“Man is born free but everywhere in chains” observed the famed French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau way back in the eighteenth century. This very thought shook the roots of the French monarchy, ushering in freedom and individual rights in the wake of ensuing history. This sounds verily a paradox. Could man’s freedom be unchecked, unrestrained or limitless? The answer is obviously a resounding ‘No”. One needs to look into the truth behind this adage.
Again, nearly more than a decade ago the very same question of personal freedom was addressed to the late Nani Palkhivalah, an accomplished, acclaimed versatile genius on a public platform. He answered “Man has freedom, but that of a tethered dog”. By this answer or response, a man of immense success too was decidedly of the view that personal freedom is very restricted. To view his answer in real terms, the tethered dog has very restricted ambit of freedom, to the extent the tether permits within its surrounding accessible area, that too granting that it has no physical blocks in its way. If so, the so – called individual freedom with its narrow confines is highly illusory.
In a lighter vein, in the immediate aftermath of the American Independence, when a person in the euphoria of freedom, was swaggering his walking stick, in a manner that is likely to hit the pedestrian before, it was quipped “Your freedom ends where my nose begins.” This is to say the individual freedom is restricted by the concern for others rights, comfort and personal well being. In other words freedom is restricted or mitigated by an altruistic concern in civil society.
For the moment limiting the concept of personal freedom in a purely worldly sense, it is conditioned and curtailed in a plural society of the modern complex times. To elaborate within the given order, there are multiple institutions, laws and rules that condition and determine individual freedom. Necessarily man being the social animal that he is, his ways and life are constrained by all these. Thus in a purely temporal context, unrestrained freedom is nonexistent. The reality is a highly subjected, regimented, regulated life subject to all the rules, and terms of the multiple institutions that deal with ordinary human life as of now in modern society.
In the ordinary course of life quite a few expectations and aspirations propel; the individual chasing the same relentlessly and with little respite in his life span. Yet it can very easily be observed by the very same individual, as also the others around him, while all these multiple desires pop up as bubbles, are not actualized. Even so the strife and the chase for the being remains an obsession. After passing through all this strife, the person painfully realizes that he has to pass through the ordained lot with little choice or option. The given order is relentless.
Truly as AMMA said in her aphorism, the expected may not happen or come true but the ordained cannot be averted for the being. So to say the predetermined cannot be escaped verily. Even the so called successful persons realize this grim fact while for the unsuccessful this becomes their lifeline. Thus it dawns that success or failure is beyond oneself or the called personal will.
Even so the person is constantly spurred into action by some concern or other. This could be a worldly wish, an exalted ambition or whatever. Even when success is granted in some of those endeavors, this can be observed that the success is not due to his efforts entirely but because the random factors in the environs swaying his effort were kept in place by some unknown force.
Obviously, at times even in a taken for granted, well conducive success scenario, failure may greet the individual for reasons beyond his control, with the environs turning unfavorable and some mishap coming up which could never be foreseen. Conversely, the likely failure could also turn into success, with some favorable change in the ambience causing immense delight. Viewed incisively, neither success nor failure is one’s own causation or the fruit of mere personal effort.
Here again, to recall AMMA’S say “The deeds are not within one’s hands” (“Chethalu Chethullo Levu”). Thereby meaning all human action is beyond the control of the humans. To interpret this in a very earthly manner, the lesser mortal shall act as per the impulses and the triggers of irritability caused by the external conditioning.
To look into these triggers or the source of causation, these consist in the enticements that are ever present and persistent in the outside world. These are further given impetus by one’s own senses or simply the physical sensory apparatus that everyone is endowed with little exception. These are the immediate causations and tools of action for any mortal of whatever motivation. Even so both these immediate accessories are swayed or conditioned by the external stimuli of irritability rather than one’s own will or work within the individual control in the ordinary way.
Taking this to a little higher plane, AMMA said “Act as it occurs to you, for it is the ONE who prompts you”. Viewed in this mode, all human action is caused or prompted by a higher force beyond the human motive which superficially is apparent or seeming. AMMA termed this concept of prompting “Prerana”. Meaning thereby, that the ‘ONE’ who prompts is verily the ‘ONE’ who makes you act.
Having said this, all human effort or action is beyond human will. Here it is pertinent to analyze the concept of “Prerana”. This can be understood as prompting or motivating one to action. This is external to the being but gets internalized once it enters the being, to the point that the individual identifies with it hardly feeling apart from the causation.
Further this external causation can be scaled up in one’s pursuit of worldly or spiritual goals. As the individual moves up the hierarchy of needs from the merely existential or physical to the higher planes of altruism and sublimity the causation gets fine tuned or refined to the point of becoming infallible. This is the true essence of “Prerana” prompting or as pronounced by AMMA though inclusive of the lesser needs of existence. That is this very same prompting can make the person scale up the ladder of existence, from the simply ephemeral, earthly to the higher realms of consciousness.
In AMMA’S reckoning ‘Volition is but worldly and of mundane plane’ “Sankalpam Samsaram” a la AMMA. This volition causes choices and options that could be beguiling for the individual. With the result he is again lost in the relentless chase of trivialities. Freeing oneself of these earthly trappings or rising above the same makes him subject to a higher ‘volition’ or ‘Sankalpa’ that beckons him closer to the divine.
It is at this plane of consciousness issues either mundane or spiritual are arbitrated and dispensed with. Even all scientific inquiry ceases at this point and the inability to explain and expound the same in mere reason took refuge in the concept of ‘CONSCIOUSNESS’, towards which even the reputed physicists and quantum theorists rallied round.
Thus evidently to get back to the original premise, the so – called freedom is apparent and not intrinsic. It is merely seeming and superficial. Truth being the individual is hardly ever aware of such true state obtaining about his free choice.
To stretch this a little further, man also is conditioned by his habits, well worn modes of thought and even the limited so called learning or so to say erudition. This baggage conditions the individual to such a degree that he is confined or enslaved by these hackneyed modes of thought and practice. To be truly unbound he shall be freed from what he knows; the concept of ‘Freedom from the Known’ as expounded by the late Jiddu Krishnamurthy. Necessarily after a lapse of time the individual has to outgrow the known that is stale and unlearn what is already learnt, if he wishes to think freely and in a fresh breath.
Having said that, to be true all action, choices and options emanate from the primordial force (Shakthi) when it manifests and interacts with nature (Prakrithi) which is but part of (Samkalpa) universal volition conveyed by AMMA. If so, even the so -called choice and personal freedom are a mere façade of which the individual is unaware.
Under such a situation, the wise mode for the being is to surrender the self to the higher divine force and work under its umbrella, which caters to all his physical needs and as one moves on even the higher needs of the mind, soul elevating him to the spiritual. That is to think “All is being done for HIM and all actions are only HIS” relegating the personal element. As AMMA said “Antha Vadu Cheyisthunnadu Anu Kovadame”. Lurking in between or switching to other modes is pointless devoid of personal comfort. More simply put, surrender to the ALMIGHTY AMMA in complete abandon is the secret of comfort in life.
(Presented under grateful acknowledgment to Brother Venkata Rama Sastry of Hyderabad who raised this issue and desired a clarification)