Spiritual Freedom

Posted: May 13, 2013 in Spirituality. Buddhism
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The question of spiritual freedom really hinges on the ability of the mind to escape its self-imposed limitations. Because our sprit comprises our ground, our basic (Buddha) nature, it is easily eclipsed by the operations of the mind in its encounters and endeavors with the material world. The main characteristics of the spirit: love, happiness, joy, compassion are experienced by most of us at one point or another, but are rarely ever able to shine. This is because these characteristics of the spirit arise within the confines of the mental-material interaction. And because we remain ignorant as to the true source of these characteristics—which are really the things we desire most in our lives—we begin to identify them with the mental-material interactions.

So, I find happiness arising when I eat pizza, or when I play video games. But because I remain ignorant of the source of these feelings I associate the feeling with the activity. Notice the language shift: Because of the ignorance at play I say “Eating pizza makes me happy”; “Playing video games makes me happy”. So rather than saying happiness arises when I do such and such, I am now placing the source of happiness in the thing I do. It is as if happy dust was in the pizza or on the video game console and transferred to me when I began enjoying it.

And this can go on and on until we believe that the whole world contains either things that make me happy, things that I hate, or things that I remain indifferent to (the Vedanas—see my post “Muddy Waters”) I therefore become dependent on the things of the world for my happiness, and since things don’t actually contain the happiness I desire, and because they change incessantly, when something ceases to make me feel happy (I have eaten too much pizza, or played video games for too long) I am off to find the next thing that does, and the chase is on. This, by the way, is what Buddhism calls suffering. The incessant search for happiness that always fails, because we fail to see the true source of that which we seek.

The spirit is also held in bondage because of deep-rooted beliefs that we have about who we are and what the world is. Often conveyed to us at an early age, these beliefs center on who we are and what kind of world we live in. If, for example we have been led to believe that we are worthless, that happiness and goodness are things we do not deserve, then the spirit is locked away inside these false beliefs. Likewise, if we are led to believe that the world is an evil place, and that people are out only for themselves and that we must keep our guards up lest we get taken advantage of, then our spirits that seek to be and express love are locked away. These beliefs need to be dismantled just as assuredly as the others, or the spirit will remain forever entombed behind these gloaming lies.

So, spiritual freedom, which is opening to the source of happiness, joy, love and compassion, can only be found by dismantling the way our mind apprehends the world. The Buddha said that the mind is the basis for all experience, and if we allow our minds to be ignorant, corrupted by the inessential we will be doomed to suffer. But he also said that if we train our minds to be mindful, aware of the source and the good, then happiness will follow us like our own shadow. The way to spiritual freedom follows this exact path. All we need to do is get out of our own way, deprogram a whole way of seeing the world that society has encoded within us, and shine like we were intended to.

Sound easy? Well, it is very easy if you understand that to do this requires practice. Retraining the mind to be open so the spirit can be free requires dedication, practice, and perseverance. But, it can be done, and results come fast and easy. In my next post I will give a sense of the practices required to free the spirit and reclaim the natural joy, love and compassion that is your birthright.

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