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Rime Buddhist Center

Monastery & Tibetan Institute of Studies
"Achieving Peace Through Compassion"
700 West Pennway
Kansas City, Missouri 64108
(816) 471-7073
Lama Chuck Stanford

The following is Lama Chuck's monthly column that appeared in the Kansas City Star
newspaper on Saturday, April 23, 2005.

QUESTION: "Do we have free will? If so why do some people seemed compelled to do things they know are wrong?"

ANSWER: The question you asked is one philsophers and theologians have asked since ancient times. Free will, sometimes referred to as self-determinism, implies that the choices we make are up to us. The opposite of free will would suggest that our choices somehow are up to something else. Some argue that the opposite of free will is determinism which is the theory that all human actions are not free, but are dictated entirely by past events.

Most religions and even governments believe that each of us has free will and are responsible for our actions. Then why do people do things they know to be wrong? From the Buddhist perspective we call these impulses "kleshas." Kleshas are anything such as negative emotions and/or habitual patterns that defile or confuse the mind, such as anger, fear, greed, and resentment. The kleshas are what bind us to the cycle of re-birth. Attainment of enlightenment signifies the extinction of all kleshas.

Each of us has choices to make every day. However, these choice are not completely indendepent of past causes and conditions. So while we are free to chose, our choices are conditioned by our past. The further along you are on the spiritual path, the more you realize the range of your choices. Therefore, our spiritual goal should be to eliminate the kleshas that keep us stuck and poisons our ability to have free will. Once we can do that, we can see that every situation is workable.

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