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 Blooming Stars

Experience of Inner Freedom

            Human is born to be free. Of all the animals, the rational animal is perhaps the least independent at birth. The human being in progressive stages learns to take care of self and becomes free. Freedom is such a complex and elusive concept with so many nuances. The question as to how free we are is very relevant. When a caste mahapanchayat (a great traditional council) in Haryana, for instance, recently defended publicly honor killings that go against moral law and the Constitution of India, what kind of freedom are we talking about in that particular community? The honor killings in question related to a couple who chose to marry in the same gotra(clan or caste) violating the social norm or practice traditionally followed by that caste or dictated by the leaders of that caste. Certainly there are degrees of freedom depending on communities or societies even in a great democracy such as India.

            There are also different kinds of freedom: political, economic, social. Political freedom without economic freedom can be meaningless. While engaged in obtaining political freedom from colonial powers, economic freedom was uppermost in the mind of Mahatma Gandhi. Political and economic freedom may not be of much benefit if social freedom is not available. Martin Luther King Jr., who helped usher an era of civil rights in the USA stated that justice delayed is justice denied. Racial equality at least as a legal norm in the United States came only in the 1960s after much struggle and suffering. Oppression, abuse, or discrimination on the basis of race, caste, religion, gender, class, or occupation strike at the very root of freedom. Habituation or addiction to drugs and intoxicating and mind-altering substances considerably diminish one’s freedom. Addiction can be physical as well as psychological. Persons with addictive habits and poor impulse control do not enjoy a great deal of freedom. Corrupt government officials who will not carry out their duties without bribes or recourse to extortion gnaw our freedom.

             Freedom of speech and expression is still not a reality for many. While women’s movements and, especially, feminism have contributed enormously to political, economic, and social freedom and equality of the sexes in the west, the east is still lagging far behind. In educated Kerala (India), a wife will not feel free to call her husband by his name. He is generally addressed as chettan (older brother/person) or ichayan (a corruption of ichachan that meant in olden days father or much older brother). Do these social and cultural norms need to continue? Can we arrive at some acceptable solution that does not leave the woman in an unequal condition? It is correctly said that justice denied to one person is justice denied to the whole of humanity. Great religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism infantilize their followers in various ways and do not facilitate God-given freedom that alone can pave the way for true spirituality and connect a person to God. It is all the more poignant when we know that God has given the human being freedom even to reject God.

            What is intended by inner freedom or the glorious liberty of God’s children? Here it means the kind of freedom that helps a person to be and become all that that person is capable of or destined to be. In such freedom the climate for one’s actualization and realization prevails. One is not hindered by any external forces other than moral laws and societal rules created for common good. One is not constrained by any internal pressures other than a well-formed conscience. The locus of control, of course, is internal and not external. Every human being in this world is unique and as such every person has to search and find his/her answer to life’s questions, problems, demands, or challenges. One can certainly learn and immensely benefit from experiences of people who have gone before. Yet one needs to tailor the available solutions to one’s unique circumstances. While one does not have to reinvent the wheel in that one can draw from thousands of years of human heritage and apply that knowledge to one’s own peculiar situation. There is only one life to live, and it is extremely important that it is lived to the full in freedom. One has to take full responsibility for one’s life, and one cannot take full responsibility without full freedom. One can imitate or emulate the best of humanity who have actualized or realized one’s own ideals. Or one can use models such as Jesus Christ, Gautama Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi as guides. They are not there necessarily to tell us what to do but they are there so we do not panic when we are faced with blind alleys or seemingly insurmountable crises.

            From the moment we are born, the process of conditioning, programming, and shaping our life by various persons and structures has been already mentioned. Our own impulses, propensity for the line of least resistance, unwillingness to spend energy and time to face difficult challenges, and pseudo-needs influence us. All these programming forces can nibble our freedom. There is a time when one comes of age, one has to vigorously scrutinize and evaluate everything in one’s life and subsequently keep only what fits in with one’s choices and direction in life. One has to shed, however difficult and painful it may be, the accumulated, cumbersome baggage from the past that only hinders one’s progress. Our life is an experiment with truth. And in this experiment we have to try many things and learn from trial and error. Life is exciting and the only pity is that we have not tried on account of our fear of failure. Nobody, for instance, will drive a vehicle if one is guided by the fear of a possible accident. Freedom is the distinctive characteristic of a human being; the overall quality of his/her life, especially the quality of inner, spiritual life, is determined by his/her inner freedom. A human being is not a true human being without inner freedom. And there is no true spirit life without inner freedom.


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