Free-will is it an illusion?

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Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby Wind » Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:45 am

Christians would say God gave us Free-will. Does Free-will exist? Or is it similar to Anatta where it's only an illusion?
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:06 am

That's kind of an interesting question. There is choice, but then again those choices or acts of will come about due to other conditions, so I'm not sure which way to go.
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:18 am

there is a sorta limited freewill, your present situation is determined by your past kamma, but that does not mean your present kamma has no influence over it, and both influence your future situation.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby PeterB » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:56 am

Is anatta an illusion ? Or is it atta that is the illusion ? And anyway do we not mean delusion ? atta is an idea isnt it ? Not something we encounter at lunch or in the bathroom and mistake it for something else.
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:28 am

Well, the free-will question is intimately related to anatta. The "person" who we think is in control really isn't, since that person not only doesn't exist, but doesn't have control. If everything is dependent on causes and conditions, as the Buddha teaches, is there any point in even asking about free will?

Before Peter has to say it, the Buddha's message is radical --- and scary. But (I'm told) liberating...

Mike
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:30 am

mikenz66 wrote:Well, the free-will question is intimately related to anatta. The "person" who we think is in control really isn't, since that person not only doesn't exist, but doesn't have control. If everything is dependent on causes and conditions, as the Buddha teaches, is there any point in even asking about free will?

Before Peter has to say it, the Buddha's message is radical --- and scary. But (I'm told) liberating...

Mike
But there is choice.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:32 am

mikenz66 wrote: is there any point in even asking about free will?
Mike

of course, lest one think we are fatalists
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:59 am

Hi Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:But there is choice.

Yes, but (partly to play devil's advocate here): isn't that "choice" just part of the illusion of atta?

Is everything not conditioned (including volition)?

Mike
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:02 am

oh this is where Buddhism becomes confusing, because yes you are right, but what then is it conditioned by if not past choices?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:07 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:But there is choice.

Yes, but (partly to play devil's advocate here): isn't that "choice" just part of the illusion of atta?
Atta is not an illusion, and if there were no choice, there would be no awakening.

Is everything not conditioned (including volition)?
?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:21 am

at the risk of causing frowny faces I'll quote ajahn Buddhadasa here

"You are a self that is not a real self. If you do not understand this, you do not understand Buddhism".
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:26 am

jcsuperstar wrote:at the risk of causing frowny faces I'll quote ajahn Buddhadasa here

"You are a self that is not a real self. If you do not understand this, you do not understand Buddhism".
It is real enough (whatever "real" might mean), but it is simply not what it imagines itself to be.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:27 am

Hi Tilt, I did say I was playing devil's advocate above. I think it's a very tricky thing to think about. I think. :thinking:

Here are some comments from Ajahn Punnadhammo
http://bhikkhublog.blogspot.com/2008/04/free-will.html
As for Buddhism and free-will, the question allows of at least three answers, at different levels. In the first place, it should be pointed out that the question itself is something of a category error. The free will vs. determinism debate comes out of western philosophy, not eastern. In it's original form it wrestled with the problem of how free-will could be reconciled with an omnipotent and omniscient deity. If God knew from the creation that I would choose coffee and not tea, is my choice really free? When western thought moved from theism to materialism it took the problem with it, only with blind electro-chemical processes replacing the big guy in the clouds. Since Buddhism isn't encumbered by either the theist or materialist axioms, it isn't bothered by the question in the same way.

On a second level, and in a slightly different form, the question does come up though. The Buddha opposed the hard determinism of Makkhali Gosala with his little ball of yarn. (He would demonstrate his theory that everything was fixed from beginingless time by unrolling a ball of yarn, teaching that beings moved through various rebirths in a fixed order from beginning to end like the unrolling yarn.)

Furthermore, the Buddha said it was an error to teach that all things are determined by karma. This flat statement has been interpreted in various ways. However, in my humble opinion, the statement was made specifically to allow for a kind of free-will. You won't find it laid out so neatly in the Suttanta, but in Abhidhamma it is made clear that in the sequence of conscious mind-moments the sensory awareness of sights, sounds and so forth is determined completely by various factors, including past karma. However, there are other mind-moments (javana) where we make karma, and there the possibility of choice is present.

So, by this Abhidhamma analysis we could say that the present moment experience is always absolutely determined, but that the volitional action we take in response is free. Technically, it involves the factor of cetana or volition. This raises a further philosophical difficulty however. The dependent origination teaches us that everything except for the supramundane Nibbana element arises from past causes. So that would include cetana, so how can our choice be truly free?

The answer is the third level answer, which comes around at a higher level to the first approach. The false assumption still remaining in the previous paragraph is that there is an I who chooses coffee over tea. With the insight of anatta or not-self we dispense with the whole problem of whether a person is free by dispensing with the person. There is only the interplay of various physical and mental factors, one of which is cetana.

These various complexities were wrestled with in Buddhist India, and it may be that the Mahayana concept of the Tathagatagarbha ( the seed-of-buddhahood said to be present in all sentient beings from beginingless time) may have been an attempt to answer one particularly knotty form of this dilemma; how is it that beings who have always wandered in samsara, with only samsaric mental content, could ever develop a volition for seeking the transcendental?

Mike
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby cooran » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:28 am

The really scary thing for me is that there is No real Control.

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:30 am

cooran wrote:The really scary thing for me is that there is No real Control.

with metta
Chris
But there is choice, which is enough.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby cooran » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:34 am

Hello all,

This long article may be of interest:
"Freedom of the Will" in the light of Theravada Buddhist teachings Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Annual, 2007 by Peter Harvey

"A well known issue in Western Philosophy is that of "freedom of the will": whether, how and in what sense human beings have genuine freedom of action in the context of a broad range of external and internal conditioning factors. Any system of ethics also assumes that humans have, in some sense, a freedom to choose between different courses of action. Buddhist ethics is no different in this--but how is freedom of action to be made sense of in a system that sees human beings as an interacting cluster of conditioned and conditioning processes, with no substantial I-agent either within or beyond this cluster? This article explores this issue within Theravada Buddhism, and concludes that the view of this tradition on the issue is a "compatibilist" middle way between seeing a person's actions as completely rigidly determined, and seeing them as totally and unconditionally free, with a variety of factors acting to bring, and increase, the element of freedom that humans have. In a different way, if a person is wrongly seen as an essential, permanent Self, it is an "undetermined question" as to whether "a person's acts of will are determined" or "a person's acts of will are free." If there is no essential person-entity, "it" can not be said to be either determined or free."
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7 ... n28513265/

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby Shonin » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:51 am

The "person" who we think is in control is a mental construct.
The "person" who we think is NOT in control is a mental construct.

It's all self-views.

Phenomena just are. 'Me' being or not being in control doesn't come into it. It's a kind of clinging. The Buddhist practice is to see that and thus let go.
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:01 am

Shonin wrote:
Phenomena just are. 'Me' being or not being in control doesn't come into it. It's a kind of clinging. The Buddhist practice is to see that and thus let go.
Except the reality is that until we have the insight to see it as it is, we need to work with the "me," which is the purpose of the precepts, of sitting practice, etc. It is a matter of starting where we are. We might want to tell the "constructed self" where to get off, to put it in its place, but it really does not work that way. Being recalcitrant, stubborn, and persistent, we have to work with it, cultivate it with the precepts, thin its walls with generosity and metta, to gain insight into it via mindfulness.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby PeterB » Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:06 am

Shonin wrote:The "person" who we think is in control is a mental construct.
The "person" who we think is NOT in control is a mental construct.

It's all self-views.

Phenomena just are. 'Me' being or not being in control doesn't come into it. It's a kind of clinging. The Buddhist practice is to see that and thus let go.

following that logic Shonin the person who posted that view is a mental construct, so send me all of your mentally constructed income for the next six months. I will supply a PO box number.
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Postby PeterB » Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:21 am

The person is real but transient. The person stubs her/his toe. The person loves and is aversive. The person laughs and cries. They are real.
The idea that they will have existence permanently in whole or part is the construct. Not just a mental construct but a psycho -social construct among psycho- social constructs.
What arises when you clench your hand is a fist. When you open your hand the fist does not arise. Nevertheless for the duration of your clenching the fist had reality as a fist. As that which in the English language is named "fist". Which is an action not a thing. A person is an action not a thing. It does have existence however while the conditions for its arising are present..
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