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What is freedom?

Ignorance is not bliss

createThis is a question that many people struggle with as typically freedom implies a lack of any restriction to follow our desires where ever they may lead. However if our desires are based on ignorance, and if those desires result in harm to self or others then eventually this will create a bondage which is the opposite of the freedom that is sought.

When you consider that we experience our world through the sensory receptors within our own bodies and that our bodies are confined to this time and place, the idea of any freedom seems almost ludicrous.

Yet we have the desire for freedom and that freedom is about many aspects of self. Physically of course we want the freedom to move about in this world, but even this freedom is limited by our ability to pay the price of travel. So even this very basic freedom is not really free because we must pay a price.

The price we pay is not always financial, but it usually involves some sort of trade-off. In order to achieve one thing, we need to forego something else. This means we must always choose and prioritise what seems most important.

We often think that we are free to choose; for example, what to eat or how to dress, or even what to think.  But these aspects are actually programmed into our minds through our social conditioning and what is referred to as karma.

So, in a sense there is no such thing as freedom and yet it is something we strive for; so is any freedom possible?

Let’s consider happiness and what gives us joy. Success in any aspect of life creates joy and happiness, and when we are happy and even though we are confined to this body and this time and place, happiness creates a sense of freedom.

The human body

All living things are created and function with a creative technology and human beings are the pinnacle of all life processes or technologies. The human being or the human body is without question the most sophisticated piece of technology on this planet.

If we give this body fresh air, clean water, good quality food and exercise, it will grow and maintain itself without any input from you. You can think of it as the vehicle for your mind or consciousness.

The other element of this body is what we call mind. What we call our mind is the collection of information that we have acquired over our lifetime. It can be compared has a computer operating system.

Unfortunately, we were born into this amazing piece of technology without any user manual. Most technological things that we purchase today all come with instruction manuals for proper use and yet what we call as a human being which is at the pinnacle of all technology came without a user’s manual.

Because there is no user manual, very few people have worked out or understood the true nature of body and mind. One person who came to understand the nature of human existence was the Buddha. Some 2700 years ago he began with the question; why is there suffering?

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Women too can become as Buddha and there is a long history (herstory) of female Buddha’s.

Through his meditations, Buddha was able to go inside his own body, he could feel his heart he could feel the fluids circulating in his body, he was able to perceive the individual cells that made up his body, he was able to perceive individual cells and finally the atom. But even the atom he penetrated and he is the first person known to have named the structural parts of an atom.

We are all capable of this, but the other important aspect that he learned was what binds us. In other words what limits our freedom? He discovered that our freedom is limited by our suffering and yet our suffering is our own creation.

Our suffering comes in part through overidentification with our bodies and minds. Our suffering comes about through incorrect action and incorrect thinking that creates what many call negative karma and a fate that binds us to suffering which in turn limits our freedom.

The only real freedom is freedom from suffering and in that we have a conscious choice. The prison of our suffering is entirely our own creation and if we are to find freedom, we can do so by following the teachings of Buddha or by walking the paths of great yogis who have all described the steps we need to take to end our suffering; to find the joy in the freedom of being response-able human beings.

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