Free Will

Teachers I’ve studied with over the years seem to be saying that In order to fully realize the truth and freedom of our being, all we need is to allow the inherent power of our spirit of inquiry to fully express itself. One very powerful aspect of our spirit of inquiry is its freedom. We begin to realize our inherent freedom when we allow the full expression of our longing that merges with our gratitude for life itself. Our spirit of inquiry is free in that it arises together with the free presence that is always here and now; there is no separation. Presence has no boundaries of width or height, space or time, and is free of all conceptual labels. It is free of the confinement of thought altogether.

This means also being free to include thought, to include aliveness, to include love. Our spirit of inquiry enables us to freely ask the deep questions about life; who or what am I really? Is there an actual entity that we call me? What is the actual substance of the awareness that manifests the world, that manifests the idea of me? The ultimate question is to ask deeply: What is it really? Behind our wanting to know is a deep prayer from our hearts, our prayer of wanting to actually be freedom itself.

The question of whether or not human beings have free will has been an on going mystery for thinkers of all kinds for millenniums. In our Western culture, we put a stronger emphasis on the individual self than in the East, where many of the great contemplative traditions originated. When we ask whether or not we have free will, we are usually assuming that we are asking whether or not our separate self is free to choose on its own. Does our self as we think and experience ourselves to be have the freedom of choice? Or are the thoughts and other experiences we have predetermined by forces outside of our awareness?

With this type of asking, we are assuming that there indeed is a real entity that is our separate self. We assume that it is uniquely ours, and that there are indeed outside forces that can affect our experience of this separate self and its choices. Human consciousness has now evolved to the point where we now have the ability to deeply question and doubt this assumption of a separate self. When we develop the courage to stay with and test this deeply conditioned assumption in every aspect of our lives, we are tapping into the freedom of will that is much more powerful than we can comprehend with our mind. We gradually learn to surrender, and allow ourselves to be guided from within by this vast mysterious power leading us to the realization of what we really are.

Some masters describe will as the process of realizing that thought is actually energy. Another name for will is the motivation of human activity for experiencing. It is always arising with, and interwoven with thought energy. We know we aren’t just our thoughts, because we can be aware of thoughts. That which is aware of thought energy is free; it doesn’t belong to, or confined by any entity we call self. There is free will, but free will is actually free of everything, free to be nothing and everything at the same time. It is simply free of all ideas of self or no self.

There is free will, but there is no my free will. There is the phrase, ‘not my will, but thy will be done.’ God’s will being done, isn’t the result of self sacrificing behavior. God’s or Spirit’s will being done is just the way things actually are, it’s the way things actually are happening. We doubt this and it’s healthy to doubt it. After all, this is just another idea. If we doubt the thought ‘It’s all God’s will.’, it can be an opening into the aliveness of very deep questions.  As Zen master Hakuin said, “If you doubt deeply, you will awaken deeply.”

Free will is you, the living presence we actually are is free, and its manifestations are the manifestation of freedom. What we think we are is a tiny flash of this freedom of living presence, our egos aren’t freedom, and can’t express free will by themselves. Our egos don’t exist by themselves; they are only this tiny brief flashing our actual living presence of freedom. So ego consciousness is always a tiny expression of the freedom of our infinite living presence. By simply offering all of our experience of being separate to our actual living presence, we begin to tap into boundless and timeless free will.

6 Responses to Free Will

  1. Piro December 3, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    Well said Roger beautiful expressions.

  2. Shokai December 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Once again a great post. I am all about “free will” and some “free time” to go along with it! I will be going to the weekend sesshin at Brevard for Rohatsu that will be my “free time.” Look forward to seeing you soon in Boca! in gassho, Shokai

  3. Myoan January 6, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    Love this post. Asking “Who am I?” hasn’t really provided me much helpful info since I was about six years old. And the field of epigenetics is surely revolutionizing ideas about a separate self. But here are you positing God as still even a little bit separate? “God’s will being done, isn’t the result of self sacrificing behavior. God’s or Spirit’s will being done is just the way things actually are,” If so, what then is the role of individual volition / sacrifice / discipline and/or co-creation? Where is the Great Transformer to be found? (When not dwelling in Acceptance, of course.)

    • Roger Hawkins January 6, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

      Great question Debra,
      I wasn’t positing separation, or even that our mysterious presence is the ultimate transformer. I’m still raising the questions also, more now by sensing intuitively the depth of the aliveness of the question, rather than attaching to the conceptual framework. For me the role of what we sense as a separate self, is a participatory surrender. It involves the willingness to find freedom in the midst of fully experiencing all sensations, and in so doing staying with the aliveness of the question: ‘What is sensation really? This also involves the willingness to find the spirit of acceptance in the midst of the experiencing intense aversion to some particular experience. It seems that dedication to these questions enables us to act more spontaneously, being willing to not know who or what is actually acting, and with less attachment to the results.

  4. Myoan January 7, 2016 at 3:33 am #

    Makes sense. I read this as change/ transformation just happens spontaneously. Let it be. But still we have individual choices of will, e.g. zazen, that we can make (or not) to better promote or allow the spontaneous. Do you agree? I think it was Suzuki Roshi who is quoted as saying something like ‘Enlightenment is an accident. Zen makes us accident prone.’ In my experience, if I don’t exert my free will to sit zazen frequently, I don’t have the willingness to accept much. Before I developed the will to sit and surrender all, my experience felt more like existential nausea or pervasive dissatisfaction. It’s always still nearby.

    • Roger Hawkins January 7, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

      Yes, everything just happens spontaneously and we think we have individual choices of will. Can you find my free will? What works for me is just being willing to keep that
      question alive in everyday life. When we start to really get on a gut level that there’s no such thing as thought, things don’t have to make sense in the mind anymore.

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