March 31, 2023 | Acharya Prashant
Questioner: What is the price of freedom? What is it that convinces someone to pay that price? What is the reason for someone wanting freedom in the first place?
Acharya Prashant: Certain things do not even require a reason to validate them, because they are. What is need not be backed by a reason.
Let me elaborate please. Now that we are conversating, when you say something, you want a response. When I say something, I too want a response. And when we say something to each other, we want the other to listen and to be attentive. Now, why is that so? We may ascribe a reason but actually it is because of our nature, svabhāva, rather than reason. That’s the way we are; that’s the essence of consciousness.
Freedom is the very nature of consciousness. We do not want bondages. And that’s why when you want to punish someone, you throw him into a jail. And that’s the reason why bondages have to be pushed aside whatever be the cost. In that context I have said that one has to be ready to pay the price, because freedom is invaluable, it is who you are, and you won’t get any kind of rest or peace without freedom. If you are not free, nothing in the world is going to assuage you; something within you would keep bleeding, wailing, crying for liberation.
And that’s the human condition. As we are born, you see, we are already born with a lot of inner bondages. If you look at a newborn baby, one month, two months, six months old kid—maybe even a two-three-year-old kid—till this point he has not been taught much by the family or society. Still there is a lot of ignorance; still you would find fear, greed, temptation. Some kids start lying from a very early age, in fact all of them do. Even if they don’t actively lie, there is a tendency to lie. Now, nobody taught them to lie and cheat; we are born with that tendency, and that is bondage, and that won’t allow us any kind of joy or peace. And we can’t live without that, and there is no reason why we can’t live without that; it just is like that. Nobody can live without peace. Nobody wants his or her consciousness to ebb. And that’s why death is such a scare: because death is the end of consciousness as we know it.
So, these things just are. They pertain to our fundamental nature. They do not come from something behind them; they are the very beginning. So, we must have freedom. And if a high price needs to be paid, so be it. It’s just that once you agree to pay the price, you discover that the thing that you are paying for freedom actually carries very little value, even negative value. Just think of it. What is it that you must keep aside so that you can be free? Obviously, your bondages. So, your bondages is the price that you pay; your bondages are the things that you renounce to be free. Now ‘renunciation’ becomes such a nice word; renunciation becomes celebration, no? You are renouncing your bondages, your chains.
It’s like you are in handcuffs and you are being told to pay the price, and the price is the handcuffs. For your freedom you need to pay a price, you are in handcuffs, and the price is the handcuffs. It’s just that a very distorted kind of value system has taught us to put a lot of premium on handcuffs. These are very decorated handcuffs, socially respectable handcuffs, so we think they are something of enormous importance; we treat them as jewelry or something. And when we are told, “You know, you just keep these aside, you’ll have to drop these things if you want to be free,” we are very reluctant.
So, initially it feels like a sacrifice, a renunciation. It feels like a big deal. “Oh my God! I’ll have to give this up if I want to be free?” But as you get into the process, as you begin seeing the reality of things, you realize what you are giving up is of no value at all. You are gaining immense freedom by sacrificing something that was inherently worthless. So, that’s a great deal.
One could call him the best contemporary representative of Advait Vedanta. Or one could simply call him a teacher beyond any tradition. Equally, one can see an abundance of compassion, love and reverence in his being. But the most appropriate way to know him would be through his work. Know More