Freedom

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Freedom is your birthright. Freedom is immortality.

Freedom is knowledge, peace and bliss. Consciously or unconsciously, wittingly or unwittingly, everyone is trying to find this freedom, whether it is nations fighting on the battlefield or a thief after freedom from want. Every movement of your feet is towards freedom. There is an innate urge in everyone to become independent. No one likes to be guided by the wishes of others. You have such a feeling and desire because you are the immortal soul, or atman, which has no rival, which is the inner ruler, which is the support for the whole universe. In reality, you are this atman.

In every heart there is the desire for freedom, this all-consuming passion for liberty. Freedom is the very nature of the eternally free soul. Freedom is an attribute of the soul. It is born with you. No force, no known human device, can suppress that desire. Freedom’s flame is ever burning bright. Moksha, or freedom, is the ultimate goal. People have become a slave of the body, senses, mind, creature comforts, food and fashion. Freedom is liberation from the thraldom of mind and matter.

Liberty of speech is not freedom. Liberty of thought is not freedom. To move about aimlessly is not freedom. To do just as one likes is not freedom. To have plenty is not freedom. To have a comfortable living is not freedom. To possess immense wealth is not freedom. To conquer nations is not freedom. To shirk responsibility is not freedom. To renounce the world is not freedom. Material independence will not give you perfect happiness. Bread and jam cannot give you real happiness. These little things of the world cannot give you eternal joy.

Real freedom is freedom from birth and death, freedom from the bonds of karma, freedom from attachment to the body, etc., freedom from egoism and desires, freedom from thoughts, likes and dislikes, freedom from lust, anger, greed, etc. Real freedom is identification with the supreme Self. Real freedom is merging in the Absolute. Freedom is in detachment, in desirelessness, in mindlessness. Eradication and extinction of desires lead to the sublime state of supreme bliss and perfect freedom.

You have created your own bondage through your desires, attachments, egoism and cravings; and you cry for emancipation. Attachment is the most powerful weapon of maya. You would never come into this world if you had no attachments. The first attachment starts with the physical body. Then all other attachments crop up. The identification of the Self with the body is extended to those who are connected with the body, such as, wife, son, house, father, mother, sister, etc., and cares increase a hundredfold. You will have to take care of all these people. There is absolutely no end to these cares and worries. Just as the silkworm and the spider create a web for their own destruction out of their own saliva, so also man creates these cares and worries for his own destruction out of his own ignorance.

The play of the mind

The mind is the cause of both bondage and salvation. The mind has two aspects: discriminative and imaginative. Discrimination releases the mind from bondage and attains moksha. Imagination binds the mind to the world. The mind binds you to this world. Where there is no mind, there is no bondage. When there is no ‘I’ or egoism, there is liberation. When there is ‘I’ or egoism, there is bondage, or birth and death. It is bondage when the mind is attached to an object or a sense organ, and liberation when the mind is not attached. It is bondage when the mind desires or grieves over anything, rejects or accepts, feels angry or happy at anything. It is liberation when the mind does not desire or reject or accept, or feel happy or angry. Emancipation is release from the bondage of ego and its desire, and from sensual cravings.

The mind forms a bridge between matter and pure spirit. Cross the bridge. Control the mind. You will gain liberation. You will be free from the trammels of births and deaths. The differentiations such as ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’ will vanish. All tribulations, annoyances, miseries and grief will cease. One who has conquered the mind can do anything. He can move about wherever he likes. He is as free as the atmospheric air. His happiness, freedom and peace are unbounded.

Know your real, divine nature. Come out of this earthly rut. You are lions, not sheep. You are real emperors, not beggars. You are children of God, not weaklings tied to this perishable earth. You think of your body, food, family, children, friends, etc., but you do not turn your mind inward to find out what lies within yourself. You think that your body – this bundle of flesh and bones – is real, and on this basis you build the whole citadel of life’s ambition and activities. You have mistaken the shadow for the substance. You are contented with superficial things. Though you are endowed with the power of thought, you do not wish to utilize this power in quest of the immortal Self. You have abandoned the precious jewel of atman, and caught hold of a broken piece of glass. Is this not a foolish act?

Recognize and realize your real, divine nature. On account of ignorance, you have mistaken the body for atman, and you try to have no rivals in the physical body, in business, in college, in games or any field of activity. By realizing the atman you become the supreme ruler or absolute monarch of the whole universe. Therefore, realize this wonderful atman and become a veritable, mighty potentate of the three worlds.