Q43. Is there Fate or Freewill, according to Sikhism?
Sikhism affirms the omnipotence of God and consequently modifies the concept of Karma. Man is not a helpless puppet. The course of fate may be compared to the flow of a river, while individual action may look like an eddy, or a whirlpool or a wave.
Man has a dual role: firstly, as a person in a particular community and environment, working under certain limitations, and secondly, as an individual with a free will, wanting to do this thing or that to elevate himself. He is like a merchant trading with a certain capital. He may lose it or invest it wisely, to earn profit. He is free to sow the seed, but once he has done so, he has no option other than to reap the fruit. Predestination is responsible for the present; but the present gives us an opportunity to mould our future. It is just like the rotation and revolutions of the earth. The earth revolves around the sun and is influenced by it, but it also has its own motion.
According to Sikhism, man is an action being, a Karma Yogi, who has to overcome his difficulties with understanding and wisdom. The effort of the individual should take the form of detached action and not, feeding his ego. He must work altruistically, for mankind, and not for the self.
Spiritual effort has to be blessed by Divine favour in order to be successful. This effort requires self-surrender, to His Will. If man works selfishly, in Maya, he suffers; if he works selflessly according to the Will of God he is saved. This self-surrender is a conscious effort to win divine grace. The self-effort is to bring the Divine Will and individual free will into harmony. That is how the two wills become reconciled. Man’s salvation lies in his own effort to drown his Ego in the Divine Will.
Guru Nanak explains the point through a metaphor:
“The mind is the paper on which are recorded in the sum of our deeds, good and bad, the impressions, of the habits of our cumulataive past. Against this, and limitless are the virtues of our Lord, for He turneth dross into gold and the fires(passions) of the body extinguish.”