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Free will and the mind - Dhamma Wheel

Free will and the mind

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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LonesomeYogurt
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Free will and the mind

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:34 pm

I'm reading Sam Harris' book Free Will and many of his ideas mirror the traditional view on Buddhist non-self. So my question is, if we are not the thinker of our own thoughts, and feelings and mental states are arising and ceasing without creation by a central self, how do "we" still make effort towards purifying the mind? Does the concept of non-self rule out all control over the mind, or are we still able to somehow emphasize certain mental states through mindfulness? And if so, what in our mind is doing the emphasizing? I don't want this to turn into a general discussion of free will, but I'd love to see some Buddhist views on a specifically Buddhist model of free will.

If we're meditating, a thought may arise without "our" intention to do so. When we direct our attention towards noting it, isn't that intention to note simply arising from the ceasing of the previous thought? And if this is the case, is there any volition involved, or is the mind completely deterministic, and our noting, examining, and purifying actions are all simply arising from the ceasing of a previous thought, which arose from a previous cause, etc. etc. Is our path to Nibbana one which we have no control over, instead being the inevitable result of previous causes? How can we reconcile a non-self view of the mind with the idea of volition?

Thanks for helping me with this niggling question.

May all beings be happy!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta


Virgo
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby Virgo » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:13 pm



Virgo
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby Virgo » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:24 pm

Ask yourself, does volition which can cause things to happen, bring about change, initiate action, etc. arise completely without causes and conditions? Nothing arises without causes and conditions. So while volition can help to bring about results it does not exist unless the proper causes and conditions for it are present.

Kevin


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retrofuturist
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:30 pm

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Sam Vara
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:33 pm

The only way I can think of squaring this particular circle is as follows. Free will is real, both as a condition for my meaningful existence in the world and because intention (cetana) is necessary for the existence of kamma. But the freedom is itself a conditioned phenomenon, both as regards its scope, and its origin. We cannot, that is, freely choose anything at any given moment. And it only arises due to the causal activities of phenomena which we have no control over; genetics, for example, and various biological and social processes. Intention is merely the fleeting ability of the individual being to direct itself and create its own future.

But this freedom is merely another phenomenon among phenomena. It is not what we are.

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reflection
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby reflection » Thu Mar 08, 2012 12:37 am

The Buddhist model of free will is anatta.. So free will is will that is free from a self.
In deep meditation the will shuts off and everything happens on its own. Than it becomes clearer we have no such thing as free will.. Maybe a bit scary, but in fact it is a relief because you can easily forgive all the bad choices that you ever made :tongue:

Richard
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby Richard » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:07 am

Friends,

On the issue of free will from a Buddhist viewpoint, I know of nothing better than Peter Harvey, "Freedom of the Will in the Light of Theravada Buddhist Teachings," which appeared in the online Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 14, 2007.


Richard

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ground
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby ground » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:19 am

Only if something does not depend on conditions it may be called "free".

Kind regards

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kirk5a
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby kirk5a » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:19 am

"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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Kim OHara
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:21 am


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Viscid
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby Viscid » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:51 am

I've never heard a good definition of 'free will.' Nothing ever satisfies and the arguments for it always seem empty.

Do you recommend Sam Harris' book?
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Thu Mar 08, 2012 4:05 am

Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta


hermitwin
Posts: 214
Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:35 pm

Re: Free will and the mind

Postby hermitwin » Thu Mar 08, 2012 4:42 am

this self is an illusion.
within this illusion, you have volition and the consequences.
an arahant, who is free from the illusion of self, does not
generate kamma.
there is nobody there to create kamma.

Virgo
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby Virgo » Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:21 pm



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ancientbuddhism
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:26 pm

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)


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Viscid
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby Viscid » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:38 pm

"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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mikenz66
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Location: New Zealand

Re: Free will and the mind

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:19 pm

One interesting thing that it potentially relevant is that some of the Thai monks I know actually translate anatta as "no control" and tell me that's (one of?) the Thai translation.

:anjali:
Mike

danieLion
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Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: Free will and the mind

Postby danieLion » Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:58 pm

The Buddha taught on will, and on liberation, but nothing like what modern philosophers call "free-will". As B.F. Skinner put it, "...freedom is a struggle." IOW: The path to freedom is extremely difficult, and what little control we do have has to be reinforced/cultivated with the direction of our will (cetana/operant behavior) for such "freedom" to come about. What can we actually control? Our own behaviors/actions. Ironically/paradoxically/antimoniously (?), the more we can, as they saying goes, "control ourselves", the more free we become.

Also, in the anapanasati scheme, what gets liberated is mind (citta), and according to Thanissaro, one of the things it gets liberated from is vittaka and vicara as jhana factors.

Goodwill
Daniel

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bodom
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Re: Free will and the mind

Postby bodom » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:22 pm

To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

- Ud 3.5


https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html
http://www.ajahnchah.org/

Kenshou
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Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: Free will and the mind

Postby Kenshou » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:55 pm

Hm, I would think there is control to an extent in the same way that there is intention. The will to do actions is there, and that can influence things. Control, within certain limitations. But of course that limited control arises from intention born of specific conditions and is not the result of some central controller-entity.

Or maybe I'm overthinking it and the point is the lack of an absolute control which would prevent aging, death and so on as mentioned in Bodom's sutta.


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