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?
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reflection
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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by reflection » Thu Dec 27, 2012 7:45 pm

Is there free will or not? You can read the suttas and you can listen to 100 monks and nons, which all is great, but won't give you the answer. You have to try to find 'free will' inside of yourself to find the answer. If you look deeply you'll see that decisions and choices are not made by you, but are made by circumstances. As soon as you can get beyond the idea of 'you' having a choice or not, there is no more need to think about the notion of free will.

Of course, it's not easy to do. In fact, you can't do it at all, because doing is in itself caused by willing. That's why one should let go of willing to see it as it is. And the more you see will is non-self, the easier it is to let go. Then there may arise meditation states in which there is no choice at all anymore; and the question is answered. All of this is part of what the Buddha talked about when he taught non-self.

alan...
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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by alan... » Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:49 pm

check out accesstoinsight, a search of "determinism" brought up a lot of info to explain this idea. determinism is the opposite of free will.

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Sambojjhanga
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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by Sambojjhanga » Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:32 pm

reflection wrote:Is there free will or not? You can read the suttas and you can listen to 100 monks and nons, which all is great, but won't give you the answer. You have to try to find 'free will' inside of yourself to find the answer. If you look deeply you'll see that decisions and choices are not made by you, but are made by circumstances. As soon as you can get beyond the idea of 'you' having a choice or not, there is no more need to think about the notion of free will.

Of course, it's not easy to do. In fact, you can't do it at all, because doing is in itself caused by willing. That's why one should let go of willing to see it as it is. And the more you see will is non-self, the easier it is to let go. Then there may arise meditation states in which there is no choice at all anymore; and the question is answered. All of this is part of what the Buddha talked about when he taught non-self.
:goodpost:
Sabba rasam dhammaraso jinati
The flavor of the dhamma exceeds all other flavors

alan...
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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by alan... » Fri Dec 28, 2012 3:46 am

there is some sutta where this very issue is discussed, i struggled with the same question until i found it. it is the buddha discussing determinism, kamma and all that but for the life of me i can't remember what it was called! anyway, the buddha said that it's not predetermined so yes we have free will according to the buddha.

alan...
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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by alan... » Fri Dec 28, 2012 6:13 am

"For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear and complex. Other Indian schools believed that karma operated in a simple straight line, with actions from the past influencing the present, and present actions influencing the future. As a result, they saw little room for free will. Buddhists, however, saw that karma acts in multiple feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. Furthermore, present actions need not be determined by past actions. In other words, there is free will, although its range is somewhat dictated by the past. The nature of this freedom is symbolized in an image used by the early Buddhists: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction."

-Thanissaro Bhikkhu

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... karma.html

i still can't find that sutta though! last time i saw it it put to bed this issue for me so i just moved on without writing down the name or anything.

also:

"In this way, the Buddha points to one of the most distinctive features of his own teaching on kamma: that the present experience of pleasure and pain is a combined result of both past and present actions. This seemingly small addition to the notion of kamma plays an enormous role in allowing for the exercise of free will and the possibility of putting an end to suffering before the effects of all past actions have ripened. In other words, this addition is what makes Buddhist practice possible, and makes it possible for a person who has completed the practice to survive and teach it with full authority to others. For more on these points, see the articles, "Karma," "A Refuge in Skillful Action," and "Five Piles of Bricks"; see also the Introduction to The Wings to Awakening, along with the introductions to the sections on Skillfulness and Kamma & the Ending of Kamma in that book."

-Thanissaro Bhikkhu

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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reflection
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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by reflection » Fri Dec 28, 2012 2:02 pm

Determinism and free will are opposites like forest and desert are opposites. There are also other possibilities: sea, tundra, fields etc. Indeterminism could be caused by plenty of other things than 'free will'. So there being no determinism doesn't really say anything about there being free will or not.

jackson
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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by jackson » Sun Dec 30, 2012 4:12 pm

Thank you kindly for your replies, especially Jason for his detailed reply, you guys have given me plenty to think about!
:anjali:
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah

SamKR
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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by SamKR » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:44 am

Jason wrote: ...
:goodpost:

sentientbeing
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Lack of Free Will and Anatta

Post by sentientbeing » Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:23 pm

I have been experiencing Depersonalization Disorder for the last 3 years along with other psychological conditions such as Anhedonia, Depression...
The most disturbing of these symptoms is the experience of behaving against my will. My thoughts, feelings, actions work in a completely deterministic fashion that I have no control over.
I also experience Anatta and I have difficulty setting long-term goals and accomplishing them because I lack the emotional substrate.

Is there a way to "un-enlighten"? I would prefer to live in the state of ordinary consciousness with attachments and suffering.

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James the Giant
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Re: Lack of Free Will and Anatta

Post by James the Giant » Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:31 pm

Have you seen a doctor/psychologist about all this? And are you getting ongoing treatment? It sounds like you have, since you know your diagnosis.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
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sentientbeing
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Re: Lack of Free Will and Anatta

Post by sentientbeing » Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:59 pm

Yes, the diagnosis oscillates between Schizo-affective Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder. After trying different medications, the Bipolar mood stabilizers have been the most effective.

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James the Giant
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Re: Lack of Free Will and Anatta

Post by James the Giant » Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:03 am

Sweet, just wanted to make sure. Some people ask similar questions here but have not seen a doctor first.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

sentientbeing
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Re: Lack of Free Will and Anatta

Post by sentientbeing » Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:22 am

Thanks for asking!

The emptiness of mind is very apparent in this state, its almost as if my mind has expanded infinitely and phenomenon come into being and cease on their own, similar to the physical laws that govern space-time.

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Cittasanto
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Re: Lack of Free Will and Anatta

Post by Cittasanto » Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:23 am

sentientbeing wrote:I have been experiencing Depersonalization Disorder for the last 3 years along with other psychological conditions such as Anhedonia, Depression...
The most disturbing of these symptoms is the experience of behaving against my will. My thoughts, feelings, actions work in a completely deterministic fashion that I have no control over.
I also experience Anatta and I have difficulty setting long-term goals and accomplishing them because I lack the emotional substrate.

Is there a way to "un-enlighten"? I would prefer to live in the state of ordinary consciousness with attachments and suffering.
Hi Sentient,
I think your question is not to the right group of people, mainly because what you are experiencing isn't part of the practice per se, rather a medical condition.
Try talking to your doctor about referrals to psychotherapists or other professional experienced in dealing with this area they may send you to a MBSR type therapist or another better suited to the specific help you require.

Hope you find what you are looking for.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
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Alex123
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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by Alex123 » Sun Aug 03, 2014 8:18 pm

If there is no self, then there is no self, no agent, that can decide to do this or that.
"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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