ACHARYA DAS: Namaste! Welcome and we’d like to continue with this particular series from the Vision of Eternity on 8 Life Lessons from the Bhagavad-gita. But before we start today as usual, we would like to invite you to join with us in some kirtan meditation. And you will see the mantra displayed on the bottom of the screen and invite you to join with us. I will lead and you can respond with the other people that are here with us today.
Chanting Haribol Nitai-Gaur – Nitai-Gaur Haribol
So today we are going to speak on the subject of freedom. When we speak of freedom, it’s generally, I think for a lot of people, perceived or understood in a couple of different ways. One has to do with a Harley Davidson on Route 66 (laughing). I don’t know. You know, cruising the highway, just let it all hang out, no inhibitions, just going with the flow, nothing to hold you up or get in your way. And of course, is the other understanding of freedom - the opposite of being imprisoned or enslaved. Enslaved is kind of like a quite a heavy one. I mean, this like one of the ultimate bad examples where you have lost such freedom, your ability or to be able to express yourself freely, you don’t have your own time, you must work according to someone else’s demands or dictates, where you’ve actually become somebody else’s property or chattels. This is, you know, a very—the most cruel loss of freedom for many people.
If we look to the dictionary, they generally give two main definitions of freedom. One is, the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. So you’re getting a negative. The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved is freedom. And then the second definition is, the power or the right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. To be free to act, speak and think as one wants without any control, this is freedom.
Well, I’m going to have to give you some bad news (laughing). And that is actually not necessarily freedom. The first definition, state of not being imprisoned or enslaved, yeah, we can embrace that one totally as a form of freedom. But the idea that the power to, and the right to be able to speak or act as you want without any hindrance, is freedom—is yeah, totally incorrect. (laughs/laughter) And I’ll explain to you why because it involves a very wonderful, a very profound spiritual principle.
Many of you who’ve heard of karma; karma and the law of karma where everything that you do, every act that you make, there will be some equal and opposite reaction to that. You cannot escape the karmic result of your choices to speak and to act. So while you may be free to choose to do that, you cannot escape the result of that. So, are you truly free? I mean, I might be free to punch you in the face but then you’re quite free to pick up a baseball bat and hit me in the head in return. Have I acted in a way that I’m truly free? No, I’m just being, may be a little irrational or a little stupid and there will be some consequence.
So from a Vedic perspective, freedom is not defined by what you can do but more to, whether you are going to be free from any reaction to your course of action. If you are not bound by any of your actions, I think that is really a condition of being free to experience freedom.
So this is actually a very interesting and quite a deep subject. It leads us to things that we’ve discussed in the past which is the foundation of all real spiritual understanding - that I am a spiritual being, that this body is not me, this mind is not me, this vehicle that I’m using, this is a covering over the real me, the spiritual being inside. If I am not, in fact, this body, which I’m not, then somewhat of a new paradigm is going to be needed. I should recognize that it is possible for me, the spiritual being within this body, to become enslaved by my own mind and my own desires. Most people would go, you know, that’s just like, are you serious? If we talk about—or use the example of someone that is suffering from a mental illness. And we’ve got a guy down the street here who’s always walking around shouting out and talking to himself and taking punches in the air, and running up to people and, you know, we look at this person with some feeling of pity that it is like the vehicle, the mind, is in a sense broken and they are so controlled and trapped by this mind, that they have been reduced to almost like a sub-human state.
This is one type of example, but things don’t have to be so pronounced. An average ordinary person living their life and not doing anything out of the ordinary that’s going to catch people’s attention can also be similarly victimized. And what is the nature of that victimization? When you are unable to control your mind and your desires, you are now going to be forced even against your will, you will be forced to receive and accept the consequences of your choices and your actions. And that may be considered in this world as something which is good or something which is bad or unfortunate. If a person receives a windfall of money that’s considered, hey, that’s really great. If a person in return, something very gravely misfortunate happens to them even without their seeking it out, just out of the blue something happens. These are the results of karma or action, the karmic fruit, and it is like a person or two, say two people are locked in a dungeon and one guy’s there and he’s got manacles on and chains, he’s chained to the wall but his chains are made from gold. And he’s feeling pretty good, “Look at this gold!” He’s looking over at the guy next to him. And the guy’s down and he’s got like these rusty old iron chains on and he’s feeling completely embarrassed and humiliated. And the other guy’s feeling kind of like, check that guy’s chains out. I mean, come on man get with the program. What we need is bit of progress here. Gold. I mean, look at this stuff.
Humor aside, this is like what happens in the material world, where people are bound to the world by the laws of karma. Some people are receiving what seems to be good results and others are seemed to be receiving misfortune or unfortunate results. In both cases, they are on the same place and they are both bound; it is just they’ve been bound by different types of metal. The law of karma is such that all, all living beings, all human beings, in particular, are being bound by previous choices and by previous actions.
In this lifetime we are being very—we have so many desires, we have so many wants. Our mind is constantly disturbing us with all of these different things. And if we simply go with the flow of our mind, from a practical point of view we are becoming enslaved by desire. Much like, I think last week it was, I gave an example about some heroin addicts I used to know when I was a hippie and seeing how they were enslaved by their habit and by the substance, their choice to abuse. And they could not see that; and it’s not until you can actually see it that you would want to seek help. In a similar manner, you know, the materialistic person—when I say materialistic person I mean a person that considers himself to be material, that this world is everything, that to stimulate the senses and to seek happiness and fulfillment through this body and the senses is the total purpose of life. Such a person is actually in a similar kind of condition and they are being—falling victim to the desires of the mind, always feeling that they must follow, they must follow.
In this regard I just wanted to read - although it’s not from Bhagavad-gita – a verse from another source, known as the Srimad Bhagavatam or the Bhagavat Purana. And it so clearly lays out what is the Vedic perspective or the spiritual perspective.
One who is enriched with good qualities is actually said to be rich, and one who is unsatisfied in life is actually poor. A wretched person is one who cannot control his senses, whereas one who is not attached to sensual gratification is a real controller [or someone that is in control]. One who attaches himself to sense gratification is just the opposite. Such a person is a slave.Srimad Bhagavatam 11.19.44
I mean this is quite a uniquely different perspective from what most people are taught and what we’re accustomed to, growing up in this world and the society in which we live.
So we have an innate spiritual nature. Our desire for happiness, love, these types of things, come from that spiritual person, the core of our being. But if we allow our self to become simply controlled and directed by our mind and by our senses then we are in an unenviable position. Because due to these different desires that are springing up, and we feel that we must follow them and comply and go along with it in the hope that we’re going to get some actual happiness. We might get a sense rush, we may get some stimulation but it’s not actually fulfilling. When we take that course of action, directed by our mind, what we don’t see is that at every step we are engaged in activity that will produce consequences. And those consequences we cannot escape. They come to us in the form of the fruit of karma, karma phalam.
This condition of being completely overwhelmed and being so strongly directed by the mind and the senses and losing our sense of actual spiritual identity and a pure state of our consciousness, now being in this very contaminated state, is spelled out very clearly in the Bhagavad-gita, in the 3rd Chapter, 39th verse. It says:
Thus the wise living entity’s pure consciousness becomes covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust (or intense desire) which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.Bhagavad-gita 3:39
I mean it never fails to—it’s shocking to actually read this verse and to contemplate on it and to think about it. I mean there’s a lot of things going on here. First, the very nature of material desire. It is described here, and in Sanskrit it’s called kama. Not karma, which is action, but kama. K-a-m-a; with a long ‘a’. Kama. This kama is sometimes described as lust. Lust in the sense of very intense and burning desire. This might be a little kid in a supermarket who has seen something that he wants and starts losing the plot and, “I want! I want,” and the parent trying to drag them out, you know, and they’re just like going absolutely crazy, you know? This condition is a condition where a person is being overwhelmed by intense desire. It may appear in so many different forms in life, even as we age, and it manifests in different ways.
But this intense desire is never satisfied and it burns like fire. ‘Burns like fire’ means there’s this constant agitation. And ‘never satisfied’. I mean sometimes people relate to lust in the—in relation to sexual activity, where somebody has a very strong, intense desire and they seek to fulfill that desire and they feel that some form of sexual orgasm it going to be a fulfillment.
The reality is you are not fulfilled. You are never fulfilled. And your attempt to fulfill this desire simply is, again, like putting gasoline on the fire which—it burns now hotter and brighter and stronger. So this kama or lust or intense desire manifests in so many different ways, is categorized here as ‘the eternal enemy’ of a person. Eternal enemy because when we are in its grips we become impelled to act. There’s another verse in the Gita where Krishna responds to Arjuna. He had asked, “By what is it that a person is impelled to act even against their own will?” And this description, this answer is now provided.
So by simply acting upon the desires of the mind and the desires of the senses, what ends up happening is we engage in activity that we must accept a reaction from. We must become continuously bound to this world and to this whole ride of karma, good or bad.
The science and wisdom of yoga teaches that you are not the body, nor are you the mind. That the material world is not actually my home. I am a transient here in this particular lifetime. It will come to an end and I will move on.
The basic nature of material life or material existence is actually one of bondage which results in suffering. Bondage because you are not really able to control whether you desire or don’t desire. And the more you meditate upon, think about and act on desire, the stronger it becomes. And every time you act on material desire you get a whole load of karma, karmic reaction which binds you now, again, to this world and makes it so that endlessly – endlessly – you will be experiencing birth. And then after birth will come different forms of disease that people will experience. And you can’t positive-think your way out of this. This is just a reality.
Old age. I was just talking with some friends a few hours ago and we were joking around. The woman, she’s a bit older than me I think, and her husband – really nice people – she’s just going through a little bit of remission with quite an aggressive cancer. She doesn’t know whether it’s going to be coming back or not. And her husband, George, he’s telling me, “Oh my God, it’s like now I’m getting all these pains in my body. It’s so hard to do things and to get around.” And I laughed and I said, you know, “Somehow nobody told us about this.” When you are younger—I mean when I was younger I used to look at older people and think they were another species. (Laughter) And they used to tell me, you know, “I used to be a kid once. I used to be like that.” And you know okay I kind of believed it but I somehow couldn’t relate because as long as I’ve known them—they’ve been these old dudes, you know, just shuffling along or whatever. So they seem like another species. And the idea that I’m, I’m–this is where I’m going.
I remember a guy I met over on Maui one time. He was telling me that—really nice guy. He would go visit his dad in an old age home. And he’d be really concerned about his dad’s appearance and you know how things are falling apart, and he’s having trouble functioning, and his dad—and he’d expressed his concern. And his dad will look and go, “You are looking in a mirror son. You are looking in a mirror.” (Laughs/Laughter) Which was quite shocking for him, you know. Because this is, this is the reality.
And so, you know it’s like we think that we are free just because I can make this choice. But the reality is, yes I’m free to make a choice but I am not free from the result of my choice. I’m not free from the result of my action. So am I actually free?
If, for instance, you’ve got a kid. Well, I shouldn’t use this example. Let’s use an adult. I got an adult who likes chocolate. And I put some chocolate on the table and I said, “It’s yours if you can get it.” But I’m sitting here with a stick. And every time they reach, I whack them on the hand. I say, “Hey it’s yours! It’s your chocolate. You can have it. It’s free. I’m not charging anything.” But if you reach for it I’m going to whack you. And they reach. Whack. They reach. Whack. It’s kind of like, okay is the chocolate really free? I’m free to try and reach for it but there is going to be a consequence. That one you cannot escape.
The only way that you can come to a position of real freedom is by actually altering the direction of your life. You have this freedom to choose how you are going to live. And that will determine the outcome of your life and whether you actually achieve your rightful state of complete freedom or not.
In the Bhagavad-gita, in the 2nd Chapter, 64th verse it states:
But a person free from all attachment and aversion and able to control his senses through regulative principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord.Bhagavad-gita 2.64
And there is a later reference to actually finding happiness and the condition of actual peace. And it’s kind of interesting the, the translation that’s being used here. The regulative principles of freedom. You know most people think freedom means no regulation. No control. But that is a very elementary and even childish understanding of what is freedom. Because there are always consequences. Whereas if a person uses their intelligence and their freedom of choice to now begin to live a different type of life, they can become free of all material suffering and all material conditions. The Sanskrit term used here is, ‘vidheyatma’. Vidheyatma. It has been translated as the regulative principles of freedom. Where a person self regulates for a higher purpose.
I mean if anybody wants to excel in anything—look at, look at athletes. Athletes are incredibly disciplined. If you want to stand in the podium in the Olympic Games and receive a medal you probably have to commit 10-15 years into a very disciplined activity to gain that result.
In a similar manner if you want the ultimate result which is to be free from all material inebriety and to experience true happiness then it is necessary also to be disciplined and not just become controlled and dragged around by your mind and senses. These principles are often spoken to, in the yoga system, by Patanjali. In the terms ‘yama’ and ‘niyama’. And perhaps at another time we can speak about that.
But what is being talked about is this idea of not losing the plot. Thinking that this world is everything. And being bound by that which you think is attractive and that which repulses you that you think is unattractive.
Another verse from the Bhagavad-gita:
One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced. Such a person, free from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage. And is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna.Bhagavad-gita 5.3
So what does that mean from a practical perspective? You can either get totally lost in this life in this world and chase your dreams and be forced to accept the consequences which in accepting that, that leads to another course of action with another series of results which then leads to another course of action, another series of results. And this just goes on unlimitedly. Or you can live in this world finding a way by which you can actually become ‘liberated’, is the term. This is the true meaning of liberation - to become free from the controls of the material world and material nature. And it entails rising above what is described as dualities. Dualities in this world. If you got heat you’re going to get cold. If you got happiness you are going to have distress. If you have youth you are going to have old age. Endless dualities. Everything comes. Every coin has two sides to it. You cannot get half a coin where you’ve just got one side. The good stuff. I’m sorry. The bad stuff comes with it. It is the nature of this world. Some people go, “Oh well, we should to learn to accept and embrace all the difficulty and pain because then it makes us appreciate more the happy moments.” (Laughs) And I’m sorry I’m not buying that one. That doesn’t sound very intelligent to me. Not that I am intelligent. I am not.
But—I mean I, I was listening to this interview one time. This woman and she was talking about how she likes to have a positive outlook on life. And she said everyday she makes it a point to search out that one positive happy thing. And always be on the lookout for it. To try and create it or to try and seize it when it arrives. And if you can find that positive, happy thing and embrace it, it makes the rest of the day completely tolerable. And I’m like, that doesn’t sound like a very good formula. You know, looking for one moment of happiness so you can tolerate the rest of the day. So if we want to consider a state of actually being liberated, completely freed from all the suffering that exists in the material world and I’m sorry you cannot positive think everything away.
The difficulties that you can be faced in this world is not just a result of negative thinking. This is not a very mature understanding. Out of the blue--you can be the best, the goodest, the most positive person. And I tell you, out of the blue, you are going to be hit by things. But how could that happen? I’m being so positive. And I’ve been so like, you know, good. I’m not doing any bad. That doesn’t mean you haven’t been like that in the past. How do you know what you were like previously in a previous lifetime or previous lifetimes? You have engaged in unlimited amounts of activity. And the results do not always come within that same lifetime that the acts were performed. They can carry over to future lifetimes. So you can be as positive as you want. You can be whistling and skipping down this road and suddenly get hit by a bus that jumps the curb and slams you on the sidewalk. And everybody goes, oh they didn’t deserve it. They were such a good person. How do you know they—what do you mean by they didn’t deserve it? I’m not saying that anybody deserves suffering. No that is not a good way to look at things.
But the laws of karma are inescapable. How should we live our life? How to come to the position of being actually liberated to experience the reality of true freedom? Well the guidance is given, again in Bhagavad-gita, "Those who are beyond the dualities," and when it says beyond the dualities it doesn't mean that a spiritual person, it doesn't rain on them, or there's no thunderstorms around them or that their body is going to die, no. All of that is going to happen. To be beyond the dualities means that this does not shape your life, it doesn't drive you, it is not directing you in your life.
One who is beyond the dualities that arise from doubt, whose minds are engaged within, who are always busy working for the welfare of all living beings and who are free from all sins achieve liberation in the Supreme.Bhagavad-gita 5.25
So what is described here is in summary what it means to be a spiritual person. If this is not what is defining your life then you may have an attraction for the spiritual, but if your life entails embracing any of the things mentioned here, one is not truly living a spiritual life.
In conclusion I would just like to add, and read from three or four verses rather, from the Bhagavad-gita. In these verses Krishna speaks of a stage of perfection even while residing within this body within this world. This state of perfection is characterized as the condition of samadhi. Samadhi is something that is often misunderstood. It's often equated with a person who is sitting perfectly still, eyes closed or mostly shut, who can sit in that state for many hours and whose mind is not like a bunch of wild monkeys, who is—their mind is perfectly focused and still.
This is actually not a very developed understanding of samadhi. Samadhi speaks to a state of very fixed and an immersed consciousness. When a person’s consciousness is deeply absorbed in something their mind, their body, everything, is also focused in the same place. We should not think that simply by trying to concentrate the mind on a singular thing that means our consciousness is similarly focused. No. A person may undertake such an exercise and when refraining from it suddenly they are back to the reality of their mind is all over the place, leading them here and there and elsewhere. This state of samadhi is a condition that is either reached mechanically through the yoga process, and that type of Samadhi, known as samprajnata samadhi is a condition that is not permanent. A person can fall from this state. There is a spontaneous condition which is called asamprajnata samadhi and it arises because a person is simply—they have totally given their heart of hearts to the Lord of their life, they have experienced the reality of the Supreme Lord and the immense happiness that comes from this connection of love and to be engaged in loving service to this Supreme Soul and to all of His children. In this state without any effort or endeavor the mind is completely focused and one is completely immersed in a condition of samadhi. They may be walking around, they may be speaking, they may be acting, they may be doing so many things but they are existing in a state of the highest spiritual samadhi because of a total focus of their consciousness, and it's not mechanically being done. They are being moved spontaneously because of this awakening of spiritual love.
So from the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita,
In the stage of perfection known as trance, or samadhi, one’s mind is completely restrained from mental activities by the practice of yoga.Bhagavad-gita 6.20
Now the practice of yoga here is not referring simply to some external activity, some physical undertaking. We are talking about the full immersion in the state of complete union with the Supreme Soul.
This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and enjoy in the self. In that joyous state one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness realized through transcendental senses.Bhagavad-gita 6.21
This is actually very advanced spiritual subject matter and it gives us a look at why the spiritual undertaking is so compelling and is so incredibly attractive that if one experiences even the smallest drop of this realization or experience, their life is utterly transformed and the world becomes vacant. It is like it has no huge meaning. It is simply a place where I have found myself, where I must live out the rest of my time in this embodied state but internally I am living in another state, in another condition and that is not dependent on anything that is happening or not happening to my body.
So I'll just read it again. It's talking about the characterization or the things that manifest in this state.
This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through the transcendental senses.Bhagavad-gita 6.21
And the next verse:
Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks that there is no greater gain.Bhagavad-gita 6.22
Being situated in such a position one is never shaken even in the midst of the greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.Bhagavad-gita 6.23
How is that? Inspiring? It is overwhelming, it is so inspiring, it is so attractive. The spiritual pursuit is not meant to be a painful, a difficult, a trying thing where I am wanting so much to do something and I am just artificially trying to stop. Like when I was a kid I would attend church and I am told that sin is evil and bad, and we shouldn't do that, we should live a holy life. But then, in my kid mind I'm kinda like looking around, looking at my life, I’m going like, “What's with this? Sin is where all the fun is.” (laughs/laughter) And this kneeling down in church stuff is like, “Oh my god! I can kind of stick with it because I have to, I'm a little kid,” but the fun was in sin. This of course is a very childish idea, but it is something that we all possess and carry with us through our life.
The temporary flashes of very limited happiness that one can experience from material pursuit cannot compare - just like a drop of water compared to an ocean - it cannot compare with the unlimited ocean of happiness that one derives and the complete freedom that one will experience having achieved this state of actual freedom, the awakening of spiritual love and a form of blissful happiness that is beyond compare to anything in this world.
So with that I would like to thank you for being with us today in this second of the eight-part series in lessons in life from the Gita dealing with actual or true freedom. And I am hoping and begging that you will contemplate and consider this spiritual message which is being delivered to us and to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.
Thank you very much, and once again invite you to join us in this kirtan meditation.