The Buddha's view on free will

Can you point me to a specific sutta where the Buddha shares his views on free will please?

Thank you!

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Hi @Cammie14 , welcome to the forum.

As a new user, I’d suggest you get familiar with the search function which is very helpful. You’ll quickly see that topics such as yours have been discussed many times in the past. So it’s useful to firstly refer to those threads before starting a new topic.

See the search results for “free will” here:

Hope this helps


Thank you so much! I did try doing a search first, but clearly, in the wrong way. I’ve found a host of previous threads. Thank you!

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Hello Cammie14 :slight_smile: , welcome to D&D.

It just happens that I recently watched this excellent talk by Ajahn Brahmali. You have to skip to about the 1:26:30 mark and there is a question asked about free will which Ajahn answers it beautifully.


The Venerable says that he does infact have an entire talk on free will, I’m going to have to find that…

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It was either later 2016 or early 2017. An excellent talk


Its not clear what free will means. Whatever it is, it should be contact dependent .

The Blessedones instruction might be

Phussa phussa vayaṁ passaṁ (snp3.12)

See it vanish from one contact to the next.

Neither belonging to anybody nor under anybody’s control.

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My favorite sutta on free will is AN 6.38

And here is Ajahn Brahm discussing free will back in 2005?? Free Will_ No Such Thing - Ajahn Brahm.mp3 - Google Drive

And again in 2015:


Choice is the fundamental mechanism in progress on the path:

"The Blessed One said, “Monks, the ending of the fermentations is for one who knows & sees, I tell you, not for one who does not know & does not see. For one who knows what & sees what? Appropriate attention & inappropriate attention. When a monk attends inappropriately, unarisen fermentations arise, and arisen fermentations increase. When a monk attends appropriately, unarisen fermentations do not arise, and arisen fermentations are abandoned. There are fermentations to be abandoned by seeing, those to be abandoned by restraining, those to be abandoned by using, those to be abandoned by tolerating, those to be abandoned by avoiding, those to be abandoned by dispelling, and those to be abandoned by developing.”

—Majjhima Nikaya 2

The practitioner is at a juncture of the potential of regression or progress depending on how they direct attention, unwisely or wisely.
When attention is directed wisely it results in the development of right view.

" “Monks, there are these two conditions for the arising of wrong view. Which two? The voice of another[1] and inappropriate attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of wrong view.”

“Monks, there are these two conditions for the arising of right view. Which two? The voice of another and appropriate attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of right view.”

—Anguttara Nikaya 2, 125-6

The voice of another includes reading, and this gives the information to enable wise choices.

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Choices, or free will in the context of Buddhism, are between two modes of existence: hedonism and asceticism. This was the choice prince Siddhartha faced with upon encountering the four messengers.

After his enlightenment, the Buddha taught the middle path. For householders, the middle path is to enjoy sensual pleasures in moderation while maintaining moral conduct. For monastics, it is to engage in ascetic practices, ideally, without identification. The choice between a householder life and a monastic life is the primary choice faces Buddhists.

Dependent origination demonstrates the interdependence between determinism and free will. Being a middle between two extremes, it makes Buddhism inline with compatibilism which allows for the utility of common sense and the depth of insight to operate in parallel. For example, to be forced into some sexual activity against your own will does not break the precept, while insight serves as a natural protection against breaking the precepts by removing obsessions and perversions that makes breaking the precepts an appealing possibility.

This one?


That seems like the talk I remember. Thank you

There is also this recent one by Ajahn Brahmali

‘The Idea of Freedom’