(Click to enlarge photo of a young man facing a fork in the road)

Prabhupāda: Free choice makes destiny; if I act in goodness, then my future is good. And if I act badly, my future is bad. That is destiny. "Man is the architect of his own destiny." If you are educated, your future is nice, and if you remain foolish, then your future is bad. Future destiny depends on present action.

This life is an opportunity to make the next life, and if we behave like human beings, then in our next life we will go back home, back to Godhead. But if we behave like animals, then in the next life we will take animal bodies. That's all. All this is very nicely described in Bhagavad-gītā. The conclusion is that human beings are meant for understanding God, but if we waste our time understanding dog, and if we become attached to dog, then we will become dogs in our next life. And if we are attached to God, we become like God in our next life. The choice is ours.

    ye yathā māṁ prapadyante
    tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
    mama vartmānuvartante
    manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ
    (BG 4.11)

"All of them, as they surrender unto Me, I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pṛthā." God is everything, and we can associate with Him according to our choice. The ability to choose, or our conscience, is given to us in the human form so we can utilize it.

All the ingredients are there. The spiritual master is there, the scripture is there and God is there, within you and within me. The atmosphere is calm and quiet; we have a good boat and a good navigator, and the wind is blowing favorably. We should take our chance and cross the ocean. This human body is a very nice boat, and we have a very good navigator, the spiritual master. We also have a very favorable wind—the instructions of God. If we don't take this opportunity and solve the problems of life, we are cutting our own throat. If you cut your own throat, who can save you? We can say, "Now here is an opportunity. Take it and be saved from birth, old age, disease and death," but if you don't take advantage, what can we do?

John Nordheimer of the New York Times: Why does all this exist? Why the challenge in the first place? Why māyā?

Prabhupāda: Māyā means that you are unfortunate. Here it is light, and there it is darkness. If I tell you to come from the darkness into the light and if you don't come, that is your misfortune. Māyā is there, and God is there. If you want to remain in māyā, then how can you be saved? I can help you by saying, "Don't remain in darkness. Please come out into the light." But if you say, "No, I shall remain here," then how can I save you? You have your choice. God is there, and māyā is there. If you take to māyā you remain in māyā. What can I do, and what can God do? That is your choice.

John Nordheimer: Who created māyā? Man or God?

Prabhupāda: The government may create a prison house, but why do you go there? Does the government invite you there? No. You become a criminal and go there. The prison house is there and the university is there. Why do some people go to prison rather than the university? The government is not partial to people; it does not say, "You live in this university and be educated, and you go to the prison and live there." It is in the individual's choice. Similarly, God has created so many things, but it is our duty to follow God's instructions.

God says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja (BG 18.66): "Just give up all nonsense and surrender unto Me. I shall give you all protection." That is God's declaration. Why don't you take to that? God is all powerful, and He may create so many things for some purpose, but why don't you follow God's instructions? God says, "Surrender unto Me," so why not surrender? Why surrender to māyā? That is the individual's choice.

(Srila Prabhupada Interview, New Vrindavan, September 2, 1972)

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Man Is the Architect of His Own Destiny