I've come across a contradiction in my practice. In truth you have no control of the mind, things arise and cease based on extremely subtle influences by defilemets at the roots. Yet the dammapada says to be the master and control your mind/volitions.

I've also asked this on radio.sirimangalo site but not sure which you use for monk radio now.

  • This sounds like question about freedom of will. Are you asking if we have freedom of will? Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 23:36

2 Answers 2


As my teacher explained, whether we do or do not have freewill, when we drive the car, we must drive it well. Similarly, regardless of whether meditation is happening by itself, or "I" do it, it must be right meditation.

Practically speaking, we can control our mind, we can choose whether to get angry or to let go, whether to break through our phobias or to give in, whether to tolerate pain or to give up. This is our choice.

Similarly, we do have a choice of perspective: we can think we are sentient beings, having been born and destined to die, or we can generate the mind of nirvana. You always have choice, period.

Buddha was a huge opponent of the no-free-will-type theories with their tendency to take away motivation to strive for Enlightenment.

Now surely meditation is not about rigid control either. It's not about letting your mind run loose, nor is it about following an algorithm.

Enlightenment involves losing the form, true, but it also involves developing tremendous will power. These are the two legs we walk on the path.


If you want to strengthen a muscle, you need to know where it is and what it moves if you're going to understand the exercises that target it. Only then can you perform them efficiently. In the same way, you have to understand the anatomy of the mind's suffering if you want to understand how meditation is supposed to work. You'll find, for instance, that the Buddha explained how ignorance shapes the way you breathe, and how that in turn can add to your suffering.

Meditation is the most useful skill you can master. It can bring the mind to the end of suffering, something no other skill can do. But it's also the most subtle and demanding skill there is. It requires all the mental qualities ordinarily involved in mastering a physical skill — mindfulness and alertness, persistence and patience, discipline and ingenuity — but to an extraordinary degree. This is why, when you come to meditation, it's good to reflect on any skills, crafts, or disciplines you've already mastered so that you can apply the lessons they've taught you to the training of the mind.

Hope this helps. It is an extract from Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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