The question of fate

Mahavira's first disciple was called Goshalak, but Mahavira used to call him Goshal. Goshal stayed with Mahavira for six years. Then they had a difference of opinion and Mahavira had to ask Goshal to leave.

The main reason they disagreed had to do with Mahavira's philosophy on fate. Goshal believed that, as human beings, we have to reap the fruits of our past actions. Everything depends on what we did in the past.

Mahavira said, "It is true that we reap the fruits of our past actions, but at the same time we have the capacity to go beyond our past. We are not completely subject to fate. If we pray and meditate, we can go far beyond the results of our past actions."

Goshal felt that fate is the last word in human existence, and Mahavira was of the same opinion as Sri Aurobindo, who said: "Fate shall be changed by an unchanging Will."

Eventually Goshal left his Master. He went out and started practising austerities on his own. He practised for many years and was able to acquire great yogic powers. He also gathered a number of disciples. Unfortunately, on several occasions his moral conduct was deplorable.

Many years later, after Mahavira's enlightenment, Goshal was to reappear in the life of his former Master.