Free will question

Greetings all ’round! 🙂

Per Advaita, does one (jiva) have free will? (This obviously applies only to vyavaharika, in paramarthika there is no jiva, freedom, will, etc.)

If yes, who or what exercises this free will? And what is the proper way to do so?

If no, should one simply surrender to what-is, sit back, relax, and watch what’s happening as if it were all a movie?



4 thoughts on “Free will question

  1. Hi Rick,

    (Mainly for the benefit of others, I accept), if you type ‘free will’ into the search bar at the top, You get a page of articles by myself, including a 5-part series on the subject. I don’t really have anything to add but maybe others have input.

    Best wishes,

  2. The following was my answer to an equivalent question in Quora:
    Do I have free will, or is everything in my life predetermined?

    To paraphrase one of Einstein’s famed insights, free will “is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

    The notion of ‘free will’ is of Jewish-Christian origin, and is the other side of the coin which consists in that other nostrum, ‘(the problem of) evil’, which complicates things even more. God, being the summum bonum, is not responsible for evil; therefore that responsibility falls entirely on (fallen) man.
    There is no notion in Plato (and generally among the ancient Greeks) of the concept of ‘free will’, in the sense of a faculty of the soul which determines a particular course of action – choice, in other words. Rather, it is an inclination or appetite (desire) which motivates action and which is either for the highest and noblest aspiration in man or for his lower preferences. When the inclination is towards the Good Plato calls it Eros. This account of ‘good will’ was preserved in St. Augustine (dilectio or caritas).

    A similar view can be found in Br.Upanishad 4.4.5: “Man is fashioned by desire; according to his desire is his discernment; according to his discernment he does his work.” Also: “For just as men here below pursue the aim after which each aspires, as it were done at command, whether it be a kingdom or an estate, and live only for that, so in their aspiration for heavenly rewards they are the slaves of their desires” – Chand. Upanishad 8.1.5). Paul Deussen, in ‘The Philosophy of the Upanishads’, from which I just quoted, concludes: “The standpoint of the Upanishads, therefore, is a rigid determinism”.

    That judgment, however, should be applied only to the empirical view of the everyday world, not to the higher one, where Atma (-Brahman), the only reality, reigns with absolute freedom.

  3. amartingarcia,

    Thanks for the response and the historical perspective. 🙂

    I read the SAND article by Peter Russell. Mixed feelings. Being a truth-relativist kinda guy I agree wholeheartedly with his realization that both (apparently opposing) views of free will are true within their frameworks. But then in the final section he falls back into the gospel of contemporary nondualism:

    “Although, in the liberated state of mind, there may be no free will in the sense in which we normally think of it, there is instead a newfound freedom far more fulfilling and enriching than the freedom of choice to which we cling.” How can he know how fulfilling and enriching the sense of freedom of choice is to others?

    “… veils our true nature.” Here he drops the truth relativism he praised earlier on, and instead declares a certain view of human nature to be ‘our true nature.'”

    “But we are free from the dictates of the ego; we are free to respond according to needs of the situation at hand rather than what the ego wants. Here our will is truly free.” Here he seems to have drunk deeply from the kool-aid! There is no sense of degree, no: more free from ego, more free to respond accd. to the situation, our will is more free as seen from this point of view.

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