Sunday, September 28, 2014

Does Buddhism Propose Determinism or Predeterminism?

Does Buddhism propose determinism or predeterminism? I think this is a question that needs to be asked. Any attempt to answer this question presupposes that we agree on how we define the terms “determinism” and “predeterminism.” Let us presuppose the definitions given by the Wikipedia (s.vv.): “Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event.” And “Predeterminism is the idea that all events are determined in advance. Predeterminism is the philosophy that all events of history, past, present and future, have been already decided or are already known (by God, fate, or some other force), including human actions.” Even if we consider Buddhist ideas of karmanagotraka (“one who no spiritual disposition”), gnas dang gnas gnas ma yin pa (“possibles and impossibles”), and pratītyasamutpāda, I do not think that Buddhism can be said to posit the ideas of determinism and predeterminism. Instead perhaps Buddhism can be said to posit the philosophy of “conditionalism.” The fact that “x” can or cannot become “y” has nothing (or little) to do with determinism and predeterminism. It is simply a matter of whether correct and sufficient causes come together or not. Such a philosophy of conditionalism is not what one might call “indefinitism,” “arbitaryism,” or “chaoticism.”


  1. Hi,
    fine. I think here we begin to “ruminate” about the metaphysical ground of being to assure the “omniscience” (sarvajnana) of an “omniscient being/all-knower” (sarvajna). The Buddha already warned our “stubborned curiosity” to do so “inproperly” (the question is not to know all things in the world but to recognize adequately what is wholesome and what is unwholesome for the collective evolution in being which undeniable we can observe…) yet our instinctual clinging/behaviour to get definite answers is naturally too strong enrooted in natural cognition to resist the temptation [see here especially the concise but authoritative claim of Dharmakirti in his Nyayabindu, chap.2, especially stanza25+26ff “negative judgments” and in particular the last three stanzas of this chapter concerning the possibility/impossibility about a recognition of metaphysical/out-sensibilizing/unimaginable things]. [Besides, concerning the philosophical attempt of reality-penetration, just a short friendly, confidential hint for the perhaps interested readers: Do not become discouraged when not immediately capable to understand (that´s normal!) Dharmakirti´s lucid Nyayabindu and other subtle pramana-works; it takes considerable time to familiarize with Dharmakirti…, hence stay patient, do in between other joyful things for not becoming overstressed and then retry it again and slowly again without being too ruthless against one´s own “intellectual maturity or immaturity” and against others…, stay patient with bodhicitta resolution in mind…]. sincerely,mikael.

  2. continuation:
    Hence the Buddha offers us the liberating solution: “pratityasamutpada” (freely translatable as “conditionalism”).
    However even the Buddha had repeatedly and patiently demonstrated this “principle” by multifarious expedient means (pedagogical skillfulness/upayakausalya) in order to to get gradually an emphatic understanding of it, nevertheless the ardently searched epistemic certainty about pratityasamutpada is not an easy undertaking. Why? Because it´s not “simply/only” a question of clarifying/purifying the “philosophical cognitive situation” (sunyata-direct-perception) [the deep path] but fundamentally we are concerned with the awared/witnessed (re)finding of the cognitive coincidance of cognition in cognition itself (the cognitive blending as such - tathata) [the vast path].
    But we (must) engagingly observe that in our world this fundamental (buddhist) insight demands huge inspecting endevours accompanied with considerable forbearance and perseverance for to arrive at such a “releasing personally acceptable satisfaction” (nirodha/nirvana). Hence in most cases (and that´s not surprising), soberly considered, we are “overcharged” when introduced “rapidely/directly/spontaneously” in this overwhelming cognitive sanity. So what to do? From our (buddhistically inclined) perspective it´s “relatively simple”: We trust and follow the teachings of the Buddha, hence the Dharma and try as best as possible to integrate it in our life(s). But what does this really imply? Again a considerable amount of motivation for study/meditation and corresponding practice (bodhisattvacaryavatara) which is impossible without the participation of many, many “correct and sufficient causes” (merit-accumulution/punyasambhara and intuitive knowledge-accumulation/jnanasambhara), of a great deal of (only) seemingly unimportant conditions generated by an immense collective, courageous effort of many, many people in our evolutionary development of being. So, only thanks to others (the collective complexity and pursuit) there exists the fascinating possibility to become enlightened [recognizing buddhahood (buddhatva)]. It appears like a “metaphysical joyful responsibility-feeling” (mahasukha) in the beingness of being (buddhafield/buddhaksetra) which enables the spiral screw connection of awareness with unawareness in the cognitive blending of existence (svabhavikakaya).
    It really and always depends on us, on each one of us in his/her fantastic, precious personality (pudgala) to embark resolutely on this ultimate adventure: the quest and recovery of enlightenment (bodhi) and the transmission to others! Good luck; sincerely, mikael.