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?
User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
Posts: 4195
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

robertk wrote:Self or "we" is at best a conventional term to indicate the flux of elements, and at worst a delusion.
This group of five aggregates thinks that another group of five aggregates has missed the point.
BlogPāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)
User avatar
robertk
Posts: 4168
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by robertk »

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
robertk wrote:Self or "we" is at best a conventional term to indicate the flux of elements, and at worst a delusion.
This group of five aggregates thinks that another group of five aggregates has missed the point.
Dear venerable,
please elucidate what point I have missed?
Was there something in error in what I wrote.
with respect
Robert
User avatar
The Thinker
Posts: 806
Joined: Sun Nov 08, 2015 6:12 pm
Location: UK

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by The Thinker »

It is my observation that chance- luck and randomness play a far bigger role in this realm than many appreciate, freewill is perhaps not such a prevalent factor, if it exists at all? The conditions change all the time, very much like the concepts we create. The Buddha makes us aware of this constant change.
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth
User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
Posts: 4195
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

robertk wrote:What element could there be that has this supposed ability to change conditions.
If one cultivates the five control faculties: faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom, it will change conditions for the better. If, instead, one cultivates the five hindrances: sensual desire, ill-will, laziness, restlessness, and doubt; that will change conditions for the worse.

The fact that there is no "I" in the ultimate sense does not prevent us from doing anything to improve conditions. As the Mahāsi Sayādaw says in his Discourse on Dependent Origination:
Mahāsi Sayādaw wrote:The fourth aspect of Dependent Origination is the one- to-one correspondence between cause and effect (evaṃ 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-diṭṭhi). 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.
BlogPāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)
binocular
Posts: 8292
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by binocular »

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The fact that there is no "I" in the ultimate sense does not prevent us from doing anything to improve conditions.
Believing that one doesn't exist in any relevant manner _does_ prevent one from doing things to improve one's conditions!!

If I don't exist -- then why bother with anything??

The aggregates do _not_ suffer.

If I am supposed to believe that in the ultimate sense, I do not exist, then I have no desire, no effort at the thought "This should be done, that shouldn't be done."
Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
User avatar
robertk
Posts: 4168
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by robertk »

binocular wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The fact that there is no "I" in the ultimate sense does not prevent us from doing anything to improve conditions.
Believing that one doesn't exist in any relevant manner _does_ prevent one from doing things to improve one's conditions!!

If I don't exist -- then why bother with anything??

The aggregates do _not_ suffer.

If I am supposed to believe that in the ultimate sense, I do not exist, then I have no desire, no effort at the thought "This should be done, that shouldn't be done."
http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/
there is no self or being, but there is dukkha.
"Bhikkhus form(rupa) is suffering..
Feeling is suffering...
Perception is suffering.
volitional formations are suffering..
Conmsciousness is suffering..."

p870 19(8) Khandavagga Suffering with cause
binocular
Posts: 8292
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by binocular »

robertk wrote:http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/
there is no self or being, but there is dukkha.
"Bhikkhus form(rupa) is suffering..
Feeling is suffering...
Perception is suffering.
volitional formations are suffering..
Conmsciousness is suffering..."

p870 19(8) Khandavagga Suffering with cause
Again: If I am supposed to believe that in the ultimate sense, I do not exist, then I have no desire, no effort at the thought "This should be done, that shouldn't be done."

And again, the aggregates do not suffer. They may otherwise be related to suffering, but they themselves do not suffer.
Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
User avatar
robertk
Posts: 4168
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by robertk »

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
robertk wrote:What element could there be that has this supposed ability to change conditions.
If one cultivates the five control faculties: faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom, it will change conditions for the better. If, instead, one cultivates the five hindrances: sensual desire, ill-will, laziness, restlessness, and doubt; that will change conditions for the worse.

The fact that there is no "I" in the ultimate sense does not prevent us from doing anything to improve conditions. y.
Dear Venerable,
these faculties are conditioned to arise.
Many religious people make great efforts to have calm , have wisdom, have faith and so on. But there will be no good results without the right conditions: and these conditions are themselves conditioned (and not by only one condition).
So in the Abhidhamma they talk about effort:

Dhammasangani (376):
Katamam tasmim samaye viriyindriyam hoti? "What at that time is the faculty of effort/energy/endeavor?" "That which is mental endeavor (viriyarhambo), riddance of lethargy, exerting harder and harder, endeavoring higher and higher, striving, painstaking zeal, utmost exertion, steadfastness, resoluteness, unfaltering endeavor, having sustained desire (chanda) to strive, not relinquishing the task, discharging the task well, effort (viriya) as the faculty of effort, power of effort, WRONG effort -- this at that time is the faculty of endeavor."

Sounded nice until that last phrase. Yet that is what wrong effort is.
And it has exactly the same depiction for right effort: not so easy to distinguish the two.

Yet as you say it can be done: but only by right conditions , and these don't include as far as I can see an element or combination of such that could be called 'freewill'.


Retro(Paul) wrote on the Causes for wisdom thread:
What is needed to make those factors you mention "Right" however, is a foundation in Right View. If someone does certain exercises without Right View as the foundation, the exercise itself will not be Right, and no amount of effort or sincere dedication to that activity will make it otherwise. If someone does an exercise (whether it be selecting a sandwich, sacrificing goats, or sitting down with closed eyes) in the absence of Right View (and thereby does not understand the Dhammic causality associated with the exercise and are doing it simply out of faith that understanding will arise simply as a consequence of doing the activity) then that exercise could well be described as a ritual, to which one could become attached
.

So, if there are conditions for some right view, and if these conditions, such as studying Dhamma, are understood as beneficial then there will be a increase in chanda and effort to have more of the same...Still all these valuable dhammas are completely impersonal elements , and no need to invoke freewill (IMHO)
with respect
robert
User avatar
robertk
Posts: 4168
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by robertk »

binocular wrote:
robertk wrote:http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/
there is no self or being, but there is dukkha.
"Bhikkhus form(rupa) is suffering..
Feeling is suffering...
Perception is suffering.
volitional formations are suffering..
Conmsciousness is suffering..."

p870 19(8) Khandavagga Suffering with cause
Again: If I am supposed to believe that in the ultimate sense, I do not exist, then I have no desire, no effort at the thought "This should be done, that shouldn't be done."

And again, the aggregates do not suffer. They may otherwise be related to suffering, but they themselves do not suffer.
"they themselves"? Not the way to consider the khandhas: the sutta has "Feeling IS suffering" (and so on).. NOT "Feeling itself suffers"..

when you hear about anatta it doesn't condition a sense of samvega or effort to escape the round of rebirth? That is an honest reply.

Yet the fact is, even without a self, this process of arising and ceasing, has carried on, carries on now, and will carry on into the distant future unless it is brought to a stop...It makes me feel like my head is on fire..
And the good news is, it is all conditions, different elements - no self really- so if there are the right conditions gradually conditioned to arise, little by little, then it can be brought to an end.: that is the Buddha's promise if you will..
User avatar
L.N.
Posts: 504
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:01 pm

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by L.N. »

Now that we are no longer in Discovering Theravada, I hope the following will be approved without further edits:
This six-year-old thread goes on for 23 contentious pages, until finally, on the last page, the following observation is made:
acinteyyo wrote:This is one of the worst threads I've ever seen. You guys are repeating yourselves over and over again...
I want to drag your attention to one thing, namely you are approaching the question from different points-of-view in relation to time (past, present, future), which imho is the reason for this seemingly endless ongoing discussion.

I only want to pick out Tilt's and Alex' posts to point out what I mean, because as I see it they represent the two different views from where most of the participants are approaching the issue. Both of you are right within their own appropriate point of view ...
I hope that if this topic moves forward we can, six years later, respect one another's differing views, recognizing that the expression of views which may differ from our own is ok.

I would like to offer a few thoughts for the following well-stated purpose:
Kabouterke wrote:… not as an "exposition of opinion" but as a chance to explore … and receive feedback.
(1) Assuming determinism is not true, I would like someone to provide a coherent explanation of the difference between “free will” outcomes and “random” outcomes. (This is not to imply that no such coherent explanation is possible.)

(2) “Free will” is a misnomer. “Will” suggests a self nature, otherwise a different word other than “will” would be more clear. “Free” only has meaning in the context of freedom from greed, hatred, and delusion; anything less is not “free.” Speaking in terms of “choice” can be a red herring which distracts from underlying meaningful discussion.

Metta
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。
User avatar
lyndon taylor
Posts: 1835
Joined: Mon May 02, 2011 11:41 pm
Location: Redlands, US occupied Northern Mexico
Contact:

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by lyndon taylor »

So basically you can do whatever the hell you want, and claim you had no choice??????
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community, sincerely former monk John

http://trickleupeconomictheory.blogspot.com/
User avatar
robertk
Posts: 4168
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by robertk »

lyndon taylor wrote:So basically you can do whatever the hell you want, and claim you had no choice??????
You could try that excuse, but the warders of naraya aren't known for a forgiving nature..
:anjali:
User avatar
robertk
Posts: 4168
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by robertk »

Related to Lyndon's question:

Mahapunnama Sutta (majjhima Nikaya 109):
"It is possible, bhikkhus, that some misguided man here, obtuse and ignorant, with his mind dominated by craving, might think that he can outstrip the Teacher's Dispensation thus: `So, it seems, material form is not self, feeling is not self, perception is not self, formations are not self consciousness is not self. What self, then, will actions done by the not-self affect?t
?"

The Buddha knew the mind of a monk who had been listening to a profound discourse about anatta and who had had this thought.

The Buddha then said:
"Now, bhikkhus, you have been trained by me in dependent (conditionality) in various instances
." And the sutta continues to reinforce that all the khandhas are anatta. "
seeing thus, a well taught noble disciple becomes disenchanted with material form..feeling..perception..formations..consciousness... ..now while this discourse was being spoken ..the minds of sixty bhikkhus were liberated from the taints
Saoshun
Posts: 282
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 3:59 pm

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by Saoshun »

Based on actual data of neuroscience - Decision-making is only smart fraction (but still) in whole process of making decisions. It's not bubble which contains everything but it's just one block-part in whole stream which have different factor and outcome what we do.

I would delete words of free will and determinism because those two are not actual to what we know and they are non existent.

What exists only is responsibility. The more responsible you are the more conscious you are - the more conscious you the less you are dragged by your compulsions.

Forgot about free will and determinism as those do not exists.
Remember… the Buddha had said that everyone living in this world is crazy, by the phrase, “Sabbē prutajjana ummattakā”; excluding the Arahants, everyone else is crazy. Would you get angry if a mad person scolds? Do we get angry for a crazy thing done by a crazy person? Just think about it! :candle:
davidbrainerd
Posts: 1011
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

Post by davidbrainerd »

binocular wrote:
robertk wrote:http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/
there is no self or being, but there is dukkha.
"Bhikkhus form(rupa) is suffering..
Feeling is suffering...
Perception is suffering.
volitional formations are suffering..
Conmsciousness is suffering..."

p870 19(8) Khandavagga Suffering with cause
Again: If I am supposed to believe that in the ultimate sense, I do not exist, then I have no desire, no effort at the thought "This should be done, that shouldn't be done."

And again, the aggregates do not suffer. They may otherwise be related to suffering, but they themselves do not suffer.
That last paragraph is a very good point. Dukkha is not a verb, so when it is said "the 5 aggregates are suffering" the phrase "are suffering" means "cause suffering" or "have the property of causing suffering" not that they "are suffering" as if suffering is a verb here.
Post Reply