Buddhism, Meditation, and Free Will: A Theory of Mental Freedom, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Buddhism, Meditation, and Free Will

A Theory of Mental Freedom, 1st Edition

By Rick Repetti


206 pages

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pub: 2018-07-26
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Traditionally, Buddhist philosophy has seemingly rejected the autonomous self. In Western philosophy, free will and the philosophy of action are established areas of research.

This book presents a comprehensive analytical review of extant scholarship on perspectives on free will. It studies and refutes the most powerful Western and Buddhist philosophical objections to free will and explores the possibility that a form of agency may in fact exist within Buddhism. Providing a detailed explanation of how Buddhist meditation increases self-regulative mind-control abilities, the author argues that the Buddhist path is designed to produce meditation virtuosos exhibiting mind-control abilities far exceeding the free-will advocate’s ability to ‘do otherwise’ or have their choices be ‘up to’ them. Based on the empirically-supported mind-control cultivated by these meditation virtuosos, the book proposes the principle of, ‘Buddhist Soft Compatibilism’, a theory of ‘freedom of the mind’ that entails freedoms of the will, attention, emotion and action, compatible with both determinism and indeterminism.

Buddhism, Meditation and Free Will will be of interest to Buddhist and Western philosophers and academics interested in comparative philosophy, free will, philosophy of action, metaphysics, ethics and Religious Studies.


This book is an excellent example of recent renewed interest in systematic engagement with Buddhist philosophy. Rather than focusing on an exegesis of historical texts, Repetti uses the Buddhist philosophical sources for doing philosophy by developing an intriguing, sophisticated, and characteristically Buddhist approach to the free will problem. Repetti's book shows vividly how the intellectual encounter with Buddhist philosophy can invigorate contemporary philosophical debates.

Jan Westerhoff, University of Oxford, UK

This fascinating and discerning study brings arguments and concepts from Western philosophy into dialogue with classical Buddhist ideas. Based on the latter, it argues for the possibility of a freedom of mind and will that is seen as attainable by advanced practitioners of the Buddhist path.

Peter Harvey, retired Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Sunderland, UK

Rick Repetti is the leading expert in the world on Buddhism and free will. Some say free will is a Western invention, a requirement of the view that posits a God who rewards and punishes for all eternity. Buddhists have no such God, but Repetti forcefully and eloquently argues they too have a conception of free will to account for karma and responsibility. This is cross-cultural philosophy at its very best.

Owen Flanagan, Duke University, USA

Table of Contents


1. Laying the Ground: The Unconditioned and the Conditioned

2. A Primer on Free Will for Buddhists

3. Primary and Secondary Buddhist Literature on Free Will

4. Buddhist Soft Compatibilism

5. Concluding Thoughts and Questions

About the Author

Rick Repetti is Professor of Philosophy at CUNY, USA, and Assistant Editor for the Journal of Buddhist Ethics. His recent publications include the edited book Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will (2016), also published by Routledge.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism is a comprehensive study of the Buddhist tradition. The series explores this complex and extensive tradition from a variety of perspectives, using a range of different methodologies. The series is diverse in its focus, including historical, philological, cultural, and sociological investigations into the manifold features and expressions of Buddhism worldwide. It also presents works of constructive and reflective analysis, including the role of Buddhist thought and scholarship in a contemporary, critical context and in the light of current social issues. The series is expansive and imaginative in scope, spanning more than two and a half millennia of Buddhist history. It is receptive to all research works that are of significance and interest to the broader field of Buddhist Studies.

Some of the titles in the series are published in association with the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, which conducts and promotes rigorous teaching and research into all forms of the Buddhist tradition.

Editorial Advisory Board:
James A. Benn, McMaster University, Canada

Jinhua Chen, The University of British Columbia, Canada

Rupert Gethin, University of Bristol, UK

Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland, UK

Sallie King, James Madison University, USA

Anne Klein, Rice University, USA

Lori Meeks, University of Southern California, USA;

Ulrich Pagel, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

John Powers, Australian National University, Australia;

Juliane Schober, Arizona State University, USA

Vesna A. Wallace, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Michael Zimmermann, University of Hamburg, Germany

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General