Mental Liberation: Achieving True Freedom
Freedom from desire is true liberation. Spirituality is all about reaching this one simple but extremely difficult goal. Jayaram V
What is liberation? I would like to answer this question from two different perspectives. Liberation in a general sense means liberation from whatever that holds you back or keeps in check. There are many types of liberation. We speak here only two types of liberation, spiritual liberation and mental liberation. Spiritual liberation means liberation of the individual souls from the cycle of births and deaths. For an atheist, death is the final liberation. He believes that there is nothing beyond death. You experience both heaven and hell here upon earth when you are alive. In some traditions liberation means going to heaven. According to many eastern religions, death is just a liberation from the body but not from the impurities such as egoism, bondage and ignorance. In Hinduism, liberation means going beyond heaven into eternity and remaining free from rebirth, modifications, qualities and conditions Spiritual liberation requires lot of effort and personal sacrifices. We are not going to discuss this kind of liberation in this presentation. I would like to focus upon the second type of liberation, which is mental liberation or liberation from the mind. It is important to our happiness here and our liberation hereafter
For a human being, the mind is a great facilitator. However, if you examine closely, you also realize that the mind presents a huge problem to all of us. All battles are fought in the mind, and all happiness and suffering are experienced in the mind. Depending upon how we make use of them and control them, we shape our lives and destinies upon earth.
Therefore, we must learn not only to make use of our minds intelligently with great discretion but also to remain free from its negative and unhealthy influences. This is the true essence of mental liberation. Physically you may be bound to the conditions life and society impose upon you, but mentally you must be free from them. Physically, you may be imprisoned in your body, but mentally you must be detached from it. Nature might not have given you wings, but you can give wings to your mind and let it fly freely.
Freedom comes with responsibility. It means you should enjoy your freedom but should not ignore your duties and obligations. Freedom does not mean you will do whatever you want, ignoring the consequences of your actions and decisions. True freedom implies that you use discretion in exercising your freedom and enjoy the rewards its bring without being burdened by the consequences. This is the essence of the Bhagavadgita. Even God, who is free in every aspect, follows this norm to uphold His creation.
Mental liberation means freedom from the conditioning to which we are subject. It is liberation from the learning, beliefs, values, opinions, prejudices, judgments, world views, attitudes, standards, which we harbor in our minds because of our interaction with the external world. Each of these holds us down to a particular belief and value system to which we remain bound for the rest of our lives. Mental liberation means freedom from all these. In a specific sense, a mentally liberated person is free from desires, expectations, need for approval, fear and anxiety and attachments. A mentally liberated person is distinguished by the following qualities.
- He is free from opinions, judgments, attraction, aversion, beliefs, prejudices and personal pride.
- He does not hold grudges against others even if they have hurt him or harmed him.
- He does not believe in the need to control others or enforce his beliefs upon them.
- He is not afraid to speak his mind, but does not expect others to listen to him.
- He walks freely without the weight of his past or anxiety about his future.
- He treats everyone equally and remains the same to all dualities.
- He is not afraid to step out of his comfort zone and deal with uncertainties.
- He does not feel the need to defend himself or offend others to make himself feel good.
- He is free from drawing comparisons and measuring himself against others.
- Besides, he does all this with no particular aim but as a result of his inner freedom.
Mental liberation is liberation from the perception, conditioning, duality, ignorance, self-limiting beliefs, judgments, opinions, individuality, desires, expectations, self-importance, fear, anxiety, anger, envy and such negative emotions.
A mentally liberated person has a flexible mindset, instead of a rigid mindset. He is in harmony with the flow of things, mentally expecting nothing, opposing nothing, defending nothing and holding onto nothing. Mentally, he offers no resistance to the conditions that life imposes upon him, while physically he may engage in actions to protect himself or others from them. Outwardly he may engage in actions as part of his duty, but inwardly he remains free from the bonds that usually hold people under their control.
The kind of mental liberation I have explained here is the key to our spiritual liberation. Your freedom starts in the mind, first as an idea or concept, and later as a reality. It is in the mind the battle has to be fought against the forces that try to control us, and it is in the mind freedom has to be won before we can free ourselves physically from the bondage to the earthly life. In other words, there is not much difference between mental and spiritual liberation. Mental liberation culminates in spiritual liberation. Being truly liberated from this world, you must be mentally liberated from it first. Physical liberation is also important. However, physical liberation is not possible unless you are in control of your mind and unless you are free from its modifications.
How can you achieve mental liberation? Tradition suggests that you must control your mind and body before you become mentally free from them. If you can silence your mind and body completely and free yourself from their modifications (vrittis), you will have freedom to be yourself and experience your inner freedom. It means you have to discipline both of them and transform them before you can transcend them. The following are also considered helpful.
2. Knowledge and understanding
4. Freedom from irrational beliefs
5. Freedom from expectations
11. Absence of egoism, greed, envy, lust and other evils
True freedom is a state of mind. While outwardly you may be bound to the rules and norms of society, inwardly you can be free. If you are afraid, defensive, aggressive or expectant, it means you are not free. Mental liberation is liberation from authority, knowledge, past and future, relationships, conditions, compulsions, values, beliefs, and whatever the world worships blindly and superstitiously with motive and fear. It is a condition in which one is free from the mind itself.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- If Peace Is All You Want
- How to Practice Silence
- The Soul and the Mind
- What is Your Natural State of Mind?
- Self Discovery - Opening the Door to Self-realization
- Moksha or Liberation in Hinduism
- God and Soul, Atma and Paramatma, in Hinduism
- The Concept of Liberation, Moksha or Nirvana
- Hinduism and the God of Death
Introduction to Hinduism
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
The Chandogya Upanishad