Chapter 2: Man Is Born as Freedom
The first question:
I heard you say once that the misuse of freedom is harmful.
How can freedom be misused?
The philosophers have always believed that essence precedes existence, that man is born with what he is going to be already determined. Just like a seed he contains the whole program; now the question is only of unfoldment. There is no freedom.
That has been the attitude of all the philosophers of the past: that man has a certain fate, a destiny. One is going to become a certain entity; that is fixed, the script is already written. You are not aware of it - that’s another matter - but whatsoever you are doing, you are not doing it, it is being done through you by natural, unconscious forces, or by God.
This is the attitude of the determinist, the fatalist. The whole of humanity has suffered from it immensely, because this kind of approach means there is no possibility of any radical change. Nothing can be done at all about man’s transformation; everything is going to happen the way it is going to happen.
It is because of this attitude that the East has suffered most. When nothing can be done, then one starts accepting everything - slavery, poverty, ugliness; one has to accept. It is not understanding, it is not awareness; it is not what Gautam the Buddha calls suchness, tathata. It is just despair, hopelessness hiding itself in beautiful words. But the consequence is going to be disastrous.
You can see it in India in its most developed form: the poverty, the beggars, the illness, the crippled people, the blind people. And nobody takes any note of it because this is how life is, this is how life has always been this is how life is always going to be. A kind of lethargy seeps into the very soul.
But the whole approach is basically false. It is a consolation, not a discovery. It is somehow to hide one’s wounds - it is a rationalization. And whenever rationalizations start hiding your reality you are bound to fall into darker and darker realms.
I would like to say to you that essence does not precede existence; on the contrary, existence precedes essence. Man is the only being on the earth who has freedom. A dog is born a dog, will live like a dog, will die like a dog; there is no freedom. A rose will remain a rose; there is no possibility of any transformation - it cannot become a lotus. There is no question of choice, there is no freedom at all. This is where man is totally different. This is the dignity of man, his specialness in existence, his uniqueness.