The Buddha and Free Will

| February 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

What might the Buddha have thought about free will? To answer that question we’ll look at the history of the concept in Western philosophy, and then consider how it applies to early Buddhism. We will find that the Buddha would have accepted a couple of related senses of the phrase.

Suttas mentioned:

The Characteristic of Nonself (SN 22.59)
The Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1.67-70, views 17-18)
The Sāmaññaphala Sutta (DN 2.20, on Makkhali Gosāla)
Sectarian (AN 3.61.3)
Fetters (AN 10.13)

Also: Asaf Federman’s paper “What Kind of Free Will Did the Buddha Teach?” in Philosophy East and West 1/2010.

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Doug Smith

About the Author ()

Doug is Study Director of the Secular Buddhist Association. He has a PhD in Philosophy, with a minor in Buddhist philosophy and Sanskrit. In 2013 he completed the year-long Integrated Study and Practice Program with the BCBS and NYIMC. A long time scientific skeptic, he pursues a naturalized approach to practice. He is also interested in scholarship about the Tipiṭaka, and the theoretical and historical origins of the dhamma. He posts videos at Doug's Secular Dharma on YouTube. Some of his writing can be found at

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