reconciling the notions of destiny and duty (part 2)

reconciling the notions of destiny and duty (part 2)
Photo by Darius Bashar / Unsplash

One important lesson we can learn from Ram and even other characters in this epic tale is that even though all of them refer to destiny at one point or another in the narrative, none of them act as helpless puppets that could be made to act this way or that. When faced with challenging situations, each of them chooses to walk on the path of dharma rationally as per their conscience, and take the course of action that seems right to them. Therefore, we can say that the characters hold both destiny and duty in equal regard.

Destiny is all about forces beyond our control, and our duty (dharma) involves taking actions and making choices that lie within the realm of our control. However, Ram did not see destiny and deliberate dharma as mutually exclusive entities. He considered them to be synergistic, not antagonistic.

Fate shapes our actions that further shape our character. Moreover, our character shapes our actions, which further shape our fate. And so, the best route to take is to reconcile the notions of destiny and duty, and appreciate their interdependence—to regard destiny and duty as complementary, not contradictory, as Ram does in the epic.

One key point to always remember is that surrendering to our fate, no matter what we encounter, must be an act of strength, not weakness. Our acceptance of the trials destiny puts us through must be pragmatic, not fatalistic. Such an imperturbable demeanor in the face of destiny is our single best strategy to empower ourselves in disempowering circumstances.

As Chaitanya Charan points out in his book Wisdom from The Ramayana: On Life and Relationships, “The thrust of the Ramayana’s discussions is that we not see the events happening in our life as isolated incidents—they are manifestations of a complex chain of factors, a chain into which we implicated ourselves by our past actions. Such a philosophically informed vision helps us respond to reversals intelligently, not impulsively, so that we can act to mitigate the situation, not aggravate it.”