The Buddha’s Teachings on Determinism and Free Will
with Etan Boritzer
This is a scholarly talk that examines the Buddha’s direct teachings on how an individual can exert intention and efforts for liberation from determinist conditions in this lifetime (or in future lifetimes) within the context of this ancient dilemma.
We review the other important Teachings of the Buddha (aka Siddatha Gotama 563 BCE - 483 BCE) related to impermanence ("anica"), no-self (anata) and suffering ("dukha") as derived from the old extant Theravada texts.
The question of how a person may volitionally overcome karmic (actionable) propensities and numerous determined conditions in order to achieve liberation is a central issue in both Eastern and Western religious and philosophical dialogues.
In the Mahākammavibhanga Sutta (MN.3) the Buddha declares, “All living beings have karma as their own property, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is karma that differentiates beings into low and high states”
In the Dhatuvibhanga Sutta (MN.140) the Buddha states, “A person has four determinations: the determination for discernment, the determination for truth, the determination for relinquishment, the determination for calm.”
The Dhammasangaṅi, the first book of the Theravāda Abhidhamma Piṭaka, the post-canonical teachings on the Five Constraints (pañcavidha niyama) illustrates the scope of natural law or phenomenon as a determinist factor.
The Buddha’s profound Mahanidana Sutta (DN.15) gives an extended teaching of dependent arising (paticca samuppada) as the factors of causation from ignorance to death.
Etan Boritzer is a well known Los Angeles and national yoga/meditation teacher. In 1971, at age 21, he sojourned to India and studied yoga at Gitananda Ashram in Pondicherry, South India. He began teaching yoga in New York City when he returned from India. He is a longtime vipassana meditator under the teachings of S.N. Goenka. Etan is also the best selling author of 12 children’s books on social issues and difficult topics, now published in 15 languages.