What is True Freedom?

by Dr. T. R. Khanna

Throughout most history, freedom has been attained only by the united and resolute efforts of many people to gain the common good of all.  Freedom comes from self-discipline, inspired by a deep sense of responsibility towards something greater than our personal interests and preferences.  It comes from devotion to the family, community, and truth.  These are the strongholds of civilization, so our best interest lies in their preservation.


In today’s world, however, it has become commonplace to confuse freedom with license.  Many people think freedom consists solely of the right to pursue one’s own personal desires and goals, regardless of the common good.  Such people think they are enjoying freedom when, in fact, they are stifling real freedom and undermining their own stability and prosperity.


Individual freedom is very good, but not if it destroys the unity of the family, community, or country.  The prosperity and well-being of the individual depends on the unity of family and strength of the social structure.  When individuality and self-centered pursuits are given highest priority, dissension increases and cooperation vanishes.  Then the family and social structure begin to disintegrate.  Without a united family and community, we are left alone in a sea of peril and discord.  Hence, individual freedom should be subjugated to the interests of the common good.


When we are free to follow the whims and desires of our minds, we are not becoming free.  Instead we are increasing our bondage by entrenching ourselves deeper into the quicksand of our selfish mentality. The selfish mentality is never satisfied; it always wants more.  If we caught in that trap, we will never be free.


Is it freedom to do whatever we want, regardless of the consequences?  Look at the freedom of those who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, take drugs, or eat meat.  They do not become free; they become ill.  Their lives are cut short.  Their ability to contribute to society is hindered or destroyed. 


The society that leaves people alone to practice their selfishness does not have freedom; it has overcrowded hospitals, insane asylums, and jails.  Freedom does not come automatically.  It comes with guidance and great effort.  People have to be taught good habits and good principles.   Without a strong moral character and wisdom, people will only misuse the freedom that is given to them and remain in bondage.


Freedom depends on the free flow of truth.  Truth shows us the avenues that lead to freedom and those that lead to dead ends.  We have to tell the truth to our loved ones to save them from hurting themselves.  Likewise, we must be humble and gracious to receive wisdom and advice.  Freedom is that which makes us strong, selfless, and humble to learn and change for the better. 


We are free only when we have freed ourselves from our self-centered, individualistic habits of the mind and ego.  It is the responsibility of every one of us to free ourselves from our own selfishness so that Mother Earth can be free from the pain and wickedness of all.  Where selfishness and ego are rampant, there cannot be peace or freedom.


We cannot be free if we are concentrating only on finding our own personal freedom or self-development.  That leads to the bondage of self-involvement.  If we are actively helping others, we have automatically become free.  Why?  Because we become free by giving more, loving more, and thinking of ourselves less.  By not focusing on our negative tendencies and limitations, we are able to transcend them.  Giving them importance only serves to magnify their negative influence on us.


Freedom and duty are inseparable.  But duty must be performed with discernment.  If we take on too many responsibilities, we can let ourselves become abused by people who are trying to take advantage of our good nature.  We must do our duties to the fullest, but we should not weaken others by doing their duties, too.


The karma of life will go on, but the one who faces life smilingly, who accepts challenges and obstacles with great resolve, courage, and balance, is known to be totally free.

True humility is the best quality of a spiritual person. When a person who is on the spiritual path considers himself to be even less than a blade of grass, then he experiences real freedom. Dr. T. R. Khanna


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