Real Freedom

Swami Santaram Saraswati

It is difficult to be oneself while living in modern society. Yet it is the many faces of oneself that give rise to the split personalities and neurotic behaviour so common in the world today. In search of our self, we are confronted with the fact that we are all carrying at least three selves or personalities in us: (i) the person who people think we are, (ii) the person we think we are, (iii) the person that we really are. The first two are false, but the third one is true.

On the whole, many people are not contented with what they think themselves to be. They want to be something else, and in the pursuit of becoming that other personality they go through years of hard struggle and in many cases, frustrations. Trying to be somebody other than who you are is a losing battle, for how can you ever become what you are not?

In spite of this, society brainwashes us into becoming the model already set by present social standards. It stimulates and pushes us into all kinds of mannerisms, some of them promising and pleasing, and others not. Society forces us to become its ideal or its set pattern of ideals, which is basically not for the well-being of the individual, but for its own establishment. This power game is not only present in society in general, but also in the so-called spiritual institutions. Up to a certain point it is understandable, for they have to safeguard their own interests. However, they do so at the expense of naive people, who are ready to believe anything.

In a situation like this, many would think that there is no way out, but there definitely is. The way is not to reject the world or escape from society into seclusion, but to live amongst this apparent chaos with perfect awareness. In other words, to live in the world but well above it, to handle society and its tools but not be affected by them. For truly, it is all a game. The only problem is that people have taken it seriously so that they rise and fall with the events of society, and as a result they suffer.

The question comes now, how to have that perfect awareness? Many methods have been tried and are being tried by some seeking individuals, and many answers have come out of it. Amongst all the methods and systems investigated at personal as well as group levels, one scientific system called yoga has sprung up from its apparent sleep and is showing, in a powerful way, how transformation can be effected in man by which he will be able to attain this awareness.

Yoga, in a true sense, does not try to fill up your head with all kinds of rules and regulations, beliefs and dogmas, do's and don'ts. Yoga is perhaps the only system which says to the individual - 'Be yourself. Do not imitate! Aspire to be rather than to become!' Every individual should first liberate himself from the society, from his institution, at least at a mental level. Physically, he might appear to be bound, but mentally he should be free. A great thinker, asked what was freedom, replied: 'Freedom is riding easy in a harness.'

At a preliminary level, yoga shows us the way to do this by making us aware of our bodies, thoughts and behaviour, limitations and potentialities. It teaches us to accept ourselves as we are, how we think, feel and react. Full acceptance of ourselves is the first step to mental peace. From this point on we can travel safely and progress in life. Once we have accepted our situation fully, at the different levels of our existence, then we will not try to become something other than what we are. But on the contrary, we will try to eliminate from our personality all that prevents us from being our own selves.