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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Goofaholix
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Goofaholix » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:14 am

Alex123 wrote:
Goofaholix wrote: Again, it is knowledge that liberates.
If it were knowledge that liberates the Universities would be full of Arahants, it's wisdom that liberates, and wisdom goes beyond the digesting and regurgitating knowledge or scripture.
“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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Alex123
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:40 am

Hi Geoff, all,
Ñāṇa wrote: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.
-Is "functional choice" within or outside of aggregates? Within.
-Is there complete, unconditional autonomous control of any of the aggregates? As you said, no.
-Is there complete, unconditional autonomous control of "functional choice", cetanā, manasikāra, sammāvāyāma,sammappadhānā, etc?

If there is complete, unconditional autonomous control of "functional choice", etc, which is part of the aggregates (primarily saṅkhāra khandha), then why isn't there complete, unconditional autonomous control of the aggregates?

The aggregates (primarily saṅkhāra khandha) include "functional choice", cetanā, manasikāra, sammāvāyāma,sammappadhānā, etc.

So all the sutta quotes should be view with above in mind.

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 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:41 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
Goofaholix wrote: Again, it is knowledge that liberates.
If it were knowledge that liberates the Universities would be full of Arahants, it's wisdom that liberates, and wisdom goes beyond the digesting and regurgitating knowledge or scripture.
Wisdom (paññā) has to develop enough, and to cut the fetters. Mere lip reciting isn't wisdom.
Last edited by Alex123 on Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:46 am, edited 2 times 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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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:42 am

Greetings Alex,
Alex123 wrote:Is "functional choice" within or outside of aggregates? Within.
So you acknowledge "functional choice" then?

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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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:45 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Alex,
Alex123 wrote:Is "functional choice" within or outside of aggregates? Within.
So you acknowledge "functional choice" then?

Metta,
Retro. :)

I am just taking Geoff's terminology and asking him. In any case, every thing that arises has a "function" to do. So choice vs functional choice may not differ in essence (conditionality). I do wonder what Geoff has precisely meant by functional choice.


"Functional choice" as bunch of thoughts does arise. But it is fully conditioned, and so is its deliberations and outcome. It is conditioned like a leaf being blown by the wind, to use Tilt's expression. There is no Self that owns anything, include "functional choice".

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 that we have choice?

Post by alan » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:59 am

Alex,
Don't get your motivation for assuming such an extreme position. Obnoxious contrarianism?

Instead I'll just ask: what good comes from assuming your view?

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:05 am

alan wrote:Alex,
Don't get your motivation for assuming such an extreme position. Obnoxious contrarianism?

Instead I'll just ask: what good comes from assuming your view?
For Right View.


All my past failures are not "I", not "mine", and "I" couldn't do anything better. What has happened, has happened the only possible way it ever could possibly occur. No need to be upset.

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 that we have choice?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:06 am

Greetings,
Alex123 wrote:What has happened, has happened the only possible way it ever could possibly occur.
Fatalism - the spiritual life is over.
Alex123 wrote:All my past failures are not "I", not "mine", and "I" couldn't do anything better.
... and all responsibility for past actions is absolved.

Image

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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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Hoo » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:08 am

Well said, Geoff :goodpost: One needs to get past freshman and sophomore philosophy to see what the Buddha discovered - and the forest of views, the thicket of views, that don't lead to the end of suffering. IMHO, it doesn't matter if there is ultimately "free will, freedom of choice" or not. Neither is a "thing" of inherent existence. At best they are concepts, fabricated and composite.

IMHO, it's a matter of asking the wrong question and applying the wrong criteria. Does one ask what is the origin of Cherry Tarts? What is the truth of Cherry Tarts? I think all of us can see that Cherry Tarts have essentially nothing to do with what the Buddha taught.

To this, I can picture the Buddha saying, "Look at the recipe. Try it, see if it works, keep it if it does, discard it if it doesn't." (Poorly paraphrased from the advice to the Kalamas)

I can't picture him saying, "There is only one recipe for Cherry Tart. There is only this, all else is wrong." (Canki Sutta for reference) IMO, the question is not "What is the only right way?" It is more like, "how does it work for you" because there is more than one way to go at it." IMHO, this implies that I have choice.

In my brief exposure, Buddhism is "learn and do" more than learn and debate. It's useful to swap ideas and look at the interpretations but for me, at least, it then comes down to "what difference does this make to my practice or my snail's pace toward liberation."

Can I ever truly know the ultimate answers, or will I end up taking refuge in the words of others or just my own preferences/views? "Did I really just solve what hasn't been resolved in 2,500 to 4,000 years of philosophical debate?" It can be a humbling reality check when I'm engaged in debate. On my beter days I choose not to pick it up. On other days I set it back down as not conducive to the goal.

I'm not good at this, mind you. I only share this thought because it has helped me on the path. May it be of benefit to others, too.

With Metta,
Hoo

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by alan » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:18 am

Alex,
Please explain the relationship between your position and Right View. Using Suttas, not experiential examples.
It is obvious you haven't understood some very basic teachings--Buddha railed against determinists, in straight language, many times.

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:33 am

Hi Alan, all,
alan wrote:Alex,
Please explain the relationship between your position and Right View. Using Suttas, not experiential examples.
It is obvious you haven't understood some very basic teachings--Buddha railed against determinists, in straight language, many times.
By seeing the drawbacks of the aggregates, one more and more becomes dispassionate toward them, and craving fades.
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.

Here, Aggivessana, my disciples see whatever matter, in the past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, unexalted or exalted, far or near, all that matter is not mine. I'm not that, it is not my self. This is seen with right wisdom, as it really is. Whatever feelings, whatever perceptions, whatever determinations, whatever consciousness, in the past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, un -exalted or exalted, far or near, all consciousness is not mine. I'm not that, it is not my self. This is seen with right wisdom as it really is. Aggivessana, with this much, my disciples have done the work in my dispensation, followed the advice, dispelling doubts have become confident not relying on a teacher abide.
[Alex: then path to Arhatship]
Here, Aggivessana, whatever matter[alex: and other 4 aggregates], in the past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, unexalted or exalted, far or near, all matter is not mine. I'm not that, it is not my self, This should be seen with right wisdom, as it really is, and the mind released without holdings.
Aggivessana, when this much is done the bhikkhu is perfect with desires destroyed, the holy life lived, what should be done, done, the weight put down, come to the highest good, the desires `to be' destroyed, and rightly knowing is released. Aggivessana, the mind of the bhãkkhu so released is endowed with three nobilities: The nobility of vision, the nobility of method, and the nobility of release.
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... ta-e1.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
In MN35 the not-self is explicitly taught as lack of being able to wield power over aggregates. So by talking about strict conditionality, no free will, and choice being "like leaf blown by the wind" - we are having a great Dhamma discussion about Not-Self. Discussion is very important and one of the causes for wisdom to arise. Some people have achieved maggaphala during the Dhamma discussions due to considering and contemplating these things.


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 that we have choice?

Post by alan » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:44 am

I'm afraid that Great Dhamma Discussion is going on only in your mind, and that you are misreading the texts you cited.
Your position is extreme; you have shown no awareness of that. You have ignored several intelligent, well meaning posts by DW members I've come to respect. I see no reason to continue discussing this or any other matter with you.

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by octathlon » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:54 am

Excerpt from "Egolessness (Anattaa)" by Nyanatiloka Mahathera:
The Buddha is, in every respect, a teacher at the golden mean, ethically as well as philosophically. From the ethical standpoint, for example, the Buddha rejects two extremes: the way of sensual pleasures and the way of self-torture. From the philosophical standpoint he rejects eternity, as well as temporariness of an ego entity. Just so he rejects belief in an absolute identity and an absolute otherness of the various stages of the process of existence. He rejects the determinism, as well as the belief in chance. He rejects the belief in absolute existence and absolute non-existence; likewise in freedom of will, as well as in unfreedom of will.

All these things will become clear to one who understands the egolessness and conditioned nature of all phenomena of existence. On the understanding of these two truths depends the understanding of the entire doctrine of the Buddha. Hence the understanding and final penetration of the egolessness and conditionedness of all phenomena of existence are the necessary foundation to the realization of the noble eightfold path leading to deliverance from all vanity and misery, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right bodily action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration of mind. Only this golden middle path, based on these two kinds of right understanding, namely of "egolessness and conditionedness," can alleviate and destroy these vain illusions of "self" and craving, which are the root-causes of all war and bloodshed in the world. But without these two kinds of understanding there is no realization of the holy and peaceful goal pointed out by the Buddha.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... golessness" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:57 am

octathlon wrote:Excerpt from "Egolessness (Anattaa)" by Nyanatiloka Mahathera:

That is view of the Venerable. I prefer the suttas, not someone's opinion of what Buddha has taught. Buddha taught strict conditionality and Anatta. Things happen due to specific causes, and not randomly. If there is no something unconditioned that can influence this cause-effect stream, then there is no possibility of things happening other than the way that they are supposed to happen. A leaf being blown by the wind has no choice where to fly. A compatibilist idea of free will requires an Agent in order to work. Anatta + strict conditionality = more of hard-determinism with the possibility to become Awakened if the right causes are "inserted".


There are but these two alternatives. Either choice is dependent on causes, or choice is not dependent on causes. If choice is dependent on causes, then it is like a leaf being blown by the wind, the causes decide the choice and its outcome. If the choice is not dependent on causes, then it appears randomly, by chance. But chance alone does not constitute freedom of choice and clearly excludes control of what choice occurs, as it "just happens out of blue sky". Either choice is fully determined, or it "just appears out of blue sky". In none of these two options there is any control or "personal agency" to influence the choice and its outcome.


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 that we have choice?

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:24 am

Alex123 wrote: Buddha taught strict conditionality and Anatta.
In your opinion.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by robertk » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:29 am

When they are seen (the khandhas) after resolving them by means of knowledge into elements, they disintegrate like froth subjected to compression by the hand. They are mere states (dhammas)occurring due to conditions and void. In this way the characteristic of not-self becomes more clear"
Pm (visuddhimagga xxi n.4)


So it takes time for the right conditions to become dominant, a long time, cira kala bhavana. Think how long just one aeon is: during just this time the amount of blood we each spilled when being beheaded as criminals is greater than the waters in the ocean. And there are more of these aeons than the particles of dust in the universe. Buddhists often panic when they hear this and make enormous effort to control sati and other kusala, but this mostly reinforces the idea of self and so the cycle is strengthened.
By understanding that:

"It is not-self on account of the insusceptibility to the exercise of power. It is not self for four reasons, that is, in the sense of voidness, of having no owner-master, of having no overlord, and of opposing self"(see vis. note 3 xxi)
Then it becomes easier to let go, a different type of effort.

On the other hand a queen tried to avoid seeing the Buddha because she
was beautiful and had heard that beauty was said to be a temporary thing by the Buddha. She was eventually forced to listen by the king's orders, but managed to put herself at the back of the crowd. It didn't matter - the Buddha used his powers and made an image of a woman even more beautiful than the queen, and then made the image quickly age- conditions worked so that she heard the teaching and there and then became enlightened. She didn't want to get enlightened, but conditions follow their own ways.
.
I think learning about the anattaness of all dhammas gradually gives a type of detachment that isn't much shaken by misfortune. One doesn't expect any dhamma to give satisfaction because they are inherently unstable and every change, whether for better or worse, simply confirms this - at the micro and macro level. But this is understanding, panna, a conditioned mental factor doing its job- not us.
Last edited by robertk on Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by robertk » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:38 am

From an old post I wrote


Question: In considering the not-self and conditioned nature of the aggregates how does one avoid becoming fatalistic?

FATALISM: A doctrine that events are fixed in advance for all time in such a manner that human beings are powerless to change them; also: a belief in or attitude determined by this doctrine. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary
Beliefs in fatalism or freewill are based on an assumption of a being who is either fated or has freewill. The buddha taught the middle path, that there is no being, there are only conditioned elements arising and ceasing. 

By learning the Dhamma one comes to realize that each moment has real importance. This leads to more care- more kusala- and also more interest to learn more - a virtuous circle... 






My question was based on the not-self dependent-origination premise, not on the assumption of a being. 

To put it in a very simplistic way that relates to the Sutta I quoted a while back: "If there is no self, why should "I" care what happens?"

Because there is kamma, and there are results. Dukkha is not happening to a being, but there is dukkha. And 
dukkha arises all the time, sometimes very painful dukkha. 
If akusala kamma is performed then the result in the near or distant future will be unpleasant. No need to invoke a being. 

 So, there is no "self" but there is some choice in there somewhere over whether or not the akusala kamma is performed? 

The way it works is that , if there are the right conditions, panna(understanding, wisdom) grows. And this mental factor, along with other sobhana cetasikas, arises more frequently so that it interupts the usual stream of akusala cetasikas. 

Volition,(cetana ) arises every moment, so like with the example of Sunnakhata I gave, he chose to leave the Buddha and follow another path. Why? Because the mental factors that arose were wrong view and ignorance. These factors arise together with cetana and so certain actions and thoughts occured.

Whether we sit up or lie down, go left or go right, chose Christianity, materialism, Mahayana or Theravada, in a conventional sense there is always choice. And even in the ultimate sense cetana arises and along with other factors determines these events. But in the uninstructed worldling the underlying roots of each 'choice' is almost always lobha (craving) and avija (ignorance). It seems like someone is deciding, but there are only disinterested elements performing their functions, conditioned by a concantenation of complex conditions( those from the distant past and some from the here and now). Even when wisdom begins to develop it too is only an element, equally disinterested and merely performing its function.
Last edited by robertk on Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:33 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:42 am

Greetings Robert,
robertk wrote:From an old post I wrote..

Beliefs in fatalism or freewill are based on an assumption of a being who is either fated or has freewill.
I disagree with this assessment. It assumes that sentient beings are a pre-requisite in the universe (i.e. fatalism happens to beings) and is therefore unnecessarily being-centric.

Alex holds fatalistic beliefs without holding belief in a being - he is therefore a case-in-point that disproves your theory.

Thus, like all of Alex's typecast constructs, it's another straw man.

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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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:50 am

Alex123 wrote: There are but these two alternatives. Either choice is dependent on causes, or choice is not dependent on causes.
Alex,
Why do you exclude the possibility that choice is constrained by, but not fully dependent upon, causes?

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Hanzze » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:59 am

I guess one needs to see/realize cause and effect first. Not the mass of it. In a jungle one would not see the tree.
For a monkey its just another branch :-)
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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