Sri Ramakrishna on Free Will

Master (to Vaidyanath): “All that you see is the manifestation of God’s power. No one can do anything without this power. But you must remember that there is not an equal manifestation of God’s power in all things. Vidyasagar once asked me whether God endowed some with greater power than others. I said to him: ‘If there are no greater and lesser manifestations of His power, then why have we taken the trouble to visit you? Have you grown two horns?’ So it stands to reason that God exists in all beings as the All-pervasive Power; but the manifestations of His power are different in different beings.”

Vaidyanath: “Sir, I have a doubt. People speak of free will. They say that a man can do either good or evil according to his free will. Is it true? Are we really free to do whatever we like?”

Master: “Everything depends on the will of God. The world is His play. He has created all these different things—great and small, strong and weak, good and bad, virtuous and vicious. This is all His maya, His sport. You must have observed that all the trees in a garden are not of the same kind.

“As long as a man has not realized God, he thinks he is free. It is God Himself who keeps this error in man. Otherwise sin would have multiplied. Man would not have been afraid of sin, and there would have been no punishment for it.

“But do you know the attitude of one who has realized God? He feels: ‘I am the machine, and Thou, O Lord, art the Operator. I am the house and Thou art the Indweller. I am the chariot and Thou art the Driver. I move as Thou movest me; I speak as Thou makest me speak.’

(To Vaidyanath): “It is not good to argue. Isn’t that so?”

Vaidyanath: “Yes, sir. The desire to argue disappears when a man attains wisdom.”

The Master, out of his stock of a dozen English words, said, “Thank you!” in a most charming way and all laughed.

– The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna