To what extent does Buddhism state we have free will and moral responsibility for our actions? Does Karma mean our future is predestined?


In Transcendent Wisdom, H.H the Dalai Lama says:

it is a fallacy to equate the Buddhist view of causality with either the mechanistic determinism of classical physics, or the probabilistic determinism of quantum physics.

In Robert Thurman speaks of

[...]six well-known opponents of the Buddha [who were] teachers of nihilism, sophism, determinism, asceticism, etc.

In Buddhist Phenomenology, Dan Lusthaus says:

The instantaneous moment is key, since it is precisely here that Buddhism, for all its elaboration of causal determinants, escapes becoming a form of hard determinism. At the moment one recognizes the conditioning process for what it is-a pain/pleasure calculus shaped by previous experiences that sets the basis for subsequent attitudes, predilection, proclivities, experiences--one is free, detached from that chain's ineluctability. If such a moment of insight is fleeting or shallow, the old habitual patterns will reemerge. But ifthe insight is sufficiently radical, one can at that moment, detach from the chain, ceasing to be its locus. The chain thereupon expires, ceases, is eliminated.

To put it another way, the so-called 'doctrine of karma' means that whatever arises has causes and conditions. Whatever arises in our continuum is caused, partly, by actions we ourselves engaged in. For instance, if anger arises in my mind, it is because I created the causes of it, but it is also because other conditions gathered.

Now, we can affect the conditions that we created. For instance, we can purify negativities so as for them not to give the results they would have lead to. Conditioned phenomena are determined, but not predetermined in the sense one might imagine.

H.H. the Dalai Lama speaks of the issue because he is acquainted with westerners. However, a teacher of mine once said that he found the question (about predetermination) odd. In all his years of traditional studies, he never once thought of it or came upon the topic.

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