The question of free will, as explored in this article from the New York Times, only arises when there is a sense of I and Other, as all existential question do. When the sense of I and Other falls away, the question also falls away, at least as an existential question.
Falls away as an existential question, but the dynamics of choice can still be explored
The dynamics and mechanism of choice can be explored in the many ways it is explored today, through the inner (self-inquiry, phenomenology) and outer (cognitive and other forms of psychology, biology, evolution) and the one and the many.
But it is not an existential question anymore. It belongs to the realm of form and this human self as a part of this realm of form, but there is no separate I involved anymore. This human self, and anything else arising, is realized as inherently absent of any separate or individual I.
Even a superficial exploration of choice shows that for any choice in our life, there are infinite causes. We can always find one more, and one more, until we see that the whole of the universe is involved in any choice we make, in the fullness of its extent and going back to the beginning of time itself.
Doing this, over and over, we see that there does not seem to be any need, nor much room, for “free” choice. Where would it come from? How would it slip in between these infinite causes? And, what would its purpose be? Why would there be a need for it?
Choice happening on its own
Similarly, when I explore choice as it happens right now, I see that it does exactly that: it happens. It happens on its own, arising out of emptiness, as anything else. Sounds, sights, thoughts, choices, actions, they all happen on their own.
There only appears to be an “I” there when a belief in a separate I is placed on top of these thoughts, choices and actions.
Arising within and as timelessness, and causality
In immediate experience, it all happens here now, fresh, new, arising out of emptiness. There is no past that it can be influenced by, nor any future it leads to.
Past, future, causality, all of those are just from ideas placed on top of what arises here now. And they are very useful ideas, helping this human self to orient and function in the world, but still just ideas. Abstractions placed on the timeless present as it arises here and now.
There is this field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form.
Within the world of form, everything has infinite causes and infinite effects. It is a seamless whole, moving as one whole.
Any change, including any thought, choice and action of a human being, is the whole acting locally.
There is no free will within the world of form, and no need for it.
There is no separate I anywhere, so no Other to be free from.
And awake emptiness is form, and always free from form.
Changing experience of free will
There are many ways the experience of choice and free will changes.
If unquestioned, there is certainly a sense of some degree of free will. This human self obviously makes choices and acts (or not) on them, and there is a sense of I there, so then also a sense that I choose and act.
Then, we may come to see how culture and even biology influences these choices, and we may strive to become more conscious of these influences, free ourselves from them, at least to some degree, and place ourselves under a different set of influences.
But even here, there are infinite causes to any thought, choice and action, even as it appears more free from the conventional causes and patterns. And this shift, as anything else, itself has infinite causes.
The question falls away, yet this human self continues to work with causality
Finally, when the field awakens to itself as a field, absent of I anywhere (and still connected with this human self), the whole question falls away. There is no I and Other anymore, so nothing to be free from.
At the same time, within the world of form there is still causality, so at a practical level, this human self still continues to work with causality in all the usual ways, including placing itself under certain influences to invite certain effects such as continued development, healing and maturation, and also acting to invite certain effects in the wider world.
And all of this is the whole acting locally, through and as this human self, and now awakened to itself as the whole acting locally.
(Two previous posts on this topic: 1 & 2)