2013-12-14 Anatta - Is there free will?

In Buddhism, the term anattā (Pāli) or anātman (Sanskrit: अनात्मन्) refers to the notion of “not-self” or the illusion of “self“. In the early texts, theBuddha commonly uses the word in the context of teaching that all things perceived by the senses (including the mental sense) are not really “I” or “mine”, and for this reason one should not cling to them.

In the same vein, the Pali suttas (and parallel āgamas, both referred to collectively below as the nikāyas), categorize the phenomena experienced by a being into five groups (“khandhas“) that serve as the objects of clinging and as the basis for a sense of self. In the Nikāyas, the Buddha repeatedly emphasizes not only that the five khandhas of living beings are “not-self”, i.e. not “I” or “mine”, but also that clinging to them as if they were “I” or “mine” gives rise to unhappiness.

According to the early texts, while on the path, one should develop oneself in healthy and liberating ways, only letting go of the attempt to improve the self as it becomes unnecessary.[1]

Hardware software…. our brains are like cars… cars are networks of machines filled with precision parts….each with a specific function but together forming one complete system. But cars are not meant to be stand alone objects…they re meant to share the road with other vehicles. Just as other brains are designed to interact with other brains…..and this is where free will exists. The level of personal responsibility. If you were the only person in the World, there is no concept of personal responsibility. It is developed out of the interactions that occur, when there is more than once person.  Whenever we make a decision, our choice have a ripple effect on people around us. And those people will punish us if we fail to follow the rules of society.  We may not have many options but we are responsible for our actions.  In any network , the elements have to be held accountable for the actions or the whole this doesnot work.  We follow sets of rules, but we are free to make choices within those boundaries.  Or to completely ignore them.  (run a red light or a stop sign)  Freedom means getting more and more information so we get smarter and smarter wiser and wiser about all the things that are going around us … thats how you can define freedom.  What happens when we go from one to one to next layer of mass social behaviour.


Many Christians say, God gives us the freedom to choose between good and evil. We are all responsible for our actions.  But some denominations believe God sets out our course from birth.  HOw much freedom do we really have?

Society puts limits on our free will. In fact, a new science contends that we an use equations to accurately predict what groups of people will do in the future. Are we all prisoners of fate?   Human behaviour can be reduced to mathematical predictability.

Simple social rules give rise to global patterns.

The more data that we have the better we can control our fate.


Doutch Physicist, Herrad Atouf suspects it might be true that Isaac Newton saw the Universe as a giant clock. Beautifully intricate but utterly predictable. With enough information you can know everything that will happen until the end of time. In the 20th Century as we dugg down to the subatomic world, the predictability of Newtons world fell apart. In the quantum world, nothing is determined until you look at it. What if there is even a deeper layer.  On a scale far smaller that the quantum layer.  The layer just as predictable as Newton imagined. But following laws we do not yet understand.

Herrad won the Nobel prize for his part in developing the standard model in particle physics …our best description of the quamtum universe.  In Physics its a like a game of chess , Herrad is a grand master.  But if we dont know the game, Chess pieces seems to move in completely unpredictable ways.  And the same can be said about the quantum objects.  Quamtum Physics suggests its impossible to ever know the precise location

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