Many people think of freedom as being free to act as you please, without any inhibitions.
The dictionary generally gives two main definitions of freedom. One is the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. The other is the power or the right to act, speak, or think as one wants.
The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved can be a form of freedom. But the idea that the power and the right to be able to speak or act as you want without any hindrance is a limited understanding of freedom. It ignores the law of karma, whereby for everything you do, every act you make, there is an equal and opposite reaction. While you may be free to choose how you act, you cannot escape the result of these actions. So, therefore, are you truly free?
Another understanding of our lack of freedom comes from the recognition that it is possible to become enslaved by my own mind and desires. When a person is unable to control their mind and desires, they are forced to act, sometimes against their will or better judgement, and they must then accept the consequences of these choices and actions in the form of karmic reaction.
Shackled to this world by the laws of karma, some people receive good results from their actions and others receive unfortunate results. In both cases, they are in the same situation; both are bound in different ways. By falling victim to the desires of the mind and always feeling that we must follow its demands, we become perpetually bound to this world. This means repeatedly suffering the natural processes of disease, old age, and death and then birth again.
If we allow ourselves to become controlled and directed by our mind and senses in the hope that we’re going to get some actual lasting happiness, then we remain unfulfilled, empty, and a slave to those desires.
Most people are unaware that our desire for happiness (and love) arises from our innate spiritual nature, which is the core of our being. The truth is, we are not the body or the mind we are temporarily residing within and using, but the spiritual being (atma) within. Living in the illusion that this body is “me”.We mistakenly conclude that by trying to satisfy the desires of the mind and senses we will experience real happiness. This is untrue.
By chasing the desires of the body and mind, I might get a rush or some temporary stimulation, but it will not actually fulfil “me”, the spiritual person within. This condition of being so completely overwhelmed by the mind and the senses that we lose our actual spiritual identity is spelt out clearly in the Bhagavad-gita:
Thus the wise living entity’s pure consciousness becomes covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust (or intense desire) which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.
The reality is that material pleasure cannot fulfil you. Your attempt at fulfilling material desire is like putting gasoline on a fire. It only makes it burn hotter and stronger. This kama or lust (intense desire) manifests in so many different ways and is categorised as ‘the eternal enemy’ of the “self” within the body.
The way that you can come to a position of real freedom is by altering the direction of your life. You have the freedom to choose how you are going to live. It is within your own power to determine the outcome of your life and whether you achieve the state of complete freedom or not.
Being situated in such a position one is never shaken even in the midst of the greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.
This state of actual freedom and the awakening of spiritual love that arise from mature spiritual realisation are far beyond anything of this world. In this condition, one is truly happy and truly free.
Acharya das is a respected teacher of Vedic and yogic philosophy, meditation and kirtan, and a practitioner of the transcendental science of Bhakti Yoga. He has taught yoga wisdom to appreciative audiences for over 40 years and is a world-renowned speaker. Acharya das is currently in Auckland and holds regular discourses on yoga wisdom. For more information about these discourses, to ask questions, or to read more in-depth articles on these subjects visit
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