Are we the masters of our destiny? In this series, Hazrat Inayat Khan explains that we are made to be so, although we do not always achieve the mastery for which we are made.
My subject this evening is, “Is Man the Master of his Destiny?” Often a person wonders if man was meant to be the master of his destiny, for life’s experience has taught men to say, “Man proposes, God disposes,” but I will still say that man is the master of his destiny for the very reason that man may be resigned to destiny, but he cannot be happy with that destiny which he does not wish to have. If man were meant to be the slave to his destiny, then he would have been content with it, he would have been happy in it. For the very reason that he does not wish to be contented, for the very reason that he cannot be contented with his destiny, shows that he is seeking mastery, and it is in order to get the key to this mastery that man strives, through a right way or a wrong way.
By going the wrong way he has the same motive, but he does not accomplish it, because then, in that way, he goes through an illusion. He thinks that he is striving in order to master his destiny, but he goes the wrong way. The one who goes the right way, he finds that key to that mastery, the mastery over his destiny. Well, now is the question: how far is man granted that power of mastering his destiny, and how far he stands in this life helpless? And the answer is, that it differs with every man. Every man has a certain degree of that power. But this must be seen in this way, that a soul is born on earth helpless, and out of this helplessness it grows, and then learns to help itself. As a soul grows from infancy to youth, from helplessness he becomes able to help himself, so is the soul: the person, as he evolves, so he develops to help himself.
Do you not hear sometimes a relation or a friend say about his friend, ‘He is a child.’ ‘He is a child’ means that he is still helpless, and this shows that in man there are both things; there is a part of his being which is helpless, and there is a part of his being which has the mastery. The external part is the part which represents the helplessness of man; it is the inner part of man which represents the mastery. And since every man is conscious of his external being and rarely is one conscious of his inner being, so rarely is man a master, but everyone experiences helplessness through life. And after all, it is the consciousness of a thing which makes the person possess it, and if the person is not conscious of it, it may belong to him and yet he does not possess it. For an instance, there may be a large sum of money put in the name of a child in the bank; the child still does not possess it, he is not conscious of it, he cannot utilize it – it belongs to him, not to others – to him it is nothing, he does not possess it.
And now you will ask me what explanation have I to give about that belief, which has always existed and believed by the wise and foolish, that there exists some such a thing which is called “predestination.” And I will explain it: that there was an artist and he planned in his mind, he made in his mind, planned what he wanted to produce on a canvas. And no sooner he took the colors and brush in his hand and began to paint his picture, every line he made and every color he put, it suggested him something, and that altered altogether his plan; the very plan with which he began then became an obscurity to his mind, and what was produced before him was quite a different thing than he had thought before.
What does it show? This shows the three stages of the picture. The first stage of the picture is that plan which, before bringing on the canvas, the artist had designed, the artist had formed; and another aspect is that action of producing that picture which went as changes, right and wrong and right and wrong, and so on it went; and the third aspect is the completion of that plan, the completion of that picture which stood quite different from the plan first conceived. Therefore, what may be called “predestination” is that plan which is made beforehand, and what may be called “karma“* as they say in the Hindustanic tongues is that process through which the picture is made; and the completion of that picture is what may be called “mastery.”
*Sanskrit; ‘action, work, the rhythmic effect of past actions.’
To be continued…