|| Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
|| Aum Namo Narayanaya||
Yesterday, 27th April, was Freedom Day in South Africa. The delight of a national public holiday could be seen in the deserted streets with most curtains still drawn at 08:00am. The raucous movement of the dispersing birds echoed with a deafening clatter as they fled in search of their morning grub. But a stench of uneasiness, despondency, irritation and annoyance wafted with the gentle breeze that fanned the resting leaves. South Africa was politically freed by the vote 19 years ago, but is still saddled by the yoke of economic and social inequalities.
This situation then begs an enquiry as to the meaning of freedom, the validity of its use in this context and whether such a state is in fact achievable. The dictionary defines freedom as: “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint”.
Our Revered Swamiji (Vivekananda) describes freedom as:
The mind cannot be easily conquered. Minds that rise into waves at the approach of every little thing, at the slightest provocation or danger, in what a state they must be! What to talk of greatness or spirituality, when these changes come over the mind? This unstable condition of the mind must be changed. We must ask ourselves how far we can be acted upon by the external world, and how far we can stand on our own feet in spite of all the forces outside us. When we have succeeded in preventing all the forces in the world from throwing us off our balance, then alone we have attained freedom.
How beautiful is this concept of freedom derived from the depths of Vedanta by Swami Vivekananda. It speaks to the cessation of any sort or form of bondage or restraint that inhibits the expression of the bliss which is our inherent nature.
In this body - we are bound by the calls of hunger, age and disease. In the world - we are bound by time and nature. This clearly illustrates the idea that all that is manifest in this world is always bound. I think back to two weeks ago and even on Thursday this week when the celebrations of Ramayan Week, Ram Naumi and Hanuman Jayanthi were celebrated respectively. It was with tears of overflowing love that one heard of the trials and tribulations of the Lord. But what surfaced during these discussions is that even the Lord was bound at so many levels... but what was also evidently clear is that the Lord is bound the greatest in the devotee’s heart... as seen in the life of Shri Hanumanji. The Lord is at the beck and call of His devotees. This is declared also by Shri Krishna Himself .
I read an article once in one of the Mission’s magazines which outlined that the Upanishads state that absolute freedom comes not by wealth, progeny or even work... but by tyaga (renunciation) alone. The knowledgeable are not tempted by fame, wealth and other lures but stay steadfast on the part of renunciation to attain the ultimate goal. Swami Vivekananda further clarifies this renunciation:
The idea of freedom is the only true idea of salvation - freedom from everything: the senses - whether of pleasure or pain and from good as well as evil. More than this even... we must be free from death; and to be free from death, we must be free from life. Life is but a dream of death. Where there is life, there will be death; so get away from life if you would be rid of death. Everything in time, space, and causation is bound. The soul is beyond all time, all space, and all causation. That which is bound is nature, not the soul. Liberation means entire freedom---freedom from the bondage of good, as well as from the bondage of evil. A golden chain is as much a chain as an iron one.
Thus having ascertained that all in this manifest world is bound in some way or the other, and that absolute freedom is attained by absolute renunciation... what recourse do we have to the freedom that we so desperately seek which is intrinsic to our eternal nature? For this my dear friends, I prescribe the tried and tested Sri Ramakrishna method to freedom.
Master said: ’I am a free soul. How can I be bound, whether I live in the world or in the forest? I am a child of God. Just as a child is bound to its parents for love attention and nourishment yet is able to grow independently according to its nature.’ Master’s life demonstrates that if we bond ourselves to the Lord, as He did with the Divine Mother, irrespective of whether we live in the world or live in the forest, we can enjoy sat (truth), chid (consciousness) and ananda (bliss) as He did.
It was through Master’s life that we see tangibly the philosophies of Vedanta being played out for humanity to realise that these truths can be achieved by us all. It is in the absolute surrender at the feet of God, casting aside all other things as secondary, and with the knowledge that God alone will provide for our sustenance in this world... will we be able to enjoy a taste of freedom.
Many people place emphasis on removing or relieving themselves from the cycle of birth and death, but loose the opportunity of enjoying the divine bliss through this worldly existence. We fail to help others raise themselves and also be in a position to enjoy this ananda (bliss). Master and Swamiji have repeatedly stated they are prepared to take birth a million times over in order to prepare and raise everyman to taste the divine nectar of satchidananda.
Let us all realise that through God alone we are born, through God alone we exist, and through God alone shall we attain freedom. May we all attain this freedom, is my sincere prayer.