Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
davidbrainerd
Posts: 1011
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by davidbrainerd » Sat Sep 24, 2016 8:34 pm

ToVincent wrote:Some people have a hard time with the notion of self (and no-self,) and stick to that idea that there is no control on our part. If all these things are not "ours" (khandhas, ayatanas, etc); there must be something that is "ours" - Otherwise there should be continuity and therefore self.

Let's take feeling (clinging-khandha) as the basis of the reasoning.
Because we, unconsciously or not, believe in a continuous self, there is a descent of the faculties of the senses (SN 22.47); and consequently, we make nāmarūpa's feelings "ours" (clinging khandhas).
These feelings are not ours, but we make them ours.

But that should not be. Because there is no self in us.
So the proper develoment would require that there would be no senses that sense.

But that is not how things are working, as we know.

Now, the body is to be felt by Nāmarūpa (SN 12.37). And true knowledge would want that the felt would be an "equanimous feeling". Because the truth of "no-self" means that there should not be a descent of the faculties of the senses. Full control of our faculties (a.k.a. equanimity) imply equanimous feelings.

So nāmarūpa, (or should we say Ignorance/avijja, at the top of the causal chain,) longs for a response from the body, that should be an "equanimous feeling".

So the will that is accountable since the saṅkhāra nidana, is a will that is in us also; and that will is asking for truth. And truth means restraint of the senses - so the faculties of the senses do not descend in the senses (because there is no self, and that the way it should be).

So again, knowledge is salvation. And if the body is to be felt knowledgably (so as to yield truth,), it is through the noetic recognition of this demand for equanimity. And only some degree of freedom, granted by nāmarūpa to satta, can account for that possibility. There is no other way around. So when it is said "pick the signs (attributes) of your own mind (citta)"; it means pick the signs of your master's mind, that is nāmarūpa. Pick the truthful mind (citta) that lies latent in nāmarūpa, so you can fulfill its demand for truth. So that you can really please it. Let it feel your truthful equanimous body.

So call it "free will" - or just call it "borrowed free will", for a truthful purpose - or just call it "will for a truthful purpose".
But there is control. And that is the need for true knowledge. So the body will be felt as truthful.
The control is in the will for knowledge; and this "ours" mentioned at the top, is just that necessary transcendence (or differentiation) that makes us free and frees us.
Yet the inconvenient little fact is inescapable: anatta is an adjective not a sentence. Which makes reasoning like above hugely entertaining, but irrelevant due to starting with the false premise that anatta is a sentence.

practitioner
Posts: 107
Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:30 pm

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by practitioner » Sat Sep 24, 2016 9:50 pm

davidbrainerd wrote:
practitioner wrote:Free will is having the ability to choose.

Does a gambler have free will? Though he doesn't want to gamble anymore but he cannot stop himself from gambling.
Because he doesn't want to stop bad enough. But then when he hits rock bottom and finally wants it bad enough, he stops.
That is not true. Many want to stop but are unable to stop. When you do stop because you reached the end, that is not free will.

Free will is the ability to walk away with mindfulness and clear comprehension.

When a gambler is going to lose his mortgage money and still doesnt walk away, that is determinism without free will. Buddhism enables a person to have a free will.

davidbrainerd
Posts: 1011
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by davidbrainerd » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:43 pm

practitioner wrote:
davidbrainerd wrote:
practitioner wrote:Free will is having the ability to choose.

Does a gambler have free will? Though he doesn't want to gamble anymore but he cannot stop himself from gambling.
Because he doesn't want to stop bad enough. But then when he hits rock bottom and finally wants it bad enough, he stops.
That is not true. Many want to stop but are unable to stop. When you do stop because you reached the end, that is not free will.
That is freewill.
practitioner wrote:Free will is the ability to walk away with mindfulness and clear comprehension.

When a gambler is going to lose his mortgage money and still doesnt walk away, that is determinism without free will. Buddhism enables a person to have a free will.
Christianity or Judaism can enable a person to have freewill too, and so can Deism.

In AA when they tell someone to believe a higher power is giving them the power to break their addiction, this works. But why? Is there really a higher power that just all of the sudden started giving this person power?

When somone says Jesus broke their addiction, is it proof Jesus is really God and is zapping them with power from on high?

My interpretation of such events is self-fullfilling prophecy: If you think the addiction is unbreakable, then it is. If you believe a higher power has zapped you with the ability to break the addiction, then regardless whether the higher power is real or not, you now have the power. Everyone had the power all along, but realizing you have it unlocks it for use.

ToVincent
Posts: 418
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 6:02 pm
Contact:

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by ToVincent » Sun Sep 25, 2016 2:42 pm

davidbrainerd wrote: Yet the inconvenient little fact is inescapable: anatta is an adjective not a sentence. Which makes reasoning like above hugely entertaining, but irrelevant due to starting with the false premise that anatta is a sentence.
!?!?!
Let's not be that psychologically rigid, will you?

The "idea of self", like in:
"He (the uninstructed worldling) regards consciousness as self (viññāṇaṃ attato samanupassati), or self as possessing consciousness (viññāṇavantaṃ vā attānaṃ), etc"
yields a descent of the five faculties (indriyānaṃ avakkanti hoti). (SN 22.47)

What was meant, is that the idea of "no self" (be it an adjective or a sentence,) like in:
"He DOES NOT (the uninstructed worldling) regards consciousness as self (viññāṇaṃ attato samanupassati), or self as possessing consciousness (viññāṇavantaṃ vā attānaṃ), etc"
WILL NOT yield a descent of the five faculties (indriyānaṃ avakkanti hoti).

Anyway, no problem! Glad it has been entertaining.

P.S.
In case you would have doubt about satta having initiative, or producing effort of it's own, please read AN 6.38 & its quasi perfect parallel SA 459.
And as far as a self is concerned, I did not say that there was no self. I said that Buddha made it clear that there is no self in paticcasamuppada.
In this world with its ..., Māras, ... in this population with its ascetics.... (AN 5.30).
------
We are all possessed - more or less.
------
And what, bhikkhu, is inward rottenness? Here someone is immoral, one of evil character, of impure and suspect behaviour, secretive in his acts, no ascetic though claiming to be one, not a celibate though claiming to be one, inwardly rotten, corrupt, depraved. This is called inward rottenness.”
SN 35.241
------
https://justpaste.it/j5o4

Saoshun
Posts: 276
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 3:59 pm

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by Saoshun » Wed Oct 05, 2016 5:12 pm

davidbrainerd wrote:
practitioner wrote:Free will is having the ability to choose.

Does a gambler have free will? Though he doesn't want to gamble anymore but he cannot stop himself from gambling.
Because he doesn't want to stop bad enough. But then when he hits rock bottom and finally wants it bad enough, he stops.
It's not "he" but biological behavior (or the brain) which stops there. There is no "he" "me" or "I" there, only kamma working out itself thru expression of this body and avijja.

Based on your avijja you just thinking in terms "he" "she" etc. taking empty things to be existent which if you look for them one by one you will not find them.

There can not be free will as objects work to it's own nature (brain, heart, kidneys, biological force which pushes people to do things whatever it's technological advanced or primitive and aspect is the same) the Citta is only confused taking those aggregates as self and this world to be real not realizing it's own potential and nature in this kammic patterns.
Remember… the Buddha had said that everyone living in this world is crazy, by the phrase, “Sabbē prutajjana ummattakā”; excluding the Arahants, everyone else is crazy. Would you get angry if a mad person scolds? Do we get angry for a crazy thing done by a crazy person? Just think about it! :candle:

practitioner
Posts: 107
Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:30 pm

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by practitioner » Mon Oct 31, 2016 1:10 am

When I write "he", it is merely short hand convention for the being.

The 5 aggregates contain volition as 1 of the 5 components.

Volition can be free choice or slaved choice depending if that choice has been programmed as a reaction to feeling.

There is no separare "me", but being still has choice which is not same as ability to control.

Exactly
Posts: 71
Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2016 9:40 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by Exactly » Mon Oct 31, 2016 1:17 am

Determinism was strongly criticized by the Buddha. It is considered one of the worst wrong views a person can have because it destroys his motivation and ability to practice correctly.

Circle5
Posts: 878
Joined: Wed May 31, 2017 2:14 am

Free will in Buddhism - technically explained

Post by Circle5 » Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:41 am

There have been problems trying to explain free will in the buddhist context of conditionality and no-self. This topic is trying to explain that. Take for example the random generator machine at online poker.

1) Everything is entirely conditioned. It's logically not random at all. Look at it very strongly from this angle, contemplate it for a couple of minutes from this angle. It appears for it to be a logical impossibility for it to be random. It's just not random from a logical point of view, period. How could something entirely conditioned by algorithms ever be random ?

2) But... no matter how things might look from that angle, cards are handed out in a totally random way for the players. The player can not anticipate what card will hit in any way. And statistically, they are distributed as random as possible. It's as random as a thing can get. In all intents and purposes, things are as random as any human could possibly shuffle the cards. They are as random as randomness can get in all intents and purposes.

From a point of view it looks one way, from another point of view it looks different. Just like a gray car might look black due to a tree above it covering it with his shadow. So what exactly is the tree in the case of the random generator ? What is that element that makes sense of all of this ? How is this appearent contradiction technically explained ?

Well, here is the technical explanation: It is like a pyramid of conditions, and a circle surounding the tip of the pyramid. The payer only has access to the tip of the pyramid. For him, there is just randomness at the tip of the pyramid that exists. That is all he has access to, that is all that exists. Only if he could have access to the whole pyramid, he would be able to anticipate what cards will be distributed and things will not be random anymore. Without this information, things are perfectly random at the top of the pyramid. That is what "randomness" means, nobody can argue that is not random. Not being able to anticipate the cards and the cards being statistically 100% random is the definition of randomness. It's in all intents and purposes random, no matter what looking from another angle and following the logical line from another angle might suggest. That logic is correct but it is omitting information, making it incorrect.

Imagine a gray car that has a tree above it causing a shadow, making it look black. With a shadow on top of the car, the car is black now. Nobody can look at the car and say "it is actually gray because of logic, therefore what you are seeing in front of your eyes is gray not black" - that is not so. What I am seeing in front of my eyes is black, because of the added element of the shadow. The shadow existing and making the car black is part of logic. It is not logic saying "what you are seeing is actually gray because the car is really gray" - no, logic should be saying "what you are seeing now is black despite the car being gray, because of the element of the shadow that exists.

I am seeing black in front of my eyes = there is randomness
The car is actually gray in reality = this randomness is produced in a perfectly conditioned way

Both these statements are correct. The statement "you are seeing gray in front of your eyes" or "there is no randomness in online poker" are incorrect.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now let's take a look at free will. There are 2 analogies to give here first. One is the same with the car that might look gray from one side and gray from another. The second is with groups of people and political beliefs or commercial advertising. Looking at them individually, people look extremely distinct. Look at them from above, in terms of groups, and they look extremely similar and predictable. The mass can be totally predicted and anticipated, but individually they can not. There are 2 points of view from witch you can look and see different things. When it comes to free will:

1) You can look at things while looking towards the past. By looking towards the past, everything looks perfectly deterministic. Just like the poker example, everything is conditioned. How could such a thing as randomness or, in our case ability to chose (due to existence of volition element) could possibly exist ? You can take any individual action, like writing this e-mail from example and start following the chain of conditions. By looking from this angle, things look totally deterministic. Also, if looked in terms of groups, again things look totally deterministic. But let's look from another side:

2) Looking towards the present, things don't look deterministic at all. If the being desires to do effort, this will can overcome conditioning, he can overcome tendencies developed in the past that have an influence in the present. The volition element can overcome past conditioning. Due to the way things are arranged, there exist this ability at the present, same as the circle around the top of the pyramid exists in poker random generators. In all intents and purposes, this free will without a self and with everything being conditioned, is just as "free" and powerful as the free will that would exist with a self and without conditioning. In all intents and purposes, there is free will, things are not determined by the past.

This is why Buddha always answered the same thing when asked about free will. Every time, he directed the person to look towards the present. "If you want to rise your hand, can you do it ?"

How is this technically explained ? There is a little bubble that is formed due to conditions, conditions that are "horizontal conditions" not vertical, past conditions. Even if these "horizontal conditions" exist there due to past vertical conditions, they do exist and have a power. A power similar to the circle around the top of the pyramid in poker that makes randomness possible. A power similar to the shadow that makes the car be black. An added element. The fact that these horizontal conditions existence at that point in time is determined by the vertical ones does not make them vertical too, that would be a logical mistake. Therefore, things are perfectly covered by logic too, just like the poker example.


PS: If one has problems with laziness or regret, he will be inclined to believe in the determinism wrong view. His mind will lean in that direction. Just like an alcoholic or drug addict is inclined to say "alcohol/drugs are not that bad for me". His opinion is influenced by that craving, if there would not be that problem he would have a normal opinion like any person walking down the street. I know from personal experience that laziness and regret are what is making the mind lean towards fatalism.

hermitwin
Posts: 215
Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:35 pm

Re: Free will in Buddhism - technically explained

Post by hermitwin » Mon Jun 19, 2017 4:47 am

There is no free will. Everything is conditioned. Every thing you say or do is influenced by your past. Instead of free will, it's conditioned will.

Circle5
Posts: 878
Joined: Wed May 31, 2017 2:14 am

Re: Free will in Buddhism - technically explained

Post by Circle5 » Mon Jun 19, 2017 5:16 am

That is exactly what my post is addressing. That's why I suggest reading it, despite it being long.

User avatar
Moth
Posts: 165
Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:22 pm
Contact:

Free Will

Post by Moth » Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:34 pm

Given that the five aggregates are anatta and that sankharas are vitaka, does free will exist? In other words, if all things arise dependent upon causes and conditions, and if those causes and conditions are anatta, then where does free will come into play?
May you be happy. May you be a peace. May you be free from suffering.
http://www.everythingspirals.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 3959
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Free Will

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Nov 06, 2017 10:20 pm

Moth wrote:
Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:34 pm
Given that the five aggregates are anatta and that sankharas are vitaka, does free will exist? In other words, if all things arise dependent upon causes and conditions, and if those causes and conditions are anatta, then where does free will come into play?
Free will comes into play whenever we exercise it. It is incompatible with your description of the aggregates and the view that everything is determined only if it (free will) is conceived as being capable of over-riding those determining factors; it then becomes something that is determined yet undetermined, which involves us in a contradiction. But if we restrict the meaning of "free will" to mean the ability to act according to one's reasons and motives without let or hindrance, then it is perfectly compatible with that free will being dependent upon causes. We are "free" when (say) we want to meditate, and are able to sit and meditate without the hindrances arising. But no being (outside of Theism) is able to do what it wants regardless of external conditions.

User avatar
DNS
Site Admin
Posts: 11677
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, Estados Unidos de América
Contact:

Re: Free Will

Post by DNS » Mon Nov 06, 2017 10:29 pm

here is a long, previous topic:

viewtopic.php?t=27791

User avatar
phil
Posts: 874
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:08 am
Location: Tokyo

Re: Free Will

Post by phil » Mon Nov 06, 2017 10:39 pm

Moth wrote:
Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:34 pm
Given that the five aggregates are anatta and that sankharas are vitaka, does free will exist? In other words, if all things arise dependent upon causes and conditions, and if those causes and conditions are anatta, then where does free will come into play?
Technically speaking, it doesn't. But fortunately a very encouraging concept of free will is sustained and strengthened in us at every moment in which wise and wholesome impulses are developed rather than the harmful ones, and that happens more and more consistently when dhammas are under the conditioning power of the Buddha's teaching. It is possible to understand the tipitiika correctly (in my opinion, which is that there is oviously no free will) and be encouraged by the notion of free will going in the right direction, the moments of helpful understanding of no free will and helpful belief in free will occur at different moments. Everyone will have a different opinion on this, should be one of the pinned endless debates.

I think a great discourse to consider the concept of free will is the Majjhima Nikaya sutta in which the Buddha encourages Rahula to consider the consequences of deeds before during and after. It could be called the free will sutta, is is all about stepping back and making wise decisions, exercising free will. And that is great. But when considered more deeply in line with all three baskets of the tipitika it will be seen that this is all about the operation of impersonal dhammas being conditioned by a sea of factors, including "i have free will, i do not have to and will not do this harmful thing."
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 2278
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Free Will

Post by DooDoot » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:20 am

Moth wrote:
Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:34 pm
Given that the five aggregates are anatta and that sankharas are vitaka, does free will exist? In other words, if all things arise dependent upon causes and conditions, and if those causes and conditions are anatta, then where does free will come into play?
My guess is there is really no free-will because unenlightened motives are dictated by craving & enlightened motives are dictated by peace (Nirvana).

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: auto, Bing [Bot] and 45 guests