Celebrating Real Freedom

India had celebrated Independence Day last month with hearts filled with patriotism. All over the nation there was a wave of pride and praise for the country and our brave freedom fighters, as they surrendered their lives to give the country, the gift of freedom, so that their countrymen could live happily, peacefully, fearlessly, as per their terms and wishes. India has been freed from the clutches of foreign rule way back in 1947. Like-wise, there has been a deep and elaborate history of slavery in almost all the ancient civilizations that had colonial rule that we had all known. After a lot of efforts, movements and revolts, the evil of slavery was termed illegal, banned and abolished.
We, in India have been living in a ‘Free’ country since almost 7 decades. The Constitution of India provides every citizen 6 Fundamental Rights, one of these is the Right to Freedom and another is the Right to Freedom of Religion. Right to Freedom includes freedom of speech, expression, assembly, movement, residence… etc and Right to Freedom of Religion includes the freedom to practice and propagate religion, freedom to manage religious affairs… etc. We are fortunate to receive these through our country’s constitution since the day India became free (present generation has the fortune to get them as their birth-right). But along with these Rights, comes a responsibility to use them wisely. Today all of us have these Rights, although how many of us understand and fulfil the responsibility behind them, is a big question. Another point to ponder is whether abolishment of slavery or being in a free country gives us the privilege of being ‘free’ and experience true freedom, and sustain it? We can see that often people claim their Right to speech and expression but try to curb other’s rights for the same. Also some fight for their Right to Freedom of Religion, but in a way that snatches the Right to Freedom of Religion of others. If freedom of one person becomes bondage for others, can we call it real freedom?
To keep experiencing freedom, one has to abide by some rules and responsibilities. Just like a kite can rise up the sky when bound to the string, we can also achieve happiness and success in life, if along with freedom, we pay its cost i.e. be responsible. If we perceive that the string is restricting the kite to rise up and cut it, then instead of going up the kite falls astray.
To understand real freedom, let us first explore its complete meaning. Freedom has many dimensions. The most obvious one is physical freedom. When a person is free from any captivity, free from slavery, free to work as per his will, free from forced labour, free to move and reside etc. he can be considered to be physically free. Although, today we have this kind of freedom, is this enough for us to live happily and securely?
The Hindi word for freedom is ‘Swatantra’ which is made up of two words ‘swa’ and ‘tantra’. ‘Swa’ means self and ‘tantra’ means governance or control. Hence swatantra means self-control or self-governance and to be truly free is to be self sovereign. Today, we have quite lacked the understanding of this word. We take this as, when there is no foreign rule, we are free. While real freedom is being the master of our own self. Here comes the aspect of another type of freedom- the spiritual freedom. Today, if asked whether our mind is in our control, majority of us would nod in disagreement. We call it ‘our’ mind but even then we are not able to do justice to our role of ‘master of the mind’. On the contrary, it is our mind or the thoughts created by our mind that are controlling our responses in terms of feelings, words and actions.
To understand this, consider the case of a chariot where the master of the chariot is sitting on his seat and the chariot driver is controlling the horses through bridle. When the master is alert, he can guide the driver of the chariot who then controls the horses accordingly, to reach the destination. If the master who knows where to go falls asleep, the driver of the chariot gets no guidance for which direction to follow. How can he then control the horses? Under such circumstances, when the horses are not controlled by the driver through the bridle, they can choose their path at their free will. One of the horses would like to go where the grass is green while another would like to go to drink water. As a result, the chariot either reaches nowhere or reaches a place other than destined.
The root of this analogy lays in a deep spiritual truth. We commonly refer to ourselves as Human Beings. If I realize the components of my identity, I would agree to the truth that I am a ‘Being’ in this ‘Human’ experience. ‘Human’ here refers to the body made up of ‘humus’ which is the top layer of the soil- the major component amongst the 5 elements which the body is made up of. Other elements apart from Soil (Earth) which contribute to the physical existence of the humans are: Water, Air, Fire and Sky. Although these elements support lives, but even the most appropriate combination of these 5 elements cannot generate life until the ‘Being’ i.e. the Spiritual Consciousness or Energy brings life into the ‘Human’.
Relating to this analogy of the chariot, ‘I’- the Being, is the chariot master while the body is ‘MY’ chariot. Thus there is a difference between ‘I’ and the things or objects or entities I call ‘MY’ or ‘MINE’. When I am in full consciousness of being the spiritual entity- ‘I’ (the Being), I am awakened. On the other hand, when I confuse myself with what is ‘MY’ and consider myself to be the body or the chariot or the Human, then the ‘I’ gives up its original identity and gets attached to limited entities like the body, a role, a name, a position, a status, so on and so forth.
The spiritual entity controls the body i.e. a coordination of various physical systems, through a subtle system comprising of mind and intellect; where our physical systems and senses are the horses and the intellect is the chariot driver which directs the sense organs through the bridle of the mind. When I am self sovereign, which means that the self (the Being) is awakened and in full consciousness of being different from the body, I can analyze and judge what is righteous and what is not using the intellect. Intellect if understood deeply, is nothing but “in (internal)- tell (self talk)- act (action)”. Which means, before doing anything, I communicate with myself about whether it is right or not. Accordingly, I- the chariot master, use my intellect- the driver, which through the bridle of mind controls my sense organs to do the act which is righteous in order to reach to my destination or destiny of peace, security, happiness etc. This ensures that I maintain my self-sovereignty or swatantrata or freedom of the self- to do what I want to get done through my senses. If the self- the spiritual being, falls asleep, the intellect becomes incapable to take correct decisions and hence can’t direct the mind to control the senses. The senses, like wild horses are left uncontrolled to choose their own path at their whims and fancies. So, if I don’t want to say something, knowing that it is wrong, still I don’t have control over my words. I realize my mistake only after I have said that. Also, though I don’t want to think over a matter, even then I can’t stop myself from thinking the same. This makes me feel like a victim entangled in the web of waste and negative thoughts. Similarly, I don’t want to see the weaknesses of others or hear about it but I am compelled to do so as I no longer have control over myself. The slogan of the Father of the Nation- Gandhi ji, which states: “see no evil, hear no evil, talk no evil”, which means to be swatantra, is defied, as these senses slip on the path of negativity. When the intellect is unable to give the right advice and stop the senses going astray, it feels helpless, loses the confidence over the self and feels that to be on the path of righteousness is extremely difficult. After reaching to the point of total chaos, the spiritual being or the chariot master wakes up to find himself on the wrong destination and blaming the destination (destiny) for it. I feel like a bird trapped in its self-made cage. Being in this cage of negativity and waste, when I look around, I see only negativity everywhere. This is when I complain that the entire world is full of only negative people. And when I find others too on the same destination, I pacify myself thinking that maybe this is the right way how things are to be done in the present times and submit to the state of chaos, certifying it as normal. Therefore, we hear people say- ‘truthfulness and trust do not pay off in the current times’ or ‘one cannot get things done though love’ or ‘if you want things to be done your way, show them your power’ or ‘honesty is no policy’…
And then the other half of the story begins- where I can’t think, speak or do what I want to and what is natural to me but I need the support of my ego, anger, false power, to preserve my false identity. When I associate myself to this false identity so deeply (it could be name, fame, role, position or even this body) and others accept me as this false identity, I become a slave to these senses which took me here, to keep me where I have reached while I have totally lost the sight of the destination. Such a lack of control leads to addictions that can be at any level- addiction to fame, social media, gadgets, chemicals etc. Apart from this, it builds up our desires as an enclutched self remains far from inner satisfaction. This in other terms means, that I- the master of the chariot, have completely submitted myself to the horses- my senses. As a result, I become an easy prey to others who can misguide me, control my emotions, and turn me ON or OFF at any moment as I no longer have a connection with my mind and intellect.
Thus to be truly free is to experience not just physical freedom but also spiritual freedom, by which we mean that our mind is free from everything that is harmful to us as well as others, and in full coordination with the intellect, which in turn is empowered enough to take right decisions by the true understanding of what is right. Like a bird if freed, can fly high in the sky, similarly a mind which is free from all waste and negative thoughts feels light and can achieve new heights. If we elevate ourselves from waste and negative then we would be able to see the beautiful view of new horizons of hope, goodness and positivity around and that is when we shall be able to spark a change – first in ourselves and later in this world.
Like, to free the country many uprisings had occurred, similarly to break these mental bondages, we may experience various uprisings of thoughts and emotions. These uprisings also lead to a state of inner conflict. The inner conflict between a self possessed with negativity and the other side of the self which wants to be free, can be resolved with spiritual awakening and the practice of Rajyoga Meditation. ‘Rajyoga’- which literally translates to ‘connection (Yoga) with the Supreme’ to become the ‘ruler (Raja) of the self’, is a technique of meditation to obtain freedom that is sustainable, resulting into sustainable behaviour and systems. Such a self sovereign person with mind free from vices automatically gets respect and love from others and would have much harmonised relations. Moreover, when we are free from desires we shall have satisfaction in whatever we do and get, and even if we aspire for more achievements we will be stable if we face a failure. This is where one can claim to be truly swatantra.