Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

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

Postby 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
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:24 am

Alex123 wrote: Buddha taught strict conditionality and Anatta.
In your opinion.
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: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby 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?

Postby 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.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby 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. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

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

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

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:14 am

Alex123 wrote: 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.
Taking fully determine to mean a mechanical causality, as you described it, the Buddha did not teach either option.
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: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby cooran » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:44 am

Hello all,

Might be worth the read:

Kamma and Causality - Francis Story
’Does everything happen in our lives according to kamma?’ This question is not one that can be answered by a plain affirmation or denial, since it involves the whole question of free-will against determinism, or, in familiar language, ’fatalism’. The nearest that can be given to a simple answer is to say that most of the major circumstances and events of life are conditioned by kamma, but not all.

If everything, down to the minutest detail, were pre-conditioned either by kamma or by the physical laws of the universe, there would be no room in the pattern of strict causality for the functioning of free-will. It would therefore be impossible for us to free ourselves from the mechanism of cause and effect; it would be impossible to attain Nibbana.
.......................
http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh221-p.html# ... dCausality

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: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby cooran » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:26 am

And another:

Kamma and Freedom - Francis Story
The problems encountered in relating the Buddhist doctrine of kamma to the issue of causality and freedom, are largely ones of meaning. They particularly revolve around the meaning of such concepts as causation, conditioning and determination. Buddhism does not deny that man is largely conditioned by his circumstances and environment. But the conditioning is not absolute. It may almost amount to determinism, and the margin of free-will may be very slight indeed, but it is always present.
................................
http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh221-p.html#KammaandFreedom

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: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:29 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
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


If choice is within the cause-effect and there is nothing outside of conditioning that can modify it, then choice is fully constrained by those conditions. If choice is outside of cause-effect, then there is possibility of unconditioned choice. But even then, the idea of unconditioned choice is absurd. That unconditioned cause just appears for no apparent cause. Again, this excludes the idea of agent making a full choice.

Some worldly philosophers propose that while the Body and all its motions are fully conditioned and follows deterministic laws of physics/chemistry/biology, the soul does not follow materialistic laws and it can control the body, thus giving free choice, free will. There is a problem here. If the body is fully constrained only by physical laws, then only they "choose" what the body does (such as pulling a trigger, or giving donations). The soul would, at best, be passive observer of physical laws moving the body.
So no choice to alter bodily movements and so on. Some can replace "soul" with "functional choice", and it still would be the same for all intents and purposes.

A constrained choice is constrained by those constrains. It is not free.

There are worldly ideas of a compatibility of choice within cause-effect world, but that would require an Agent outside of conditionality that can fully choose. This is untenable from Buddhist perspective.


With metta,

Alex
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby kirk5a » Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:55 pm

Alex123 wrote:If choice is within the cause-effect and there is nothing outside of conditioning that can modify it, then...

"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception... such are mental fabrications... such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.' Because of this, I say, a Tathagata — with the ending, fading out, cessation, renunciation, & relinquishment of all construings, all excogitations, all I-making & mine-making & obsession with conceit — is, through lack of clinging/sustenance, released."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Such was the Buddha's perspective.
"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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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 6:30 pm

Hi Kirk5a,

So are you saying that Tathagata is in some indescribable way outside of 5 aggregates? Is that what you are saying?

"What do you think: Do you regard the Tathagata as being in form?... Elsewhere than form?... In feeling?... Elsewhere than feeling?... In perception?... Elsewhere than perception?... In fabrications?... Elsewhere than fabrications?... In consciousness?... Elsewhere than consciousness?"
"No, my friend."
"What do you think: Do you regard the Tathagata as form-feeling-perception-fabrications-consciousness?"
"No, my friend."
"Do you regard the Tathagata as that which is without form, without feeling, without perception, without fabrications, without consciousness?"
"No, my friend."
"And so, my friend Yamaka — when you can't pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality even in the present life
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


The Tathagata doesn't exist as some being-in-itself, that is why it can't be pinned down as truth or reality. It is just the process of Khandhas purified from unwholesome tendencies. There is no Tathagata over and beyond them. Conditionally arisen aggregates is all there is. And in this, there is no unconditioned free full choice.


With metta,

Alex
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby kirk5a » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:00 pm

Alex123 wrote:Hi Kirk5a,

So are you saying that Tathagata is in some indescribable way outside of 5 aggregates? Is that what you are saying?

LOL If I was saying that, I would have said that.

The Tathagata doesn't exist as some being-in-itself, that is why it can't be pinned down as truth or reality. It is just the process of Khandhas purified from unwholesome tendencies.

So then, you have pinned down the Tathagata.


There is no Tathagata over and beyond them. Conditionally arisen aggregates is all there is. And in this, there is no unconditioned free full choice.


With metta,

Alex
"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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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:09 pm

Hi Alex,

Since no one seems to be arguing that the Buddha taught the sort of "free will" that you are arguing against, and, furthermore, you've denied that the question has anything to do with practise:
Alex123 wrote:
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".

I'm not sure exactly who or what you are still arguing with.

:anjali:
Mike
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:02 pm

Hi Mike, all,

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Alex,
I'm not sure exactly who or what you are still arguing with.
:anjali:
Mike


Idea of an Agent, and idea of free choice that is done (by what amounts to being an Agent).


With metta,

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

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:49 pm

Greetings Alex,

No one is arguing in favour of an agent.

Ostensibly you continue to argue with straw-men.

Image

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Individual » Sat Nov 20, 2010 11:11 pm

Too lazy to read through all the posts here, but I'll say: It depends on what you mean by choice.

The Buddha did teach that we have the ability to find freedom from suffering, but that freedom is found in the realization of impermanence and notself, not something that is intrinsic to our existence.Quite the contrary, many of us have limited will. Our bodies may be fully capable of getting up and doing this or that, but our minds are hindered by this or that fetter, and so is incapable. The Buddha said that many people are "as if already dead."

As I see it, then, this question is improperly framed, in terms of self: You ask do "we" have choice, but there is no person to attribute or not attribute freedom to, nor did the Buddha outright support or oppose the idea of agenthood. But rather, your question should instead be, "Is there a practice leading to freedom?" And the answer is: Yes. The Noble Eightfold path. :)

People should not bother themselves with these kinds of views, because in both cases they are a burden: For the determinist, he falsely thinks he cannot be free. And for the indeterminist, he falsely thinks he is already free. These kinds of delusions stand in the way of true freedom. :)
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 11:12 pm

:goodpost:
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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