The answer to the question of everything being fated and predetermined or tied to a link of cause and effect it, depends upon what vantage point we look at it. Both are true! When the human soul is in a state of bondage to the ignorance, it remains subject to the determinism of nature. But behind this determinism that often takes the form of necessity, chance and blind cause and effect, there is a Wisdom and will that push through this law the evolutionary upward march of everything.
The cosmic law of karma is itself is a means and mechanism for the soul’s evolution. It gives us the illusion of freedom though actually the soul is pushed by a hundred suggestions streaming in from the cosmic mind and cosmic vital. We believe that we choose but it is the mind, the vital in us that push our choice while the soul watches helplessly as a subject and a witness. The choices seem to be largely between a set of circumstances, situations and outer actions and the results also seem to be outward. Yet all this experience that is meted out to the soul, though it seems good or evil to our human mind, yet prepares the soul in its growth until a point is reached when the soul begins to assert itself. Then as a result of this assertion, we experience another kind of conflict, a conflict within. Now the choices begin to be intrinsic between what would nourish the soul and its growth and what would hamper it. The same situation, same outer circumstances assume a different colour and hue. A stage of conscious choices begins because now the soul is beginning to choose. The soul’s choice is the only true choice because it is aligned to the Original Will, the true Divine Impulsion in us. Finally, the soul is freed from ignorance. It is then that we can say that it is truly free and can choose freely since not yet subject to the forms of ignorance that condition it. But here again, what does this freedom mean? It simply means that it is now fully aligned to the Divine Will.
In other words, when we look at it from this side it all seems a play of blind chance against an equally blind choice. But this is only an apparent truth. The cosmic Law is itself merely meant to prepare us for the fulfilment of the Divine Will. Its purpose is to help the soul develop through the many challenges, victories and defeats until it can be free. When free then it realizes the Divine Will and consciously collaborates with it. By doing so it avoids the long cosmic process that often entails much suffering. In other words, there are two stages of the action of the Divine Will. One stage of the play is when we are in ignorance and are helplessly caught in the wheel of ignorance. This is a rather painful stage of our evolution. Then a stage comes when we can choose to take this longer painful route or else the shorter sweeter and smoother road. The necessity of suffering for our evolution is over as we have become sufficiently conscious. Though in both the stages it is still the Divine Will fulfilling itself yet it is given to man to transit from its workings through Ignorance and its workings through a direct opening to the truth. This is beautifully summarized in Sri Aurobindo’s Essay “Fate and Free Will” thus:
But in order to feel its mastery of Nature, the human soul must put itself into communion with the infinite and universal Spirit. Its will must be one with the universal Will. The human soul is one with the universal Spirit, but in the body it stands out as something separate and unconnected, because a certain freedom is permitted it in order that the swabhava of things may be diversely developed in different bodies. In using this freedom the soul may do it ignorantly or knowingly. If it uses it ignorantly it is not really free, for ignorance brings with it the illusion of enslavement to Nature. Used knowingly, the freedom of the soul becomes one with surrender to the universal Will. Either apparent bondage to Fate in Nature or realised freedom from Nature in the universal freedom and lordship of the Paramatman and Parameshwara, this is the choice offered to the human soul. The gradual self-liberation from bondage to Nature is the true progress of humanity. The inert stone or block is a passive sport of natural laws, God is their Master. Man stands between these two extreme terms and moves upward from one to the other. [CWSA 13:50]