What do you think of when you hear the word ‘freedom’?
Many people think of it as being free to act as you please, no inhibitions, nothing holding you up or getting in your way.
The dictionary generally gives two main definitions of freedom. One is the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. The second is the power or the right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
But this definition ignores the reality of the law of karma – that for every action there is a consequence I must experience. You may be free to choose to speak and to act, but you cannot escape the result of these acts. So, are you therefore truly free?
From the Vedic perspective, freedom is not defined by what you can do but whether you are going to be free from any reaction to your actions.
When a person is unable or unwilling to control their mind and desires, they are forced (sometimes against their will or better judgement) to act, and then must accept the consequences of their choices and actions in the form of karmic reaction.
In this verse from a famous Vedic text known as the Bhagavat Purana, it clearly lays out a different perspective, a spiritual perspective, on freedom:
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. – Bhagavat Purana 11.19.44