Beyond Karma

Jonathan Bricklin brickmar at EARTHCOM.NET
Thu Mar 19 19:19:32 CST 1998

Prasant Sharma writes:

>The view that I am talking about is related to the fatalistic
>philosophy  according to which the statement that there is no freedom of
>action (or free will), means that there is  no way of acting except
>through the help of the knowledge that is passed on to an individual.
>However, that doesnot mean that the individual is devoid of freedom of
>choosing between known alternatives.  And since the individual is itself
>existing because of knowledge, it is he who makes this choice. This is the
>"free will" that I don't see being denied as long as the individual is

I'm sorry.  I am gaining no knowledge from your use of the word
"knowledge."  I am confused by every sentence that you use it in.  I feel
you have an insight I can learn from, but your use of this word defeats me.
 What does the "individual is itself existing because of knowledge mean"?
Is this your own phrasing or somebody else's?  Perhaps a reference might

>       There is no meaning to "sense of " individuality all by
>itself, when there is no individual without the "knowledge of" his

The word "knowledge" is recognizable here, I think, so I'll take a shot at
a response.  You have what you believe to be knowledge of a distinct body
self.  Yet you also have further knowledge or access to further knowledge
that IN FACT this distinct body is just like everything else in the
manifest universe:  a bunch of dancing quarks and leptons.  The distinction
between your hand and the air that surrounds it is a function of  the
limited magnification of your eyesight.  Free will is even easier to topple
from its status as "knowledge"--and, as Benjamin Libet showed, with less
powerful machinery.  A physiologist at the University of California, he
found a way to record the onset of electrical energy in the brain that
immediately preceded a muscle movement.  He then devised an experiment
comparing the precise moment the electrical energy was initiated to the
precise moment that a subject was conscious of having initiated or "willed"
it. If we accept that the "willed" thought, like all thoughts, arises, that
it is "somehow given" to consciousness, it follows that it would have a
formation of its own prior to the added-on sense of being our own personal
thought.*  And that is what Libet found:  "Some neuronal activity
associated with the eventual performance of the act has started well before
any (recallable) conscious initiation or intervention is possible.  This
leads to the conclusion that cerebral initiation even of a spontaneous
voluntary act of the kind studied here can and usually does begin

>        By this I mean the fact that there is no way of seperating an
>individual from another except through the knowledge which is common to

I had thought that Buddhas and other enlightened beings were in possession
of an uncommon knowledge, and that it is this very uncommonness that
separated them from the unenlightened.

>This is the structure that is referred to as "mayA". I remember my
>vedAnta teacher referring to the meaning of mAya as "to measure".  But
>there is no way one can measure anything unless there is a space, and
>there is a point of reference.

We have very different understandings of maya and measure.  As you see it,
the individual is doing the measuring.  As I see it, the individual is the

>> Once again, why elevate "belief" in will to "knowledge" of will?
>> the word is not going to change your experience into an empirical
>> or a mathematical formula.  What *knowledge* do you have of free will?

>        The same kind that you have of your existence!

If you mean "my" existence as opposed to existence in general to which the
sense of personal existence is frequently (less frequently for Greg,
apparently) added on, then, once again, we are talking sense, not

>My point was that you cannot deny the freedom of choice while still
>claiming that you are an individual.  The two go hand in hand.

I am an individual who suspects the notion of individuality.  Many times I
am not the witness to the FACT of the arising nature of thoughts and am
burdened with a SENSE of self.  In such moments the stream of consciousness
is like a whirlpool.  Or, to switch metaphors, there is an extra beat or
reverberation to consciousness.  James identified these reverberations with
contracting sensations felt in the head.  Wittgenstein expressed his
gratitude to James for introducing the idea that what we so blithely refer
to as a self can be deconstructed into particular sensations.  I don't
think either of these philosophers, or enlightened beings who cross the
"my" out of the address "my consciousness" have less knowledge about
individuals.  I think they have more.

Jonathan Bricklin
Brickmar at

"Nor ever [it] was, nor will [it] be, since now [it] is all together, one,

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