Loose ends

Charles Wikner WIKNER at NACDH4.NAC.AC.ZA
Tue Oct 7 03:21:03 CDT 1997

In response to Vidyasankar Sundaresan <vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU>,
Jonathan Bricklin <brickmar at EARTHCOM.NET> wrote:

> As James's "data for an entire psychology of volition" shows:

It describes a beast in the field, not a human being.

> 1. Thoughts arise.

Indeed they do! But the question is: What observes the thoughts arising?
And where do the thoughts arise from?  And why those thoughts?

My thoughts tend to be in English; but others use a different language.
I tend to have certain thought patterns based upon my interests, aptitudes,
training, etc.; others are again different.  I infer from this that these
thgought patterns arise from (and are coloured by) the individual personal

It does not require much effort to notice that the _sort_ of thought that
arises is influenced by external circumstances.  For example, the thoughts
that arise when studying the scriptures have a different quality to those
that arise when studying Sanskrit grammar; and those are quite different
to the thoughts that arise when surrounded by a bevy of nubile young ladies!

So thoughts -- indeed, the whole of life -- is an interplay of external
circumstance (karma) and one's personal nature (samskaara).  [And hence
the teaching prescribes satsanga for the former and disciplines to refine
the latter.]

> 2. They have an impulsive power of their own, a direct link to our motor
> operations, and do not require a super added willforce to explain their
> efficacy. And

Thoughts have no power of their own at all -- only the power that you give
them.  No matter how powerful the thought may appear, if the attention is
directed elsewhere, the thought disappears.  For example, you arrive home
tired and all you want to do is go to bed, and then something arises that
really interests you (perhaps you are invited to a party), and all thought
of tiredness (and the tiredness itself) disappears.

Nor is there a direct link between thought and motor operations.  We have
all experienced _not_ lashing out (verbally or physically) when the mind
is enraged.  Between thought and deed is the opportunity to exercise a
little intelligence: if this opportunity is not used, then the link between
thought and physical expression does indeed become mechanical and automatic.
It is the old, old story: whatever you practice, you get good at.

> 3. The feeling of will and effort is derivable from the interplay between
> opposing thoughts.

And which thought "wins" depends on the values attached to each thought:
this implies a decision -- what makes that decision?  Note that, in order
to decide, both thoughts must be observed -- which implies a measure of
detachment.  What is it that observes this "interplay between opposing

> > Nobody can doubt his/her own existence, whether in the waking or dream or
> > sleep state.
> So says Descartes, but surely you are not invoking the Cogito here?  He got
> it wrong, agreed?

No.  "Cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am) does not mean that "I am"
is an effect of thinking, but the exact opposite, that thinking is an effect
of "I am".  Hence thought -- or more correctly, the awareness of thought --
is inferential proof of the existence of the observer of the thought.

> > I would like to reiterate that where there is conventional reality,
> > including the conventional jIva, there is both fate and free will.
> In no reality can there be both fate and free will.

Why not?  If fate is one's inner nature together with outer circumstances,
why should the interplay between these two be entirely mechanical?  Why not
bring a little intelligence to bear on the situation?  It is possible to
_respond_ to circumstance, and not merely _react_.

This application of intelligence is called free will.  It is of course,
circumscribed: no amount of flapping your arms wil enable you to fly, but
it has allowed man to discover the physical laws governing flight and to
apply them to develop the aeroplane.

> > Where the absolute is known, there is neither fate nor will. There is no need to
> > bias one's judgment and raise either fate or will to an absolute level.
> Free will has, for me, the status of an illusory existent. The _non_-reality
> of free will is not a bias of one's judgment but a
> conclusion based upon introspection.

What came to a conclusion?


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