The Mind Illuminated archive

What is Free Will?


This discussion continues from a discussion of Karma.

Q&A: What is free will?

How does free will fit into the concept of karma?

Master Culadasa explains how free will works in a world run on karma.

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Student: It's sisters. There's basically nobody home inside and outside. There's no nothing controlling. Where does, how does that relate to our concept of free will and intention,

Culadasa: the entity that we are and that we that until you, that we have not fully awakened beginning, you're going to identify. Entity that you think you are as being something itself is not rigidly and deterministically determined and how it behaves and how it evolves over time. Different word. If there were a radical and complete determinism and you couldn't be it couldn't, the process that you are would just have to unfold and it would be absolutely no.

That process itself could direct itself to evolve in a new and different direction. But that is not the case. If you look at what happens to you as an individual, the working of your own mind, that there are constantly decisions being made and they're being made as a cumulative result.

The past conditioning, the body mind complex that you are

and that there, that you are a complex entity of many parts. There's no single thing that you can call your mind in a single thing that you can call it yourself and not a single thing that you can call it your will, but each decision you make. Is an outcome of many different past experiences and many different mental processes that have developed as a result of those past experiences, call them impulses or tenancy.

So what any kind of choice that arises and that is made. And this is constantly happening. Moment by moment is basically the outcome of. Measuring these different impulses and tendencies against each other for a huge proportion of these your makeup is such that, the predominance is such that there's, it's always going to.

And one particular way. There's not any sort of doubt, but probability is huge that when this decision on this choice arises, that you're going to go this way rather than that way. But there are also a tremendous number of circumstances that arise in your life, where when these different impulses and tendencies, when they're added together.

I had come up to a probability that is like 50 50, or are very close to that. It's very closely imbalanced. And so in those cases is not predetermined. The other thing is that it's not as though in each intention that arises in your mind. And each act, it leads to that every part of your chain to past cannula is participating in this.

So something happens and you respond immediately afterwards, or at least you have a reaction. You're inclined to say something of a particular client immediately afterwards and of the different. Tendencies and processes that make you up. There's only a small number of them who would have participated in the generation of that intention.

If you have restraint. And if you allow a little more time to elapse, there are other tendencies that you have required to have acquired, which can produce a different intention and a different action. If only you allow the top. To for that to occur now, allowing the time for that is only one part of the way that, that we, as a, as an entity can determine our own evolution.

The other is the kinds of tendencies that we accumulate that can affect a particular choice, but it can affect a particular intent. So that is by other very easy choices that we make all the time you can influenced by things that you hear and read and influenced by your mind's own examination of your experience.

Say that I would like to. My own nature and my life to go in this direction rather than that direction. And that can guide you. Just to use this example of being a person on a spiritual path that can guide you to become interested in a spiritual path that can cause you to start associating with different kinds of people.

And what they say and do is part of what influences your future decisions. You can attend Dharma talks and everything that you read and see him. There comes a part of your mesh pad. And so you can in all kinds of very gentle, subtle, easy ways influenced the makeup of who and what you are through positive influences, through easy choices.

When you're at a something that's like a 50 50 choice, go to the Dharma talk or. Watch porn on the internet. I'm not sure most people would experience amputate really, but, it's very illustrative of the kind of different kind of results that come. So if you could just imagine that you're at that decision point, that it's should I do this or should I do that?

And if it's, if you're right at that balance, And if you have the sense that you'd like to be a better person and a better world, then you might choose to go to the darn top and you build up, you accumulate those experiences. The Buddha said that the spiritual, the path, somebody approached me lessons.

Good good companions and good circumstances. That's part of the spiritual path, right? Boston says no. That's the whole of the spiritual fan associate. Would it be with good people, associate with people that you would like to be like, and that have the same interests and direction directions, bad companions are going to make you into a person like, like the people you associate with.

So a good companions, wholesome companions and wholesome circumstances. This is the way that you. Your mind with all of these positive influences so that when you come to other more difficult traces, you can introduce it. And I feel the pause and let them join. And the decision-making so that when you have that the impulse to perform a kind of habitual unfold, some action that has been a part of your life for a long time and being reinforced many.

If you restrain yourself long enough to have some of these newly acquired influences play a role, then you can change at each time you succeed in doing that. You make yourself into a different kind of person who is less likely to be inclined to be unwholesome, but more likely to be inclined with.

So bring that back around meditation. That's what we're doing. Every time we bring our attention back to the breath is practicing that as a matter of fact scale we are, if you wanted it, I thought a years ago, I thought of this as a way that a person could understand meditation karma health meditation is a way of making a particular kind of.

You close your eyes and say, I'm going to pay attention to my breath and it doesn't happen it's because your mind is conditioned insights. You worry that you're going to end up thinking about other things and set well, that's carved on the results of karma, but if you sit down and you repeatedly, each time you have mind is carried away.

When that moment comes, when you recognize it was carried away, there you have a choice. You do. Oh, I want to go back to planning, migrate project. That's more fun in watching my breath or no. I want to learn to do this and achieve the kind of results that I see in my new companion so that I associated with.

So that's the kind of choice. That's the creating of karma whenever every single time that choice arises and every time. You choose to bring your attention back to the grip. You are creating the karma to be a person whose mind responds to intention. And after a while, the factor that came out of karma is you'll be a person who when they sit down, but that they have the karma that their mind responds to their intention.

But it does. It's not just when they're sitting down, when they in the daily law. They're buying, we'll also respond to intention and this creates a possibility for that mindful awareness for that discovery of the way things are. And for that ability to shift the way things stand to go. So meditation is a perfect example.

You started out with a karma not to be able to nice page when you create the carbon to be a person, but meditate. Successfully, it applies everything else. You started out the person who's working at a Hitman for the mafia and you ended up being somebody who helps a little children, yeah. Explained that before like this, but I think because it talks about being in this lifetime. So he likes not talking about. Next lifetime is it's really about the right, creating that next boot you have not made with the right intentions. It is the same thing. And this was this was a subtle sort of thing is you remember, the Buddha was teaching us society where everybody believed and reincarnation that.

When they died that's they were a person, an entity, a cell that kind of soul that would be reincarnated again. And there would be the same cell phone person. So as he did so often he appropriated a common idea and subtly shifted it. He said I don't teach reincarnation, but I teach rebirth. All he did was choose different words.

And so people said and rebirth, what does this mean? And he says that because he was also teaching that there is no self. And so the question also comes up, if there is no self then who or what is reborn. And he says, when I say rebirth, I mean that those Carmen creating this positions are what is rewind.

The self that you think you are is it's not something that you're going to lose and be destroyed when you die. It's something that never existed in the first place. It's just a natural foundation. It's like an idea or a thought or a memory. And it has no more substance than that, but we are all interconnected.

Part of a whole, even though we can't understand the nature of that and what is reborn, if you live in a good way, and if you develop a lot of good karma and that you have developed a good karma is that you have become a wholesome person highly values and like a standard of behavior that.

That is what continues on are those Carmen predisposition of so and so in that regard, by saying, when the Buddhist said, what is reborn from? The only thing that is reborn is your karmic predispositions. And you can see that's the same thing we were talking about. That the person that you are a year from now, It is determined by your past experience.

And when you wake up some morning, a year from now, you are that kind of person that's like being born that day. You wake up in the morning and this is the kind of person you are, and you could look into the past and you could see how your karma caused you to wake up. Was that kind of. And so you can't think of rebirth and the same sets.

The best thing is not to claim two ideas of rebirth and reincarnation, because if you think of it, you're a major concern is disliked. You probably don't remember anything about your past. And so it was very likely that, some that no teacher being like that comes to think and feel the way you do is going to remember hadn't been you in the past.

So don't worry about that. Just find your life, focus on becoming awakened in this lifetime you're selling, but you can take comfort.


Automated transcription

since there's there's basically nobody home inside. And outside there's no nothing controlling. We're comes that relate to our concept of free and intention? Well the entity that we are and that the... That tell you good kinda full late gaining. You're going to identify the entity that you think you are as being some kind of a cell. Is not rigid and deter determined and how it behaves on how evolves over time. Different word. If if there were a radical and complete, and you couldn't you couldn't, you know, the process that you order would just have to unfold and there would be absolutely no hope that that process itself could direct itself.

To evolve that a new and different direction. Mh. But that is that is not the case. If you look at what happens to you, as an individual working of your own mind that There are constantly decisions being made and they're being made as a cumulative result. The past conditioning, the body mine complex value you are. And that they're... That you are a complex entity of many parts. That there's no single thing that you can call your mind and a single thing that can cause it itself and a single thing that you can call your will.

The each decision you make is an outcome of many different past experiences and many different mental processes that have developed as a result of those past experiences, call them impulses or tendency suit. So what any kind of choice that arises and that is made and this is constantly happening in moment by moment. Is basically the outcome of measuring these different impulses and tendencies against each other. For a huge proportion of these, your main type is such that, you know, the the you...

The predominant such that there's there's it's always gonna go in one particular way. There's not any sort of doubt. But probability is huge that when this decision, when choice arises that you're gonna go this way rather than that way. But there all also a tremendous number of circumstances that arise in your life. Where when these different impulses and tendencies when they're added together, they come up to a a probability that is like, fifty fifty or or very very close to that very closely in balance.

And so in in those cases, it's not predetermined. The other thing is that it's not as though in each intention that arises in your mind and each act that leads to that every part of your keynote to passed Con is participating and this. So something happens. And you respond immediately afterwards, or at least you have a reaction, you're inclined to say something of a particular kind immediately afterwards. And of the different tendencies and processes that make you up. There's only a small number of them that would have participated in the generation of that intention.

If you if you have restraint, and if you allow a little more time to, there are other tendency say you required a have acquired, which can produce a different intention and a different action. If I only you allow the time to for that to heard. Now allowing the time for that is only one part of the way that that we as as an entity can determine our own evolution. The other is the kinds of tendencies that we accumulate that can affect a particular choice but kind fact particular intention. So That is by other very easy choices that we make all the time.

You can. Influenced by things that you hear and read and influenced your body's own examination of your experience. Say that I would like my own nature and my life to go in this direction rather than that direction. And that can guide you just to use is the example of of being a person on a spiritual path. That can guide you to become interested in a spiritual path. That can cause you to start associating with different kinds of people and what they say and do is part of what influences is your future decision.

You can attend Darn talks and everything that you read see in here that becomes a part of your. And so you can in all kinds of very gentle subtle easy ways. Influence the makeup of who and what you are through positive influences through easy choices, you know, when when you're at a something that's like a fifty fifty choice go dorm talk or or wash born that I now. You. I'm not sure those people. Would experience. But, you know, it's it's very straight the kind different kind of results that come.

So if you just imagine that you're at that decision point, that it's well should I did do this. Or should I do that? You know? And and it is... If if you're right at that balance point, and if you have the sense that you'd like to be a better person in a better world, then you might choose to go to the Darn. And you build up you those experiences. The Lu said, the the spiritual the path you know, somebody processing once and good, good companions and good circumstances. That's part of the spiritual path.

Right? Boss says no No no. That's the whole of the spiritual fact. Associate with with with good people associate with people that you would like to be like and that have the same interests in direction. Bad companions are going to adhere into a person like like the people you associated with. So good companion also that wholesome some circumstances. This is this is the way that you equipped your mind with all these positive influences. So that when you come to other more difficult choices, you can introduce it I thought a pause, but let them join in the decision making so that when you have the impulse to perform a kind individual and told some action that has been a part of your life for a long time being reinforced many times.

Did you constrain yourself long enough to have some of these newly acquired says, play a role, and you can you can change at each time you succeed in doing that, you make yourself into a different kind of person who's less likely to be inclined to man And more likely to be client with Olsen. So bring the back around to meditation, that's what we're doing. Every time we bring our attention back to the breath is practicing that. As a matter fact. We are. If you wanted... You know, you... I I thought a years ago, I I thought of this as a way that a person could understand meditation and karma health.

Meditation is way making a particular kind of partner. You close your eyes and gonna a pay attention for my breath. And it doesn't happen. Well, it's because your mind is condition in such that you're gonna end up thinking about other things it's set. Oh that's car the results of Carla. But if you sit down and repeatedly each time, you mine is carried away, when that moment comes when you recognize it carry. There you have a choice. You can say, oh, I wanna go back to planning my credit project.

That's more fun and watching my breath. Or, no. I want to learn to do this and and achieve the kind of results that I see in my new companions that I associated with. Right? So that's the kind of choice. That's a creating of karma. Whenever, every single time that choice arises and every time, You choose to bring your attention back to the breath. You are creating the car to be a person whose blind responds to intention. And after a while, the effect that came out of car is you'll be a person who when they sit down.

That that they have the car that their mind response to their intention, But it does... It's not just when they're sitting down. When in the daily light, their buying will also respond to intention. And this this creates a possibility for that mindful awareness for that discovery the way things are. And for that ability to shift the way things stand to go. So meditation is a per good example. You know, you start out with a car not to be able to take when you the car to be a person meditate. Successful.

Okay. It applies everything else. You know, you start out the person who's working in a hitman for lafayette and you end up being somebody who helps a little children you know? Yeah. Explain carla. I never heard that like. But I have a requested when ben Buddha talks about the i might this right, so like is not talking about the the next lifetime really about now, right? Creating that next long next moment. With the right intentions? Well, it is the same thing. And then this is a this is a a a subtle sort of thing.

Remember the buddha was teaching a society with everybody believed and rein that... When they die, that they were a person and entity a cell, that kind of soul that would be rein reoccurring again, and that would be the same cell person. So as he gets so often, he appropriated the common idea and suddenly shifted and he said, well, I don't teach rein communication, but I teach. All he did was choose different words. And and so people said rebirth rebirth what this way. And he says that... Because he was also teaching that there is no self.

And so your question also comes I if there is no cell who what is born, and he says, when I say rebirth, I mean that those carbon predisposition, our what history point. So the self that you think you are is it's not something but you're like to lose and be destroyed when you die. It's something that never existed. In the first place, it's just a natural foundation is like an idea or a thought or a memory and it has no more substance than that. But we are all interconnected, we are part of a whole.

You know don't, know we can't understand the nature of that. And what is reborn if you if you live in a good way And if you develop a lot of good karma and that you have developed a very karma is that you have become. A a wholesome person of of high values and and like, good standard to behavior. That That is what continues on are those predisposition. And so in that regard, by saying when the buddha said, what is reborn? I the only thing that is reborn is what your current predisposition and you can see it.

That's the same thing that we're talking about that. The person that you are a year from now is determined by your past experiences. And when you wake up some morning a year for now, you are that kind of person you, That's like being more in that day. You wake up in the morning, and this is the kind of person you are. And you could look into the past, and you could see how your karma caused you to wake up as that kind of person. And so you can think of leave rebirth in the same sets. It's funny.

Best thing is not to claim to ideas of rebirth and information. Because if you think of it, you know, your major concern is just dislike. You probably don't remember anything about your past lives. And so it's very likely that, you know, some that no future being that that comes to think feel the way you do is going to Remember it hadn't been you in the past. So don't worry about that. Focus on your life, focus on the becoming awakened in this lifetime yourself.

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