lessons - 2

Gregory Goode goode at DPW.COM
Thu Mar 26 09:37:00 CST 1998

At 11:00 AM 3/26/98 +0200, Charles Wikner wrote:

(Greg's lines in single >'s, Charles's in double >>'s):

>> There is a reference point according to which there are strong
>> experiences of freedom of will.  There is also a reference point
>> according to which these experiences are understood in a way that
>> doesn't necessitate or imply free will.
>The first "point" seems to be the familiar ego; the second sounds
>like a demonic divorce of sattva from rajas and tamas.  Would you
>please describe or illustrate that second "point".

The second point is the standpoint of the witness, or the result of inquiry
or atma vichara.  This standpoint is:
  -able to see thoughts and desires and all vrittis arising spontaneously,
        including that of "it's my will."
  -unable to see or detect a true entity whose will it is.

>> With respect to this one teaching on free will, I have seen
>> this teaching be received by people who then experienced profound,
>> liberating shifts away from identification with the ego.
>The attractiveness of the belief is clear, but it looks like a trap.
>Please explain the last phrase: I equate identification with ego;
>what do you understand by ego in your statement?

I equate ego as the ahamkara or "I-notion."  Identification, to me, is the
belief of myself that I am something, an "X" -- that "X" can be one of the
usual levels given in Vedanta: the body, mind, intellect, one of the
panchakosas, etc.  And using Western concepts I would say that the "X" is
usually with a set of memories or beliefs or values (I am my memories, my
beliefs, my values).  In Truth, I am not any kind of "X" at all.  Instead,
I Am.  (Same for you and all of us, dear Charles!)  But there are times we
believe we are something.  With this belief comes the I-notion and
identification (I'd say these two, ego and identification, come and go at
the same time.)

>> With other people, I have seen the teaching recieved with profound
>> confusion.  People who, as Swami has said, heard this while they
>> were on a path.  Hearing this teaching, they become confused and
>> start to try to work this teaching into their world view.
>I can understand that: it doesn't fit on any useful path.

Usually the teachers who stress this point (the no free will point) aver
that their path is a pathless path - no practices needed, no actions will
result in liberation, etc.  Some authority for this is taken from
Nisargadatta's phrase "Understanding is all."

>> So in this, I agree most respectfully with the Swami, who said,
>> > > But it is dangerous (for most) to say, I have no choice. Unless
>> > > one is already a great devotee and set firmly on the path, one
>> > > will use this as an excuse to follow the dictates of the mind.
>Your actions belie your words: if you agree that it is dangerous
>(and have seen that it can be "received with profound confusion"),
>how are you able to continue to disseminate that belief on this list
>(where you cannot see the resultant harm)?

There's a huge difference - arguing in this Advaita mailing list about the
existence of free will, as is done in Philosophy 101 classes and graduate
schools throughout the U.S., doesn't seem to me to be harmful.  But the
*harm* I am referring to is done when a spiritual teacher is set up in
front of a room filled with respectful, often desparate, credulous devotees
hanging on every word.  When the no-free-will point is uttered in *that
context*, it is quite another matter altogether.  Even the people present
in the room are different.  I can give you several examples from teachers
(mostly Western, not in the orthodox Vedantic tradition).

>That was a serious question (not a charge): how (not why).
>Are you viewing (what others see as) Greg's actions as somehow
>separate from Greg himself?  This would seem to accord with
>your two "reference points" given above.  Do please explain.

I'm not sure what you're asking here.  Greg's actions aren't Greg.  They
aren't apart from Greg either.  According to Vedanta, who *I really* am
(despite many maya-influenced beliefs to the contrary!) is not Greg or the
actions.  Greg and Greg's actions occur in *me*.  They are made of
awareness only.  Same for you and everyone else.

>Dear Greg, in the past I have expended much heat in defending free
>will, but at last a little light is beginning to shine through.

Yes, I feel the heat, and must say that it's more pleasant discussing this
when there is less heat.  I'm still not sure of your beliefs on free will.
As you probably know, free will is  not only a religious topic, it's still
a respectable subject of discussion in academia as well.

>Returning to the topic of free will, it is becoming clear that, in
>general, the diffence is merely terminological, but nonetheless one
>that should be resolved for clarity of communication.  However, the
>position that you seem to be taking on free will really is harmful,
>to you as well as others, and I would welcome discussing it further.

Above, you said it's harmful, so how could I responsibly discuss it on this
list, so maybe you now mean discussing it privately...  I feel now  that if
there's even the shadow of a possibility of harm, I won't discuss it any
more on the list.  I'm very glad to discuss it off-list, but this is the
last Advaita-list message I will post containing arguments against the
existence of free will.


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