still use our power of free will. And we can always use our free will to pray the Lord. Our prayers will certainly invoke God’s grace. The Lord will bless us with the strength and wisdom necessary to respond to any crisis.

Our prayers may not make the crisis disappear. A crisis born of past karmas is like the current of the river — it will not simply stop. But whenever we invoke the Lord’s grace in prayer, we will be blessed with the wisdom we need to navigate the tricky currents of karma and the strength we need reach our goals. Whatever situations our past karmas might create, our prayers will always empower us to handle those situations gracefully.