What is fate? The very definition of fate implies that we can predict that a certain event will happen with certainty (100% probability). But because most of these “predictive” sciences depend very much on our interpretation (i.e. translating/anthropomorphizing the effects from stars – it is which is very subjective), it can never possible to reach 100% certainty. Even if there is 1% inaccuracy that leaves room for free will. What’s more is that I doubt whether even the best oracles (astrology, palm reading, numerology, tea leafs,…) can produce even a 90% accuracy. I would say they can predict with about 50-70% accuracy (and 50/50 is no better than an educated guess! the irony is that when they do get 50% correct, people fall head over heels over it and buy into it!). Personally, I believe there is something called destiny that gives shape to our path (based on conditionings and karma of previous lives), but not so rigid as fate.
Destiny and Free Will
Destiny is like going from point A to point B on a map. But how you chose to get there, what route you take, what vehicle you take, how fast you drive,… well that’s free will. In addition if you were able to communicate with the driver of the car (assuming say you were the passenger, and that the driver is god), you can even change your destination – or destiny. But for most people, destiny is destiny, they can’t change it, as they hardly communicate/connect with god.
By spiritual practise, you become in harmony with (and closer to, or one with) the source and substratum/matrix of the visible universe (god or whatever you wish to call it), instead of being subject to it or working against it (and realize there is nothing to work against).
Indirectly, by spiritual practise you’re burning off your karma. Like energy, karma can be transmuted. One can burn off one’s karma in the fire pit of ones devotion. Thus also says the poet/sage Arunagirinathar (a devotee of God as Murugan): by calling out “Muruga!” [with every atom of your body], all of ones negative karma vanish like a thousand crows sitting on a tree scatter away upon throwing a single stone. Thus also says Krishna, Siva, Kali, etc., that by establishing connection (not just “faith”) with Self/God all sins (karmic bondage) can be absolved. These days the stress is too much on blind faith, as opposed to measurable/experiential spiritual progress.
When we talk about fate and free will, we must ask ourselves, just who is the doer? We imagine we are the doer, but in reality we are never the doer.
प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः ।
अहंकारविमूढात्मा कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते ।।
Actions in all cases are performed by the qualities of material nature (prakriti);
He whose mind is deluded by egoism imagines “I am the doer”.
– Bhagavad Gita, 3:27
No, this is not about fate. Nor about free will. But quite scientifically states that the action a man takes is due to the combination of his gunas which is a resultant product of his conditioning (vasanas), past life impressions (samskaras), and his material nature (prakriti) right down to the quantum level.
I’ll leave prakriti for another article (for now, its loose translation as “material nature” shouldn’t be taken as just chemicals).