Is Destiny a Matter of Choice or A Matter of Chance?

by Vishwa Mohan Tiwari

Lot of my friends ask me, 'Is Destiny a matter of Choice or a matter of Chance ?' This is, strictly speaking, self contradictory. The questioner believes that there is destiny; and that one can attain it through choices, or chance occurrences determine it; his enquiry is to determine whether it is a matter of chance or choice. To understand the contradiction and to go deeper into the subject, the terms must be defined.

Destiny is something to which a person or thing is destined i.e. the course of events in our life is predetermined to reach a preordained destination. Destiny implies that there is some Power which decrees or determines the course of events beforehand. In this view there is no chance or choice left. Let us be clear, any other meaning of destiny would not be permitted by standard dictionaries. However people use it in different senses than permitted by dictionaries. Some maintain that destiny is ultimately what you arrive at in your life. And for those who believe in destiny, fate is the principle or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to as they are or events to happen as they do. Fate and destiny are therefore related causally; therefore one who believes in destiny has to believe in fate.

Choice, or free will, needs availability of alternatives for any thought, speech and/ or action from which one can choose.
Chance occurrence of an event is one in which no cause can be identified explaining its teleological or purposeful specificity. It is also known as a random event. Dictionary defines it as, chance is something that happens unpredictably without discernable human intention or observable cause; it also means the probability of an indicated outcome in an uncertain situation.
In destiny there is nothing random, there is no chance, nor there is any choice because, by definition, it is all preordained. If destiny rules then either there are no choices and chances or even the choices and chances are dictated by the destiny. Can one call a choice a real choice if it is predetermined by destiny!

A predetermined choice is no choice! The word 'destiny' implies a teleological or purposeful relationship also between a cause and its effect on a human being, in addition to physical cause and effect. But nobody knows destiny before hand, the foreknowledge of an event does not exist; astrologers etc. only predict possibilities.

One only explains an event by destiny, especially if he cannot find an obvious teleological or purposeful explanation for that. Let us say that there is a railway or an aeroplane 'accident' in which almost all passengers die and very few survive with no serious injuries. Persons believing in destiny would claim that destiny of survivors has saved them. And the relations of the deceased may console themselves by attributing the death to their destiny. If a passenger who was supposed to have traveled but due to an inexplicable cause could not travel, his survival may again be claimed as a result of his destiny.

Similarly if some person was not expected to travel but did so due to some inexplicable cause his death may again be claimed as a result of his destiny. As per scientific analysis, apart from randomness nothing else can explain the cause of the accident. Therefore destiny is not a matter of choice and chance but it is a matter of faith.

Some experiences, like the one quoted above, do appear inexplicable. Most of them can be explained rationally but may not be explained teleogically; e.g. in the above quoted accident, it could come out that the accident took place because of a fire in the engine of the aeroplane or failure of the signal on the railway track. This is enough explanation for a rational person, but not for a believer in destiny. Such an accident does not logically prove existence of destiny.

Thus, it could be concluded that chance and choice both are involved in any action in this life, along with the doer, his methods and the environment. And I would like to standby my conclusion despite the saying that, 'Destiny is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. However as a concession to the questioner I would say that, 'what we meet in life is destiny; and how we meet it is our choice!