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