Chance, coincidence, free will, astrological influences, fate, destiny, karma, chain of causality, predestination, determinism, correlation, causality, foreknowledge, past life influences, fortune telling, divination, omens, predestination, oracles, Divine Plan — these terms all come up when we reflect upon how our lives develop over time. From the standpoint of our ego-personality, we believe that we are somehow masters of our own fate, we are ‘in charge’, ‘self-made’, acting with ‘free will’. A deeper review yields other considerations.

Dr. Deepak Chopra once told a story at a program in Chicago where he recounted visiting a well-known astrologer in India known to his family. The astrologer was known to maintain scrolls of information and he pulled out one for Dr. Chopra and described major events in his life, past and future. He was taken aback by the revelations, as he was not himself prior to that a great believer in this possibility.

The ancient Greeks visited various oracles, such as the famous oracle of Delphi, to find out the meaning of certain omens that appeared to have significance for the future. They were, however, not the only ones who consulted oracles or prognosticators. For example, in Tibet oracles were consulted for major events and decisions as well.

In modern society, the financial industry tries to predict the future wealth of an individual within certain ranges through running tens of thousands of simulations, called ‘monte carlo’ simulations, that predict upper, lower and median ranges over a period of time for specific types of investment decisions.

The famous actress Shirley Maclaine in her autobiographical book (and the film of the same name), Out on a Limb, told her story of being guided to go to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in North Hollywood, California and while there a book fortuitously fell off the shelf into her hands, and it was the answer to her deeper prayer and guided her along a path she was searching for in her life.

Sometimes the chance occurrence that changes a life-direction comes through events seen as positive, sometimes through those that seem quite innocent and sometimes through those one would classify as negative, such as the case with Dannion Brinkley, who was truck by lightning and who was clinically dead as a result. When he came back to life, he took on an entirely new and different direction, claiming that his experience had given him an entirely new purpose for living.

Turning to an individual’s own life experience, we can easily see that sometimes events, seemingly random or innocuous, can have major impacts on a person’s future. We become upset when we miss a flight or something else intervenes to change our well-made plans, but we frequently can see that not only did things work out for the best, but that the missed event actually would have been deadly or extremely harmful if it had been left as planned. Something beyond our own planning has influence on how our lives turn out. The proverb ‘man proposes, God disposes’ encapsulates this viewpoint.

Dr. Dalal writes: ”A retrospective review of the course of one’s life is apt to reveal that whereas some events in the past were the outcome of one’s conscious choice and deliberate effort, a good number of incidents, including perhaps some of the most significant happenings that have determined the course of one’s life, were unplanned and unforeseen. It is in what are regarded as the major events and milestones of one’s life — such as choosing a course of studies or training after high school, selecting a career, decisions pertaining to marriage, living in a particular city or country, and the like — that personal choice and will are usually seen to have played a determining role. However, on reflection one is likely to discover that even in such major decisions of one’s life, a significant part has been played by unforeseen happenings, variously attributed to chance, coincidence, the influence of stars, Karma or Providence. One may even perceive that it was some apparently insignificant and chance events — such as meeting somebody, receiving a suggestion from someone or somewhere, coming across a book, visiting a certain place, etc. — that played a crucial role in shaping the course of one’s life, though one hardly suspected the import of such seemingly inconsequential events at the time of their happening. [Sri Aurobindo notes: ’A casual passing phrase can change our life.’] One is apt to realise that life is highly unpredictable and largely mysterious in its course.”

“A good deal of mystery and unpredictability often surrounds not only the events of our external lives, but also what happens to us internally from day to day, sometimes even from hour to hour — the alternation of our moods, the upsurge of impulses, the kindling of emotions, changes in the state of our physical or psychological well-being, fluctuations in the level of our energy, etc. While some of these subjective changes may to some extent be explicable in terms of known external or internal factors, much of what happens within us is enigmatic.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Preface, pp. vii-viii

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 19 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at