Given it is the 4th of July weekend, a time of celebrating freedom in America, I would like to offer some thoughts on the power and pull of freedom, something I believe that each individual deserves equally, for it’s a spiritual call and we are spirit in spirit-flesh.
FREEDOM—the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint
This beautiful word carries with it so much of which our spirits thirst. Though imperfect in our dance with it, we reach for a life lived in unbounded freedom. But are we reaching, or simply wanting to reach? I’m confident we all want some form freedom, but do we want unbounded freedom? A life lived with no external restraint, completely untethered from any outside influence? I venture to say many of us do not.
I think of all the major religions and political systems of the world and their varying degree of strict rules and codes of conduct that purposefully bind actions, thereby limiting freedoms, and sometimes profoundly snuffing out all personal freedom.
Rules, Laws, and Codes of Conduct
Rules, laws, and codes of conduct can make us safe and feel secure in a world of unknowns. We are, after-all, funny shaped creatures on a spinning blue ball in a universe that many scientists are now saying is infinitely expanding. Not to mention there are countless other universes. If that doesn’t make one take significant pause on the deepest questions of all things, I don’t know what will.
The more fearful we are of the unknowns, the more we are prone to shy away from unbounded freedom.
Not having rules, laws, and codes of conduct allows for unbridled action, both good and bad. But a life without boundaries leaves one completely vulnerable psychologically, emotionally, and physically. Anarchy is free falling and often binds a person to their unrefined animal natures if not guided by profound and realized wisdom. That doesn’t sound too good.
The less we examine our inner worlds and how they relate to the outer worlds, the more we spiral into confusion.
I’ve witnessed people so bound up by rules you can picture their spirit wrapped like a stiff mummy, a sheet of illusory safety blinding their eyes to the wonder of life. I’ve also witnessed people so rebelliously unencumbered by religious or political rules that they have bound themselves into a mess of confusion and unhappiness. They are blinded to the interconnectivity of all life, uncaring of how their actions affect others. And then there is the majority of us, bumping around with vague ideas of what freedom means and all that this ideal implies.
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The Binds Of Hope And Fear
Can human beings regulate themselves without religious or political rules? Can we act ethically without reward and punishment? History, past and present, tells us most can not.
We are so fearful as a species, pulled by hope and fear in equal measure, we act outside our center of inner balance or equanimity. If we hope, we are afraid what we hope for won’t come to fruition. If we are fearful, we are hopeful our fears will disappear. They are a package deal. We are puppets of hope and fear, and because of that we create rules to mitigate this hope and fear dance, not just to control ourselves, but others. In essence, we don’t trust our nature or the nature of others underneath the hope and fear, thus the need to wield the sword of control.
The founders of the U.S. constitution wisely observed this distrust, saying humans are flawed. While I agree we act in flawed ways, I don’t agree we are fundamentally flawed. I would say we human beings are ignorant of our perfect nature, and our ignorance dictates our actions with hope and fear, many of which are destructive to ourselves and others, hence the need to curb our actions with political systems if we want greater cohesiveness and peace with one another.
In Buddhism, you may come across the idea that our nature is like a beautiful diamond caked in mud and as soon as you see this as true, you reveal the diamond by doing the work of removing the mud. In Buddhism, that is accomplished so often by entire systems of study and practice, or we could say codes of conduct. Yet, if viewed correctly, the conduct is a path on which we learn to quiet the despot of our bloated egos that clings to the illusion of a permanent self in order to reveal our innate nature.
Unbounded Freedom And The Revelation Of Our True Nature
It seems a reasonable conclusion that if we want unbounded freedom while maintaining a civil world, we need to cultivate ethical behavior that naturally occurs from a wise and compassionate mind, with no need for reward or punishment. From my perspective, that would require each individual to discover their true nature, and for that discovery to happen collectively and at the same time.
If you have followed me these past four months, you are aware that I see our true nature as compassion and wisdom. However, the discovery process of unveiling our nature isn’t always pleasant and necessitates an inner resolve and the courage of a monarch butterfly crossing the sea. Sometimes the process of unveiling is wretched, in that we have to scrap away layers of ignorance. And sometimes those layers are like thick tar and painful to remove.
Yet, if we peel the layers away, there is a beholding of our innate nature, the cycle of hope and fear severed, and we recognize we are awakened mind. This awakening bears a fruit of an effortless inner unbounded freedom—a freedom not dependent on rules and laws. With a nature of wisdom and compassion, why would a person awakened to her nature need a decree of how to act? She would not. Ethical behavior would be as natural as heat from a fire.
Do we truly want unbounded freedom? Can there be collective unbounded freedom? Can the lion lay down next to the lamb?
This brings me back to the original question of do we truly want unbounded freedom? It’s one thing to intellectually understand, another to live as an unbounded freedom-dancer. If we decide we do indeed want ultimate freedom, we must take total responsibility for ourselves, both our inner and outer worlds. We must be brave and face the question of who we are under all those pesky layers. We must bravely wrestle with the idea we may not be a solid and fixed entity, but a more fluid, ever-changing creative energy of love and wisdom.
How willing are we to face ourselves and bravely unveil our true nature? I am uncertain if I am ready for unbounded freedom. I still stress out if I can’t decide what to order in a restaurant, let alone take utter and complete responsibility. The fact is, I am still strung by the strings of hope and fear.
Yet, I continue to thirst for freedom, and I guess most of you feel the promise of freedom, too. This promise we all sense is an inner call, beckoning us back home, back to our true nature. I believe we can direct our ships within life’s stormy seas towards inner unbounded freedom. We can make our journey a spiritual journey and free ourselves from the strings of hope and fear to taste the infinite nature of our minds.
I am certain individuals can find such inner unbounded freedom. But I’m doubtful humanity as a collective can have the lion laying down next to the lamb—the perfect peace of no conflict. Imagine, that would require each individual discovering their true nature at the same time.
If each human being is not ready at the exact same time for such questions, if we are not ready collectively to see our true nature, then as a society we cannot act consistently civil without rules, or to act out of a steady compassion for ourselves and others. How could we? If you accept the idea we are so often being played by hope and fear, which as we have already touched upon, cause us to act in an endless kaleidoscopic play of uncouth behavior, then civility without boundaries is shaky at best.
So, as most of us are not anarchists, understanding the wisdom for civil society, we bind ourselves with religious and political rules, relinquishing personal freedoms. We also fight about how much binding we need. And we create massive death and destruction with these fights.
This balancing game between religion, government, and personal freedom is a tricky one, indeed. It is alluring to imagine a civil society without the binds of externally enforced rules and laws. If collectively we aren’t all awakened to our true nature, then we must keep our feet planted firmly in human constructs of agreed upon laws to create civility, while not losing sight of the vast sky of the inner unbounded freedom available to each of us equally.
I think we all crave a heaven on earth where there is no hostility or evil-doings. Yet, duality is the game we are in, and it is impossible nirvana exists without its opposite of samsara. Of course, I could be utterly wrong, and that collective utopia on this molten rock spinning in space is not just possible, but is our destiny.
My prayer for us all
I pray that each of us as individuals finds ultimate freedom, beyond nirvana and samsara, by discovering our true nature.
I pray our diamond-nature, shining brilliantly of wise compassion, is unveiled, always on the ready to love ourselves and others and to be of service to any sentient being in need.
I offer my prayer on this glorious U.S. holiday of the 4th of July—a day in which there is an opportunity to look more closely at what freedom means, from the inner sanctum of the spiritual mind to collective society.