Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation
User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 20099
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:34 am

In this thread viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6234 in the general meditation section was a back and forth about the role of determinism within the Buddha's teachings. It is a battle better fought here for those who are interested.

Edit: Yes, the Buddha taught causilty, but to refine the question: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice within the causal context within which we find ourselves?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 14815
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:40 am

Greetings,

Strict determinism means complete predictability of events and only one possible future.

Source: http://www.informationphilosopher.com/f ... inism.html

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


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

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 3236
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:58 am

Strict determinism rules out free will.
The Buddha taught us to *choose* between skillful and unskillful actions.
Therefore the Buddha did not teach strict determinism.
... I think.
:namaste:
Kim

alan
Posts: 2629
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby alan » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:09 am

Obvious answer is no. But, this being a forum, I suppose we will hear from someone who insists on arguing the opposite. For what reason, I cannot conceive.

User avatar
Sherab
Posts: 163
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:53 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:17 am

What does "free" in "free will" mean?

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 20099
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:24 am

Sherab wrote:What does "free" in "free will" mean?
That is the question and it was discussed at length in this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6234#p98275
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

User avatar
Sherab
Posts: 163
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:53 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:48 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Sherab wrote:What does "free" in "free will" mean?
That is the question and it was discussed at length in this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6234#p98275

I noted that "free" was defined as unconditioned. So what does an unconditioned will mean?

User avatar
octathlon
Posts: 599
Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:06 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: USA

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby octathlon » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:19 am

That thread was way too long and complex for me to catch up on, but what I did read was interesting. I thought one of the problems was people having different ideas of what free will means. I don't think saying that free will is an illusion means you are saying that there is strict determinism. IMO it's the same false dichotomy as eternalism vs. annihilationism. We make choices with our will, but the choices we make are based on our exact state and conditions at that moment. It's not free will nor is it strict determinism.

Any two beings with the same exact kamma-- same exact body, mind, and life history (if that were possible) in a given situation would react, feel, think, consider and deliberate in the same way and their resulting deliberate decision/action would be the same. For that not to be true would require something that could exist or act independently of causes and conditions.

User avatar
Sherab
Posts: 163
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:53 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:25 am

octathlon wrote:I don't think saying that free will is an illusion means you are saying that there is strict determinism.

Because there is still the factor of pure chance.

User avatar
m0rl0ck
Posts: 1053
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:51 am

Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby m0rl0ck » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:43 am

alan wrote:Obvious answer is no. But, this being a forum, I suppose we will hear from someone who insists on arguing the opposite. For what reason, I cannot conceive.


Well obviously, being a determinist, he would be doing it because he couldnt stop himself.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html

User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
Posts: 2111
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:02 am

Four Points to Bear in Mind

Relationship of Cause to Effect

The fourth aspect of Dependent Origination is the one-to-one correspondence between cause and effect (evam dhammatā). Every cause leads only to the relevant effect; it has nothing to do with any irrelevant effects. In other words, every cause is the sufficient and necessary condition for the corresponding effect. This leaves no room for chance or moral impotency (akiriya-ditthi). However, as the Visuddhimagga says, for those who misunderstand it, it provides the basis for rigid determinism (niyatavāda). Meditators clearly see the relationship of each effect to its cause, so they have no doubt about their one-to-one correspondence and the truth of moral responsibility.
AIM WebsitePāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

User avatar
Modus.Ponens
Posts: 2167
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:38 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Gallifrey

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:16 am

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.
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)

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10835
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:35 am

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/
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

User avatar
Viscid
Posts: 928
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:55 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Toronto, Canada
Contact:

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Viscid » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:55 am

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.

:goodpost:
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

User avatar
Sherab
Posts: 163
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:53 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:27 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:Pure determinism is an inevitable consequence of the principle of causality..

Agreed.
Modus.Ponens wrote: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.

This conclusion while inevitable is still emotionally unsatisfactory. Why? Because as a result of determinism and by the law of large numbers, there will be at least a minority of sentient beings who can never ever attain liberation or buddhahood. To affect the outcome of such a deterministic situation, one will need an influence that is outside the range of determinism or an influence that is a truely random.

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 20099
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:30 am

Viscid 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?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 20099
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:39 am

As a matter of clarification Did the Buddha teach strict determinism? Is the the subject of this thread. Is strict determinism what one finds the Buddha teaching in the suttas?

Edit: shifting the focus: Did the Buddha teach that we have a functional 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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

User avatar
Sherab
Posts: 163
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:53 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:55 am

tiltbillings wrote:As a matter of clarification Did the Buddha teach strict determinism? Is the the subject of this thread. Is strict determinism what one finds the Buddha teaching in the suttas?

The Buddha only taught what was required to help us attain liberation/buddhahood. Whether his teachings implied strict determinism or not is for us to figure out if we so desire.

User avatar
robertk
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby robertk » Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:03 am

I think the Buddha taught causality based on his knowledge of complex conditions. Determinism sounds like a philosophical viewpoint that the old philosophers debated about.

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 20099
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:08 am

robertk wrote:I think the Buddha taught causality based on his knowledge of complex conditions. Determinism sounds like a philosophical viewpoint that the old philosophers debated about.
Yes, the Buddha taught causilty, but to refine the question: Did the Buddha teach that we have functional choice within the causal context within which we find ourselves?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson


Return to “Open Dhamma”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Alex123, Baidu [Spider], Fruitzilla, Slapsko and 6 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine