Kriben Pillay asked:
There appears to be two
schools of thought relative to the issue of free will.
One is like J. Krishnamurti's, which implies we have a
kind of free will which we can use to break through
delusion, and the other is like Balsekar's, which says
there is no free will and that all is pre-determined,
even the desire to break through. Somehow, my gut
instinct tells me that Life is a like an improvisation
rather than being a fixed script, and while I once had a
powerful experience of being lived by Life, it still felt
like an improvisation, a potential rather than a fixed
plan. This also accords with quantum physics. What is
your view of this issue?
between Miguel-Angel Carrasco and Dan Berkow
The question of free will is from the perspective of the
person. Does the person have free will? Many of the
person's actions are forced or determined by factors over
which it has no control. Some of these actions are
accompanied by the feeling of being lived, of being in
the flow, in the "zone." People often count
these as the best times. But are at least some of the
person's decisions and actions freely chosen? To
establish free will, as is discussed in Philosophy 101
classes everywhere, it is not necessary to show that
every action is free. Even one free action would be
Case 1: "Will that be coffee or tea?"
"Hmmm, let me think.... I'll have tea, thanks."
Case 2: (Thought bubble rising:) "I'd love to take a
walk in the beautiful woods. I'd like to surround myself
with peace and serenity and inquire into my true
nature." (Putting on hiking boots, opening the
camper door and stepping out), "Here I go."
From the perspective of the person, if the decision
process is not analyzed, the actions and decisions in
both cases above seem to be perfect examples of free
will. Upon analysis however, a free action and a free
chooser cannot be found. A thought comes, followed by a
desire, followed by a decision, followed by an action.
Tracing backwards, the action is controlled by the
decision, the decision is controlled by the desire, the
desire is prompted by the thought. The thought arises
spontaneously, itself unbidden, un-asked-for, unchosen.
First the thought is not there, then it is. Nowhere in
this process can a free will be found. Nowhere can a
freely-acting chooser be found.
It is even too much to say that the actions, decisions,
desires and thoughts can control or prompt each other.
These cause-and-effect dynamics are not even observed.
Rather, they arise as inferences and conclusions about
what happened, that is, they arise as thoughts that rise
In something like Case 1, the decision might even be
accompanied by a small feeling of freedom, lightness, and
spaciousness. And maybe also accompanied by a thought,
"I'm choosing tea but I could freely choose coffee
instead." But the feeling of freedom and the thought
"I could" also arise unbidden. That is, the
feeling of freedom is not freely chosen.
The person is not the locus of freedom.
The person and the rest of the world cannot be found
apart from the awareness in which all things appear. The
person, the mind, body and world arise as thoughts,
feelings, and sensations. These are nothing other than
objects in awareness, and are nothing other than
awareness itself. The person does not experience; the
person is experienced. As awareness, we are That to which
these objects appear. Thoughts, feelings, sensations -
these objects arise from the background of silent
awareness, they subsist in awareness, and they slip back
into awareness. The awareness in which they appear is not
itself an object but the background of all objects. It is
our true nature. But the objects come and go unbidden,
without autonomy. They are powerless and cannot do
anything on their own. Objects cannot possess or contain
Is there freedom?
The silent awareness in which all objects appear is the
true nature of all things. Awareness says YES to
everything. Even if a NO arises, awareness says YES to
the NO. Awareness is without resistance, without limits
or edges, without refusal and without obstruction.
Awareness is not free, it is freedom itself. What we
truly are is not the person but this awareness, this
The person wants to co-opt this freedom, to own it, to
behold it, to be present to use and enjoy it. But in
spite of this desire from the perspective of the person,
the person can never own That in which the person
What about teachings that emphasize free will?
Entire religions and ethical systems are based on this
idea. Ramana Maharshi told a questioner that all actions
are determined except the ability to inquire into one's
true nature. Isn't Case 2 above different from Case 1?
Sometimes teachings and exhortations about personal
freedom are a beautiful, effective and necessary step for
freedom from the idea of being a person. A person who
prematurely adopts a "no-free-will" teaching
can lapse into depression and antinomian behavior.
"You have to be someone before you can be no
one." The teachings on free will borrow from the
freedom that we are. Among the many objects that arise in
the mirror of awareness, some objects arise as images of
mirrors. These images are taken as representations of
their source. Like a mirror appearing in a mirror,
Ramana's teaching serves as a pointer to freedom. Case 2
is not different in this respect from Case 1. As objects,
all cases and their characters, and all teachings and all
discourse (even this one!) are not themselves free or
self-powered, but they arise from freedom and consist in
The person is never free. As awareness, we are never
If I move beyond the question being about
'feelings', 'Instincts' and move into the realm of 'pure
reason' (and don't say I Kant... ), this is what remains:
Our exercise of "will" seems to be consistently
geared toward self-limitation. It is within this
constantly enforced field of self-limitation that the
question of 'free will' occurs. Without exercising our
"will" in the service of self-limitation, the
uses of "will" are quite apparent.
The exercise of "Will" in the service of
self-limitation can be seen clearly, in the human talent
of the deferral of pain. From a Darwinian point of view,
humans who could fight, run, or otherwise act to survive
while _in pain_, are those survivors from whom we have
inherited our genes.
As masters of deferral of pain, we are by extension, also
masters of deferral of embarrassment; we are able to
confabulate 'alternative realities' for the purpose of
remaining in the comfort of our own delusions. Our
various cultures conspire within themselves, and with
each-other, to maintain this allowance for extraordinary
It is ironic that what is a powerful talent for survival,
can also be used to deny reality. On the other hand, the
denial of mortality, the very delusion of it, can serve
to lead cultural heros into battles of tribal and
cultural preservation; it is hard to argue (logically)
against conquest as a means of
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), each culture has
evolved a unique 'religion', each of which has become the
touchstone of the reality of the respective culture. The
clashes, conflicts, and wars which have arisen around
religion, indicate the sacrifice which humans are willing
to make, in order to
maintain what is certainly and purely confabulation.
If the "script" is "fixed", it is
'fixed' in the same way that professional wrestling is
'fixed'. Human interactions are either manifested through
self-limitation, or not. It takes only one human who acts
in the non-self-limited way, to send shockwaves through
all cultures, both present and future. The 'fixing of the
script' calls for naming any of non-self-limited human to
be 'abnormal and dangerous to the status-quo', thus to
preserve the privilege (cultural tradition) to indulge in
group-confabulations of 'reality as revealed by
messengers of the divine'.
Currently, most humans subscribe to what amounts to a
'religion of self-limitation'. It is those who have seen
a glimmer of what could happen if self-limitation were an
option, rather than a 'divinely enforced duty', who dare
question the reality or uses of "will". Proper
and ethical uses of 'will' do not transcend humanity,
rather, such uses are manifestations of what can
eventually become a 'choiceless compassion'.
Those humans who have, or are, advocating the correct
uses of 'will', are by no mere coincidence, also known as
compassionate humans. Empathic knowing of our human
commonality can lead to a mass-migration of humans away
from the mandatory religion of self-limitation; this
involves the withdrawal of our projections of 'divinity'
from a mythical 'other', and the acceptance of personal
responsibility for the correct use of 'will'. No longer
would humans be burdened with the 'will' of a capricious
'god'; instead, human activities would be considered
carefully before execution.
Leaving behind the culturally-enforced mandate of
self-limitation, allows the sudden and spontaneous
perfection of the human. In that brilliant perfection,
all self-limiting ideas and traditions are clearly seen,
including the entire category of self-limiting
assumptions of 'ego' and 'ignorance', both of which are
now being used as sly excuses for self-limitation. Any
individual who dares allow the spontaneous perfection of
the human to occur, moves beyond the fears which mandate
hiding within apparently eternal conundrums such as the
'question of free will'. Bereft of any such camouflage,
the perfected human is free to choose.
Gene Poole's Home Page
Trying to find the best conclusion arrived at by one or
another supposed school of thought is like trying to
choose the best color to dye your hair. It leaves out the
option of naturally being without trying to conclude
Life is moving, moving, moving and who is trying to catch
the right view?
Life is still, still, still and who is it who is thinking
to make the right move?
The observer constructs
the observed as the observed constructs the observer. The
observer freely constructs the observed, as the observer
is determined by the observed. Freedom and determinism
mutually imply and define each other. As observer is the
observed, neither observer nor observed exist as
entities. Reality is, ultimately nondeterministic, as it
would require an ultimate entity of some kind to
determine an outcome. And whatever determined that entity
would be another entity, ad infinitum. Thus:
The Present 'originates' and *is* past, present, and
Determinism that implies
causation implies will and prime cause. Determinism is
often construed to mean beginningless causation, where no
prime cause is established, just a beginningless/endless
chain of events, one leading to the other. --Ed
ArronsD: Yes. That's exactly
the point, to see this through. It breaks down in the
very infinity it necessarily points to. Beginningless
causation must "become" simply
*begininglessness*. Determinism then dissolves itself in
nondetermined Infinity. That's the wonder of it! All
apparent cause and effect reality is itself nothing other
than acausal Infinity. How else could it be?
There is a perspective that could be satisfactory for
both the proponents of free will and its adversaries.
There have been several experiments with identical twins
who were raised under very different circumstances and
surprisingly, their development was remarkably similar.
To arrive at such a similar position when relative
conditions are almost opposites, could be explained as
exercising a free will, whereas the fact that despite
these sometimes opposite conditions they nevertheless
"achieved" a similar position, could be
explained as destiny.
But the "governing principle" has to be seen in
the germination of tendencies (vasanas) that cannot be
suppressed in any way; whatever the societal resistance,
these "seeds" will germinate and flower by
themselves, whenever the "soil" is fertile. It
is easy to see that the feeling of hunger with the
subsequent "desire" to eat is such a tendency
that is rooted very deeply and although it can be made to
shut up during a fast, in the course of events it will
return in a way that cannot possibly be ignored (unless
one stops drinking as well, which is a more or less
painless way of euthanasia for Jain monks). Therefore, it
is safe to call the mind a wishing tree: any sincere
wish, once done, will in the course of events
automatically be executed and there is no escape from it.
What is called "free will" is but the
"work" to fulfill this wish. An idealist, not
knowing "how (s)he ticks" can be quite
convinced of having an "iron" will to achieve
the goal, as probably will the onlookers.
Of course the above goes for ajnanis, for whom separation
is "real" and their sincere wishes are always
fulfilled, be it one never knows "when" - it is
the origin of prayer...
I'm curious to know where J.Krishnamurti states there's
The issue of free will is usually raised in connection
with that of predeterminism or fate: either there is a
fixed plan or script that predetermines our actions, or
we are really free to choose. Thus put, the issue cannot
be solved, as it is impossible to prove the non-existence
of an eternal plan, even if such a plan does not exist.
The issue should rather be considered in the context of
causal determinism: whether or not we are determined by
conscious or unconscious reasons and emotions.
From a scientific point of view, the question either is
not raised, because free will appears only as a
subjective feeling and never as a verifiable fact; or
should be answered in favour of determinism, because
there is no verifiable evidence that any personal
decision is not a reaction to prevailing circumstances,
an automatic response to biochemical reactions in the
From a philosophical point of view, the issue of free
will depends on what kind of weltanschauung (ideology o
conception of the world) is assumed. For all
materialists, who consider the mind to be a function of
the brain, there can be no free will. Only if the minds
or the souls are independent entities is it possible to
assert their freedom, whereas if they are mere processes
or functions of the body no such freedom is possible.
The decisive question, thus, is whether the soul is a
separate, independent entity. For a dualist philosopher,
it is. But then he has to face the problem of how to
explain the interaction between body and soul: if the
soul is a separate substance, an entity which does not
depend on the body, then how is one to account for the
remarkable effects of physical conditions on the soul's
reactions, or inversely how is one to explain the
supposed control of the soul over the body?
For a nondualist, who sustains that everything appears in
Consciousness, and that there is only that One
Consciousness, there is no such thing as free will,
because all individual body-minds are not real entities,
but mere appearances without substance. Where there is no
real doer, there cannot be a free will.
What regards Consciousness Itself, being the only and
ultimate subject, It is not an object. It is thus free of
attributes or qualities. It is free of action, free of
decisions, free of choices, free of will. It is pure
Does it make any difference whether you or I think there
is free will or not? Does it have any practical effect on
the living of life? Are the two points of view
incompatible or simply the result of different
perspectives. Perhaps it is my destiny to work out my own
salvation and that of the world with diligence, or my
free will to think of all as predestined. One urging a
wilful effort to break through and another urging
understanding of destiny are not opposite each other,
they are speaking to different points of view.
From the point of view of the individual, who sees
himself as one of a multitude of sentient beings, there
could be free will, that the course of life follows from
decisions made, or there could be cause and effect,
karmic destiny, or some mixture of these two.
From a deistic nondual point of view, there is one will,
all is God(or whatever you wish to call It), so how could
there be any other will but the will of God.
Finally, from no point of view, what could be called the
nondual nondeistic nonpoint of nonview, which is not no
point of view as opposed to a point of view, but simply
the absence of formulation of point of view, or of anyone
to take a point of view, there being no point to view
from and no thing to view, there is no question, no thing
that has any attribute like the name of God, nor is there
will, nor is there destiny.
Another point about the free will vs destiny question is
that it assumes a conventional view of time, of events
following one after another, possible causation. If the
world is understood as mutual co-arising of phenomena in
eternal now moment, the question does not occur.
To ask a question based on an either/or framework is a
dual question. The nondual position is not either/or but
both. We both have the possibility of free will and are
predetermined. In a performance on a stage there are
actors, a director, and an audience. The actors follow a
script, the director has more freedom but is still bound
by both what the actors are capable of doing and what the
audience wants as well as the constraints of money, time
and so forth, but the audience is free to sit back and
enjoy it all.
Who Dares to Ask? I created space and all dimensions,
realities and beings.
I animated them with Myself.
Nothing else would do.
There was nothing else but Me.
The Mystery of You and I!
Do enjoy it!
Make choices if that is your will.
Follow your destiny if you can find it.
Live as if there is no tomorrow!
The only goal is to be alive.
Open your heart to the treasure that is Me that is You.
We are One. Do you believe this? Too bad.
Do you deny this? Too bad.
Poor Baby wants it all!
Oh, what will you do?
There is nothing else but Me.
HAHAHAH and HOHOHO!
"Will" is usually spoken of in the sense of a
force which determines a supposed future. In other words,
I *will* continue thinking and typing until the e-mail is
complete and sent. It implies the personal subject as the
agent of something to be done. It is an interpretation.
But I cannot find anything in this moment which
corresponds to that meaning. In clear perception, things
appear and disappear -- there is no evidence of any will
which determines things, just the appearing and
In another take, concepts and interpretations of
"will" are results of mechanical causation, and
therefore invalidate themselves. A need arises to "
make sense" of things, and the concept comes to be.
Thought itself is a force of nature, and is unwilled.
Things like free will,
responsibility, and such -- these fall into the category
of socially-constructed myths. They are not so much
"untrue" as just irrelevant, because they are
just ideas that don't stand scrutiny. The same goes for
the opposites of these concepts.
Sometimes freedom is mentioned here which is sort of a
vague notion of release (freedom from something). This is
not the same as "free will" -- which is a
concept about choosing, which depends on the concept of
self, which is an identification with phenomena.
There is also a confusion of terms. "Free will"
or freedom do not equate to moksha or liberation. In
moksha there is absolute freedom as there is nobody there
that is an agent of choice. A paradox I guess.
Here is a question --
which arises spontaneously in the moment. Is this
spontaneity the same as free will? Free will just seems
to be another concept of causation: the notion that
"I" am faced with alternative outcomes, and
that "I" can and do determine the outcome.
What I think gets lost sometimes in such discussions is:
we are talking about a *concept* of free will, not about
freedom as such. Spontaneity may be freedom, but does not
correspond to the usual concept of free will.
Free will and determinism are joined at the root. There
is no sense in contrasting them as concepts (except for
the sake of curiosity). With free will I am said to be
the subject of causation (the doer). With determinism I
am said to be nothing more than an object of impersonal
causation. But in the first case, a subject is
objectified. A "subject" (doer) is always a
particular object, the doer is already done.
In advaita it is taught (Ashtavakra Gita e.g.) that the
Self is neither subject nor object, but pure witness
consciousness, in which the world-dream appears for a
moment. Indeed the "Self" is just a convenient
fiction, because in reality it is "404 -- object not
It is as if to say:
There are no pink elephants.
There is no lack of pink elephants.
There is no free will.
There is no lack of free will.
There is no anguish when a dream subsides, and it is
realized I have no need for that which was desired.
In the face of overwhelming negativity and determinism I
say YES, there is free will. Assuming that all will is
free will, I looked it up in my dictionary and it said:
will (wil) 1, the faculty of conscious and deliberate
action; volition. 2, desire; choice; pleasure. 3,
As far as I am concerned, everything that is in the
dictionary (plus a lot more besides) _exists_. Everyone
seems to be poopooing phenomenality as ~ merely ~
illusory. But this illusion is the rock of the ages and
the warp and weft of all value. All these qualities in
the definition of will are virtues and should be
celebrated instead of denied. "No free will" is
just a pointer pointing at witness consciousness.
If there was such a thing as free will, everybody would
It's not about finding a solution to this matter of free
will or no free will, but why we are talking and thinking
about such things at all. Thinking can not find a
solution to such questions nor does it have to ! What
happens if such a question arises in the brain ? Why can
we not just ignore it. Very simple. I have lots of people
around me who ask me "Why are you bothered with such
unimportant things ?" So my guess is, yes, they got
a point there (I always thought these questions were very
very important .........) The only thing thought
apparently can do is invent the problem. The brain is
inventing all kinds of so-called problems to keep us busy
so that we do not have to encounter Reality. What happens
if the questions drop ? I know what would happen to me :
I would feel bored. So for the time being i will remain a
member of this list, to avoid boredom. Until the moment
boredom will be accepted as just another facet of
Reality, i will feel bored anyway, with or without this
list. Thanks for reading this useless post and see you.
Some humour on the list would do us good. I am looking
forward to it.
More important than the
answer seems to be the question if either possibilities
can ever be proven. If i have done something, how can i
ever know if this action arose from free will or if it
was predetermined ? Why do i want to know this ? To get a
result out of it ? That would make this question look
like all other questions. But this depends of course on
the individual person that asks the question.
It seems almost impossible that everything is
predetermined, the possibilities of life being so
incredibly vast and innumerable and so interdependent.
Life is also or perhaps mainly about survival and the
element of *potential* seems somehow more suitable, more
flexibel, an adjustable factor. But the mind is only a
tiny fragment of the whole. How can this tiny instrument
ever know ? It is so limited, it seems almost arrogant to
think that the mind can comprehend such complexity.
It depends on which 'I'/eye I'm looking through. Looking
thru the eye of ego, freewill is a given. If not for
freewill, the ego would atrophy for lack of use!
Looking thru the eye of Self, the idea of freewill is
Free of what? As Self, what IS there to be free of?
Here's a recent example of what I suggest above:
This week I was not scheduled to work anywhere, and my
son was spending the week with my dad.
Thru free will, I had planned a week of introspection
.....looking forward to a quiet week of being alone
....for the expressed purpose of "aligning with
God's will" for me.
But then my dad called the very first evening away,
saying he was bringing the kids back to town for youth
night at church....and to say he would be stopping by for
a 2 hour visit while waiting for the kids.
And then my sister called saying she was going to be in
town the next day and wouldn't I like to do some
shopping, and have lunch and stuff....since both our
kid's are at my dads?
And then I was asked to help an acquaintance of mine with
some computer and bookkeeping problems he was having.
And then a lady called asking me to decorate her
daughter's birthday party on Saturday.
This all arose within a 12 hour period!
At first I was so angry....felt intruded upon. I
certainly (from my ego 'eye' ) had free will to tell them
'no' and be left alone so I could "be One with
But when I stepped back....and looked thru the eye which
sees the bigger picture, I could see not only the
invitations that arose all of a sudden, but I could see
the 'teachings' I've been given these past days
superimposed over them.
I have shared these past few days, both here and
elsewhere, how I've been given to see that my
reclusiveness these past years has been a 'hiding' of
sorts from relationships.
I've been given to see, just thru my conversations on and
off list how they synchronistically (and powerfully!)
tied with my readings of Osho, revealing to me how I have
been avoiding not only the pain of relationships, but the
challenge of them.
I've been given to see how narcissistic I have become in
So when I see the marriage here of 'teaching' and
'opportunity', I can see how the question of freewill can
seemingly be answered both ways.
I can see that the ego can choose to ignore the
opportunity and 'movement' presented (and based on
experience be sure to be given both the opportunities and
the lessons again very soon!).
In other words, I can choose to struggle against the
tide, until I'm worn out, or I can simply see how
Existence is moving me... and relax into it.
What was interesting to note is that the moment I relaxed
into what was unfolding for me the other day, the anger
and the crankiness was no more.
Yesterday I had planned to write about free will and
Well, here I am. Destiny unfolded, or more correctly is
unfolding, minute by minute, second by second... instant
So I am here, that is fact. Can't change that. Oh, it is
true that I can change the "content" of
destiny, even if I sit here like a bump on a log and
"do" nothing. What I think, changes how it
looks for me. I could have decided not to write today
after all. If I had not, I would have changed what I had
intended destiny to be, however destiny itself, was
destined to be exactly what it finally ends up being.
Destiny exists ultimately in the NOW. Any past event is
written firmly, any future event is also written. We just
don't know what it will be. We can say that it turned out
to be distinct from what we guessed it would be. We can
change what it will be "at will", but we are
actually only changing what it was predicted to be. It
finally is what it is.
What does that say about free will however? What a
beautiful balance these two things have. Sort of like a
conscious structure ever in balance.
I cannot change what "will be", but what
"will be" is what I make it. How far can this
go? What are my limitations in will?
Could it be, that the strongest will wins? Some higher
will, may determine that my "time" is up for
instance. There's not much I can do about that! Something
more down to earth; I could decide to make a million
bucks! You just have to go and do it! I've tried to do it
a couple of times. It's not easy, I came upon some life`s
decisions that I wasn't willing to compromise, so I chose
those over the million bucks.
But actually it's a lot more subtle than that. Destiny
plays instant by instant. The decisions that effect
"will" are made instant by instant, and as such
each decision is a much smaller and seemingly less
important decision. A rapid, almost automatic response to
some stimulus, the decision made without considering how
it will affect the others that unfold. If one really
looks at this, these small instant by instant decisions
are very important and very powerful if one is "in
condition" to perceive them without being destracted
by the condition of the moment.
The condition of the moment... What is that? It's how I
perceive things. It's been shown time and again that when
two people are looking at the same thing, what they see
is almost always distinct. Sometimes sharply, as in a
robbery for instance. Sometimes much more subtly, as in
two lovers wathching a sunset.
But i's more than that. The "condition of the
moment", has an extremely powerful hold over our
existence. It is what controls our existence. We see so
many things that we cannot control. The color of the
leaves for instance, gravity, why life itself is accepted
as a given, although, if you really think about it, how
can it be? Why is it that there is anything, instead of
nothing at all?
OK, I wouldn't walk off the nearest cliff, as a matter of
testing my will against, what would that be, the will of
"nature"? But if I am aware in a detailed
manner of the condition of the moment, and if I try not
to let my "imagination" modify what I am
seeing, I should have much more success in excersising my
I have done a lot of work, looking at the edges of
consciousness, looking at where consciousness disappears.
Each new discovery moves the boundry. Dreams become more
lucid, life becomes more like a lucid dream. In the end
there is one big lucid dream or nothing at all. In a
timeless world, the two become one.
Go figure. Anyways, in this world, a lot more is possible
than one can imagine.
Destiny happens, against any will, but what we make of it
is up to us.
Looking for free will, it appears only in the
"not-me". Yet in most actions, will located in
"me" appears to be the initiator. This can be
described as a *sense* of will resulting from the shift
in consciousness of the observer looking outward to the
object of the action.
There is simply neither free will nor
predestination from a "nondual" standpoint.
There is no freedom of choice, neither is there anything
preventing choice. From a "relative
standpoint," these two viewpoints clash endlessly,
while the universe takes no notice and goes about its
business, utterly oblivious.
Isn't the whole question rendered moot when we ask
ourselves, "Who is the one who exercises free
between Miguel-Angel Carrasco and Dan Berkow