The real enemies of freedom4 min read

The real enemies of freedom according to the yogic teachings are the possessive and competitive instincts of the lower mind of man. And so long as he is still subject to these possessive and competitive impulses rather than to his creative and altruistic impulses he will never be free. He can only achieve freedom when he has learned to control his lower mind and has dived deep within himself to contact his own divinity within, the spiritual element which the Christian mystics speak of as “that of Christ in every man.” The Quakers speak of it as “the divine seed hidden in the heart of man,” following the parable of the mustard seed in the New Testament.

According to the yogis, the impulse of the lower mind to coerce, the impulses which manifest themselves in envy and competitiveness and love of power, are a great binding force in the mind. And it is only by turning within, by taking one’s stand on the higher part of the mind, by living creatively and by fostering the idealistic side of the personality, that man can achieve freedom, can first of all achieve control of the mind and then through the purification and tranquillization of the mind can contact that element in himself which is spiritual, which is not in the mind but behind the mind.

The competitive and possessive impulses are a deep cause of bondage to man himself, because they lead to great unhappiness, and also because they are in essence a cause of an attempt to limit the freedom of others. Love of power, the desire that the lower mind has to exert power over other people, that simply finds pleasure in interfering with the lives of others or imposing its will, is in essence a denial of the freedom of the individual. So man’s greatest enemy, according to the Yoga, is spiritual ignorance, spiritual ignorance manifest in this form and in narrowness of vision. It leads to exclusiveness, to bigotry and to hatred; and even in religion this spirit has been a great curse.

The Zen masters tell a story of a rich man who used to go and worship in a particular temple. Being very rich, he was allowed as a benefactor to install his own Buddha on the altar, and it was placed beside the other figures which were already there. He used to take the most expensive incense one could get and go and burn it before his particular Buddha because he wanted his Buddha to have better incense than any of the other Buddhas. He perfectly personified in this the competitive instinct of the human mind. But he was also a stingy man and an envious man. He did not see why the good incense which he was burning should also be enjoyed by the other Buddhas.

This was a problem. But he solved the problem by getting a special incense burner made on which a long funnel or chimney carried the incense up and released it just below the face of his Buddha. In this way his Buddha would get the full benefit of the incense. And the story goes on that in the course of time the face of his Buddha unlike all the others began to go black and it became known in the temple as the black-nosed Buddha. All narrowness, even narrowness in the sphere of spirituality or religion will in the long run prove a disgrace and a cause of bondage. It is a negation of the spiritual teachings.

Such also are the dreams of imposing one’s own pet theories or ‘isms’ on the rest of mankind. There is no room for the imposition of anything. Unless one can rely on the innate power of truth, the truth in the teaching which one believes in, to attract and influence the hearts of men, one is not following the true spiritual way.

Neither Christ nor Buddha tried to impose their teachings. And although it can be said that many who came afterwards in the Christian tradition have used force at times to try and impose their Christianity, they were not true followers of the spirit of Christ and very often they were simply using His name as a facade for their own political manoeuverings and designs.

Therefore the yogis say, the individual man must stop being lost in these dreams of freedom, the Communist dream of the perfect egalitarian State, the hippies’ dream of a lotus land in which pleasant fantasies are endlessly prolonged by drug- intoxication, the secularist dream for a perfect humanist society; and he must stop being lost in these dreams if for no other reason than because as dreams they will never come true.

They simply sap man’s energy and idealism with a mirage ideal which is never reached or reachable in practice. Instead of being lost in these dreams, say the spiritual teachers, let him wake up to who he really is. Then the ideals of freedom which he cherishes will become attainable and the fruit of that attainment will be the diffusion of the spirit of real freedom and tolerance throughout society.