E-RYT 500, yoga instructor for children and adults

Freedom vs Liberation

Bhagavad Gita Ch 2 Vs 48: “O Dhananjaya (Arjuna), remaining immersed in yoga, perform all actions, forsaking attachment (to their fruits), being indifferent to success and failure. This mental evenness is termed yoga.”

In this verse of the Gita we see Krishna advising Arjuna to remain “immersed in yoga” in all actions and not to attach to their outcomes. By cultivating this combination of divine unity and detachment, you are able to remain calm and even of mind no matter what happens. If we can figure out how to only engage in actions coming from a place of love, and then learn to release the results of those actions, then we can create ultimate peace for ourselves. Finding equanimity in all circumstances is true liberation because you are free to do anything without suffering. Having the freedom to do anything you want is different because it does not guarantee that doing those things will not make you suffer. You feel in control because you have no rules or restrictions placed on you. However your inability to make a conscious, better choice creates an invisible prison around you.

The scene in the movie “Peaceful Warrior” in which Socrates takes Dan to a bar summarizes the difference between freedom and liberation. In the months prior to this event, Soc had placed many restrictions on Dan about what he could have, do, eat, and drink. Dan wasn’t yet able to determine the best options for himself, so as his teacher Soc did it for him. When Dan is almost ready to do it on his own, Soc decides to give him a test to see if he is really ready. As they sit at the bar drinking, smoking cigars, and talking, Dan is absolutely incredulous that Soc is partaking and letting him partake as well. Soc teaches him that there are no such things as bad habits. He says it isn’t what you’re doing, but how. “Habit is the problem. All you need to do is be conscious about your choices and be responsible for your actions.” Dan takes this as an open invitation to drink up!

Soc knows that the only bad thing about a habit is that it isn’t a conscious choice. It isn’t living in the now. Instead, you are letting your past dictate what you must do in this moment. Once you are liberated and truly in control of your life, you realize that there are only choices and consequences, as in the theory of karma. There isn’t good or bad, there is only intention and consequences. One philosopher said that “there are things I do and I know they’ll evolve me” and “there are other things that will not evolve me.” And my choice is only to evolve or not. It isn’t good or bad. Soc is truly liberated. He has control because he can evaluate his actions and their consequences and is not helpless to engage in an action just because it is “habit.” And then he can let go of the results of this chosen action and not let an unfavorable outcome cause him to suffer.

Dan however hasn’t learned his lesson yet, as we see in the next scene when he is miserable vomiting from all the liquor and smoke, clearly suffering from the consequences of his choice.  Soc tells him, “Every action has its price and its pleasure. Recognizing both sides a warrior becomes realistic and responsible for his actions.” Dan thought he had freedom, and he did have the choice to do whatever he wanted. Liberation is knowing the options and knowing how best to choose. Sometimes, in order to help a student reach liberation, a teacher must place temporary restrictions on the student. The guru takes away some freedom so you can learn the lessons that will get you true liberation. For instance, children need a safe structure within which to be creative. When you feel physically safe, supported, and protected, your mind is free to wander. By placing some fences around a student, the teacher allows them to feel the freedom to move within the restricted area. The student is liberated when he realizes, there are no fences.

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