1

Consider someone is doing something (for instance eating). I can say that he is eating because of hunger, and his hunger is because his body needs energy. So, every action have external causes only.

Can I do something by my own (without external causes)?

I know that I can't do unwholesome things because of anatta. But I can say that I did something because of ignorance, and also that my action has an effect (karma).

This post may not be a question. I'm looking for a way to clear my understanding.

Kind regards.

1
  • 1
    Hunger seems like something internal to me. How do you define external and internal in this regard? Clarifiying this may be part of the answer to your question.
    – user11699
    Jun 7 '20 at 14:56
1

The very notion of anatta implies there is no intention that originated from an independent standalone self. Dependent origination applies to all mental and physical processes.

You eat because you're hungry, yes.

Could you have decided to practise the teachings of the Dhamma if you have never encountered it? Of course not.

Some people come to the conclusion of moral values or virtue (sila) on their own, without encountering teachings on morality or religion, but this happens on the basis that they don't want to inflict suffering upon others, as they do not want others to inflict suffering upon them.

In this case, just like hunger, suffering inflicted by others become the trigger to come to the basis of morality. Please see this answer.

The mind and body are dependent on each other. The underlying tendencies or obsessions of AN 7.11 arise out of ignorance. Also, in the chain of dependent origination, you see how ignorance eventually gives rise to the birth of individuality and individual existence.

However, does this mean that we have no free will whatsoever? That's also not true. We do have a choice. We have the choice to act according to virtue (sila) and the Dhamma, to generate good kamma, and also to free ourselves from suffering.

From the Attakari Sutta:

“So, brahmin, when there is the element of endeavoring, endeavoring beings are clearly discerned; of such beings, this is the self-doer, this, the other-doer. I have not, brahmin, seen or heard such a doctrine, such a view as yours. How, indeed, could one — moving forward by himself, moving back by himself — say ‘There is no self-doer, there is no other-doer’?”

From AN 5.57:

“And for the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do’? People engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, such misconduct is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do.’

1

Every inside has an outside. Can you truly say that one has hunger because of only things outside without anything on the inside? Can a rock be hungry? Can the vacuum of space be hungry? There must be something on the inside which is part of hunger, or else it is a thing which is experienced by every part of existence equally.

On the other side, can an action occur without an actor? If not, and you cannot do something, then no action can occur.

Of course, these are not to say that hunger does not exist, nor that one cannot act. They merely point out that there are fundamental limits of understanding when one starts from the assumption that things are either completely outside or completely inside.

Phrasings like "I am hungry with my body" and "I act with the world around me" may be worth considering. They have their flaws too, but they are complementary flaws.

0

Consider someone is doing something (for instance eating). I can say that he is eating because of hunger, and his hunger is because his body needs energy. So, every action have external causes only.

Can I do something by my own (without external causes)?

Of course you can. Otherwise the Buddha wouldn't have taught the Four Right Exertions. Slightly changing the hunger case above a bit, say, one's really hungry, there'd be various different options he can choose to satiate his hunger: violence to rob/kill people to extract money, resorting to stealing, begging for alms, doing some useful work in exchange for food and drink, etc. The fact that 10 different people would resort to 10 different ways to obtain the food they need is proof that the outcome of any action is a combination of both internal and external factors. They don't exist on their own separately and independently.

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.