I think we have to be careful not to fall into extremes about this. As Thusness wrote last year:

"Nihilistic tendencies arise when the insight of anatta is skewed towards the no-doership aspect. The happening by itself must be correctly under
stood. It appears that things are accomplished by doing nothing but in actual case it is things get done due to ripening of action and conditions.

So the lack of self-nature does not imply nothing needs be done or nothing can be done. That is one extreme. At the other end of extreme is the self-nature of perfect control of what one wills, one gets. Both are seen to be false. Action + conditions leads to effect.
June 1 at 11:32am · Unlike · 8"

Also in 2008:

(7:23 PM) Thusness: We will not know perfect conditionality is unconditioned
(7:23 PM) Thusness: because the inherent and dualistic mind priced 'controller', 'self'
(7:24 PM) Thusness: The 'perfect conditionality' is never freedom to an inherent and dualistic mind.
(7:24 PM) Thusness: What is the method of practice in Christianity?
(7:25 PM) AEN: surrendering?
(7:25 PM) Thusness: yes
(7:25 PM) Thusness: surrendering is a total giving up, losing self control
(7:25 PM) Thusness: isn't that perfect loss of control and freedom?
(7:27 PM) AEN: no
(7:27 PM) AEN: cos everything continues to be done without a doer, its only the illusion of a doer that is dissolved?
(7:27 PM) AEN: its more like a happening
(7:27 PM) Thusness: yes but isn't that a lost of control?
(7:28 PM) AEN: dunnu leh, but intention can still arise even though there is no doer... so it's not that there is no control
(7:29 PM) Thusness: there is no control
(7:29 PM) AEN: oic
(7:29 PM) AEN: no control but intention arises
(7:29 PM) AEN: resulting in deeds
(7:29 PM) Thusness: there is intention
(7:30 PM) Thusness: we are confused because we 'tend' to analyse and not 'see' the actual happening.
(7:30 PM) Thusness: just like a hand, each fingers does not control
(7:30 PM) Thusness: when u close ur hand, it becomes a fist.
(7:30 PM) Thusness: each finger does not control
(7:31 PM) Thusness: like working in a group
(7:31 PM) Thusness: each individual does not control
(7:31 PM) Thusness: but each individual can contribute
(7:31 PM) Thusness: 'control' is really an illusion...though there is intention
(7:32 PM) AEN: oic.. wat u mean is that ur intention is only part of the conditioning?
(7:32 PM) Thusness: no lah
(7:33 PM) Thusness: contributes as a form of conditions u mean?
(7:33 PM) AEN: ya
(7:33 PM) AEN: wat u mean
(7:33 PM) Thusness: for an arising outcome
(7:33 PM) Thusness: means intention serves condition for an arising outcome
(7:33 PM) AEN: icic..

In 2009:

(12:59 PM) Thusness: there is intention, there is doing but there is no agent
so there is intention but there is no control
(12:59 PM) Thusness: intention only as cause and conditions
(12:59 PM) AEN: oic..
(12:59 PM) Thusness: so karma, intentions, tendencies and then manifestation
when u chant, why it works
when u summarize, why it works
(1:00 PM) Thusness: but it works not through an agent controlling an outcome
(1:00 PM) AEN: but it can be misunderstood as determinism? like every action and intention is conditioned
(1:00 PM) Thusness: yes
there is intention
(1:01 PM) Thusness: intention affects outcome
but not like an agent in control of something
(1:01 PM) AEN: icic..
(1:01 PM) Thusness: effects comes powerfully strong when there is complete oneness
that the imprints is strong and stable
(1:01 PM) AEN: wat effects
wat u mean
(1:02 PM) Thusness: means like practice makes perfect lah
(1:02 PM) Thusness: u practice and don't have to ask for result
let it sink into ur deepest most consciousness
it is always like that

Also, in 2009:
 Session Start: Monday, April 06, 2009

(1:40 PM) AEN:    i forwarded u a second mail about free will
(1:47 PM) Thusness:    There is influence, there is no control.
(1:47 PM) Thusness:    And influence is by intention and imprints.
(1:52 PM) Thusness:    Next there is also nothing to fear about 'no-control'.  We must clearly know what is meant by no-control in actual experience.  It sounds uncomfortable when our mind is inherent but in actual experience it is liberating because 'inherent view' blinds us from right experience and understanding.
(1:54 PM) Thusness:    However this is not to say that everything is determined.  The advaita practitioners is not aware of imprints and karma and mistaken spontaneity due to dependent origination with determinism.

Session Start: Friday, April 10, 2009

(2:34 PM) AEN:    konomonte asked a qn on free will to dharma dan and he replied... i forwarded to

(10:22 PM) Thusness:    read. Quite good. :)
(10:23 PM) AEN:    icic..
(10:24 PM) Thusness:    komomonte cannot understand the question of free will this way.
(10:26 PM) Thusness:    he must first experience no-self and understand how subject/object view affect us then when he look at the question of free will, he will be able to understand better.
(10:29 PM) Thusness:    because when our mind and experienced are shaped by inherent thoughts, we see 'free will' as a form of freedom.  Once we are able to go beyond dualistic and inherent views, we see otherwise.  But we must also not lead to the wrong understanding of determinism for both free will and determinism are extremes.
(10:29 PM) AEN:    oic..
(10:31 PM) Thusness:    what did u write to him?
(10:31 PM) AEN:    u mean previously
(10:31 PM) Thusness:    yeah
(10:33 PM) AEN:    basically i said what u said, that things do not happen by chance or ramdomly or determined, but due to conditions. so there is no control, but there is influence by intentions and imprints.
(10:33 PM) Thusness:    yes
(10:34 PM) Thusness:    Dharma Dan's answer i also along that line.
(10:34 PM) Thusness:    It is causal.

Also I wrote this in my e-book:

6th April 2012
No-self does not imply determinism.
As I wrote to someone:
Yes but not to be mistaken that will has no part in all these. The teaching of anatta or no self does not deny will or the aggregates... The buddha teaches that a sentient being is simply a convention for five aggregates: matter/body, feelings, perception, volition, consciousness. Notice that volition is part of it. This will/volition can be directed towards a wholesome or unwholesome path. However, also remember that the five aggregates are empty of self - and are without agent. Does that mean there is no free will? In a sense yes, but neither does it imply determinism: another dualistic extreme. Free will means subjective controller determines action, determinism means objective world determines subjective experience. In reality there is no subject and object - in thinking just thought, in hearing just sound. But there are requisite conditions for every manifestation. Those conditions can be changed if there is a correct path.

A concrete example: if you ask a beginner to run 2.4km in 9 minutes with an unfit body, that is asking for the impossible. No matter how hard willed is he, he is never going to make it. Why? The current requisite conditions of his body is such that the result of running 9 minutes is impossible. Control, agency, doesn't apply when manifestation always arise due to conditions.

It however also means that if you exercise regularly for months or years, there is no reason the body (conditions) cannot be improved to the degree that running 9 mins is definitely possible. This is what I mean by working with conditions.

So those teachers who say meditation are useless are not understanding latent tendencies and conditions. They mistook no doership with some kind of fatalism. Every proper practice has its place in working with one's conditions.

Just because there is no self, no doer, doesn't mean my body is fated to be unfit and I can't reach the 9 min. Just because I exercise regularly doesn't mean I am reinforcing the notion of self or doership. In any case, action is always without self.

It also does not mean that "will" has no place at all. "Will" is often misunderstood to be linked to a self or agent that has full control over things, whereas it is simply more manifestation and conditions. Yes, sheer will going against conditions isn't going to work – this is not understanding no-self and dependent origination. But if will is directed properly with correct understanding of no-self and conditionality, at a proper path and practice, it can lead to benefits.

That is why the first teaching of Buddha is the four noble truths: the truth of suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, the way to end suffering. This path arises as a result of his direct insight into no-self and dependent origination.

Like a doctor, you don't tell your patients "you are fated to be ill and sick and in pain, because there is no individual controller, everything is the will of God". That is nonsense. Instead, you diagnose the illness, you seek the cause of illness, you give a treatment that eliminates the cause of illness. There is no self, there is no controller, but there is conditions and manifestation and a way to treat bad conditions. This is the way of the four noble truths.


In my experience after initial anatta insight, one should look into the active mode of nondual anatta that later leads to total exertion. Otherwise one will be stuck with a passive nondual experience and skew towards non-doership. This will also prevent falling into the extremity of 'determinism' and mistaking non-action as passive non-doership.

Partial excerpt from http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.sg/.../total-exertion...

10/20/2012 9:51 AM: Thusness: What is non-meditation to you? And what is non-action?
10/20/2012 10:46 AM: AEN: Non meditation is simply experiencing experience as it appears without dualistic/inherent view which is rather similar to what jax is saying I think
10/20/2012 10:58 AM: Thusness: What do u mean by experiencing experience as it appears without dualistic/inherent view? If I ask u to take a deep breath now and then breath normal, are they non-action and non-meditation?
10/20/2012 11:01 AM: AEN: Yes
10/20/2012 11:01 AM: Thusness: Why so?
10/20/2012 11:02 AM: AEN: It is just experience in its natural state, without the sense of self or dualistic action arising
10/20/2012 11:02 AM: Thusness: Natural state refers to?
10/20/2012 11:03 AM: AEN: Appearance appearing according to conditions, unmodified and unaltered by dualistic action/sense of self
10/20/2012 11:04 AM: Thusness: That which you are talking about is no-doership. What if there is intention, as in chanting?
10/20/2012 11:05 AM: AEN: There is no problem with intention, bcos that too is an arising without self... Its like total exertion in every moment, total action without self, whether chanting, walking, sitting
10/20/2012 11:06 AM: Thusness: An arising without self meaning? As in no-doership...u hv to b clear...
10/20/2012 11:07 AM: AEN: There is total involvement of all conditions, just without agency. Conditions include intention
10/20/2012 11:08 AM: Thusness: Total is always void of self. When there is no gap between actor and action, that is non-action. Lot of movement in appearance but nothing truly moves. When the one who will is gone (no-will), the entire movement appears to be "your willing". It is not about no-doership and arising spontaneously but doer and deeds are refine till none in total action.
10/20/2012 11:18 AM: AEN: Yes there is no standing back watching action unfold but instead whole being is just action, no self
10/20/2012 11:18 AM: Thusness: When insight of anatta arises, the heat and cold "kill you" is the actualization non-action.
10/20/2012 11:18 AM: Thusness: Yes
10/20/2012 11:20 AM: AEN: Ic.. I think only zen emphasizes this very much. Like Zen Master Seung Sahn’s tradition.
10/20/2012 11:21 AM: Thusness: Dogen
10/20/2012 11:21 AM: AEN: I see
10/20/2012 11:21 AM: Thusness: No...Theravada also when understood correctly. This total exertion is not the result of effort, but full integration of view/experience/realization. When we say this arising thought is just a thought, don't believe in the story...or this thought is empty...nothing to hold...that is only half understanding. The other half is the total exertion of this thought. All past/present/future tendencies, ignorance, wisdom is in this one thought...
10/20/2012 11:27 AM: AEN: I was reading Walpola Rahula’s book (“What The Buddha Taught”). I guess he realized anatta and is very clear about this too. He said {quotes passage from Walpola Rahula’s book}
10/20/2012 11:30 AM: Thusness: Yes...and insight of anatta opens the gate.
10/20/2012 11:32 AM: AEN: Ic.. Delma tells me today her total exertion has stabilized, “Interesting times. Nondual is becoming more and more stable. I don't understand it, but just reading your material and deeply contemplating it seems to have tremendous affect. Yesterday while driving home from work and walking to my house, there was just walking, just driving. This was is what is becoming more and more sustained.

I do follow your advice and follow the breath without counting. Then there is only breath. It's more effortless these days. So, thank you… …luminosity, but not awareness as a thing or entity. just the senses, experienced as independent streams. It's the walking experience which seems different and sustained. No one is walking. At first this would be experienced with a bit of effort, but it's becoming more natural and the feeling of it always having been this way is there."
10/20/2012 11:38 AM: Thusness: Quite good
10/20/2012 11:51 AM: Thusness: When the gap between actor and action is refined till none, that is non-action and that non-action is total action. Whether this total action is understood as the natural way will depend on whether the insight of anatta has arisen. Anatta is the insight that allows the practitioner to see clearly that this has always been the case.
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