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Karma vs. Free will

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  • Karma vs. Free will

    Dear Venerable and dear everbody,

    I have been contemplating about something and it seems to be bothering me somewhere.

    I think I am starting to see the effects of Karma in my meditation and my life. If I am right, meditation is just sitting out the effects certain ego-focussed things you printed in your mind in the past, right? This is actually quite obvious like cause and effect in physics, but is named 'bad karma', which is often misunderstood just because of the strange word.

    Anyway, assuming this is true, I sometimes wonder.. what part in our lifes is actually free will? When do we just react on the basis of our karma and when do we really choose to do something? I feel free will is there somewhere, but I can't really give it a place.

    I think somewhere there is something that decides to put our attention onto something rather than something else.

    Maybe some thoughts on this might trigger me to understand things better.. Or should I just do more meditation?

    Thanks in advance.


  • #2
    Dear Simon,

    The main point about the will is that it is conditioned, which you know already. The better you know yourself the more clearly you will see that conditioning. If you keep investigating - ideally basing yourself on samadhi (deep, peaceful meditation) - you may one day find out whether there is even the slightest bit of free will. (I am not even going to tell you what I think!)

    As I see it, it is really irrelevant whether there is any free will. Until you achieve full awakening, you are bound to have some sense of free will. This is a natural consequence of the sense of a self, sakkaya ditthi. So use that sense of free will to choose the wholesome to the best of your ability, and you will progress on the path.

    With metta,
    Ajahn Brahmali


    • #3
      I'll see. Thanks again


      • #4
        What I say about free will, is that whatever view is most empowering to you should be accepted. In other words, if a belief in free will allows you to follow the eight-fold path, then believe in free will. If you're perfectly happy being conditioned to practice dhamma and meditate, then that's fine too. But any belief which leaves you feeling helpless and powerless and leads to suffering, should be abandoned on the grounds that it's clearly an unwholesome view.


        • #5

          I think you could also look at it this way. You have 'more' free will once you have the wisdom to see your conditioning and how it shapes your actions (karma). You have choices and the power to make them for yourself. It is when 'asleep' that fate or destiny takes hold ( fancy terms for living on autopilot) and you surrender your will to your conditioning to make more karma whichever way you have been conditioned to do so. So, if you're mindful, free will is more likely to occur. The more mindful of your tendencies, the more free will you can exercise. Or you can decide to do what you've done by rote and let 'fate' take its course. Karma ,in a sense, is a guide. Free will is making choices when awake. Sorry to be so redundant. That's my brief thoughts. And of course, as Ajahn says, one day with enough samadhi comes wisdom to see for yourself.

          With respect and loving kindness,

          Jerrod : )


          • #6
            Hi Simon,

            I quite like the current scientific view that there is no free will, but there is free won't ... that is - our minds will start down a course of action, but there is a process which can interupt and stop that course of action - well it can if it is accompanied by mindfulness ...

            ... this view also seems to fit in well with thoughts being external to (and sensed by) the mind ... it is telling the way that most moral codes from religions are phrased in the negative - i.e. don't kill, don't steal, etc.. and they have the taste of restraint about them ...

            ... of course the process that does the interupting is also conditioned, so not so maybe not so free after all ...




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