How free are we?

Srila Prabhupada's Letter to Madhudvisa – 14 February, 1970

… Regarding your first question, a pure devotee is never under the modes of nature. In other words, no material laws apply on a devotee because he is fully under the direction of Krishna. So a devotee can continue his present occupation or he may change it if he likes. Krishna does not force a devotee because the devotee acts spontaneously according to the desire of the Lord; in this kind of loving service there is no question of force. Force is applied only when there is denial of Krishna. Just as the citizens of a state have freedom to follow the laws of the state, that is subordinate freedom, and the freedom of the living entities is also subordinate to Krishna. The clue is given there in the Bhagavad-gita that the living entities are fragmental parts and parcels of the Supreme Lord, this means that all the qualities of Krishna are therefore present in minute quantity in each of His parts and parcels. That is simultaneously one and different philosophy – the living entities thus have free will because they are parts of Krishna and Krishna has free will, but the free will of Krishna is Supreme while the freedom of the parts and parcels is minute. So if the living entity out of love subordinates his free will to Krishna that is his liberation. He is no longer forced to act helplessly, but he acts freely rendering loving devotional service to Krishna in every way. Then we have the practical conclusion from Krishna confirmed by Him in Bhagavad-gita (18:66), "Just surrender unto Me; and in return I shall protect you from all sinful reactions. Therefore you have nothing to fear.'' In this way astral influences are also material and therefore they do not affect the devotee who has taken protection of Krishna's internal energy, by surrendering his life and soul in the service of the Lord. …

Because Krishna knows everyone's future does not remove our free will. Someone may commit a theft, and if I know that then I know that he will be captured and punished. That is knowing his future, but know that future does not mean that he had no choice not to commit the criminal act. There are two destinies for every one. One destiny is in Krishna Consciousness and the other destiny is in material consciousness, so if someone is in Krishna Consciousness then Krishna knows his future and if he is in material consciousness and acting in that way then Krishna also knows his future. In this way the free will is not affected by knowing the future of the living being, that is an erroneous conclusion. …