Is Samsara an Automation of Random Cause and Effect Stream?

This is a story of Dhammapada Commentary which is quoted by some scholars to support the idea that “Cetana-cetasika has a free will but conditioned”.
(The free will they mention is not of a person but of the cetana-cetasika)

Here the Blessed One says that the merchant Mahadhana could have changed his life.

Mahadhana-setthiputtha-vatthu

Atha naṃ ekadivasaṃ āsanasālāya dvāre ṭhatvā daharasāmaṇerehi diyyamānaṃ ucchiṭṭhakabhojanaṃ paṭiggaṇhantaṃ disvā satthā sitaṃ pātvākāsi. Atha naṃ ānandatthero sitakāraṇaṃ pucchi. Satthā sitakāraṇaṃ kathento “Passānanda, imaṃ mahādhanaseṭṭhiputtaṃ imasmiṃ nagare dveasītikoṭidhanaṃ ¶ khepetvā bhariyaṃ ādāya bhikkhāya carantaṃ. Sace hi ayaṃ paṭhamavaye bhoge akhepetvā kammante payojayissa, imasmiṃyeva nagare aggaseṭṭhi abhavissa. Sace pana nikkhamitvā pabbajissa, arahattaṃ pāpuṇissa, bhariyāpissa anāgāmiphale patiṭṭhahissa. Sace majjhimavaye bhoge akhepetvā kammante payojayissa, dutiyaseṭṭhi abhavissa, nikkhamitvā pabbajanto anāgāmī abhavissa. Bhariyāpissa sakadāgāmiphale patiṭṭhahissa. Sace pacchimavaye bhoge akhepetvā kammante payojayissa, tatiyaseṭṭhi abhavissa, nikkhamitvā pabbajantopi sakadāgāmī abhavissa , bhariyāpissa sotāpattiphale patiṭṭhahissa. Idāni panesa gihibhogatopi parihīno sāmaññatopi. Parihāyitvā ca pana sukkhapallale koñcasakuṇo viya jāto”ti vatvā imā gāthā abhāsi –

(I’ll try translating this later)

In brief:

The Blessed One says that,
If he didn’t misspend the wealth in his first-age, he will become the wealthiest merchant.
If he ordained in his first-age, he will become an arahant.
If he didn’t misspend the wealth in his middle-age, he will become the second wealthiest merchant.
If he ordained in his middle-age, he will become an anagami.
If he didn’t misspend the wealth in his latter-age, he will become the third wealthiest merchant.
If he ordained in his latter-age, he will become a sakadagami.

This is the point raised:
Does a Buddha say that “he could have done something”, if it was completely owned by causes and out of his control ?

What others ask back is:
How can the Freedom of choice (limited or unlimited) exist while becoming conditioned?

so I would ask how would you understand this story in terms of conditioning and free will?

Its hard to say. For sure I don’t think no free will at all would make sense, as that kinda defeats the purpose of Buddhism or really any religion/spiritual belief. One teacher told me that you can only control maybe 10% of your life, the rest is determined by your past deeds. This is hard to grasp in the West because many of us are so used to seeing a society of relative social and wealth fluidity. But when you consider how most of the world was in the pre modern era and even how many societies now are, including basically all of the Theravada Buddhist countries, its easy to see how conditions/circumstance seem set in stone. the rich stay rich, poor villagers stay poor villagers, with no reasonably clear path toward greater living conditions under thier control, at least not in thier current life.

I understand the message of the story (based on your brief as i can’t read Pali) as really just- start early.

2 Likes

Welcome to the new board Robinson!

I understand what you say about having a limited control(maybe10%) and it is the compromised solution for many Buddhists.

The problem here is, technically we are required to believe volition is completely conditioned, since the Tipitaka says like that. I have seen many (including big monks and scholars) have difficulties in understanding/ explaining how the things happen in this way.

  1. Some say Volition-cetasika is completely conditioned yet at the same time it has a limited choice.
  2. Others say (1) cannot be happened technically, because, if conditioned then no-choice.
  3. Another group say that the decision making part of the mind or volition is random and unconditioned.
  4. Some say part of the mind(90%) is conditioned while the other part(10%) is not.
  5. Some prefer not to think about it, most probably thinking that it is unsolvable or unimportant.

One have to have an idea about this which must be at least safe, if not correct.

1 Like

Hmm. I think 1 cannot be true, even if it is described that way in the Tipitaka. We have to note that there are many things in the suttas that probably don’t strictly mean what they say from a textualist POV.

The Chiggala Sutta for instance states that

“Monks, suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water, and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole there. A wind from the east would push it west, a wind from the west would push it east. A wind from the north would push it south, a wind from the south would push it north. And suppose a blind sea-turtle were there. It would come to the surface once every one hundred years. Now what do you think: would that blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole?”

“It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole.”

"It’s likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. It’s likewise a sheer coincidence that a Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, arises in the world. It’s likewise a sheer coincidence that a doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world. Now, this human state has been obtained. A Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, has arisen in the world. A doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world.

Yet we know human rebirth is not merely a coincidence, as there are both commentaries and suttas that describe that it your deeds that control your rebirth, including becoming a human.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an08/an08.040.than.html

https://suttacentral.net/mn120/en/suddhaso?reference=none&highlight=false

Nice to see you posting here Trobinson!
the pali word is adhiccamidaṁ which could be translated as sheer coincidence or rarely or 'without apparent cause or condition (because so rare)"

But we know the Buddha teaches conditionality - as you say. So finally I think the sutta is an encouragement to take advantage of the Buddha’s teaching while we are still alive…

2 Likes

In abhidhamma, isn’t the only consciousness that is caused by kamma are the consciousess that perceive sense objects?

While the consciousness that react to the objects (kusala and akusala citta) are not caused by kamma.

As a human we have a developed prefrontal cortex and it gives us the abiity to think and rationalize and to decide a better course of action. Thus our ability to think is our free-will.

1 Like

It is true, in that sense.

But here, ‘reacting consciousness’ is conditioned by ‘other conditions’ (out of 24 paccaya) excluding ‘kamma’.

If it is the case, then some argue that, ‘reacting consciousness’ can be predicted (in theory or by an omniscient being).

So it will lead to an fatalism/ determinism, according to them.

Free will is the ability to make choice. The choices are limited by conditions. Maybe we should call it limited will. Are the decision random? Unless it is made by throwing dice then I believe it is not random.

On the other hand, things that have no will do not have the ability to make choice.

the pali word is adhiccamidaṁ which could be translated as sheer coincidence or rarely or 'without apparent cause or condition (because so rare)

Oh how interesting. Although I would still say that its not correct to take the passages about conditioned results as meaning no free will exists at all. As for the passage Ekocare posted I think the message would be more like- start early (in terms of accumulating merit or working toward enlightenment).

:+1: :+1: :+1:sounds right

First to know is citta/consciousness. Citta arises one after another like a drum beat or a sound. One citta appears after the previous citta ceases. Each citta can be one of many types of citta. That continuation is explained with Paticcasamuppada or Samsara.

1 Like