For example, the body has the choice to walk on path A or B. Before the body starts walking, there must be thoughts of path A and B. There must also be a (mental?) decision/choice made to walk on one path or the other.

What is it that allows to make choices?

I have always been at loss to understand what that untouchable phenomenon is. What is it that let's me choose at all? I have trouble phrasing the question. So I will give another example. When someone offers me a marijuana joint, there are the options to accept or decline. Both feel just as far, just as easy to make. Sometimes I accept, sometimes reject. What phenomenon chooses? I've never been able to 'touch' that phenomenon directly.

This question about changing habits is the same question as this one.

EDIT: In another attempt to convey what is being asked (my apologies), there is now another question (this one with a bounty) What is volition?


When a person has a choice between Path A or B, on what basis would that person make that decision, for it to be the right one? For that one has to have a very good knowledge of the True Dhamma. How can one differentiate between what is the Truth and what is not. Even if there is only one path, there is a lower level and a higher level to it. How would a person know such a thing? Take for example Generosity. Giving (dana) is one of the integral parts of the practice of Dhamma. When practiced in itself, it is a basis of merit or wholesome kamma, but only when combined with morality, concentration and insight, will it lead to liberation from samsara, the cycle of repeated existence. So it is of the recollection of one's own generosity. This is Chaganussati (meditation about generosity).

That is why I would say that you and I are living in very unfortunate times. It is very rare that you and I get to find someone who will teach us the correct path, the True Dhamma, and how to meditate the proper way. Once we learn how to, we will be able to practice these while we are walking, while standing, sitting or when lying down in bed. Then there is no such thing as ‘Choice’. We have found our guide in whom we will place our complete trust. Then we will have unflinching faith in the Path that was shown to us. Then what is important is to practice the little Dhamma that you have learnt. Today almost all the people only read about dhamma. Next moment all this is forgotten. Then there are others who only talk about Dhamma that they think that they’ve understood. They are only fooling themselves to think that they have understood, and put many others too in the wrong path, thereby creating a lot of ‘Akusala Kamma”.

The path to enlightenment is not so easy. It is a path that goes against the stream. Buddha called this "Patisothagami " or going against the stream. It is just like when almost all the fish in the water are swimming with the flow while only one fish is trying hard to swim against the flow. It's not swimming against the resistance of the flow of water but also the resistance of the other fish that may impede its path.


What is it that allows to make choices?

It's a complex combination of various variables, nature vs. nurture, old habit energy, one's own effort and energy, etc. That's why the 4-pronged approach of SammaPpadhana/Four Right Exertions in the other thread is a necessary tool to help one making progress on the Path. For example, to one who's never smoked marijuana and lives a healthy life style (a positive habit), s/he'd be less prone to accept the offer by his friend to smoke. But then if s/he lacks effort and discipline, s/he can still accept it. To one who's a chain smoker (a negative habit), s/he'd be very likely to accept the offer. But then again, if s/he puts in the effort and discipline, s/he can reject the offer. Anyway, until one's attained the super-normal power like the Buddha, it's difficult to know the exact threshold/quantity required for a variable to start "overriding" the effect of other variables. However, common sense tells us that our own volition/intention here and now probably is the main influential variable..


Human consciousness (& wisdom) allows choice, which is what distinguishes the 'human' from the 'animal'. The 'animal' is instinctual programmed behaviour & reactions where as the 'human' consciousness is 'reflective'. The human consciousness can objectively (like a mirror) know the inner motivations & drives of the mind & can choose to follow or not follow those drives.

This is the meaning of a 'human' birth in Buddhism. When people (mentally) behave like 'animals', they cease to be 'human', even though they have the physical body of people.

The common saying in the world of: "he/she is only human" when someone makes a mistake or acts badly is not Buddhist. In Buddhism, 'human' means having a reflective aware mind that can choose between right (good) & wrong (harm).

The Chiggala 1 Sutta describes the non-human state or birth as: "mutual devouring, the devouring of the weak".


What is it that allows to make choices?

Wisdom and awareness helps you make the choice. Being aware you can exercise restraint when your habitual or reflexive response is suffering and this is not the most conducive action to follow though with for the given situation. Wisdom aids to you asses the situation in the right frame (right angle or right light).


Personally I think the beauty of this life is that we have a choice. Otherwise there would b total control ...not sure if that is the aim you are looking for ? My thoughts are be free with what ever you want but at the same time according to Buddhist logic there are repercussions of that choice . You mention how someone offers you a J ..and sometimes you say yes or decline this is a choice between chemical phenomena in your brain that will be yes if you really want a puff or on the other hand you might decline as you don't feel up to it just count yourself lucky you still have the strength to make a choice !

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.