We got freedom, Right ?
August 15th 2016, 70 years of independence is what we are supposed to celebrate today, and that is why we got a day off at our work. But if we ask ourselves are we doing that? or are we just thanking the government for a holiday we got to relax after relaxing a day before (being Sunday). Some people are planning to take the whole week off by carefully adjusting their sick leaves on the perfect days to lengthen their vacation. I am not a nationalist who is trying to tell you that you should go to tricolor salute ceremony.
The point I am trying to make is about our obsession with getting days off at work and what this behavior reveal about the true nature of independence or freedom. This behavior shows us the mirror to realize that we work because we have to, otherwise why most of the people are tired of their work so much that on these holidays they are just so happy that it’s a day off? Not everyone is like that but a huge majority is.
As a metaphysical construct we can consider three levels of freedom :
- Physical — Freedom to do what we want
- Mental — Freedom to think however we want
- Spiritual — Freedom to be
Physically we are free (kind of), we are entitled to act and express ourselves in the way we want and people who were born in British free India (like me and most of us) don’t understand this kind of freedom because they are already free and never felt what it means to not being free. Still we can get this logically — In British ruled India the laws were constructed by the British to their own benefits and imposed upon us. Then we got free from “British Raj” and became a democracy — The Republic of India.
But having a parliamentary democracy does not guarantee physical freedom, for example in time of The Emergency (1975–77) the basic human rights were in jeopardy. If we search online we’ll find incidents where our own elected government performed several actions taking away our physical freedom. Individual impositions like forced sterilization to killings and mass/social impositions like nullifying supreme court judgments to illegal modifications to the Constitution. When we look at these incidents and we realize that we are lucky that we are not in such a chaotic time frame right now.
So, we are physically free but not totally free, it’s tricky. You see — If the law prohibits someone from taking away somebody else’s car without permission then one can say “I am not free, because the law prohibits me to do something I want to do”. To a certain extent this argument holds water but if look closely nothing in the universe can be physically free. From tiny tiny electrons to super massive Black holes nothing free to act (interact) however it wants, the nature have certain laws and everything follows those laws.
In a society or country the nature do not impose laws the people in the society or the country construct certain laws for the inclusive betterment and agree to follow those laws voluntarily. This system is effective because when there are some ground rules — “duties” it can provide facilities — “rights”. If someone is not willing to obey the laws one is free to leave the society or the country and he/she will have to make all the arrangement by themselves. And today we are in such a system so Ignoring some bullying, small scale impositions can we say :
Most of us are physically free (more or less)
It has to do with conscience and the story gets more interesting here.
Sometimes there are physical freedoms but our ill conscience limits us from thinking freely. For example, the law doesn't prohibit anyone from eating meet but some religions/societies stigmatize the act so much so that we consider it a limitation and never even taste it, and then we rationalize our decisions with senseless arguments like — “I don’t like it’s taste”, “It’s not healthy”, “I don’t eat it because, something gets killed”, “I don’t eat because blah blah…” again I am not in favor being non-vegetarian or vegetarian, all I am saying is to look closely to those arguments.
“I don’t like it’s taste” — How do you know it’s taste if you never tried it?
“It’s not healthy” — If we look at the chemical constituents it sure is as healthy as vegetables if not more.
“I don’t eat it because, something gets killed” — What happens to sugarcane plants after harvest ?
After thinking through and evaluating these things if ones conscience do not let them eat and if that is the reason they are not eating it, that’s perfectly fine. But if their conscience allow them and yet they hold them selves back because of social norms or religious beliefs then how can we say they are mentally free? The real question is :
Whether people act according to their conscience or according to the beliefs that they were conditioned with?
The answer to this question gives us the measure of mental freedom that we have, Often people have to act according to the social norms and popular beliefs that they don’t fully accept. They have to act in a way that their parents, teachers and society want them to act, and they are not physically bound to do it so. They are mentally bound. Their thoughts and behavior is heavily conditioned that limits them to be mentally free.
If we inquire in our day to day life we’ll find a lot more examples of scenarios where people think they will be “good” or “bad” if they do or don not act in a certain way. But it is not their own conscience that determines good or bad it is the soft power of society that determines this. We are simply being ruled by soft power of society — a power so strong that it limits us to think freely.
Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. — Buddha
Not everyone is mentally free (but a lot of people are)
This is going to be difficult and starting with formal definition of the word spirit will help it a little bit.
Spirit — the non-physical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.
I am agnostic about us having a soul or non-physical existence. But I think the closest thing to spirit that we have is our consciousness. About physical and mental freedom the word “want” was there in short description. And when we pay attention to “want” or “desire” we find ourselves in difficulty, this difficulty emerge from our concept of freedom. Let’s go back to our old friend etymology once again.
Freedom — the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.; the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
The deep question arises here about the nature of desire itself, why we do we have desire? or What causes the desire in the first place ? frankly I would have to be a Buddha to know the answer. But my best guess is the absence of acceptance. The lack of acceptance of the truth that the universe is the way that it is causes desire.
At the risk of sounding unscientific, the fact about of our whole understanding is that we can not have final answers to why questions.
Q. Why there is night after day?
A. Earth goes around the sun.
Q. Why does the earth go around the sun ?
A. Gravity, like any two objects the sun and earth pulls on each other and hence the orbit.
Q. Why Gravity does that ?
A. It just does that, We don’t know why.
We can know how something works or what are the rules but if we start digging into any such “Why Questions” at some point we have to accept something because the question never ends. No matter which branch of Science we pick, there will always be some acceptance. Acceptance of the truth that the universe is the way that it is. It is not good, not bad it just is.
We may accept it in science but in our day to day life we are not willing to accept the truth, we have some preferences that we pursue. We believe that what “we have” or “what we are” is not enough and hence the desire.
How all this is related to spiritual freedom?
When we desire something, it drives us and we tend to think and act in a way to fulfill that desire without being conscious about it. For example — We see someone rich and famous, we get impressed by them and we want to be like that someone, we want what that someone has. The desire arises and before we know why we are impressed we want to be rich.
We work hard, do things, stress ourselves so much so that we forget to enjoy what we already have. We seldom pay attention to why we want to be rich and how this desire have arose. We keep on running and before one desire ends another start to drive us. This happens because we become so blinded by the desire that we do not bother about being aware about it. This makes us slaves of our own desires.
When we are awakened towards our desires and see where it arises from, this gives us new view to the world and we start to see the roots of our desires. Ultimately we see that there is nothing worth desiring for because no matter what we accumulate or posses it never ends. And we see this truth only then we can accept the world as it is. There will be no more preferences because we see from where these preferences and arising and how insignificant they are. With this acceptance life becomes a play and in this play we can be, when we start to be — we are awake to our desires and we can be set free from them, that’s spiritual freedom.
There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires — Buddha
Only a handful of people in the whole history can be considered spiritually free
When we attain this level of conciseness, then there is no need for an extra holiday after Sunday to release stress because there is no stress, because there is nothing to achieve and nothing to lose. May be then there is a possibility that we do what we love and love what we do.