The Quest for the Royal Road ► III. Life Values ► Freedom: A Meaningful Environment

Posted: 10.02.2016

India was under alien rule at that time. Its soul was writhing in the tight grip of subjugation. The dark shadow of helplessness was terrorising the country. It was feeling suffocated in the prison of dependency. The country had everything, but it did not have the right to independent thinking. It had the capacity to think and act by rising above traditionalism, but was not permitted to do so. The mind was continuously burdened with inner conflicts, but no way was available to get rid of that burden. This state of helplessness wounded the independent awareness of some people. They resolved to free their country at any cost, even at the cost of their lives. One of those freedom fighters was Lokmanya Balagangadhar Tilak. He gave the slogan: "Freedom is our birth-right. We shall have to prevent the people from the intoxication of power who have appropriated political authority." Some people found that thing very incongruous. They were looking at it from the point of view of their individual context. They could not understand the essence of national consciousness. The enlightened section of people liked that slogan very much. A powerful voice was raised in protest against the state of subjugation. The moment for struggle and suffering had arrived. The wheel of suppression started moving. There was an uproar all over the country. The flame of non-violence was kindled. Through that alone India acquired the rights of an independent nation.

For the past few days, Lokmanya Tilak's words "Freedom is our birth right" had been constantly coming to my mind. I was suddenly reminded that 2500 years ago, Bhagwan Mahavira had said, "Freedom is the natural right of living beings." In natural course, the acceptance of independent existence of every being gives the right to freedom to all living creatures. The development of independent consciousness of a nation is much more necessary than the need to breathe for human beings and the need for mutual trust for any society. Dependence is a kind of deviation from the natural course, or a distortion. An individual feels suffocated in a distorted atmosphere. It is in these moments that bells of national consciousness begin to ring. The individual wakes up from his slumber. He makes tremendous efforts to throw off the shackles of dependence. A new age dawns and the strong desire for the awakening of a new era fills him with unimagined joy-a kind of joy which can never be experienced in the state of bondage.

Acceptance of freedom is a value by itself. Thereby the thing called disorderliness becomes subdued and inner awakening and discretion become manifest. Freedom provides equal opportunities to every citizen. Every citizen has the equal opportunities to take upon himself the responsibility of exercising political authority. He can win the confidence of the people by his qualifications and competence. Popular vote gives him the chance to enter our Parliament, where the crown of pointed nails of power is placed on his head. As long as he does not feel inclined to compete for that crown, the person somehow manages his affairs. When a large number of persons establish their claim for that crown, there is keen competition. The joy of attaining freedom is diminished and the person is entangled in the web of illusion of personal position, prestige, entrenched interest, etc. In my view, the greatest benefit of attaining freedom is to use that opportunity for the highest purpose. Without getting rid of the faults that develop at individual and collective levels, it is not possible to experience happiness out of that freedom.

In the context of the present circumstances, many people are becoming pessimistic. In their opinion, "We were better off previously. After independence, prices have gone up, unemployment has increased, necessary consumer items are scarce, the economy of the country is unstable, etc. In a way, this is narrow-minded thinking. The problems before the country are not unexpected. It was known right from the beginning that certain situations would arise. Why only India, the same situation prevails in every developing country. Succumbing to those problems and pronouncing the democratic policy is unsuccessful is as good as pronouncing ourselves unqualified for independent consciousness.

Those who believe themselves to be secure in their dependence on others, forget that freedom alone can guarantee real security.

A bird which had been flying freely in the jungle was imprisoned in the cage of an Emperor. The bird had a golden cage to live in, sweet fruits to eat and cool water to drink. All facilities were available, but the bird was not comfortable. It was restless to find its freedom from the cage.

One day, the bird heard a fakir singing a song, "The only way to be free is to express the truth. In this world, only Truth is substantial." Countless people heard that song but it attracted nobody's attention. But it captivated the attention of the bird. Now it was eager to use Truth for its freedom.

The Emperor was having a session with his council of ministers. They prepared a plan to defeat a neighbouring kingdom. Right at that time an emissary of that kingdom arrived. During the formal discussion, a proposal was made to establish friendly relations with that kingdom. The bird was listening to everything. At the opportune moment, it revealed the whole plan of invasion which had been already chalked out. It revealed the concealed truth. The emissary was flabbergasted. The Emperor was enraged. He ordered, "This bird has no sense at all. How it fabricates things! Keeping it close to us would mean inviting trouble. Take it far away in the jungle and release it." The servants obeyed the Emperor's order. They were finding fault with the bird which was depriving itself of all its comforts and conveniences. The bird was feeling happy. As it took its flight in the wide open sky, it was extreme self-contented. Its faith in attaining freedom with the help of Truth got now confirmed.

Ih the Emperor's palace, there was complete provision for the safety of that encaged bird. But there was no freedom. In the jungle, the bird was surrounded by dangers from all sides-there was the danger from hunters, the danger from hawk. Then it had to worry about finding food and seeking protection in storm and rain. But the bird was not in panic. It was not disappointed. Fighting those adversities, it was having a kind of divine experience.

After independence, India too has been surrounded by many dangers. It has been facing the onslaught of some difficult situations. Would the soul of India be willing to accept the state of dependency in order to solve these problems? Acceptance of dependence is the non-acceptance of its own existence. Such a non-acceptance would lead to some new problems. Therefore, this is the time not to turn away from the problems, but to face them. It seems to me that today the attainment of freedom has lost its purpose. The sacred aim with which independence was attained, has been lost what is left now is mutual criticism, accusations, disappointment, dissatisfaction and following the current trend. It is necessary to break through the encirclement of those weaknesses and firmly resolve and make assiduous attempts to work positively.

The values established by Bhagwan Mahavira are a very precious solution to solve the difficult situation of today. He stressed the values of restraint, moral attitude, honesty, etc. in life. Since those values are being forgotten, exploitation of wealth and corruption are on the increase. So long as these evils are prevalent in society, it would not be possible to break the bondage of slavish mentality. Even after celebrating the silver jubilee of independence, there is no prosperity in the country and no sense of well-being. The greatest cause of it is the absence of self-restraint and self-discipline. Inspite of progress in many other fields, the downgrading of moral values is mainly responsible for our present problems. Even now, there is time for the leaders of the country as well as the citizens to make concerted efforts to make a fresh assessment of moral values; raise a strong voice against corruption and make a beginning of applying those values first to themselves. Let everyone in the country try to do something to be free of his own evil traits, weaknesses and mistakes. Only when the progress in life is based on healthy and independent consciousness it can give the experience of real freedom in the true sense. Now our consciousness which is drifting in aimlessness has to be diverted in a new direction so that it can be free from the external and internal bondages. As this endeavour for freedom from bondage gathers momentum, it can make our freedom meaningful. Anuvrat has been constantly drawing the attention of people everywhere towards this reality.

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Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Authors:
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013