Dzogchen and Free Will

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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Jax » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:43 am

Keep it simple.. If it's not clear then more shamatha is necessary. I always recommend a very strong foundation of shamatha and vipassana sitting practice as a preliminary. In shamatha or shine' one observes that thoughts arise and dissolve all on their own, no one is doing thinking. A "choice" is just another thought that no one is creating, but the ego-mind claims "ownership" afterwards by claiming the "choice" to be "mine". From this the illusion of free will is created. As shine' practice deepens, it is noticed that the notion of an agent who can exercise free will is just s chain of thoughts occurring to no one. No one owns the thoughts not even "your" memories. Realizing all this is vipassana. You can not find a "doer" or an agent who can make a "free choice". More shamatha will make all this completely clear. See if you can find this  entity that chooses  freely. If so have him freely choose to stop thinking... How great is its freedom?
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby heart » Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:21 am

Jax wrote:I think Magnus has put this topic into practical perspective. But again in Dzogchen "practice" itself, there is no concept of mindfully avoiding following thoughts nor a practice of self-liberating thoughts as both actions are still within the tight grip of ego. Thoughts are primordially empty and require no further liberation. They self-liberate upon the arising in every case, whether "you" like it or not. So there is nothing to do regarding thoughts, their self-liberation is already assured. The micro and macro universe runs on dependent origination. Free choice would mean that there is some independently existing thought, our "choice". But in Dzogchen free will doesn't even exist at the level of Rigpa, because the Rigpa Mandala arises spontaneously (lhundrub). Applying "free will" by carrying over a confused notion of dualistic conceptualizing and trying to transplant it into void space is a hopeless endeavor,theres no possibility of it taking root there. As Namdrol so skillfully pointed out. There is however Intelligence that functions at all levels, even within sem. That is the All Pervasive Rigpa. It is that Intelligence that guides our actions in such a way that the Great Perfection is seen to be working it's perfecting on all levels. When that inherent Intelligence is recognized and self-validated, our practice then truly goes on effortless "auto-pilot". The magic unfolds spontaneously from moment to moment... without the least intention from something you could define as a "doer"...


There are three sometimes for different levels of self-liberation defined in Dzogchen Mengakde so it is incorrect to try to say there is not path in Dzogchen. Eventually all thoughts liberate, that is their nature, but this is not self-liberation. Because self-liberation only occurs when thoughts are liberated by the force of their arising. For example, you argue with your wife. You get angry. You get the thought to hit her. You hit her. She falls badly break a leg. Your angry thoughts liberates instantly. You take her to the hospital. There will be consequences. There will be karma. This is not self-liberation. And since we are not puppets in a predestined movie there is free will. There is an infinite ways of confusion that your argument with your wife might play out, good ways and bad ways, and then there is the path of wisdom, of recognizing our nature. One ground, two paths, I would say that is free will in Dzogchen. You have the choice, in every moment, to choose wisdom or confusion.

/magnus
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby gad rgyangs » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:01 am

the free will problem certainly seems difficult. In any causality based system, there can be no free will because it would require an agent effectively outside the system "pulling the strings" without the choices being causally driven. Such an agent is precisely what Buddhism is negating. Such an agent, in order to be free, would have to have its choices not be dependent arisings, and according to the Oracle, I mean Nagarjuna, there aint no such thing.

In Dzogchen, since the base does not exist as anything at all but can arise as appearances of anything at all, there's nothing that would prohibit having illusory free agents running around acting spontaneously, i.e. without causal coercion. Are we those illusory agents? Anyone who is honest about their condition knows how much of our thinking, feeling and willing is habit-based, reactive, and robot-like. But since our real nature is the basis, it could just as easily be spontaneous freedom. Maybe all we can conclude from this is that the basis has a strange sense of humor.

Theres another possibility, but its one that usually causes people to blow a gasket: the basis is just watching movies. I'm the camera of one movie, you're the camera of another movie. Its nothing but movies unspooling in infinite plots and sub-plots. The concept of free will and action requires the concept of time and it seems pretty certain that time is one of the basis' jokes. As in, it's another "there ain't no such thing". I mean, we perceive things in time, but you know what the verdict is on how we perceive things. So, the display is all happening at once, and not happening at all, so asking about free will is either A) like asking about the free will of characters in the novel you are reading or B) asking about the free will of quantum probability waves to collapse the way "they choose" rather than randomly.

But the bottom line is, it actually doesn't matter, since all there is is the basis, the basis is beyond existence and non-existence, and the basis is your real nature, like it or not, or know it or not. Whew, what a relief!
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby wisdomfire » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:02 am

Free will posits a truly existing 'I' or 'Self' who is in control. If there is no 'I' or agent behind the whole works, how can there be free will? :roll:
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Jax » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:21 am

Magnus, with all due respect, are you serious? "self-liberation" in all it's stages is not a "path" one performs. Self-liberation reveals itself as varied degrees of contraction relax. The less contracted solidification of the mind, the more sublime dissolution or self-liberation of thoughts occur. It's never a "practice". Who would be doing such a practice if there is no doer? Rigpa is the view, path and fruition, and it is identical in all three positions.

Secondly, how can you say "one" makes a free choice regarding the two paths? What is this entity that chooses freely? You would have to postulate an independently existing entity that exists outside of dependent origination. And then this independently existing entity would have to make choices as thoughts that were not dependently originated. That means you would have turned Madhyamaka on it's head. No? Again, I recommend everyone resolve this for themselves resolutely through deepening the clarity as developed through shamatha and vipassana practice. Clever intellectual arguments will not bring transformational clarity, only experiential insight through practice will. But that investigation is not Dzogchen, it is a preliminary practice.
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Paul » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:32 am

CapNCrunch wrote:My understanding is that thoughts arise continually, extroverted expressions of the dynamic energy of the basis, as Tulku Urgyen puts it IIRC. If there is recognition of the basis, then thoughts arise as wisdom, if not, namtok.

But if cognition couldn't arise while in the state of contemplation, then how could we function? Are our teachers, who are pretty much (if not continually) in the "state" or recognition of the basis devoid of thoughts while they are teaching, editing texts, etc. etc.?

My understanding is that the key point, is whether or not this dynamic energy has the power to distract us and suck us back into ordinary thought patters with all of their darkness, diffusion and endless capacity to create karma.


Yes, exactly. This is a case of 'similar words, higher meaning'. As Tsoknyi Rinpoche says, how can you be omniscient in the three times if you block thoughts? Blocking is the complete opposite to Dzogchen methods.

Magnus summarised it very well:

Rigpa is free from thought, freedom means not getting caught in thought. The continuous recognition of rigpa is the spontaneous and natural self-liberation of thoughts (sem). But if you follow thoughts then you are a slave of cause and effect. So the question everyone have to ask themselves is this; are you following thoughts right now or are you recognizing rigpa and self-liberating the natural occurrence of thought?


IIRC, eventually thoughts stop appearing at all after the fourth vision. Remember that the Uttaratantra explains how buddha activity is spontaneous, effortless and non-conceptional.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Jax » Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:27 am

"Yes, exactly. This is a case of 'similar words, higher meaning'. As Tsoknyi Rinpoche says, how can you be omniscient in the three times if you block thoughts? Blocking is the complete opposite to Dzogchen methods."

Omniscience of the three times does not require thoughts. This is similar to the Gelugpas that feel one can only know emptiness by the thought of the nature emptiness being present. They don't understand non-conceptual Rigpa. They feel without thought it would not be possible to know something. I am surprised Tsonkyi Rinpoche has fallen prey to the same error.
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Paul » Tue Apr 03, 2012 8:10 am

Jax wrote:"Yes, exactly. This is a case of 'similar words, higher meaning'. As Tsoknyi Rinpoche says, how can you be omniscient in the three times if you block thoughts? Blocking is the complete opposite to Dzogchen methods."

Omniscience of the three times does not require thoughts. This is similar to the Gelugpas that feel one can only know emptiness by the thought of the nature emptiness being present. They don't understand non-conceptual Rigpa. They feel without thought it would not be possible to know something. I am surprised Tsonkyi Rinpoche has fallen prey to the same error.


He hasn't - you've misread what I said. You can see pages 149 onwards of Rinpoche's Fearless Simplicity for a longer explanation of his position. In my post I said that blocking thoughts, like blocking anything, does not result in omniscience. Not blocking is not the same as following and engaging in a dualistic way. Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche also covers this in his Cycle of Day and Night text. Conceptually thinking is of course the best way to remain in samsara.

But this kind of thing is a problem that's caused by the limited vocabulary in the English language for things like this, in my opinion. We always have to specify whether a thought is conceptal, dualistic etc. Maybe it will get better over time.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby heart » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:22 am

Jax wrote:Magnus, with all due respect, are you serious? "self-liberation" in all it's stages is not a "path" one performs. Self-liberation reveals itself as varied degrees of contraction relax. The less contracted solidification of the mind, the more sublime dissolution or self-liberation of thoughts occur. It's never a "practice". Who would be doing such a practice if there is no doer? Rigpa is the view, path and fruition, and it is identical in all three positions.

Secondly, how can you say "one" makes a free choice regarding the two paths? What is this entity that chooses freely? You would have to postulate an independently existing entity that exists outside of dependent origination. And then this independently existing entity would have to make choices as thoughts that were not dependently originated. That means you would have turned Madhyamaka on it's head. No? Again, I recommend everyone resolve this for themselves resolutely through deepening the clarity as developed through shamatha and vipassana practice. Clever intellectual arguments will not bring transformational clarity, only experiential insight through practice will. But that investigation is not Dzogchen, it is a preliminary practice.


Who ever makes you think that a doer and a path are synonymous? That would imply that you think there was a doer from the beginning that you have to liberate yourself from, right? Right now, completely immersed in Samsara, we take different paths and do different things. People in Samasara are always on a path of some kind but do they have an ego, a doer? No, they don't. It is the famous horns of a hare.
So until we actually are 100% in rigpa 24/7 we will be, like all sentient beings, on a path. One ground, two paths, one fruition you remember?
Having free will, for me, means that liberation is an option. It doesn't mean I postulate anything. Confusion is an option, liberation is an option. It is huge problem when we don't understand our own condition as sentient beings. I suggested how you might come to understand your own condition as a sentient being in an other post. It wasn't meant as an insult.

Hung,
Concrete things are dharmata, appearances the space of wisdom
The innermost is knowledge and suffering the expanse of primordial purity

(A few lines from the Kunzang Tuktig Zurgyen)

/magnus
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Anders » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:47 am

Is there anything about Dzogchen that should make the question of free will different from Buddhism in general? Just a bit of a meta-question really, in that it seems like there's a lot of topics here lately that are framed around Dzogchen that could just as well have been put up for the wider Dharmawheel audience.

The problem with the question of free will is that it tends to fall into the dichotomy of autonomous agent or pre-determined outcome, neither of which accord with Buddhist causation.

I think the best analogy to the question of 'free will' in Buddhism is quantum physics. There are no pre-determined outcomes at the quantum level, just probable outcomes. Theoretically, anything can happen according to quantum physics. Some are much more likely to than others, and some so unlikely we don't even bother to discuss the possibility of it. It is nevertheless a causal model, just one that doesn't involve determinism.

In the same way, our will is governed by the causes and conditions of our karma, mental dispositions and faculties, but that is not to say these conditions generate an inevitably determined outcome. They just set up the likely patterns and tendencies, the 'tracks' that our will (which nevertheless is also causal and not-self) is most likely to follow. The outcome of our lives isn't a foregone conclusion. It is up in their air in that it depends on the choices we make, even if our karma is tilted very heavily towards certain directions so as to be close to a foregone conclusion. In hindsight it can be seen though, that whether we followed one tendency or another, the choices were made in a causal manner.
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Malcolm » Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:01 pm

Anders Honore wrote:Is there anything about Dzogchen that should make the question of free will different from Buddhism in general?


No. Well yes, in Buddhism you have a bunch of old ladies squawking about karma, whereas in Dzogchen you have a bunch of old ladies squawking about self-liberation.
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby heart » Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:22 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Anders Honore wrote:Is there anything about Dzogchen that should make the question of free will different from Buddhism in general?


No. Well yes, in Buddhism you have a bunch of old ladies squawking about karma, whereas in Dzogchen you have a bunch of old ladies squawking about self-liberation.


:smile:

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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Kilaya. » Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:31 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Anders Honore wrote:Is there anything about Dzogchen that should make the question of free will different from Buddhism in general?


No. Well yes, in Buddhism you have a bunch of old ladies squawking about karma, whereas in Dzogchen you have a bunch of old ladies squawking about self-liberation.


Finally all can see how Dzogchen is different and way superior. :smile:
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:38 pm

So basically, if I have understood the discussion to now, free will (within a Dzogchen framework and as Anders pointed out even within a wider Buddhist framework) is composed of choosing what colour you are going to paint the garden fence rather than whether you are going to paint it or not?
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby muni » Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:51 pm

Jax wrote:"Yes, exactly. This is a case of 'similar words, higher meaning'. As Tsoknyi Rinpoche says, how can you be omniscient in the three times if you block thoughts? Blocking is the complete opposite to Dzogchen methods."

Omniscience of the three times does not require thoughts. This is similar to the Gelugpas that feel one can only know emptiness by the thought of the nature emptiness being present. They don't understand non-conceptual Rigpa. They feel without thought it would not be possible to know something. I am surprised Tsonkyi Rinpoche has fallen prey to the same error.


Tsoknyi Rinpoche explains some examples of not blocking thought; the so called freed upon arising, then natural liberation, and 3 is freed beyond benefit or harm.
Theories can create an illusory distance between us and enlightenment.
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby pensum » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:16 pm

CapNCrunch wrote:
Karma is a misperception based on the illusion of personal "doership". No one makes choices nor does anyone act. All is the flow of dependent origination in which no "doer" or "chooser" can be found. That being the case, free will is impossible. (Jax)


How does free will, or the lack thereof thereof correspond to Dzogchen view?

I understand, conceptually at least, the idea of absolute vs. relative truth - but still have no idea whether or not it is as Jax says in the view of Dzogchen, even with the idea of realtive vs. ultimate.
(Jax - I'm *not* knocking you, or doubting you a priori, I really enjoy your posts and I'm glad you're back and that you brought this up)

I've heard this idea - of no individual will b/c there's no self etc. etc. expressed many times in Advaita and Neo-Advaita circles - but I've never heard this from my teacher - in fact - the opposite insofar as I understand this idea - He has made comments like:

"If there is nothing to do, then why not just go to the beach, why are we here on retreat?" (While on the Isle of Margarita, one of the most beautiful places in the world)


CapNCrunch, for a traditional critique of free will, i would refer you to chapter 8 of Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamikakarika, this is the Karma-karaka-pariksa, which analyzes action and agent, or doer and deed if you prefer.

furthermore, discussions on free will, such as this thread, typically revolve around a fundamental misunderstanding of the ground or basis due to focusing on either the empty aspect, represented by the lack of a self-entity--if there is no self then there can be no free will--or on the aspect of lucid, clarity--the perception of an action which leads to the assumption of an agent of said action. however these two aspects--the purity (ka dag) of emptiness and the natural presencing (lhun grub) of lucid clarity--are in fact indivisible. the view is simply recognizing this indivisible nature, not merely intellectually but in actuality. in so doing the focus shifts from the display to the basis which is lucid emptiness, much like folding a mirror onto itself the sole reflection is of one taste: its own infinite emptiness and clarity.

As Tulku Urgyen explains, "All Buddhist systems of philosophy expound that things--phenomena and mind--are empty, as they have to. The intention of the Buddha when using the word 'emptiness' (Skt. sunyata) is that -ness (Skt. ta) is the cognizant quality, so emptiness here should be understood as 'empty cognizance'. Whenever the suffix -ness is included, we should understand this pure connotation. If we understand 'emptiness' as meaning just an empty voidness, rather than empty cognizance, we lean too much towards nihilism, the idea that everything is a big blank void. That would be a serious sidetrack." (Vajra Speech, pg. 58)

I sincerely hope that helps, rather than just further muddying the water.
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Jax » Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:54 pm

Greg, the choice to paint the fence or what color are both thoughts that arise dependently on prior experience, surroundings, conditions etc. A free choice would be disconnected from ANY influence. Choices are just thoughts grounded in marigpa in every case, as concepts are sem in action. The random quantum model is the only sensible analogy. Our essential nature is the Dharmakaya, the unchanging "noticing" that is present right now as your cognitive naked awareness. It doesn't make choices, but all choices arise from it" dependently"as the seamless non-dual nature of emptiness and form. The absolute appears as the relative as it has no form of it's own. Do you actually make choices when asleep dreaming st night or do those seeming autonomous choices arise pre-packaged from subconscious conditioning? It is the same in "waking" consciousness. There is no "chooser" in waking consciousness, but the arising thought includes the feeling of autonomy...
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Sönam » Tue Apr 03, 2012 8:12 pm

Jax, this theory that explains, well, that free will,choice (that or that) is sems and an intellectual process and therefore not valid with dzogchen, most of us are aware of that. It is evident for a dzogchen student ... nevertheless I doubt that you and most of us just conduct our life completely and all the time free of thoughs and concepts. And this point of view that you take, which is an easy one (don't forget we are in the dzogchen forum and most of us are aware of those kind of approaches), I observed that you take it in many recent threats ... maybe you participate to the sand paper effect ... let's put some (eventually spontaneous) thoughts on it.

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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:00 pm

Jax wrote:Greg, the choice to paint the fence or what color are both thoughts that arise dependently on prior experience, surroundings, conditions etc. A free choice would be disconnected from ANY influence. Choices are just thoughts grounded in marigpa in every case, as concepts are sem in action. The random quantum model is the only sensible analogy. Our essential nature is the Dharmakaya, the unchanging "noticing" that is present right now as your cognitive naked awareness. It doesn't make choices, but all choices arise from it" dependently"as the seamless non-dual nature of emptiness and form. The absolute appears as the relative as it has no form of it's own. Do you actually make choices when asleep dreaming st night or do those seeming autonomous choices arise pre-packaged from subconscious conditioning? It is the same in "waking" consciousness. There is no "chooser" in waking consciousness, but the arising thought includes the feeling of autonomy...
Well actually what I was trying to say (clumsily) is that we are in samsara (we HAVE to paint the fence) and that the only choice we really have is whether to engage in/with wholesome actions, vidya, rigpa (paint the fence white) or unwholesome actions, avidya, marigpa (paint the fence black). It seems that that is about as free as free will goes.
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One will not attain the real result
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Re: Dzogchen and Free Will

Postby CapNCrunch » Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:39 pm

Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamikakarika, this is the Karma-karaka-pariksa, which analyzes action and agent, or doer and deed if you prefer.


Can you recommend a translation? I have Garfield's translation of "Ocean of Reasoning" which hasn't proven to be exactly easy to parse...

furthermore, discussions on free will, such as this thread, typically revolve around a fundamental misunderstanding of the ground or basis due to focusing on either the empty aspect, represented by the lack of a self-entity--if there is no self then there can be no free will


Thank you for your comments. I've given this some thought since I posted. You and several others who have kindly commented and said just the right thing with kindness and skill have left this old lady satisfied with the answers I've received. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment.

As you were!
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