Hello, today I want to talk about nonduality and free will. It’s a topic that is frequently discussed online, and I know many people struggle with the more traditional teaching that suggests there is no free will, no choice, and that everything is predetermined like a scripted movie playing out. While contemporary teachers also advocate for this view, I don’t fully subscribe to it. I tend to teach and talk about things from the perspective of choice. I believe that everything you do or want to do is exactly what the self wants to do as you.
From the standpoint of the self, there is no absolute nondual reality where everything is chosen. It can be seen as a mental construct or paradigm where we recognize that there is no “other.” In this context, one could argue that there is no free will and everything is mechanical, like a clock ticking along until the Bell is struck, even though we don’t know when. From the viewpoint of the Bell, you simply accept it. There is value in teaching this perspective as it fosters acceptance of reality as it is.
However, there is another way to look at it. You can say that everything is chosen, akin to a dream. When we dream at night, all the elements we encounter—the rocks, trees, weather, other people—are aspects of ourselves. As individual dream characters, we may not have conscious awareness of choosing everything, but on a deeper level—whether superconsciously or subconsciously—we are making those choices. If we’re being chased in a dream, we chose to chase ourselves and play both the chasing and chased characters. When playing pretend as a child with dolls, for example, each doll has its own personality, and the interaction between them unfolds spontaneously. The argument or fight that erupts was not planned in advance but happened spontaneously. Both sides were chosen.
In the realm of non-duality, what remains in the background is the child, unaware of itself. We each perceive ourselves as one character rather than acknowledging that we are playing all the characters and orchestrating all the pieces. This perspective allows for the recognition of choice and spontaneity. When I use the term “self,” I’m referring to the absolute reality, the non-dual, and not a personal or permanent “me.”
So, in summary, whatever you want to do is what the self wants to do as you, within the context of your dreams or existence. Choice is spontaneous. Some people believe that choice contradicts non-duality, but in non-duality, there is no “other.” Therefore, one can argue that there is no free will and nothing is chosen, or alternatively, that there is choice, and everything is chosen. Problems arise when we introduce the concept of a doer or a chooser, claiming selectivity in what is chosen and what isn’t. Both paradigms can work, but it is important not to fragment the process by selectively claiming choices.
Personally, I choose the paradigm or concept of choice because of the life, energy, and vitality it brings to existence. For me, it doesn’t feel like escapism or a way to separate oneself from the equation. On the contrary, everything is chosen, and we are very much part of the play, waiting to see what happens next.