Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nonduality Teachings and Free Will

In the last post, I discussed the confusion often generated when nonduality teachers respond to questions about free will.  What follows are some additional observations about free will and nondual inquiry.

I've come to the conclusion that discussions about free will, for the most part, are not helpful in realizing our true nature.  The mind loves to engage in these discussions, but in the end, the mind is never satisfied with the responses given.  So the search goes on and further mental activity ensues.

The mind tries to convince you that you must get some solid answers about the extent of free will.  The mind will tell you something like this:  "If you can just get a final, clear understanding of free will, you will be able to have a breakthrough and realize your true nature." This, as you may have already discovered, is a lie.

Nondual teaching reminds us over and over that we already are what we are seeking.  We don't need any further information to be what we already are.  That which actively engages the mind seems to slow down our inquiry.  That which stops the mind seems to enhance the inquiry, at least in my experience.

During self-inquiry, the moment my mind looks for an answer, I realize that I'm in for trouble.  And inquiries about free will activate my mind, big time.  The end result is always frustration. 

The discussion of free will DOES play an important role in one sense.  In the early stages of self-inquiry, most of us feel that we are a separate entity with extensive control over our thoughts, emotions and activities.  Nondual teaching introduces us to the possibility that we are not in control as we previously thought.  It begins a process where we can observe our thoughts and emotions -- and see, through our own experience, that most of what we thought was in our control, is in fact, not in our control.

This finding immediately softens the mind, and sets the stage for deeper inquiry.

However, when we try to figure out the precise extent of our free will -- and many of us are obsessed with this issue -- the mind climbs back into the picture and the ego is strengthened.   

There seems to be a natural tendency in human beings to cling to the notion of having free will.  I think many non-duality teachers are subtly influenced by this preference as well.  The idea of not having any control just rubs us the wrong way.

We want the Truth we find (through self-inquiry) to include some type of free will for us.  We desperately want to feel like we have some control, and preferably, a lot of control.

Perhaps it is simply the limited, separate ego thought that prefers control or has any concern for it.  It would seem that only the mind would care about free will.

As I mentioned in my last message, the notion that the Absolute has free will to choose whatever appears is empty and meaningless to the mind.  There is no "juice" to free will if the choices are made by an unknown entity spontaneously.  All the fun with free will comes from knowing in advance what the options are -- and making a selection. This is what the ego craves, a sense that it has a significant role in running the show.

So, if you are wrestling with issues of free will, perhaps that is all coming from your mind.  And you might begin to see that any answers you ultimately come up with, or search for, will not lead you to an understanding of your true nature.

I'm not suggesting that you should resist whatever thoughts or preferences come up for you.  I'm just inviting you to examine if the mind activity is helping you.  Think of it this way:  no matter what answer any sage gives you about free will, do you really, in your heart of hearts, think that the response will resolve all your questions and doubts about your true nature?  Will it resolve anything?

It's interesting that I've never heard anyone report that they realized their essence or true nature by hearing a discussion about free will.  I think it's just the opposite.  Free will discussion confuses, rather than clarifies.