D.S. Sastri, who has written a small book on Upadesa Saram writes:
The Maharshi's answer to my question as to the meaning of the first
verse of Upadesa Saram, was specifically that, "The body is subject to destiny alone." This fate is dispensed by the will or sakti of Iswara, the manifested Brahman. It is not determined by the actions themselves nor by the 'will' of the individual who suffers or enjoys such fate. He has said elsewhere, "The Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdha karma." Whatever is destined not to happen, will not happen, try as you may to prevent it... All the activities that the body is to go through are determined when it first comes into existence. It does not rest with you to accept or reject them." He applied this to even the smallest detail of one's life such as taking a drink of water at say, ten thirty seven, in the morning on November tenth!
One might, intellectually at least, accept such an absolute were it not for His seemingly contradictory statements made to others such as,
"Freewill exists together with the individuality. As long as the individuality lasts, so long is there freewill."
The Maharshi's reply that the mind is subject to destiny and freewill is expaned in His earlier reply to a devotee. "The only freedom you have is to turn your mind inward and renounce activities there..."
This ability or freedom, then from the individual's standpoint cannot actually be freewill but rather "freeing will". It is the ultimate meaning of Bhagavan Ramana's, "The only freedom you have.."
If we identiy 'freeing will' as that power which restores the suffering individual to his original identity, returns to him to his blissful source on a path prescribed by the Guru, then the power which launched him on the outgoing path of creation, birth, death, rebirth, may be designated as 'binding will'. In any case there is only one will, that of Iswara, the Lord.
Saint Manikkavachagar says in Tiruvachakam:
O, you have taken hold of me and ruled me, this dog lowlier than a dog!
The maya of birth is always under your will,
Who is me to investigate? What is my will?
Either you place me in a birth or keep me at your feet,
O the Lord with three eyes!
Kuzhaitha Pathu, Decad on Melting.