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

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Modus.Ponens
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Modus.Ponens » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:25 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote:I have not read the other thread as it is way too long.

Pure determinism is an inevitable consequence of the principle of causality, which is a principle I think the Buddha thaught. However, only a person completely aware of the laws that run the universe and what the present state of the universe is would be devoid of choice. Anyone who is not in this condition is unable to completely understand the causes that made him act in a way and therefore has the illusion of choice. The conclusion is not that one should not care for one's actions because all is predetermined and choice is an illusion. The conclusion is that we should care for our actions because that illusion is the reality to us and we got to make the best out of our reality.
Good post? Image If it made sense, maybe it would be, but pure determinism leaves us as leaves blowing in the winds, having no choice. What difference is there in what we do, since what we do is has nothing to do with anything I imagine I want, since imagining that I want anything and can do anything of my own accord is just an artifact, a side effect, of impersonal mechanical cause and effect, meaning there is not a thing I can do? Is that what the Buddha taught?
Hi tilt.

What exactly didn't make sense in my post?
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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kirk5a
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by kirk5a » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:54 pm

tinhtan wrote: The suttas MN19, MN20 are very clear on how the Boddhisatta processed on the path.
Here is another basic/fondamental sutta about yoniso manasikara (translated in this sutta as "appropriate attention" ) : MN2 : Sabbasava Sutta: All the Fermentations. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Thank you for this. This is the sutta I had in mind when I mentioned in the previous thread that the Buddha said contemplating "Who or what makes choices" is "inappropriate attention." I would like to highlight that section. As it is such a commonly recommended "method" even by some Buddhist teachers... something to consider. As I said earlier, I tried this way extensively, and quite frankly, it messed me up. For awhile. :smile:

"This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... 'This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views....
...
"He attends appropriately, This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by seeing.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Viscid
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Viscid » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:56 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Good post? If it made sense, maybe it would be, but pure determinism leaves us as leaves blowing in the winds, having no choice. What difference is there in what we do, since what we do is has nothing to do with anything I imagine I want, since imagining that I want anything and can do anything of my own accord is just an artifact, a side effect, of impersonal mechanical cause and effect, meaning there is not a thing I can do? Is that what the Buddha taught?
I believe 'choice' and 'determinism' are compatible concepts. We are given choice, and to us, the choices we make are real and have consequence. If we were to believe that we had no say in the matter, then we would be fatalists and do nothing but react. From our perspective there is choice, to a neutral observer (if such a thing exists) there is strict determinism.

Did the Buddha teach that we have a choice? It sure sounds like it.
Does that mean he'd advocate this ill-defined notion of 'free will?' I doubt the Buddha would be so vague.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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Alex123
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:43 pm

Hello All,

In MN35 and SN22.59 (for example) The Buddha defined anatta as 5 aggregates being beyond control. One cannot control any aggregate "let it be thus, let it not be thus". The will, intention, kamma, choice, make up those aggregates (primarily saṅkhāra khandha).

The causes and conditions for 5 aggregates are also Anatta. They too are beyond control. - SN22.20
“Bhikkhus, form is non-self. The cause and condition for the arising of form is also non-self. As form has originated from what is non-self, how could it be self? “Feeling is non-self…. Perception is non-self…. Volitional constructions are non-self…. Consciousness is non-self. The cause and condition for the arising of consciousness is also non-self. As consciousness has originated from what is non-self, how could it be self?
SN22.20 (9) Non-self with Cause BB Trans.
So not only 5 aggregates are anatta, but so are their causes.


There was an article posted by someone where the free will was discussed. An important section there was saying that in cause-effect world there can be free will IF...
Besides the absence of constraint, the compatibilist definition of free will requires also an agent that is capable of monitoring wishes in order to execute actions.
Compatibilist position COULD allow for real choice within cause-effect stream, if and only if there was an Agent above conditionality who could choose.

Buddha denied an agent, Atta. Kamma or intention is caused by contact (AN6.63), not by an Agent or will or some wish. As the Buddha has said about the World: "it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self:" - SN35.85.

There are cause-effect stream, but no Agent above and beyond it to be able to freely chose.


With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Alex123
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Alex123 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:53 pm

Hello Mike, Viscid, Tinhtan,
Viscid wrote:I believe 'choice' and 'determinism' are compatible concepts.
mikenz66 wrote:I think M.P. sums the issues up well. I found the article
Federman, Asaf (2010) What kind of free will did the Buddha teach? Philosophy East and West, Vol.60 (No.1). ISSN 0031-8221
http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/3142/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
that was already referred to on the other thread very interesting (though now my head hurts...). In particular the distinction made between determinism and fatalism...

:anjali:
Mike
But that article that you, and other have posted has a serious flaw. For the possibility of free will within cause-effect nature of the world (compatibilist position), one would require and Agent to choose. This appears to be an attempt at sneaking the Atta into Buddha's teaching. Even the Buddha explained Anatta to be absence of mastery, absence of control.
"Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'
"Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self... "Bhikkhus, perception is not-self... "Bhikkhus, determinations are not-self...
"Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Even putting in conditions and choices would still involve the same aggregates that cannot be controlled as "'Let my aggregates be thus, let my aggregates be not thus.'"
tinhtan wrote: I think the problem comes from the understanding of the anatta. The argument often shown is the "beyond-control" or "out-of-control" or "no-control" aspect of the anatta dhamma. So there is no choice possible.
But this IS what the Buddha has said in SN22.59 and MN35 for example.


With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Nyana » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:51 pm

Alex123 wrote:
tinhtan wrote: I think the problem comes from the understanding of the anatta. The argument often shown is the "beyond-control" or "out-of-control" or "no-control" aspect of the anatta dhamma. So there is no choice possible.
But this IS what the Buddha has said in SN22.59 and MN35 for example.
It's important to understand the object of negation. SN 22.59 is negating the notion of a permanent Self which is not subject to affliction/dis-ease. It is not negating functional choice. The Self which is being negated in SN 22.59 is a Self which would be:
  • 1. permanent
    2. satisfactory
    3. not subject to affliction/dis-ease
This Self is refuted: a permanent, satisfactory Self which is not prone to old age, sickness, and death. As SN 22.59 states:
  • Bhikkhus, form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness is not-self. Were form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness self, then this form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness would not lead to affliction/dis-ease.
This criterion of affliction/disease is context for the following statement that:
  • none can have it of form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness: 'Let my form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness be thus, let my form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness be not thus.'
This in no way negates functional choice.

All the best,

Geoff

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mikenz66
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:37 pm

Alex123 wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I think M.P. sums the issues up well. I found the article
Federman, Asaf (2010) What kind of free will did the Buddha teach? Philosophy East and West, Vol.60 (No.1). ISSN 0031-8221
http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/3142/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
that was already referred to on the other thread very interesting (though now my head hurts...). In particular the distinction made between determinism and fatalism...
But that article that you, and other have posted has a serious flaw. For the possibility of free will within cause-effect nature of the world (compatibilist position), one would require and Agent to choose. This appears to be an attempt at sneaking the Atta into Buddha's teaching. Even the Buddha explained Anatta to be absence of mastery, absence of control.
Yes, I understand that that is your key disagreement with that article, and other discussion here. But the article makes it clear that the agent is not self and is constrained by conditionality.

:anjali:
Mike.

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Alex123
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Alex123 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:06 pm

Hello Geoff.

You've provided some interesting ideas. In fact your argument seems to be one of the best so far. Thank you.
Ñāṇa wrote: It's important to understand the object of negation. SN 22.59 is negating the notion of a permanent Self which is not subject to affliction/dis-ease. It is not negating functional choice. The Self which is being negated in SN 22.59 is a Self which would be:
In SN35.193 the Anatta of consciousness is explained as consciousness arising due to causes and conditions. While I certainly do agree that what is dukkha and anicca is also anatta, these are not ALL reasons for something to be Anatta. See SN35.193

If consciousness is dependent on causes, then causes cause it to arise or to cease. That way there is anicca. Causes make it experience painful or pleasant objects. If consciousness could be totally unconditioned by space, time, objects, anything - then it could be permanent. If there was control over consciousness, the it is natural that one would make it to be desired, never undesired.


So I understand that "and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus." - SN22.59 and MN35 teaching on not being able to wield power over aggregates to include all kind of control. If there was control, then ALL would experience only what they want to experience, not what they don't want. Lack of control on other hand, could lead to unwanted things, which is stressful.


On one occasion Ven. Ananda and Ven. Udayin were staying near Kosambi in Ghosita's Park. Then in the evening, Ven. Udayin emerged from his seclusion and went to Ven. Ananda and exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Ananda, "In many ways the body has been pointed out, revealed, and announced by the Blessed One [with these words]: 'For this reason the body is not-self. Can consciousness in the same way be declared, taught, described, set forth, revealed, explained, & made plain [with these words]: 'For this reason consciousness is not-self'?"
...
Doesn't intellect-consciousness arise in dependence on the intellect & ideas?"
"Yes, friend."
"And if the cause & reason for the arising of intellect-consciousness were to cease totally everywhere, totally in every way without remainder, would intellect-consciousness be discerned?"
"No, friend."
"It's in this way, friend, that consciousness has been pointed out, revealed, and announced by the Blessed One [with these words]: 'For this reason consciousness is not-self.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

In MN35
Aggivessana, you that say, matter is your self, do you wield power over that matter, as may my matter be thus, and not otherwise? No, good Gotama.
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... ta-e1.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
[Alex: same with other aggregates]
Thank you for your post,

With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Alex123 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:16 pm

Hi Mike, Geoff, Tilt,
mikenz66 wrote: Yes, I understand that that is your key disagreement with that article, and other discussion here. But the article makes it clear that the agent is not self and is constrained by conditionality.
If the so called agent is not self, and is constraint by conditionality, then how is it different from cause-effect stream? Is that agent totally part of cause-effect stream?

If that "agent" is totally part of cause-effect stream, then that agent and the choices are fully and totally conditioned. There is no free will. That agent is like the puppet being moved by conditions. What has happened, has happened in the only possible way that it ever could have possibly happened. That is why it has happened in this as opposed to that way.
If there are conditions for X, then X occurs and never Y.
If there are conditions for Y to occur, then Y occurs, and never X.

Imagine what would be if there were conditions for X to occur, but not-X would occur instead. That acausality and chaos would totally negate the progression along the path because the development of wholesome qualities would not result in permanent eradication of unwholesome tendencies and fetters. If the next moment one could totally revert to what one was before, then sure progression would be impossible.


With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Goofaholix » Fri Nov 19, 2010 11:58 pm

I think if one were to read some scriptures with a very literal mind then one can make a good case for determinism and that we have no choice.

However I don't think the Buddha intended his teaching to be understood as a collection of doctrines to be believed, rather as a process of awakening to be followed.

So the key for interpreting any teaching is primarily what affect does it have on the process of practising the path to awakening.

Establishing an awareness of all the different causes and conditions that push or pull our decision making process is an important part of awakening, this awareness gives us many more options to choose from, gives us much more freedom to choose what is right.

However to say everything comes down to causes and conditions and therefore we have no real choice to me is the antithesis of what the Buddhist path is trying to achieve, it's downgrading us to the level of animals living on instinct rather than upgrading us to enlightenment where we are no longer slaves to causes and conditions. If that were true Buddhist teaching then I wouldn't choose to be a Buddhist.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:13 am

Alex123 wrote: If that "agent" is totally part of cause-effect stream, then that agent and the choices are fully and totally conditioned. There is no free will.
No-one is saying that there is "free will" in the Cartesian or Upanishadic sense, they are saying that choices are made.
Alex123 wrote: That agent is like the puppet being moved by conditions. What has happened, has happened in the only possible way that it ever could have possibly happened. That is why it has happened in this as opposed to that way.
Yes, but the actions that the agent make, even though conditioned, do affect the future. From the article I quoted.
The fact that there is only one future may seem to imply that reality
controls agents, and that there is no real freedom.
However, Dennett argues, there is a substantial conceptual error in this argument.
Control is something agents do. Reality, not being an agent, does not control anything.
67 Arguments for inevitability usually overlook the fact that the one possible
future already includes the agent’s predictions, considerations, wishes, decisions,
and actions. These are usually inaccessible in advance simply because they are the
agent’s making.
I think a key point is the distinction between determinism and fatalism:
The Buddhist rejection
of [Makkhali’s view that purification happens without cause (hetu) or condition (paccaya)]
is not a rejection of a deterministic theory of causality but a rejection of
fatalism. The confusion between fatalism and determinism lies at the heart of the
above-mentioned objection (that determinism implies that agents are controlled by
causality).
It seems to me that that confusion over these distinctions can lead to a fatalistic attitude that "it's all predetermined so there's no point in trying to do anything". I agree with Goofaholix that this would be a mistake.

Finally, it's worth remembering that:
The Buddhist treatment of free will has to be extracted from the doctrine, as the
doctrine is by no means a systematic philosophical treatise. Nevertheless, it is clear
that the Buddha saw that freedom has a negative correlation with compulsions.
While the Western tradition tends to emphasize external compulsion and social freedom,
Buddhist doctrine tends to emphasize internal compulsions and psychological
freedom.
It is certainly interesting to pursue a philosophical enquiry into the doctrine, but I'm not convinced that it is particularly useful to one's progress. Particularly if the Buddha's instructions for development are misunderstood as encouraging fatalism.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:14 am

Goofaholix wrote: I think if one were to read some scriptures with a very literal mind then one can make a good case for determinism and that we have no choice.
Quite the opposite. IMHO it is too easy to read about Buddha and Arahants talking "I go, I think, etc" and forget about 5 aggregates, 12 sense bases, 18 elements, Dependent Origination, Anicca-Dukkha-Anatta and so on.

However I don't think the Buddha intended his teaching to be understood as a collection of doctrines to be believed, rather as a process of awakening to be followed.
Actually it is wisdom that liberates, not ritualistic actions. There were many cases where a non-Buddhist, such as Suppabuddha who stumbled upon a Buddha's lecture and became a stream-enterer in that seat.
have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying in Rajagaha at the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels' Sanctuary. Now at that time in Rajagaha there was a leper named Suppabuddha, a poor, miserable wretch of a person. And at that time the Blessed One was sitting surrounded by a large assembly, teaching the Dhamma. Suppabuddha the leper saw the large gathering of people from afar and thought to himself, "Without a doubt, someone must be distributing staple or non-staple food over there. Why don't I go over to that large group of people, and maybe I'll get some staple or non-staple food." So he went over to the large group of people. Then he saw the Blessed One sitting surrounded by a large assembly, teaching the Dhamma. On seeing this, he realized, "There's no one distributing staple or non-staple food over here. That's Gotama the contemplative, sitting surrounded by a large assembly, teaching the Dhamma. Why don't I listen to the Dhamma?" So he sat to one side right there, [thinking,] "I, too, will listen to the Dhamma."

Then the Blessed One, having encompassed the awareness of the entire assembly with his awareness, asked himself, "Now who here is capable of understanding the Dhamma?" He saw Suppabuddha the leper sitting in the assembly, and on seeing him the thought occurred to him, "This person here is capable of understanding the Dhamma." So, aiming at Suppabuddha the leper, he gave a step-by-step talk, i.e., a talk on giving, a talk on virtue, a talk on heaven; he declared the drawbacks, degradation, & corruption of sensual passions, and the rewards of renunciation. Then when he saw that Suppabuddha the leper's mind was ready, malleable, free from hindrances, elated, & bright, he then gave the Dhamma-talk peculiar to Awakened Ones, i.e., stress, origination, cessation, & path. And just as a clean cloth, free of stains, would properly absorb a dye, in the same way, as Suppabuddha the leper was sitting in that very seat, the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye arose within him, "Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation."

Having seen the Dhamma, reached the Dhamma, known the Dhamma, gained a footing in the Dhamma, having crossed over & beyond doubt, having had no more perplexity, having gained fearlessness & independence from others with regard to the Teacher's message,
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Bahiya became an Arahant through listening and deeply understanding Buddha's teaching.

Goofaholix wrote:
However to say everything comes down to causes and conditions and therefore we have no real choice to me is the antithesis of what the Buddhist path is trying to achieve, it's downgrading us to the level of animals living on instinct rather than upgrading us to enlightenment where we are no longer slaves to causes and conditions. If that were true Buddhist teaching then I wouldn't choose to be a Buddhist.
[/quote]

Suppubuddha the leper was not a Buddhist. He was looking for food and mistook the crowd for people receiving the food. He then decided to listen to the Buddha, and through the lecture he became a stream-enterer.


There are many suttas which talk about understanding of anicca-dukkha-anatta of 5 aggregates, 12 spheres, etc, leading to Awakening.
Seeing thus[alex: anicca-dukkha-anatta], Sona, the instructed noble disciple becomes disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with volitional constructions, disenchanted with consciousness. Being disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion (his mind) is liberated. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It’s liberated.’ He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what
had to be done has been done, there is no more for this world.’”
SN22.49 (7) Sona (1) - Ven BB Transl.

Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu sees as impermanent form which is actually impermanent: that is his right view. Seeing rightly, he becomes disenchanted. With the destruction of delight comes the destruction of lust; with the destruction of lust comes the destruction of delight. With the destruction of delight and lust the mind is liberated and is said to be well liberated. [same for other aggregates]
SN22.51 (9) Destruction of Delight (1) - Ven BB Transl.
Again, it is knowledge that liberates.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:22 am

Hi Mike, all,
mikenz66 wrote: No-one is saying that there is "free will" in the Cartesian or Upanishadic sense, they are saying that choices are made.
If there is no free will, then the choice is fully conditioned and is not due to free-will. Choice and what is chosen occurs, but it arises due to impersonal causes. It is like choice of a leaf being blown by the wind. Except that if one hears the Dhamma and has some wisdom, those conditions will help the process to eventually become liberated. No fatalism here. In fact it is very good that once certain conditions are met, one has no choice but to become Awakened.
mikenz66 wrote: Yes, but the actions that the agent make, even though conditioned, do affect the future.
Of course kamma produces kammavipāka. I've never denied this. Wholesome kamma leads to wholesome vipāka, unwholesome kamma leads to unwholesome vipāka.


As for Makkhali Gosala, if we read his views we see that no knowledgeble Buddhist would hold them. Neither I, nor Robert accept the view of Makkhali Gosala below.
'there is no cause, no requisite condition, for the defilement of beings. Beings are defiled without cause, without requisite condition. There is no cause, no requisite condition, for the purification of beings. Beings are purified without cause, without requisite condition.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
The Makkhali's view above is not determinism. It is more of random chaos. According to the Buddha there are causes for defilement and purification of beings. "Beings are defiled without cause, without requisite condition....Beings are purified without cause, without requisite condition" - this is chaotic fatalism and terrible teaching of Makkhali. It is nothing that I was talking about and has nothing to do with cause-effect conditionality of the Buddha.


With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:33 am

Alex123 wrote: If there is no free will, then the choice is fully conditioned and is not due to free-will.
You don't seem to be listening. Let me reapeat:
No one is arguing for free will in the usual western or Upanishadic senses.
We are (at least I am) trying to understand the subtleties involved in making sense out of the apparently contradictory concepts of choice and determinism.

Your argument that "things are determined therefore only this particular approach to the Dhamma is correct" makes no logical sense to me. It seems to me a case of trying to use philosophical and logical analysis to filter the practical instructions that the Buddha gave us.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:41 am

Hello Tilt, Mike, all,
tiltbillings wrote: If it made sense, maybe it would be, but pure determinism leaves us as leaves blowing in the winds, having no choice.
Is there something wrong with a statement because it doesn't sound life-affirming and nice? Maybe we need to redo the 1st NT. The Truth of Dukkha is just too sad to be taught by the Buddha. And the whole anatta thing is just too soulless. Well, Dhamma is "soulless" path without a heart (passion).
tiltbillings wrote:
What difference is there in what we do, since what we do is has nothing to do with anything I imagine I want, since imagining that I want anything and can do anything of my own accord is just an artifact, a side effect, of impersonal mechanical cause and effect, meaning there is not a thing I can do? Is that what the Buddha taught?
Kamma produces kammavipāka. Wholesome kamma leads to wholesome vipāka, unwholesome kamma leads to unwholesome vipāka. Wisdom (paññā) leads to wholesome results. Avijjā leads to Dukkha. So it does matter what occurs.
Mikenz66 wrote: No one is arguing for free will in the usual western or Upanishadic senses.
Good. The the choice is fully conditioned and there is no control over it, or what it will chose. The choice that has been chosen was the only choice possible given that internal/external situation.
Mikenz66 wrote: Your argument that "things are determined therefore only this particular approach to the Dhamma is correct"
I am not aware of saying that. What I think you may be referring to was my statement like "events happen the only possible way that they could have ever happened given those causes & conditions".


With metta,

Alex
Last edited by Alex123 on Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Guy
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Guy » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:46 am

Hi All,

Regardless of whether will is "free" or conditioned (it appears to me to be conditioned) it can be useful to "pretend" that we have a choice so we can use that "choice" (whether that choice is real or delusion) to practice the Noble Eightfold Path. Whether or not there is free will, there is still the law of kamma. There are still good actions leading to good results and bad actions leading to bad results. So we should be careful, regardless of whether "being careful" is a result of our conditioning (e.g. hearing the Buddha's teachings on morality, etc.) or whether "being careful" is something that some independent "doer" decides on its own somehow.

Sorry, that was quite long-winded even though it was intended to be as short as possible.

Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:52 am

Hello Guy, all,
Guy wrote:Hi All,
Regardless of whether will is "free" or conditioned (it appears to me to be conditioned) it can be useful to "pretend" that we have a choice so we can use that "choice" (whether that choice is real or delusion) to practice the Noble Eightfold Path.
The possible problem with pretending in being able to control a choice implies belief in possession, possession of that choice. Belief in self or possession of the Self is wrong view. Any "practice" under wrong view just leads to wrong result.
Guy wrote: Whether or not there is free will, there is still the law of kamma. There are still good actions leading to good results and bad actions leading to bad results.
Right. Kamma produces kammavipāka. Wholesome kamma leads to wholesome vipāka, unwholesome kamma leads to unwholesome vipāka. Wisdom (paññā) leads to wholesome results. Avijjā leads to Dukkha. So it does matter what happens. Bad action is bad. Don't do it. Good action is good! Do it. Hopefully all these statements made by me, the Buddha, or others, will brainwash you enough to condition wholesome behaviour. Wholesome behaviour not because of control, but because you had no other choice given the liberating knowledge that you have heard from others and considered well enough.


With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Nyana » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:00 am

Alex123 wrote:So I understand that "and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus." - SN22.59 and MN35 teaching on not being able to wield power over aggregates to include all kind of control. If there was control, then ALL would experience only what they want to experience, not what they don't want. Lack of control on other hand, could lead to unwanted things, which is stressful.
There is a difference between complete, unconditional autonomous control on the one hand, and functional choice on the other. Just because there is no permanent, satisfactory autonomous Self wielding power and unconditional control over the aggregates doesn't mean that there is no functional choice. Volitional intention (cetanā), which is functional choice, only ever occurs in the present. It occurs in consort with desire (chanda), attention (manasikāra), and so on. If there is the presence of fundamental attention (yoniso manasikāra), then there is the opportunity for skillful choices to occur, motivated by desire for the development of right effort (sammāvāyāma) and right exertion (sammappadhānā). All of these path factors occur in consort with functional choice and desire. Cf. the following brief survey of discourses which give clear injunctions for generating desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, the arousal of persistence, the exertion to guard, the exertion to abandon, the exertion to develop, the exertion to maintain, etc.
  • There are these four right exertions. Which four? There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen... for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen... for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen...(and) for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. These are the four right exertions.

    Just as the River Ganges flows to the east, slopes to the east, inclines to the east, in the same way when a monk develops & pursues the four right exertions, he flows to Unbinding, slopes to Unbinding, inclines to Unbinding. [SN.49.1]

    There are these four exertions. Which four? The exertion to guard, the exertion to abandon, the exertion to develop, & the exertion to maintain.

    And what is the exertion to guard? There is the case where a monk, on seeing a form with the eye, does not grasp at any theme or variations by which — if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. He practices with restraint. He guards the faculty of the eye. He achieves restraint with regard to the faculty of the eye. (Similarly with the ear, nose, tongue, body, & intellect.) This is called the exertion to guard.

    And what is the exertion to abandon? There is the case where a monk does not acquiesce to a thought of sensuality that has arisen [in him]. He abandons it, destroys it, dispels it, wipes it out of existence. He does not acquiesce to a thought of ill will... a thought of violence... any evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen [in him]. He abandons them, destroys them, dispels them, wipes them out of existence. This is called the exertion to abandon.

    And what is the exertion to develop? There is the case where a monk develops the mindfulness factor for Awakening dependent on seclusion... dispassion... cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the investigation of qualities factor for Awakening... the persistence factor for Awakening... the rapture factor for Awakening... the serenity factor for Awakening... the concentration factor for Awakening... the equanimity factor for Awakening dependent on seclusion... dispassion... cessation, resulting in letting go. This is called the exertion to develop.

    And what is the exertion to maintain? There is the case where a monk maintains a favorable theme of concentration — the skeleton perception, the worm-eaten perception, the livid perception, the festering perception, the falling-apart perception, the bloated perception. This is called the exertion to maintain. [AN 4.14]

    And how is a person ardent? There is the case where a monk thinks, 'The arising of unarisen evil, unskillful qualities would lead to what is unbeneficial,' and he arouses ardor. 'The non-abandoning of arisen evil, unskillful qualities... The non-arising of unarisen skillful qualities... The ceasing of arisen skillful qualities would lead to what is unbeneficial,' and he arouses ardor. This is what it means to be ardent.

    And how is a person concerned? There is the case where a monk thinks, 'The arising of unarisen evil, unskillful qualities would lead to what is unbeneficial,' and he feels concern. 'The non-abandoning of arisen evil, unskillful qualities... The non-arising of unarisen skillful qualities... The ceasing of arisen skillful qualities would lead to what is unbeneficial,' and he feels concern. This is what it means to be concerned. This is how a person ardent & concerned is capable of self-awakening, capable of Unbinding, capable of attaining the unexcelled security from bondage. [SN16.2]

    [W]hen an individual with an internal blemish discerns, as it actually is, that 'I have an internal blemish,' it can be expected of him that he will generate desire, endeavor, & arouse persistence for the abandoning of that blemish. [MN 5]

    If, on examination, a monk knows, 'I usually remain covetous, with thoughts of ill will, overcome by sloth & drowsiness, restless, uncertain, angry, with soiled thoughts, with my body aroused, lazy, or unconcentrated,' then he should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities, just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head.... [AN 10.51]
All the best,

Geoff

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robertk
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by robertk » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:10 am

Dear guy,
I think what you say is basically correct except that there is no need to pretend there is an agent choosing to do this or that.
In fact it is because anatta is directly related to conditionality that kamma does bring results, and the more there is realization of the fact of this that naturally there should arise less inclination to evil.
This article is by sujin boriharnawanaket on kamma and result
http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index. ... 0&hl=Kamma" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:12 am

Very good post, Geoff.

:goodpost:

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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