I said “Freedom is a complex concept; there are many ways to conceive and understand freedom” and I promised a bit of substance to the concept of freedom before beginning this Journey. This article references the quotes I offered here.
There are several themes that come out in these quotes. They are:
- Acknowledging the chains. (Rousseau)
- Courage to claim responsibility, Sapere Aude! (Kant)
- The Soul leads us naturally to Self-realization, freeing us from our bondage (Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami).
- Freedom is a two-fold path: letting go (of disturbances and obscurations) and attaining (being the qualities of wisdom and compassion). (The Dogzchen Pönlop Rinpoche)
- Conviction, devotion, faith. (Daniel of the Christian Bible)
- Restoration (Luke and Job of the Christian Bible)
- Aspiration (Matthew of the Christian Bible)
- Remembrance of and sharing Love (A Course in Miracles)
This Journey has the potential to have a lot going on. What follows are some of my thoughts about freedom and how different cultures and texts talk about the concept. This is like salivating before eating a good meal—it’s the preparation for digestion (and there is a lot to digest!).
Let’s start with Rousseau. Now, I know Rousseau was not talking about Enlightenment or Freedom in the same way that I am in this Journey. He was addressing the dynamic of ownership and private property, which (he says) corrupted humans’ natural state. The natural state Rousseau describes as basically peaceful, without reason to bring harm to others. It was inequality that brought humans out of this peaceful state and provided reasons to bring harm to others (to obtain what others possessed). [You may find a pretty straight-forward explanation of this here]
What we get from Rousseau is that people should be free—free to live in peace and harmlessness, because that is the natural state. But, with people born into a society that has inherent inequalities, created by humans themselves, human nature has become corrupted.
How does this relate to A Journey of Freedom?
I see this as a Western Philosophy take on undoing the things that we (people in society) have done that have suppressed our realization of our true nature. “Man is born free.” In other words, if man were born into his natural state, he would be free. But he’s born into societal structures that perpetuate inequality, so he is “everywhere in chains”. How do we do get back to a natural state? Rousseau’s solution is societal—to create a democracy. Rousseau’s idea of democracy has been highly contested, because it basically requires the subordination of all personal rights to the community as a whole.
There are two main takeaways here: 1) People’s natural state is freedom. 2) People in a natural state are equal. These correspond to ideas you have seen already in these Journeys, for example, “The Truth within me Knows me for who I am—Pure Love, Only Love, beyond all valuing of the world. In Love all are equal, for we are One. This is how Truth Knows me—Pure, One, and Free. This is my Truth; this is our Truth; this is the Self I love.” The Self that we all are is Love—that is our natural state. In love, there in only equality, because in Love there is no division—no you or I, we are One—and in Oneness there can be only equality.
Or, for example, “My consciousness of my Self, as Infinite Being is Oneness with Divine Mind, is my Peace, is my wholeness, is my Unity with All.”
Or, for example, “Where is Love? Everywhere. It just is. Where is Oneness? Everywhere. It just is. Where is Peace? Everywhere. It just is. Where is God? Everywhere. It just is. Where am I? Everywhere…One with Love, One with Oneness, One with Peace, One with God. I just am.”
The idea of freedom is pervasive in all its complexity. What it means to people and how we get there are the different turnings of the wheel to its ultimate realization. What does it mean to you? How do you live freedom? How do you strive for freedom? How do you create freedom in your world?
This leads us to Kant.
Kant does not have much faith in people. To him, people are basically lazy lemmings. Who has the courage to think for themselves? Who has the courage to use their own minds, to make their own decisions?
Use your mind; think about what freedom is for you. Feel what it means to you to be free. Seek your own answers. Follow your own truth. You will only contribute to all of us seeking, thinking, feeling…together.
Because (according to the Hindu quote), we are all seeking the same thing—Self Realization, experiencing God, our Self. The natural evolution of the Soul living in us, is to free us from “the bondages of ignorance.” What ignorance is this? It is the ignorance of Self Realization, the ignorance of our relationship with God in us. Attaining that relationship consciously, in this body is moksha—the Truth the Soul strives toward.
Buddhism breaks this down for us. How do we strive? We strive by letting go of anything that is not our Divine Nature, and being the things that are of this nature—wisdom and compassion.
In Buddhism, wisdom and compassion are often analogized as two wings of a bird. One wing is wisdom, the other is compassion. The bird itself is Love, supported by the wings of compassion and wisdom. The mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” embodies this idea in a mystical way; the spiritual sound goes beyond any literal translation of the words. Mani represents the concept of compassion; Padme represents the concept of wisdom; Hum represents their unification (indivisibility) in Love.*
The Christian texts give a bit of a twist to these ideas of letting go and attainment, but the principles are similar: turn toward God (and away from sin) and salvation will be granted, aspire to God (“be ye perfect” and “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”) and let go (“if any say ‘I have sinned’…he will deliver his soul”). In these texts, there is a similar emphasis on personal action (through prayer, preparation, and repentance) in order to attain God’s blessing.
The scenes from the Book of Daniel have always been very personally inspiring to me. What happens when devotion, conviction, and faith are practiced…really practiced? –God closes the mouths of the lions, and sends His angel to cool the flames.
But how does this relate to Freedom? Think about the frame of mind of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (their Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah), knowing they were convicted to go to the lion’s den and the fiery furnace, respectively. They were peaceful; there was no fear. No fear. That is freedom. I think about what it would be like to have so much faith that I could get a death sentence and be at peace. Peace: that is freedom. There is another layer to this though. Their faith was not superficial; in fact these punishments were due to them practicing their faith, their devotion to God. And this brings us to another level: their complete and utter surrender to God, to His Will.
This is all very profound to me, and not something I can easily put into words, but in short: surrender brings about freedom. Do God’s Will. Be free.
This is carried through with the quote from A Course in Miracles, “Your freedom is in Him” (my emphasis). There is no Freedom without God. In the longer quote, freedom is the recognition of God in other people, “Freedom is the only gift you can offer to God’s Sons, being an acknowledgement of what they are and what He is (my emphasis). Freedom is Love, which we give to each other, which is what is acceptable to God. Being acceptable to God, He shares it with All his Creations, through us, to each other.
I hope this has sparked your own ideas about Freedom and what it means to you. Discover for yourself; go deeper into your thoughts; find something new, let some things go. Sapere Aude! This should be fun.
*On the meaning of: OM MANI PADME HUM: “The jewel is in the lotus” or “Praise to the jewel in the lotus” by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso – Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet. http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/tib/omph.htm