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The question of free will
c12.gif (9106 bytes) When people from the West start studying the subject of kamma, or intention, they are often confused by the problem of free will. Is there free will? In actual fact there is no free will, in the sense of being ‘absolutely free', because intention is just one of the myriad interrelated cause and effect processes.  However, will can be considered free in a relative way. We might say it is 'relatively free', because it is in fact one of the factors within the overall natural process. In Buddhism this is called purisaka.gif (845 bytes)ra. Each person has the ability to initiate thinking and intention, and as such become the instigating factor in a cause and effect process, or kamma, for which we say each individual must accept responsibility.

Misunderstandings, or lack of understanding, in relation to this matter of free will, arise from a number of more deeply - rooted misconceptions, in particular, the misconception of  self. This concept causes a lot of confusion when people try to look at reality as an actual condition, but are still trapped in their habitual thinking, which clings fast to concepts. The two perspectives clash. The perception is of a doer and a receiver of results. While in reality there is only a feeling, the perception is of ‘one who feels’. (In the texts it is said: There is the experience of feeling, but no-one who feels.) The reason for this confusion is ignorance of the characteristic of anatta.gif (845 bytes), not self.

Buddhism doesn't stop simply at free will, but strives to the stage of being ‘free of will', transcending the power of will, which can only be achieved through the complete development of human potential through wisdom.

Also note that within this process of human development, the areas of the mind and of wisdom are distinguished from each other. Wisdom that is fully developed will liberate the mind. So we have the mind with intention, and the mind with wisdom. However, this is a practical concern, a vast subject which must be reserved for a later time.

My intention here has been simply to show that the attainment of perfect knowledge, or reality, must arise from an understanding of human beings and their place in the natural order, including those abstract conditions and values which exist within them.

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