The Bhagavad Gita discusses the concepts of free will and fate, which are shown to be powerful influences in human lives.

In the first six chapters where the discussion centres on the concept and practice of karma yoga, Krishna makes it clear that human effort (purusha prayatna) is the basis of any spiritual endeavour. Only human beings have the exclusive freedom to decide the course of one’s life.

There is the underlying self-satisfaction of being responsible for one’s own actions, irrespective of the role of others like parents, friends or even the scriptures.

But there is a shift in focus in the next six chapters where it is shown that a subtle and powerful force called Ishwara prasada also operates to aid individual effort and make it fruitful, pointed out Swami Paramartananda in a discourse.

Though this shift in focus may appear paradoxical, it is to be realised that human effort needs to be augmented by divine anugraha to take it to fruition. Arjuna reaches a catch-22-like situation that leaves him despondent at a crucial moment. The option of refusing to fight and adopting sanyasa seems to be the only way out for him. But Krishna’s timely advice on his ordained duties as a Kshatriya guides him towards his destiny. Such dilemmas are always faced by every individual in different contexts when choices have to be made.

An ardent student wishing to pursue spiritual studies may be forced to look at other options due to hurdles that are difficult to overcome.

To choose what is beneficial and right and ward off adverse choices, one needs to seek the guidance through the God’s grace. The Gita explains that each of us is born according to our past karma, and that further karma is accumulated through actions in the present life.

The pulls of individual karma thus interfere in one’s decision making — from the apparently small and mundane day-to-day dealings to situations that are turning points in one’s life like career choices.

The Gita, which expounds the sadana of karma yoga in detail, is a veritable handbook of guidance for each one to live and act in life.