Freedom Has Two Sides
Enjoying your meditations has given me the sense of freedom of not belonging to any particular place, country or even nationality. It’s really great. I’ve felt able to move about without much fear and to be committed without feeling imprisoned. Why then, after nine years, do I feel a bitter sadness mixed with this sense of freedom?
“Freedom has two sides and if you have only one side of it, a single side, you will feel freedom mixed with sadness. So you have to understand the whole psychology of freedom.
“The first side is freedom from: from nationality, from a certain church, from a certain race, from a certain political ideology. This is the first part of freedom, the foundation of freedom. It is always from something. Once you have attained this freedom, you will feel very light and very good and very happy. And for the first time you will start rejoicing in your own individuality, because your individuality was covered with all those things that you have become free of.
“But this is only one half and then there will come sadness, because the other half is missing. Freedom from is fulfilled, but freedom for what? Freedom in itself has no meaning, unless it is freedom for something, something creative – freedom to sculpt, freedom to dance, freedom to create music, poetry, painting. Unless your freedom turns into a creative realization, you will feel sad. Because you will see that you are free: your chains are broken, you no longer have any handcuffs, you no longer have any chains, you don’t have any prison, you are standing under the starry night, completely free, but where to go? Then comes a sudden sadness. What path to choose? Up to now there was no question of going anywhere – you were imprisoned. Your whole consciousness was concentrated on how to get free, your only anxiety was how to get free. Now that you are free, a new kind of problem has to be encountered. What to do now that you are free?
“Just freedom in itself does not mean anything, unless you choose a creative path. Either you go deeper into meditation for self-realization – that’s what I was talking about: unless you become like Premda, pregnant – or if you have a certain kind of talent that has not been allowed to develop because of your fetters – you could not compose music because your hands were in chains, you could not dance because your feet were in chains. If you have a talent to be a dancer, then be a dancer. Then your freedom is complete, then the circle is complete.
“Freedom from and freedom for – this is not something new that you are facing. It is being faced by every person who struggles first for freedom and then suddenly finds, ‘Now that I am free, what am I going to do?’ Up to now, he was so occupied, so engaged, so very busy. Even in his dreams he was thinking only of freedom. And he has never thought about what he is going to do when he will get freedom.
“What has happened is beautiful. But something more is needed. You have to become a creator. You have to find some creativity that fulfills your freedom, otherwise the freedom is empty. You need either to create something or to discover something. Either bring your potential to actuality or go inwards to find yourself, but do something with your freedom.
“Freedom is only an opportunity for you. It is not in itself the goal. It simply gives you the whole opportunity to do whatever you want to do. Now you are free and you are feeling sad, because you have not used this opportunity yet. Meditation will do, music will do, sculpture will do, dancing will do, love will do. But do something with your freedom. Just don’t sit with your freedom, otherwise you will become sad.”
Sat-Chit-Anand: Truth-Consciousness-Bliss, Talk #14
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My Vision of Freedom Is to Be Yourself
Please explain what you mean by freedom. When I talk about freedom, I mean freedom from something or freedom to do something; it implies more freedom of choice. But my impression is that choiceless awareness precedes the freedom you talk about. What kind of freedom does not involve choice? Can it be defined, or is it one of those qualities like love which must be experienced to be understood?
“The freedom from something is not true freedom. The freedom to do anything you want to do is also not the freedom I am talking about.
“My vision of freedom is to be yourself.
“It is not a question of getting freedom from something. That freedom will not be freedom, because it is still given to you; there is a cause to it. The thing that you were feeling dependent on is still there in your freedom. You are obliged to it. Without it you would not have been free.
“The freedom to do anything you want is not freedom either, because wanting, desiring to do something, arises out of the mind – and mind is your bondage.
“The true freedom certainly comes after choiceless awareness, but after choiceless awareness the freedom is neither dependent on things nor dependent on doing something. The freedom that follows choiceless awareness is the freedom just to be yourself. And you are yourself already, you are born with it; hence it is not dependent on anything else. Nobody can give it to you and nobody can take it from you. A sword can cut your head but it cannot cut your freedom, your being.
“It is another way of saying that you are centered, rooted in your natural, existential self. It has nothing to do with outside.
“Freedom from things is dependent on the outside. Freedom to do something is also dependent on the outside. Freedom to be ultimately pure has not to be dependent on anything outside you.
“You are born as freedom. It is just that you have been conditioned to forget it. Layers upon layers of conditionings have made you a puppet. The strings are in somebody else’s hands.
“If you are a Christian, you are a puppet. Your strings are in the hand of a God which does not exist, so just to give you the sense that God exists there are prophets, messiahs, representing God. They represent nobody. They are just egoistic people – and even ego wants to reduce you to a puppet.
“They tell you what to do, they give you the Ten Commandments. They give you your personality – that you are a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, a Mohammedan. They give you your so-called knowledge. And naturally, under the great burden which they start giving you from the very beginning of your childhood, the Himalayan load you are carrying – underneath it, hidden, repressed, is your natural self.
“If you can get rid of all conditionings, if you can think that you are neither a communist nor a fascist, that you are neither a Christian nor a Mohammedan. You were not born a Christian or Mohammedan; you were born just pure, innocent consciousness.
“To be again in that purity, in that innocence, in that consciousness, is what I mean be freedom.
“Freedom is the ultimate experience of life. There is nothing higher than that. And out of freedom many flowers blossom in you.
“Love is the flowering of your freedom.
“Compassion, another flowering of your freedom.
“All that is valuable in life flowers in the innocent, natural state of your being.
“So don’t connect freedom with independence. Independence is naturally from something, from somebody. Don’t connect freedom with doing things that you want to do, because that is your mind, not you. Wanting to do something, desiring to do something, you are in the bondage of your wanting and your desiring.
“But the freedom I have been talking about you simply are – in utter silence, serenity, beauty, bliss.”
Freedom Is Something Inner
For forty-five years I lived in prison, mostly made by myself. Now I know it is possible to become more and more free. But what to do, when you feel you need a safe place, a good climate to grow? Another prison? How to be free anywhere, any time? I feel sorrow and rebellion in me about that.
“Freedom has nothing to do with the outside; one can be free even in an actual prison. Freedom is something inner; it is of the consciousness. You can be free anywhere – chained, in a jail, you can be free – and you can be unfree outside the jail, in your own home, visibly absolutely free, but you will be a prisoner if your consciousness is not free
“You are confusing outer freedom with inner freedom. As far as the outside is concerned you can never be absolutely free – let it be clear once and forever. As far as outside is concerned you are not alone, so how can you be absolutely free? There are millions of people around you. On the outside, life has to be a compromise. If you were alone on the earth you would have been absolutely free, but you are not alone
“On the road you have to keep to the left. And Yvonne will feel this is a great bondage: ‘Why? Why should I be forced to be on the left? I am a free man. If I want to walk on the right I will walk on the right. If I want to walk in the middle of the road I will walk in the middle of the road.’ In India you can do it – India is a free country, remember! It is the greatest democracy in the world, so right, left, middle, anywhere you can walk
“But one man’s freedom becomes so many people’s problem. You are free to be yourself, but you should not be an interference in other people’s lives
“A man of understanding will respect his freedom as much as he will respect others’ freedom, because if nobody respects your freedom, your freedom will be destroyed. It is a mutual understanding: ‘I respect your freedom, you respect my freedom, then we both can be free.” But it is a compromise. I have not to interfere with your being, I am not free to trespass on you
“You want to sing loudly in the middle of the night. Of course you are a free person, and if you cannot sing loudly in your own house, what kind of freedom is this? But the neighbors have to sleep too; then there has to be a compromise.
“On the outside we are interdependent. Nobody can be absolutely independent. Life is an interdependence. Not only with people are you interdependent, you are interdependent with everything. If you cut all the trees you will die because they are constantly supplying you with oxygen. You are dependent on them – and they are dependent on you because you are constantly giving them carbon dioxide. We take oxygen in and exhale carbon dioxide; the trees do just the opposite, they exhale oxygen and inhale carbon dioxide.
“So when people like Mahendra are smoking, trees must be feeling tremendously happy because more carbon dioxide is being created for them! Listening to me these trees will be feeling very sad that I am telling you to go to the root cause of it and then smoking will disappear. That means trees won’t get as much carbon dioxide as they were getting before!
“We are interdependent, not only with the trees – with the sun, with the moon, with the stars. Everything is an interdependence….
“Everything in existence is interdependent, so you cannot be absolutely free on the outside – and there is no need either.
“Enjoy this interdependence. Don’t call it bondage. It is not dependence, it is interdependence. You are dependent on others, others are dependent on you. It is a brotherhood, it is relatedness. Even the smallest grass leaf is related to the greatest star.
“But in the inner world, in the inner kingdom, you can be absolutely free. So the whole question is of the inner. And then, Yvonne, you will not feel sad and rebellious; there is no need. Understand that the outer interdependence is a must, it is inevitable; nothing can be done about it. It is part of how things are. Accept it. When nothing can be done about it, acceptance is the only way. And accept it joyously, not as a resignation. Accept it! This is our universe; we are part of it. We are not islands, we are part of the whole continent. We are not egos.
“Yvonne, your idea of freedom is rooted somewhere in the idea of the ego. We are not egos. The ego is a false entity - because we are not separate, how can we have egos? It is good as far as language is concerned; it is utilitarian to use the word I, but it has no substance in it. It is pure shadow, utterly empty. A useful word, utilitarian, but not real. But inner freedom is possible. It happens as you go deeper and deeper into awareness. Watch your body, watch your thought processes.
“Just the other day Buddha was saying: Watch, witness the whole process of your thoughts. And slowly, slowly you will see you are neither anger nor greed, neither Hindu nor Mohammedan nor Christian, neither Catholic nor communist. Slowly, slowly you will be aware that you are not any thought - you are not mind at all. You are a pure witness. The experience of pure witnessing is the experience of total freedom, but it is an inward phenomenon. And a man who is inwardly totally free has no hankering to be outwardly free. He is capable of accepting nature as it is.
“Yvonne, create inner freedom through witnessing. Sannyas is only for the inner freedom. And live out of inner freedom and then you will be able to see the interdependence on the outside. It is beautiful and it is a blessing. There is no need to rebel against it. Relax into it, surrender to it. And remember: only a person who is really free can surrender.”
The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 9, Talk #4
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What Do I Mean when I Say just Freedom?
“Freedom can be of three types, and those three types have to be understood well. The first is freedom from, the second is freedom for, and the third is just freedom – neither from nor for. The first, freedom from, is a reaction. It is past-oriented; you are fighting against the past, you want to get rid of it, you are obsessed with it.
“Psychoanalysis tries to give you this freedom, freedom from – from the past traumas, childhood wounds. Primal therapy is based basically on the past. You have to go backwards to free yourself from the past, you have to reach to the first primal scream, then you will be free. So freedom means – for primal therapy, for psychoanalysis and for other therapies – that the past has to be dropped. You have to fight with it, you have to somehow manage, disentangling yourself from the past; then you will be free.
“As far as this freedom is concerned, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud are not opposed to each other; they both agree. Karl Marx says one has to become free from the past, all past social structures, economic structures. His approach is political, Freud’s approach is psychological, but both are rooted in the idea of freedom from.
“All political reforms are reactions – and when you react you are never free. This has to be understood. It only gives you an appearance of freedom, but it is never true freedom. Out of reaction, total freedom is not possible. Out of reaction, true freedom is not possible. And only total freedom is true freedom.
“You can go against the past, but just in being against it you are caught by it from the back door. That’s why it has happened again and again that with whomsoever you are fighting, you become like him. Choose your enemies very carefully, because you will be determined by them! Fighting with them, you will obviously have to learn their strategies. You will have to learn their tactics, you will have to learn their ways. Slowly, slowly, enemies become very alike – more alike than friends….
“The second idea is freedom for; it is future-oriented. The first is political, the second is more poetic, visionary, utopian. Many people have tried that too, but that too is not possible, because future-oriented you can’t live in the present – and you have to live in the present. You don’t live in the past, you don’t live in the future, you have to live in the present.
“Visionaries only imagine. Beautiful utopias they have imagined, but those utopias never become reality, cannot become reality.
“If you react to the past, you are determined by the past. If you forget the past and look at the future, you are still driven by the past, you are just not aware of it. Looking at the future you dream beautiful dreams, but they can’t change reality. The reality remains the same; dreams are very ineffective, impotent.
“The first, freedom from, is a reaction. The second, freedom for, is revolution. The third, just freedom, is rebellion. It is present-oriented. The first is political, the second is poetic, the third is mystic, religious.
“What do I mean when I say just freedom? Neither for nor against, no past, no future, just being herenow, just living moment to moment with no ideology, with no utopia.
“The real sannyasin, the real mystic, is not against the past, is not for the future. He is so utterly absorbed by the present that he has no time, no energy, for the past and the future. This is how the rebel is born.
“The rebel is the most beautiful phenomenon in the world. Buddha is a rebel, so is Jesus; Atisha is a rebel, so is Kabir. These are rebels. You will misunderstand them if you think of them as if they were revolutionaries; they were not. Neither were they reactionaries. Their orientation is totally different, their orientation is now, here. They don’t live for any ideal, and they don’t live against any ideal. They don’t have any ideas; no ideology exists in their consciousness.
“The sheer purity of this moment – they live it, they enjoy it, they sing it, they dance it. And when the next moment comes, they live the next moment with the same joy, with the same cheerfulness. They move moment to moment, they don’t plan ahead.”
When Awareness Comes and the Light Comes, then there Is Freedom
“Even the first type of freedom at least pretends that there is some goal. Even the politician says, ‘We are fighting to be free – from this kind of society, this kind of structure, this kind of politics. We are fighting to be free from this society just to create another society. We are fighting for some goal, some value, some utopia, some ideology.’ Even he has to pretend that, because the negative cannot exist alone; at least the positive has to be talked about. So communism talks about a classless society, utopia, where everything will be beautiful, where paradise will have descended on the earth. It will take infinity, but that goal has to be given. Otherwise people will not fight for a negative freedom.
“So the negative implies the positive; and vice versa, the positive implies the negative. When you want to become a painter and your parents are not agreeing and your society thinks it is foolish, you have to fight with them. So freedom for will have something to do with freedom from; they both are together.
“The real freedom is the third kind, the transcendental freedom. What is that? It is neither from nor for; it is simply freedom. It is just freedom. That is moksha: just freedom. Neither against anybody – it is not a reaction; nor to create some future – there is no goal. One simply enjoys being oneself, for its own sake; it is an end unto itself.
“Freedom from creates the politician, the reformer, the social servant, the communist, the socialist, the fascist. Freedom for creates the artist, the painter, the poet, the dancer, the musician. And just freedom for its own sake creates the sannyasin, the spiritual person, the truly religious.
“Your question is, ‘We must be free. Yet where does freedom end and selfishness begin?’ The first two are selfish, ego-oriented. The first, freedom from, is very egoistic because it has to fight against. It is violent; it has to be very egoistic. It has to disobey, it has to destroy, it has to conspire against the status quo. It needs great ego. The politician is nothing but pure ego.
“The second, freedom for, also has ego, but more delicate, more subtle, not so gross as the politician’s. The musician also has the ego, but more delicate, softer, more gentlemanly. The poet also has the ego, but nice, sweet, not so bitter as the first. They both are ego expressions.
“Only in the third, pure freedom – neither against nor for – is there no ego and is there no selfishness, because the third freedom happens only when the ego has evaporated. If the ego is still there, the freedom may be either the first or the second. The third requires as basic the phenomenon of the disappearance of the ego, fana. One has to understand the ego to attain the third freedom.
“Watch the ways of the ego. Go on watching. There is no need to fight for, no need to fight against; there is only just one need: to watch and be aware of how the ego functions, its mechanism. And slowly, slowly out of that awareness, one day the ego is found no more. Because the ego can exist only in unawareness. When awareness comes and the light comes, the ego disappears like darkness. And then there is freedom. That freedom knows no ego.
“And that freedom is love, and that freedom is God. That freedom is nirvana, that freedom is truth. In that freedom you exist in God, God exists in you. Then nothing wrong can ever happen through you. Then your life is virtue. Then your very breathing is meditation. Then you walk and it is poetry. Then you sit silently and it is dance. Then you are a blessing to the world. You are blessed.”
Freedom from Oneself Is the Ultimate Freedom
“Buddha is the only man who said, ‘If there is no God and there is no ego, the self is also arbitrary, artificial.' As you go deeper in your interiority, you suddenly find yourself disappearing into the oceanic consciousness. There is no self as such. You are no longer, only existence is.
“Hence, I call Zen essentially freedom from oneself. You have heard about other freedoms, but freedom from oneself is the ultimate freedom – not to be, and allow the existence to express itself in all its spontaneity and grandeur. But it is existence, not you, not me. It is life itself dancing, not you, not me.
“That is the Zen Manifesto: freedom from oneself.
“And only Zen has refined, in these twenty-five centuries, methods, devices to make you aware that you are not, that you are only arbitrary, just an idea.
“As you go beyond the mind, even the idea of ‘I am’ disappears. When the ‘I’ also disappears and you start feeling a deep involvement in existence, with no boundaries, only then has Zen blossomed in you. In fact, that is the state, the space of the awakened consciousness. But it has no ‘I” at the center, no atman, no self.
“To make it clear to you: Socrates says, ‘Know thyself.’ Gautam Buddha says, ‘Know – just know, and you will not find thyself.’ Enter deeper into your awareness, and the deeper you go, your self starts melting. Perhaps that is the reason why none of the religions except Zen have tried meditation – because meditation will destroy God, will destroy the ego, will destroy the self. It will leave you in absolute nothingness. It is just the mind which makes you afraid of nothingness.”