Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Free Will
Ramesh Balsekar

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Ramesh Balsekar

Purchase 'The Wisdom of Balsekar' from or from Amazon.UK.

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The following is extracted from the above book, 'The Wisdom of Balsekar, edited by Alan Jacobs, the chairman of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK.

Nobody likes being told that he has no free will. And yet look at the state of the world at the present time. The world is on the brink of disaster, where it has been for many years now with one crisis after another. The question - the big question - therefore remains: The human being certainly has tremendous intelligence (to send a man to the moon); he is also supposed to have free will - then why has the human being been unable to combine his intelligence and his free will to make the world a better place?!

There is also another aspect. There are so many intelligent people, leaders in their respective fields, who are very much interested in knowing their future. If they really believed in their own free will, why would they be so interested in astrology and similar phenomena?!

If you think along these lines, the only reasonable conclusion you will arrive at is that the human being has been acting in this fashion because he has no control over his thoughts and emotions. What he considers as his actions are in fact only reactions of the individual organism to an outside impulse: a thought which occurs, an event that he sees or perhaps what he happens to hear. Each organism reacts according to the natural characteristics with which it has been programmed: physical, mental, intellectual, temperamental.

Another difficulty about truly accepting this teaching is the argument that it leads to a 'fatalistic' attitude. The fatalistic argument translates itself into the question: 'If I am not to be motivated by the fruits of my action, and, indeed, if I have no free will over my actions, why should I work at all?' The answer is astonishingly simple: you will not be able to be inactive for any length of time because the energy within the organism will compel you to act: to act according to the natural characteristics of the organism. In other words, whether to act or not is itself not in your control.

The essence of the ultimate understanding is the ineluctable fact that the individual human being, as such, does not - cannot - have any volition. He is without any independence of choice of decision and action, for the simple reason that the human being is not an autonomous entity. The human being is merely an infinitesimal part the totality of manifestation. That the human being can see, hear, etc, through his senses is merely because he has, like any other sentient being (insect or animal), been endowed with sentience. That he can think is merely because he has, in addition, been endowed with intellect In the absence of consciousness, there is no sentience, no intellect, and as far as the human being is concerned, no manifest world.

The Final Truth p. 215

Knowing that he cannot live according to his will or volition, that he is in fact 'being lived' (as an instrument of the Totality), he also knows the futility of 'intentions'. By abstaining from volition the man of wisdom is free of anxiety and misery, because then he transcends conceptualization which is the basis of volition and intention. Knowing that he is being lived, the man of wisdom transcends both volitional action and its counterpart, volitional non-action: volitional non-doing is also doing. It is for this reason that the man of wisdom goes about his business in the ordinary way without any intentions, without any lime of doership.

It is only the 'me'-concept that can have intentions because 'will' and 'ego' are synonymous terms. Thus the absence of volition in the case of the man of wisdom does not mean phenomenal inaction but the absence of volitional action (positive or negative). The absence of volitional phenomenal action can only mean the presence of noumenal action. In other words, the non-volitional action of the man of wisdom (whether perceptive, conceptive, or somatic) is noumenal action, the non-action of the sage (because the 'me' and his intention are totally absent).

A Duet of One p. 83

Read the essay on free will by Alan Jacobs.

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