Happy 4th of July!
This Independence Day we’re deep diving into the true meaning of this freedom. The freedom that we have as individuals and as a community. What is true freedom? Is it the freedom to think, speak and do without any restrictions? Is it freedom to dress how we wish to? Is it the freedom to live in any place or travel to any place? Is it freedom from within that makes us feel free of any pain and burden? Let's look at this from a Yogic perspective.
Yoga is a Moksha Shastra. It translates to the science of liberation. Every yogic practice, in a subtle and effortless manner, works towards freeing us from pain and suffering completely and permanently. It releases, from our subconscious, any burden we are holding onto. It gives us the courage to surrender in a way that empowers us. When this happens, we are in a state of ultimate freedom. And that is when we are most connected with our true nature and real self. The wrong identification of one’s true nature is the root cause of pain and sufferings. Yoga provides us with a tool to reset this wrong identification and realize the true self and in the process free ourselves from pain and suffering.
In chapter 14th of the Bhagwat Geeta it says that the three qualities we possess, known as Gunas, (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) are the root cause of all bondage and suffering. The three gunas enslave what is known as the immutable divine soul, atma. The three gunas are a part of every material manifestation including the body and mind. So the behaviour of body and mind are slaves to the three gunas, especially Rajas and Tamas. Every feeling, thought and action is governed by the three gunas.
Let’s come to what we call the Kleshas. Kleshas, known as poison, describes the five negative mental patterns which obscure our true nature. Rajas and Tamas are responsible for the five Kleshas. They are the root cause of wrong identification leading to pain and suffering. Sattva is also limiting but comes with knowledge to discriminate and work towards ultimate freedom. Hence one has to slowly navigate through Rajas and Tamas to reach Sattva and ultimately transcend Sattva.
Before getting to the point of transcending Sattva one has to go through many smaller battles and achieve many smaller levels of freedom. These include:
- Freedom from physical ill health like diseases, overweight, stiffness, lethargy etc.
- Freedom from mental illness like anxiety, fear, stress
- Freedom from ignorance, lack of clarity, confusion
- Freedom from compulsiveness, helplessness
- Freedom from addictions in life
- Freedom from material greed and attachment
Moksha aside, yoga works remarkably even to overcome the lower level bondages of the current world. Yoga asanas, breathwork, meditation and relaxation helps us achieve freedom from physical and mental illness. Each of these practices gives us the mental strength to let go of addictions, and the feeling of helplessness. Yogic philosophy, when adapted in an actionable way helps us overcome ignorance and confusion, and achieve clarity. The Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs of the eight limbs of yoga, act as a guidebook to achieving freedom from greed and attachments. It, therefore, goes without saying the practice of yoga is one of the best ways to achieve smaller levels of freedom, that ultimately give us a way to maintain and work toward deeper levels of freedom.
While true freedom of the Yoga shastra might be a lofty goal to many of us in the modern world, the path to Moksha (liberation) is still a valid and relevant one to many.