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Engaging with Freedom

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

Lately I have been considering the goal of freedom. It seems worthwhile to pursue, to want to be free. But it is hard to be clear on what it means, and I wanted to share a few thoughts.

First of all it is good to have physical freedom, to not be constrained to a given room or house. There are ways one can get physically constrained, when young, when old and dement, when imprisoned for breaking the law, or kept on a mental ward. This is the obvious kind of freedom.

But one can also be emotionally constrained, by duties to look after family or partners. This may take up a certain portion of one’s time or may even be a full-time commitment. This is usually a limitation of freedom that one imposes on onesself.

Lastly there is a freedom of the mind. It is possible to be constrained by ignorance or habit, when it just does not occur to you that you could do something else than you are doing. The hardest walls to break are those you do not see. This can be a lack of imagination, or a lack of education.

“Keep the desire for freedom foremost in your mind. Good things will happen.”
— H. W. L. Poonja

Shoshin1FleaMarketJeffrey

Comments

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I’ve thought of another form of freedom which one can lose… the impulse to look beyond one’s circumstances, when one has had all the initiative beaten out of him. Long time prisoners get like that sometimes (remember Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption?)

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    But one can also be emotionally constrained, by duties to look after family or partners. This may take up a certain portion of one’s time or may even be a full-time commitment. This is usually a limitation of freedom that one imposes on onesself.

    I'm not sure how well this fits with the others. I mean technically you're right, duty and responsibility constrain our freedom. But lots of people find that tradeoff worth taking.

    Relationship and connection with others are some of the best things life has to offer. I think it also kind of goes back to the distinction between happiness and meaning. I'm pretty sure in happiness studies parents often score lower than people without children, but having children gives people a lot of purpose and meaning in their lives.

    Parents often refer to their children as their “pride and joy.” But research tells a different story: Having kids doesn’t necessarily make people happier...
    ...Although parents might fall short on moment-to-moment happiness, having kids provides meaning, satisfaction and connection in parents’ lives...
    ...“What a lot of people remember about parenthood are the incredible highs of creating new life, and the outpouring of love and devotion that you feel for that new person and the protection and affection that you want to give to that person,” Glass says.
    https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/16/does-having-children-make-you-happier-science-of-parenthood-explained.html

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    Freedom is an illusion. We are always under constraints, and there are always more things we can't do than things we can. When we incur a new restraint, then we notice it and think, oh damn, we are no longer free, whereas we were actually not free in the first place. Yet sometimes a new restraint means at the same time we have acquired a new freedom, no?

    Freedom is relative, a conditioned state, always changing.

    Shoshin1FleaMarket
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    Relationship and connection with others are some of the best things life has to offer. I think it also kind of goes back to the distinction between happiness and meaning. I'm pretty sure in happiness studies parents often score lower than people without children, but having children gives people a lot of purpose and meaning in their lives.

    How do you feel this fits with Buddhist thought? The Buddhist ideal is a monk who has renounced and left the home, not creating a family or being a householder, all in pursuit of the end of suffering and the underlying happiness. In a way Buddhist goals replace the biological imperative to reproduce.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @Fosdick said:
    Freedom is an illusion. We are always under constraints, and there are always more things we can't do than things we can. When we incur a new restraint, then we notice it and think, oh damn, we are no longer free, whereas we were actually not free in the first place. Yet sometimes a new restraint means at the same time we have acquired a new freedom, no?

    Freedom is relative, a conditioned state, always changing.

    I’m not so sure about that. Certainly you can notice new constraints in your life, but generally there are few things as invigorating, liberating, as laying down some burden and constraint.

    The other day I took off for a place in southern Germany with my father for a few days, this was carefully planned, the trains and the exact seats we would be sitting in were known weeks ahead of time as was the destination, an AirBnB appartment which was to function as our base for a weeks walking in the Schwarzwald. It was liberating in that it was a new style of holiday, a way of realising that it was easy to book a place to stay hundreds of miles away and just go.

    Our understanding of our situation is such that we have an inkling of our limits, but there are things we haven’t done before which prove to us that our range is wider than we believe. I could ignore my duty of care to my mother and my stepfather, buy a car and take off for Eastern Europe tomorrow, for instance. All that limits me is my mind and my bank balance. Alternatively I could buy a plane ticket, head to South America to live among the tribespeople and learn about their religions.

    FleaMarket
  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran
    edited November 22

    Engaging with freedom....
    I'm under the impression that freedom is about letting go of preferences/bonds ...and I guess expectations too...
    Freedom has no limitations...

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @Shoshin1 said:
    Engaging with freedom....
    I'm under the impression that freedom is about letting go of preferences/bonds ...and I guess expectations too...
    Freedom has no limitations...

    Yes but we almost never do it. Instead we stay within our comfortable patterns of work, food, exercise, tv and sleep. When someone does do it, like in Eat, Pray, Love, we examine their journey with great care. Someone liquidates their savings and goes on a journey of discovery, and we think that is extraordinary, while in fact, this freedom is there for us every day.

    The greatest bonds on freedom are in the mind, in that we don’t believe we can change our lives dramatically. It’s not just about travel, it’s the freedom to change who we believe we are. I could decide to spend my time teaching others about spiritual freedom, working with people in outreach to the homeless, for example.

  • The greatest bonds on freedom are in the mind...and freedom itself is all in the mind...an unfettered mind...
    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"

    FosdickKotishka
  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    but there are things we haven’t done before which prove to us that our range is wider than we believe.

    Indeed so - one path closes, another opens.

    Instead we stay within our comfortable patterns of work, food, exercise, tv and sleep.

    Chop wood, carry water.

    few things as invigorating, liberating, as laying down some burden and constraint.

    Or taking them up anew.

    FleaMarket
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @Fosdick said:

    Instead we stay within our comfortable patterns of work, food, exercise, tv and sleep.

    Chop wood, carry water.

    Hmm, no, don’t quite follow you there. Freedom doesn’t necessarily have to with enlightenment, and chopping wood and carrying water are just a persistence of the old pattern. When you gain freedom of mind something does change about your way of viewing the world. Your priorities change, and therefore you may decide not to chop wood and carry water anymore but instead start teaching Zen.

    few things as invigorating, liberating, as laying down some burden and constraint.

    Or taking them up anew.

    I have never yet found taking up a constraint to be liberating. Somewhat obtuse?

  • @Jeroen

    When hungry, I eat.
    When tired, I sleep.
    Like ol' Linji supposedly said.

    I think Fosdick meant that this is what being a human being is about. We need to engage with certain boring, mundane tasks to live. The key is to not get overly attached to our views, physical pains, ideologies, etc.

    Why not simply engage in the task mindfully? Like a student -me haha- worrying about how terrible exams are instead of engaging in a constructive and productive manner, meaning: I want to learn, but I also want to pass.

    The example -> I want to prepare the fireplace and drink water, but I also want to not injure myself.

    Maybe I got lost? @Fosdick

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited November 22

    @Kotishka said:
    I think Fosdick meant that this is what being a human being is about. We need to engage with certain boring, mundane tasks to live. The key is to not get overly attached to our views, physical pains, ideologies, etc.

    The thing is, in today’s world there are very few tasks we really must do. Sleep, breakfast, shower, buying the essentials. The rest of our days are free. But what you choose to do with your time has to do with how free your mind is, how clear your perception.

    Why not simply engage in the task mindfully? Like a student -me haha- worrying about how terrible exams are instead of engaging in a constructive and productive manner, meaning: I want to learn, but I also want to pass.

    It all depends on how you choose to live your life. Steve Jobs dropped out of college before he started Apple in his dad’s garage. Not saying you should do the same but it seems there are a lot of ways to live one’s life. How you choose to do what you do depends on the kinds of contacts you have made in your life, the kinds of examples you see in front of you.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    Relationship and connection with others are some of the best things life has to offer. I think it also kind of goes back to the distinction between happiness and meaning. I'm pretty sure in happiness studies parents often score lower than people without children, but having children gives people a lot of purpose and meaning in their lives.

    How do you feel this fits with Buddhist thought? The Buddhist ideal is a monk who has renounced and left the home, not creating a family or being a householder, all in pursuit of the end of suffering and the underlying happiness. In a way Buddhist goals replace the biological imperative to reproduce.

    Sure, the pursuit of enlightenment works best when one is free from such constraints. The monastic life has many of its own constraints though, in the form of precepts or duties to maintain the monastery or serve the public.

    Nature itself constrains us in many ways. I'm not free to swim to the bottom of the ocean if I wish. If you want to live in a state of nature you need to spend time gathering food and water, building shelter. In the modern world we engage in the constraint of work to overcome that natural constraint. At least most people do that, some are able to find a way to live off the efforts of others for sustenance (freegans, those on disability, etc.)

    The Harvard economist Thomas Sowell had a book a good while back about the conflicting visions of the world that kind of even goes back to Hobbes vs Locke about the state of nature. In practice it isn't a binary and people usually exist somewhere along a spectrum between an unconstrained and a constrained view of human nature and the world.

    If I get down to it and try to be honest, I suppose the only place I think we can ever be truly free is in our minds. And at some level I feel disregarding our obligations and duties to pursue or own ends is, to some degree, a selfish pursuit.

    Kotishka
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited November 22

    @person said:
    If I get down to it and try to be honest, I suppose the only place I think we can ever be truly free is in our minds. And at some level I feel disregarding our obligations and duties to pursue or own ends is, to some degree, a selfish pursuit.

    It does depend in what way you can still distinguish selfish and unselfish when you consider that everything is one. You may find that you do more good for more people when you leave some of your more mundane responsibilities behind for a new way of living. But to do that requires courage and vision and the drive to make radical changes.

    In western society we generally do accept the constraints of the capitalist consumer way of living. We educate ourselves, we get jobs, we start businesses. It dictates a lot of how you’re supposed to live your life. The reality is that the size of your bank balance also dictates how free you are in the physical world.

    Being free in how our minds think is like peeling back an onion, with the help of spiritual literature. Every so often you make some progress, but there is always more to go. Even reason and logic are constraints in the end.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    If I get down to it and try to be honest, I suppose the only place I think we can ever be truly free is in our minds. And at some level I feel disregarding our obligations and duties to pursue or own ends is, to some degree, a selfish pursuit.

    It does depend in what way you can still distinguish selfish and unselfish when you consider that everything is one.

    I suppose that depends on how you take it. Individuals bettering, or worsening, themselves has an impact on others. But does buying a yacht for oneself, or a tropical vacation, have that much benefit for others?

    I like the phrase, "We all do better, when we all do better." Meaning, when society prospers the overall benefit to individuals is greater. It also means when individuals make greater efforts to make their lives better it improves society overall.

    You may find that you do more good for more people when you leave some of your more mundane responsibilities behind for a new way of living. But to do that requires courage and vision and the drive to make radical changes.

    The Buddha made sure his monastics would go out daily for alms in order to keep them engaged with the community. The essential prayer in TB recited in every situation is the refuge prayer which reinforces the notion that our practice is for the benefit of others. So even when we isolate ourselves for spiritual ends we keep in the front of our minds that it isn't bliss for our own ends we're pursuing.

    In western society we generally do accept the constraints of the capitalist consumer way of living. We educate ourselves, we get jobs, we start businesses. It dictates a lot of how you’re supposed to live your life.

    That's not isolated to capitalism. Any economic system requires people to be productive and contribute to society. Its a basic constraint of nature.

    The reality is that the size of your bank balance also dictates how free you are in practice.

    That's partially true, many people are forced to labor tirelessly just to survive.

    Some people work to build their bank balance to the point that work consumes their life. I know there are others like myself who work enough to buy free time and reasonable security.

    FleaMarket
  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Newbie, not Veteran

    Does freedom exist independent of something to be free of?
    I see freedom as a destination, meaning discomfort at the current location.
    Or freedom as an object is sought, given, taken, lost, purchased, thrown away, taken for granted, savored, traded, temporary, renounced..

    What kind of freedom is desired?

    "There is worldly freedom and there is unworldly freedom.."
    sn36.31

    If it's worldly freedom, material freedom, who foots the bill once we're free of it?

    When I'm free to word-vomit, it's the poor souls who listen or read what I say that pay my bills for me.
    When I'm free of the desire to word-vomit and maybe instead pay someone else's bills, a different freedom is found.

    Easier said than done, sheesh..

    person
  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    Is freedom just the degree to which, one is not restricted by something?
    Is a Buddha's freedom, just another word for equanimity?

    KotishkaFleaMarket
  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Newbie, not Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    I have never yet found taking up a constraint to be liberating.

    But it sure is invigorating. Kind of like dancing on the edge of a cliff invigorating. I do not recommend it.

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    I have never yet found taking up a constraint to be liberating. Somewhat obtuse?

    Every time a choice is made, a set of constraints is taken up. Freedom is, at least in part, the freedom to make our own choices, and the freedom to choose our own constraints.

    If we feel burdened by some constraint, we can stop and carefully re-examine our options, then choose anew. Thereby we take up new constraints and new possibilities, or stick with the old ones. Either way, we have made our own choice, and we are free.

    Eminently obtuse, I agree heartily.

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran
    edited November 23

    Instead we stay within our comfortable patterns of work, food, exercise, tv and sleep.

    Chop wood, carry water.

    chopping wood and carrying water are just a persistence of the old pattern. ...

    Only if done blindly, on autopilot.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    Any economic system requires people to be productive and contribute to society. Its a basic constraint of nature.

    That’s not entirely the case. You don’t have to be productive if you have the means to survive. An Amazon indian who can just gather enough food to live on can survive with a very minimal level of productivity, while a Chinese labourer in a Foxconn factory may have to work 12 hour days to earn enough to live. A beggar in India may earn enough to live comfortably, although he does not produce anything.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    Any economic system requires people to be productive and contribute to society. Its a basic constraint of nature.

    That’s not entirely the case. You don’t have to be productive if you have the means to survive. An Amazon indian who can just gather enough food to live on can survive with a very minimal level of productivity, while a Chinese labourer in a Foxconn factory may have to work 12 hour days to earn enough to live. A beggar in India may earn enough to live comfortably, although he does not produce anything.

    There's a big difference between being forced to work 80 hours a week and free riding off the labor of others.

    I've long had the thought that maybe humanity made a mistake in the shift from hunter/gatherer to agriculture. We seem to be more evolutionally suited to small groups. But I am very appreciative of the knowledge and culture gained from that change.

    It certainly is possible to survive in this world without contributing to society. The example you gave of the beggar, or the one I gave about freegan's. There is freedom in that, but that freedom does depend on the effort and sometimes the generosity of the rest of society. The technical term is the free rider problem. When people use resources without giving back it can have a negative effect on society. There will always be some, but when it reaches too high a level structures and institutions can fail and those who do contribute tend to resent it (why should I if they don't) and cease making effort.

    I guess my feeling is if I want to benefit from a prosperous society gratitude for that tells me to give back. In other words to accept the constraint that those who you depend on are also under.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    The thing is, the 40-hour working week was basically invented by Ford Motor Company, and prior to that a lot of people worked significantly fewer hours. Those people weren’t “free riding off the labor of others”, it’s just that the amount of work you needed to do to sustain yourself wasn’t that high.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited November 24

    From another thread…

    “Our free will is constrained by all manner of addictions and traumas, attractors and avoiders, old dreams and terrors. To call us ‘free’ would be a major stretch of the imagination.”
    — me

    So really a lot of the journey towards freedom is noticing where your mind is not free, and then making efforts to free it. At the same time a lot of impositions on our freedom take the form of burdens that we can choose to lay down, including society’s expectations of us having to be productive.

    Free your mind first, then all other forms of freedom come easier.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 24

    @Jeroen said:
    From another thread…

    “Our free will is constrained by all manner of addictions and traumas, attractors and avoiders, old dreams and terrors. To call us ‘free’ would be a major stretch of the imagination.”
    — me

    So really a lot of the journey towards freedom is noticing where your mind is not free, and then making efforts to free it. At the same time a lot of impositions on our freedom take the form of burdens that we can choose to lay down, including society’s expectations of us having to be productive.

    Free your mind first, then all other forms of freedom come easier.

    Yes and no. I'd say yes that part of it is noticing where we're not free and making efforts to increase our freedom. So I would like general like to have more freedom in my day, to work less hours and have more free time to do the things I enjoy. I'd also like to be free mentally of some of the things that cause me suffering. And that journey requires a lot of work, from externally trying to change the world and the logic of current social relations to have the freedom to work less and still be able to live, to internally trying to change my mental habits to be free from attachments and wrong views that create suffering and dissatisfaction. And conventionally, I can say I want freedom of choice and freedom from suffering and privation.

    Where I'm hesitant to agree is that there is a free will at all. What aspect of our volition (cetana) is free, unconditioned? This search is, again, like the search for the heartwood of a banana tree. You peel back layer after layer only to discover that it's ultimately "empty, void, without substance." This is purely speculative, but I don't think we have an aspect of the khandhas that's free, unconditioned. I think that the path can help condition us to act more skillfully, do less harm, understand causality to condition more happiness and less suffering (morality, kamma), and ultimately get us to a place where let go of craving and clinging and "touch the deathless" (awakening). What I think this means is that there's an aspect of consciousness that's primordial, fundamental, what the Buddha poetically refers to as:

    'Consciousness without surface [vinnanam anidassanam],
    endless, radiant all around,
    has not been experienced through the earthness of earth ... the liquidity of liquid ... the fieriness of fire ... the windiness of wind ... the allness of the all.' (MN 49)

    And this level of consciousness isn't conditioned, doesn't arise and cease, doesn't intend, etc. It's experienced when all craving and intentionality stops. It's not the same as our sensory experience of consciousness (vinnana-khandha), and it's not equivalent to a self or soul as it's not an individually existing thing unique to our being that drives us, but part of the fabric of reality itself (along with space-time). And looking back from this experience, we can see how all of our particular human experiences are conditioned, how they arise and cease, and we no longer cling to them with that same strength or imbue them with the same solidity as we once did.

    In essence, you can't condition or create the unconditioned or even the experience of it, but you can condition an end to conditioning (a moment free from mental acts of attachment and intention), thereby opening up to the experience of the unconditioned already present and hidden in plain sight. Hence, as the Tao Te Ching says, the unwanting soul sees the hidden:

    The way you can go
    isn’t the real way.
    The name you can say
    isn’t the real name.

    Heaven and earth
    begin in the unnamed:
    name’s the mother
    of the ten thousand things.

    So the unwanting soul
    sees what’s hidden,
    and the ever-wanting soul
    sees only what it wants.

    Two things, one origin,
    but different in name,
    whose identity is mystery.
    Mystery of all mysteries!
    The door to the hidden. (Le Guin)

    Or as the Buddha put it:

    "For a person who knows & sees things as they actually are, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I feel disenchantment.' It is in the nature of things that a person who knows & sees things as they actually are feels disenchantment.

    "For a person who feels disenchantment, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I grow dispassionate.' It is in the nature of things that a person who feels disenchantment grows dispassionate.

    "For a dispassionate person, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I realize the knowledge & vision of release.' It is in the nature of things that a dispassionate person realizes the knowledge & vision of release. (AN 11.2, Thanissaro)

    There's a level of reality that's intellectually unknowable to us, and we must paradoxically submit to the unknown, rest in it, become one with it by being able to let go of what isn't ours. In some sense, we're powerless because there's a limit to our agency, to what we can will and achieve in this world. We are not free from causality. "When this is, that is. From the arising of this comes the arising of that. "When this isn't, that isn't. From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that" (MN 38).

    And the lesson for us to somehow learn is that, to achieve a glimpse of ultimate reality, we must set aside all desires and grasping and acts of will, and in the midst of that silent awareness free from our normal experience of space and time and sense of self, we can touch the deathless and become liberated. The unknown is thus known, not through our intellect or striving or act of will, but through a direct experience of, dare I say, divine emptiness in the depths of our heart. Something quite difficult yet effortless to achieve if the conditions are right.

    FleaMarket
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    The thing is, the 40-hour working week was basically invented by Ford Motor Company, and prior to that a lot of people worked significantly fewer hours. Those people weren’t “free riding off the labor of others”, it’s just that the amount of work you needed to do to sustain yourself wasn’t that high.

    I think we may be talking about two separate things. Or maybe two aspects of the same thing?

    To my mind it sounds like you're talking about the pressure to be maximally productive and consume.

    What I think I'm talking about is more an attitude of showing up at a gathering, not bringing anything to eat, not helping set up or clean up. Either not considering helping out or thinking your presence is enough, expanded out from a small group to the larger society.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jason said:
    Perhaps the path helps to decondition us and allows us more freedom. Or perhaps we become free from the idea of freedom and see causality for what it is, and use it to help condition ourselves to the freedom of nonattachment.

    This really spoke to me. Its been my experience of the path, that what brings "freedom" is the ability to understand causality. When we can understand what leads to what, that knowledge itself conditions our choices differently.

    I'm not sure if we differ in another regard or not. I think I'm somewhat of a compatibilist, I think there is a difference between internal "deciding" to jump in the pool and external being pushed into the pool in terms of conditionality. I'm also unsure if the quantum does play some role or not, or the present moment condition of awareness of our mental arisings allowing greater degrees of freedom.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    There's certainly a distinction that can be made between internal causes and conditions and internal ones. But internal decisions are no less conditioned by biology, physics, learned behaviors and habits, etc. And often times they're made before we even think we consciously make them.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited November 25

    @Jason said:
    There's certainly a distinction that can be made between internal causes and conditions and internal ones. But internal decisions are no less conditioned by biology, physics, learned behaviors and habits, etc. And often times they're made before we even think we consciously make them.

    I don't think the distinction between internal and external is about how causally determined or not it is. I think its more about the moral, ethical, social (not sure how to categorize it, an individual is more responsible for first degree murder than they are for manslaughter) distinction.

    And the Libet experiment is fairly old now and there have been other interpretations and subsequent modifications to the experiment that show the original experiment's findings probably aren't as strong as the original interpretation.

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/how-a-flawed-experiment-proved-that-free-will-doesnt-exist/

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 25

    In the context of freedom, it's all related. Same for ethics, conditionality, etc. Intentions and our actions each have their moral weight. And they're each casually conditioned. We effect the world and the world effects us— it's causality all the way down. We don't like to think in that way, but we're not independent of or free from the natural processes that the rest of the universe abides by. That's my understanding, anyway.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 25

    One example of this is that my answer to this question was very different 20 years ago, when I argued strongly for free will at a Buddhist monastery with others staying there. I said I could choose to throw a chair through the glass door if I wanted to because I felt like I could. I make my own decisions, don't I? But I didn't because of a myriad of factors that conditioned my decision not to. And after years of being exposed to the teachings on conditionality and philosophy and science, my answer has been conditioned to say that our ideas about freedom are likely an illusion. I may be wrong, but nothing I've observed yet has contradicted that. We may gage certain thoughts and actions differently based on how they effect (and affect) us and society, like accidentally hitting someone and running them over consciously, but each of those actions and the thoughts and events that led up to them were conditioned. We may react to them differently, but those reactions are also conditioned. They seem free, but I think if you dig deeply enough, you can find countless things that have influenced and conditioned them. They arise due to causes, and those things in turn act as causes and supporting conditions. Knowing this may not fundamentally change the way we treat one type of vehicular homicide (e.g., manslaughter vs murder), but it doesn't make conditionality any less likely to be true. Quantum mechanics may give us some wiggle room with probabilities vs. certainties, but causal determinism is seemingly more in line with Buddhism and observable reality than an independently existing, intending agency residing within our collected aggregates that's free from conditions to choose one thing or another of its own unconditioned volition. Because where else could freedom reside?

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited November 25

    The line is blurry and it isn't always clear, but I think practically we need some sort of line, as in the case of intentional vs unintentional murder. Maybe, even though everything is connected, it isn't equally connected? We're all connected to the star that exploded to give rise to the matter in our cells, but the connection to the food we ate today is more important.

    There are a couple cases though that help highlight the difficulty in parsing out our intuitions that I hear referred to. The example of a man who began having pedophelic thoughts, but when complaining of headaches a tumor was found and when removed the thoughts stopped. They came back and when looking the tumor was back. And the case of a murderer who had a truly horrific upbringing. Anyway, that's just a poor summary. This article is way more thorough and interesting.

    What is the difference between an aggressive tumor and a violent upbringing? One is clearly biological, whereas the other results from a complex web of biosocial factors. Yet, Raine points out, both can lead to troubling moral and legal questions: “If you agree that Mr. Oft was not responsible for his actions because of his orbitofrontal tumor, what judgment would you render on someone who committed the same act as Mr. Oft but, rather than having a clearly visible tumor, had a subtle prefrontal pathology with a neurodevelopmental origin that was hard to see visually from a PET scan?” A tumor is quickly treatable, but an upbringing—not so much.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/searching-for-true-sources-crime/

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited November 25

    @Jason said:
    One example of this is that my answer to this question was very different 20 years ago, when I argued strongly for free will at a Buddhist monastery with others staying there. I said I could choose to throw a chair through the glass door if I wanted to because I felt like I could. I make my own decisions, don't I? But I didn't because of a myriad of factors that conditioned my decision not to. And after years of being exposed to the teachings on conditionality and philosophy and science, my answer has been conditioned to say that our ideas about freedom are likely an illusion. I may be wrong, but nothing I've observed yet has contradicted that. We may gage certain thoughts and actions differently based on how they effect (and affect) us and society, like accidentally hitting someone and running them over consciously, but each of those actions and the thoughts and events that led up to them were conditioned. We may react to them differently, but those reactions are also conditioned. They seem free, but I think if you dig deeply enough, you can find countless things that have influenced and conditioned them. They arise due to causes, and those things in turn act as causes and supporting conditions. Knowing this may not fundamentally change the way we treat one type of vehicular homicide (e.g., manslaughter vs murder), but it doesn't make conditionality any less likely to be true. Quantum mechanics may give us some wiggle room with probabilities vs. certainties, but causal determinism is seemingly more in line with Buddhism and observable reality than an independently existing, intending agency residing within our collected aggregates that's free from conditions to choose one thing or another of its own unconditioned volition. Because where else could freedom reside?

    Missed this one, I'm not coming at it from the binary of libertarian free will vs hard determinism, I am a wishy washy compatibiblist (at least at the moment). I agree that its all determined and would also reject your idea of freedom from 20 years ago, but I think certain distinctions matter practically. For example the potential of facing legal consequences for ones actions is a causal factor that impacts people's conditioned choices, so holding people accountable matters. I also do think present moment causes and conditions importantly frees us up from predeterminism and fatalism.

    Regarding quantum, I am still undecided on that if there is some sort of interaction with causality that makes a difference. But randomness isn't any more free that determinism.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 25

    Of course, from our POV, some things are more important, practical, etc. And we can make all kinds of distinctions at every level, and in each particular case. No argument from me there. But I still think it's ultimately a banana tree. When you peel the layers back, where is freedom to be found? You're always free to disagree though. 😉

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited November 25

    @Jason said:
    Of course, from our POV, some things are more important, practical, etc. And we can make all kinds of distinctions at every level, and in each particular case. No argument from me there. But I still think it's ultimately a banana tree. When you peel the layers back, where is freedom to be found? You're always free to disagree though. 😉

    No, I agree, ultimately it is a banana tree. Convention still matters though. Even present moment causality is conventional and deterministic.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited November 26

    @Shoshin1 said:
    I'm under the impression that freedom is about letting go of preferences/bonds ...and I guess expectations too...
    Freedom has no limitations...

    I'm of the same mind on this I think. To be free is to be free of something. The more we let go of, the more free we become.

    Some things are good to hold onto and so the Middle Way lets us discern healthy relationships from fetters.

    @person said:

    @Jeroen said:
    But one can also be emotionally constrained, by duties to look after family or partners. This may take up a certain portion of one’s time or may even be a full-time commitment. This is usually a limitation of freedom that one imposes on onesself.

    I'm not sure how well this fits with the others. I mean technically you're right, duty and responsibility constrain our freedom. But lots of people find that tradeoff worth taking.

    I have to agree here but am biased to a degree by having a family. We are free to make that trade. Also there are not only people to take care of, there are also people who will care for us.

    @Jeroen said:
    How do you feel this fits with Buddhist thought? The Buddhist ideal is a monk who has renounced and left the home, not creating a family or being a householder, all in pursuit of the end of suffering and the underlying happiness. In a way Buddhist goals replace the biological imperative to reproduce.

    I don't think I can agree here. I mean, I agree that's part of it but we can't all be monks as I don't think the plan is to end humanity. In the Mangala Sutta, ( https://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/bless.html ) the Buddha lists 38 supreme blessings. 4 of them are about family ties. All 38 of them could be seen as constraints in a certain light and one is to be restrained by a moral code.

    Not to be cheeky but it's all well and good for someone like the historical Buddha to say monks shouldn't have kids as he already had Rahula. When he left his family, the Buddha had not awakened yet. When he woke up he could have gone any direction but he was called back to family and community. Indeed, his wife, son and the aunt that raised him chose to join the Sangha.

    Freedom is a tricky bit. In the quest to be free we may forget our responsibilities to each other and/or lose sight of what matters.

    personShoshin1FleaMarket
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    In a way, Dungeons and Dragons is a great exercise in how to be free. You get to be someone else, a different haircolour, a different gender, a different race, in a different world. You get to participate in a great adventure. It’s a wonderful feat of storytelling and imagination.

    But at the same time you agree to be limited by the rules of the game… skill checks for trying different things, movement rates in dungeons, the strength of one’s arm for smiting foes. The rules provide a basic arbitration and a kind of consensus reality.

    And then you come down, away from the realms of the imagination and back to the real world, where people tell you you need to work, you need to provide for yourself and your family. It’s a bummer man.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    In a way, Dungeons and Dragons is a great exercise in how to be free. You get to be someone else, a different haircolour, a different gender, a different race, in a different world. You get to participate in a great adventure. It’s a wonderful feat of storytelling and imagination.

    But at the same time you agree to be limited by the rules of the game… skill checks for trying different things, movement rates in dungeons, the strength of one’s arm for smiting foes. The rules provide a basic arbitration and a kind of consensus reality.

    Maybe that's why I like D&D, freedom and constraint combined? There's a fair bit of research that shows constraint enhances creativity and innovation. Unlimited choice tends to overwhelm.
    https://hbr.org/2019/11/why-constraints-are-good-for-innovation#:~:text=Constraints, in contrast, provide focus,, services, or business processes.

    And then you come down, away from the realms of the imagination and back to the real world, where people tell you you need to work, you need to provide for yourself and your family. It’s a bummer man.

    For me it isn't so much about what people tell me I need to do, its about understanding the ways we're all so interconnected and dependent on one another. I feel the need to contribute and give back. Can you really be free of constraints but still expect others to provide for you?

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited November 26

    @person said:
    Can you really be free of constraints but still expect others to provide for you?

    The vast majority of my life I have provided for myself, I’ve never had a wife to care for me or kids that I needed to care for. Financially that’s still true, I live with my mother and stepfather but I pay a third of everything and do my share of the cooking and cleaning. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to build up enough savings during my good working years to do this.

    So whatever freedom I have I earned for myself, with due thanks to those who have tried to encourage me. And there have been a few who tried to do the opposite too.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 26

    We are certainly all interconnected, and I think it's important to try and contribute to sustain that interconnectedness. But I'm certainly not happy with the current setup of that contribution, a system where I can't eat or keep warm if some capitalist doesn't purchase my labour, where my entire work day and working conditions are dictated by someone else making a fortune while I'm living paycheck to paycheck, where financial speculation is a more profitable than providing healthcare. And it's a strawman to say that people who aren't happy to live in a world where someone with diabetes can't afford to consistently use insulin because it's too expensive or wants more free time with family than at work simply expects others to provide for them. On the conventional level of freedom, we have very little in that regard. Our actions are conditioned in large proportion by the logic of an omnipresent socioeconomic system that tells us we are free while constraining our choices and opportunities.

    Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Well said @Jason, I entirely agree.

    And I also think it’s the case that the system is more all-encompassing and more pernicious now than it was a hundred years ago. If you’re not lucky enough to study something essential or corrupt enough to work your way into the elite, it can be difficult to make ends meet, and thats without having the surplus which really makes you economically free.

    In hunter-gatherer times human beings were a lot more free and independent than now, when everything is accounted for by systems of ownership, and those who own a lot are always looking for ways to improve their share. Witness Elon Musk.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    I feel the need to contribute and give back.

    Then why not find ways to be generous, such as in @FleaMarket’s recent excellent thread?

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    I think the way our freedom has been reduced in this regard is often obscured by the narrative we live in. For example, we have more consumer choices available. But if we don't have enough extra money, we're aren't free to actually make them. We are also unaware of how much of common land and resources have been privatized, meaning we don't have the same access. Try finding someone to use the bathroom, for instance, without having to purchase something. We are also under the impression that we have more choices in where to work, but we're limited by who will actually purchase our labour and how much it's purchased for, which in turn limits our choices. And workplaces are essentially authoritarian, with work hours and conditions being dictated by owners, even bathroom breaks being dictated by them. And if we're very motivated to do better, we're limited by having to get specialized education that requires debt (assuming we get accepted into universities and for loans to live on), which constrains us. No matter where we look, our freedoms come with strings or are limited because we lack the means to fully utilize them.

    Jeroen
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 26

    I don't believe in objective freedom, as I think causal determinism precludes such a thing. But conventionally, I do support expanding freedom and reducing systemic conditioning, such as reducing hours of labour and providing more free time for people, expanding democracy into workplaces so that workers have more agency, more equitable distribution of wealth and universal systems that help provide necessities (e.g. healthcare) to help socialize opportunities, etc. Because as it currently stands, freedom is tied to money. The more of the latter you have, the more of the former you enjoy. And I'm not happy with that setup.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @taiyaki said:
    OP, I've heard recently a teaching on two freedoms and how they are not the freedom offered by Dharma. There is freedom from and freedom to. Freedom from x, y, z. In a way a lot of what we do is try to attain freedom from oppression, from our traumas, from even suffering. Or freedom to x, y, z. Freedom to live a good life. Freedom to do whatever we want to. Dharma offers a freedom that isn't from or to.

    This teaching that was impressed upon me really shocked me because pretty much everything I do is well for those two modes of freedom. And even my dharma practice is about getting freedom from suffering and freedom to live a fuller life. But freedom in the dharma is something else entirely.

    And thus I am presented with two things. My spiritual materialism and something so radical that my conventional mind cannot make sense of it.

    This is really interesting, I hadn't heard it framed in that way before. What does it mean? Are you able to expand, or have a link to reference?

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited November 30

    @Jeroen said:

    In hunter-gatherer times human beings were a lot more free and independent than now, when everything is accounted for by systems of ownership, and those who own a lot are always looking for ways to improve their share. Witness Elon Musk.

    It's really not so different in theory. Everybody had their strengths which they used to the benefit of the community. Every individual had a role to play. It's just bigger and more complex now. The one thing that has been the fly in the ointment is the idea of independence. The idea that we are not connected and are not responsible to each other. Us and them is a disease. We either work together or not so well at all, it seems.

    @taiyaki said:
    This teaching that was impressed upon me really shocked me because pretty much everything I do is well for those two modes of freedom. And even my dharma practice is about getting freedom from suffering and freedom to live a fuller life. But freedom in the dharma is something else entirely.

    Both freedom from and freedom to are rooted in a desire for things to be different. The dharma often promises a freedom born from the cessation of the desire to be free from or to.

    I like to question everything and try to put things in context and it seems to me that if the historical Buddha thought that way, he would have kept the dharma to himself and he would have had no inclination to help others.

    Thank goodness for Sujata for waking up the Buddha!

    The rivers are once again rivers and water must still be carried.

    There will come a time when we will have to accept the loss of all we hold dear and that's ok.

    "When we learn how to suffer, we suffer less"
    -Thich Nhat Hanh

  • taiyakitaiyaki Appearance Itself Veteran

    @person said:

    @taiyaki said:
    OP, I've heard recently a teaching on two freedoms and how they are not the freedom offered by Dharma. There is freedom from and freedom to. Freedom from x, y, z. In a way a lot of what we do is try to attain freedom from oppression, from our traumas, from even suffering. Or freedom to x, y, z. Freedom to live a good life. Freedom to do whatever we want to. Dharma offers a freedom that isn't from or to.

    This teaching that was impressed upon me really shocked me because pretty much everything I do is well for those two modes of freedom. And even my dharma practice is about getting freedom from suffering and freedom to live a fuller life. But freedom in the dharma is something else entirely.

    And thus I am presented with two things. My spiritual materialism and something so radical that my conventional mind cannot make sense of it.

    This is really interesting, I hadn't heard it framed in that way before. What does it mean? Are you able to expand, or have a link to reference?

    it's a private teaching. but I think to put shortly the teachings of dharma in a way don't really align with well normal, conventional drives. It's something else entirely. I mean certainly we want our dharma and our conventional drives to align. And at times they certainly do. But the freedom offered is unconditional. And it arrives when we end the delusion of self. We have a self, hence all our drives deal with freedom to do things (desire) and freedom from things (aversion). But when there is no self, then there is just freedom.

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