To live freely - what does that signify? It does not mean doing exactly as you please, it means living with joy, with happiness, without the bondages of conditioning. It emphasizes living with a true understanding of who we really are and not from a learned presumption. Freedom here is not willfulness, but immunity from the enslavement of those seemingly indelible imprints of a world order that has forgotten what peace is; from societies bound together by hatred; from paranoid and bigoted leaders who are perennially whipping up ideologies that foment inequities and intolerance. They mass hypnotize people who have surrendered their power to think for themselves and propel them on to a manic spree of fury and revenge, often over dubious threats or for misdeeds centuries old.
During the 1992 communal riots I was in Surat and watched with mounting, helpless dismay as amicable neighbors and even friends turned on one another with unbridled frenzy. Hitherto unsuspected passions were unleashed. The instantaneous transformation was unbelievable! What was even more incomprehensible was how the very mobs that put themselves at risk to salvage the meager belongings of a poor bicycle mechanic of one community, ransacked property of others from that very community, with unabashed glee! The forces of good and evil, the apostles of God and the devil, were driving them from within. The mischief mongers just needed to give a slight nudge.
We are full of contradictions, dualities, sorrow, aggressiveness, greed, and selfishness. We are carved up on the inside ' organized religion, nationality, cast, creed, mine and yours, superiority and inferiority ' by a divisiveness, which prevents each of us from functioning as an individual whole. We do not act. We are under absolute control of 'the other' in as much as we react to what 'the other' says or does. Our reactions are contingent on that fragment within us which feels predominantly threatened by the other's actions. We respond without thinking, from a compulsive reasoning which assures us that we need to go on the defensive or offensive. Violence that is continually stoked and keeps stewing within, erupts and mindlessly scorches everything in its path. Violence burgeons forth from our own centers.
J. Krishnamurthy says, 'We have built a society which is violent, and we, as human beings, are violent; the environment, the culture in which we live, is the product of our endeavor, of our struggle, of our pain, of our appalling brutalities. So the most important question is: is it possible to end this tremendous violence in oneself?' We all need to address this portentous question with honesty. Can we rightfully blame others for the messes of our own making? We blatantly let our emotions be played upon, we absolve ourselves from guilt by running away from our responsibility and then we cry for freedom!
To live freely implies that we put aside what was taught to us from childhood; to probe without pretense and to find out without prejudice who we really are, so that we may understand from personal observation who 'the other' is and will respect the difference, if we perceive any. To understand denotes looking at our selves with an impartial willingness and accepting the reality that underscores all humanity. There is no easy formula for that. It requires a lifetime of discipline and scrutiny. It demands that one by one we negate all our impressed beliefs, our apprehension of 'the other', the arrogance of birth or race, the paranoia of losing our national, religious, ethnic, social or any other identity and rediscover the magical values of patience, compassion, love, mutual respect and tolerance. It entails giving up little by little every concept dear to us, held in our bosoms from time immemorial as the one eternal truth. It connotes a profound, revolutionary change that will turn us inside out. It would be tantamount to bringing down an endless wall brick by brick, examining deeply embedded subconscious frustrations, angers, jealousies, pettiness; and opening up oneself effortlessly, without fear, to alien panoramas. To do so all alone necessitates tremendous courage, faith in our capacity to watch diligently and accept as true what our personal watching reveals to us without recourse to any authority whatsoever. This initiates always adopting an attitude of personal responsibility.
Dr. Radhakrishnan thought that freedom from error is the only true liberty. This eight-word sentence is a very weighty one. Freedom from error! From mistakes! What error, which mistakes and whose mistakes? Answering these questions again warrants deep reflection on our part. It is easy to pinpoint the errors of others ' family, friends, strangers, leaders, saintly people, even the blunders of those who made history. What is crucial is being able to detect and accept our own flaws, our own erroneous thinking; to take responsibility and be open accordingly to restructure the entire thought process; to unfetter the mind from the tyranny of judgmental inferences about others. The eagerness to arrive at a better understanding of where the others come from, a deliberate attempt to appreciate our differences and a thirst for freedom from our ignorance will be further stepping stones to true redemption. Once more we must conclude that persistent striving and not wishful thinking is w hat will get us there. Arthur A. Motley, publisher of Sunshine Magazine, put it this way: 'All the freedom man has achieved to date has been achieved only because individuals accepted responsibility, assumed obligations, performed on promises, and delivered to the rest of mankind whatever gifts and talents with which they were endowed. For those in future generations who would be free and help others achieve freedom, there is no other course except to live our daily lives as individuals responsible for our own morals, our own character, our own family, our own industry, our own jobs.'
Free living positively does not absolve us from responsibility. Another quote from Arthur A. Motley sums it up very well: 'Our present and future danger may lie in our failure to recognize that if we were to achieve freedom from responsibility, all our freedoms would be lost. All the freedom mankind has achieved to date has been achieved only because individuals accepted responsibility.'