There are mainly 3 western views:

  1. Free Will is real & I believe in it.
  2. Free Will is an illusion but I live my life assuming it is real because it is a healthy assumption.
  3. A compatibilist that believes in degrees of freedom & determinism cannot harm the truth of future outcomes.

My first thought would be none of these apply as they assume a self and the world works on the principles of dependent origination. Perhaps, I'm incorrect in my thinking or heading in the correct direction. It would be great to hear detailed and well-thought responses.

  • Hey, great question and welcome to Buddhism SE:)
    – user19910
    Mar 15 '21 at 12:11
  • Hi! Let us know if none of the old answers satisfy your curiosity and once you edit your question to focus on the specific aspects that those answers don't address it can be reopened.
    – Andrei Volkov
    Mar 15 '21 at 14:10
  • My question is a bit broader. That, whether these western paradigms even apply to a Buddhist worldview in the first place. Superimposing western philosophical concepts to the Dharma can lead to confusion as both have different starting assumptions. I am more knowledgeable on Dharma than western philosophy; hence I ask this question.
    – Luv
    Mar 16 '21 at 5:58

Free Will. Someone might say: "If all phenomena are conditionally arisen, then Buddhism is a form of fatalism, for we have no free will to control our destiny." Such a statement would not be correct. Will is volition (cetanaa), a mental state, determined ethically by its root condition (hetu paccaya). If the root is unwholesome, we can either restrain or indulge the volition; if the root is wholesome, we can encourage it or neglect it. In this exercise of will lies our freedom to guide our destiny.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/mendis/wheel322.htmlThis is how there's free will in the midst of causality. At the same time, the pattern in the way intentions lead to results allows us to learn from past mistakes. This freedom within a pattern opens the way to a path of mental training that can lead to the end of suffering. We practice generosity, virtue, and meditation to learn the power of our intentions and in particular to see what happens as our intentions grow more skillful, so skillful that present intentions actually stop. Only when they stop can you prove for yourself how powerful they've been. And the spot where they stop is where the unconditioned — the end of suffering — is found. From there you can return to intentions, but you're no longer their captive or slave.



To put it in simplest terms free will arises , changes and vanishes. You should therefore realize free will is not mine, I am not free will , free will is not my self. Having said that you devote yourself to finding the root cause of suffering and eliminating it.

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