Link to a really helpful teaching, ( I think ) http://www.thubtenchodron.org/GradualPa ... 3Jul92.pdf
little excerpt from link:
"Although things do not happen by accident, they don’t happen in a pre-planned, predetermined way either. This is something hard for us to understand because our Western paradigm often sees things as, “It’s either this or that”. And we think that “this” and “that” include all that there is. Then we ask the question, “Is there free will or is it predetermined?” The answer we get back is that it is neither. But, we go, “But it has got to be one of it!” Well, that is only because of our conceptual process. We’ve made black and white, we thought that’s all there is. There are actually many other things that could exist too.
We can see by our lives that there is free will but, ironically, there isn’t free will. We can do absolutely anything we want to do. I know they say there is freedom in a democracy. You can do whatever you want. But I mean, let’s face it, I can’t flap my arms and fly. I have limitations. It’s not like we can do anything we want to do. We’re limited by causes and conditions. We’re limited by things in the past. I didn’t grow up with wings, so I can’t fly. I can’t speak Russian right now. It’s not like we can do absolutely anything we want. What things we can do depends on us having created the cause. If I had studied Russian and kept it up, then I would be able to speak Russian now. But if the cause isn’t created, the result will not happen. Therefore I can’t speak Russian. There’s no absolute free will.
But on the other hand, we can’t say that things are predetermined. You can’t say that it’s fated and predetermined that I can’t speak Russian, because I could have. I did study it for a year. I could have kept it up and then I could have been fluent. You can’t say it’s predetermined that I don’t speak Russian,because definitely I could have taken that route in my life. There was the free choice to do that.
This paradigm of either this or that – we get stuck in that and it prevents us from understanding. It’s interesting. The deeper I get into the Dharma, the more I see that often what makes us confused is how we’re thinking to start with. We ask questions in a particular way, and then we don’t understand the answer we get because it isn’t said in a way that accords with our thinking. There were fourteen questions that different people asked the Buddha but the Buddha didn’t answer them. Some people began to say the Buddha didn’t know what he was talking about. They say he didn’t know the answers to the fourteen questions. He just faked it saying, “I’m not going to answer those questions.”
But that’s not the case at all. It’s because of the way the questions were asked. It’s like, “Is this table made of marble or concrete?” How do you answer that question? All they can conceive of is marble and concrete. The table is made of wood, but if you say it is made of wood, they can’t handle that because they can’t conceive of that. The reason the Buddha did not directly answer many of these questions is because of the conceptual processes of the people who are asking the questions.
In discussing karma, we have to look at our preconceptions and examine them. I see this, again and again, even in my own practice. We have lots of preconceptions that we don’t recognize as preconceptions. We think that’s just the way things are. And then we come to Dharma teachings and our mind gets knocked around a bit. We come out feeling completely confused. It’s like our mind has a square hole and we’re blaming the round peg for not fitting in. "