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Chapter 8: Truth: Your Birthright

Someone has asked:

Are a person’s actions bound by the result of the actions of many lives, and if so, then what is left in the hands of the individual in this life?

The question is: “If we are controlled by our actions in the past and the values of our past lives, what can we do now?” It has been rightly asked. If it is true that a person is absolutely bound by his past actions, then what is in his own hands? What can he do in the present? And if it is true that he is not at all bound by his actions of the past, then what is the point in doing anything? - because if he is not bound by his past actions, he will not be bound tomorrow by whatever he does now. So if he does something good today there will be no possibility to benefit from that good deed tomorrow. And if he is totally bound by his actions in the past there will be no meaning in anything he does - because he cannot do anything, he will be totally bound.

On the other hand, if he is totally free there will be no point in doing anything, because whatever he does tomorrow he will be free of it, and his past actions will not affect him. That is why man is neither completely bound nor completely free: one of his legs is tied and the other is free.

Once somebody asked Hazrat Ali, “Is man free or bound by his actions?”

Ali said, “Raise one of your legs.”

The man was free to raise either his left or right leg. He raised his left leg. Then Ali said, “Now raise the other one.”

And the man replied, “Are you mad? I cannot raise the other one now.”

Ali asked, “Why?”

The man answered, “I can only raise one at a time.”

Ali said, “The same is the case with man’s life. You always have two legs but you are able to raise only one at a time; one is always tied.” This is why the possibility exists for you to free the leg which is bound with the help of the leg which is free to move. But the possibility also exists for you to tie the one which is free with the help of the one which is tied up.

Whatsoever you have done in the past, you have done. You were free to do it, you have done it. Part of you has become frozen and is bound, but another part of you is still free. You are free to do the opposite of what you did. You can cancel what you did before by doing the opposite. You can destroy it by doing something different. You can dismiss it by doing something better. It is in the hands of the individual to wash away all his past conditionings.

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