Freedom is not only an important theme in the Buddhist teachings but is also a very popular word these days. There are so many ways to think of it. In the modern world freedom is considered to be a fundamental right of every human being. The right of the individual to pursue happiness is mentioned prominently in the constitution of many modern countries. We all instinctively want freedom, and many of us not only want it for ourselves, but also wish others to be free! Do you know anyone who wants to be unfree?
Our lives seem to be governed by the idea of freedom. We do so much in its pursuit. We work overtime to get more free time and to be able to retire early. We put a lot of effort into obtaining money so we can buy things that promise freedom and happiness.
Everyone has their personal interpretation about the idea of freedom and its noble spirit often gets mixed up with misunderstanding. Once Sogyal Rinpoche told a story about the people in Nepal in the days after their country became a democracy. People were happy and celebrating and some decided to express their newly gained freedom by walking in the middle of the streets. When the cars would honk to get through, they would tell the drivers, “We are free country now, I have the right to walk wherever I want.”
In recent years, I have heard my teachers talk about freedom in the context of the Buddhist teachings a few times. When I reflected on their teachings, I realized that freedom is one of those concepts that I naturally think of as good and desirable. However, when I asked myself what the word freedom really means, I had a hard time clearly explaining it to myself. After I started reflecting on the idea, thoughts on freedom were occasionally popping up in my mind. But I was surprised by how difficult it was for me to come to a clear idea about freedom. Because I am a very lazy contemplator, this has been going on for months and months.
I will conclude my post today simply with the suggestion to reflect on the question: “What is freedom?” It is up to you to decide if I am just in a lazy mood and want to keep my post short! Or if I am being mischievous or even cruel! Or if I simply want to give you an opportunity to reflect about this topic on your own for a day or two until I write my next post about it. Whatever conclusion you come to about my intention, you can use this as an opportunity. Sit down for a few minutes and ask yourself: “What is freedom? What does it mean to me personally? What is the best way to find freedom?” You are welcome to make comments and share your thoughts. (… to be continued)
Photo by By flickr user dmvcomics