What Does It Mean To Be Freed from Oppression and Suffering?

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What does it mean to be free?


To experience the joys of the freedom of expression? To be free from the shackles of the bondage of slavery? Aren’t some of these principles the foundation on what democracy is formed?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – From the Declaration of Independence


To experience the joys of the freedom from the suffering created by our thinking mind? To be free from our minds negative self-talk? To be free from negative thoughts of our own mortality?

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – “There is nothing so disobedient as an undisciplined mind, and there is nothing so obedient as a disciplined mind.” – Buddha

One of the most common forms of freedom I think we are most familiar with is to be free from outside oppression. Where people take or are given the opportunity to break free from imposed governmental, political or social conditions and constructs. When we are born, we really don’t know what we are supposed to be doing with our lives. Should we go to school or have a family or go to work… even… who are we supposed to be? And when we don’t know any differently and have become accustomed to an imposed particular way of being we don’t know what to be freed would actually mean. So, we define freedom by what we actually know. It’s when we recognize there is a different way of being that the process of becoming free from oppression begins.

It’s important to mention that the quest for freedom here is a social construct. Think gender / race constructs and even national stereotypes. Breaking free from these constructs is only possible when you become educated and can see the bondage of oppression and not the continuation of our freedom of expression.

viktor-franklOnce we become free from these social constructs of oppression we get the opportunity to think and feel as we like with the freedom to express it.  As we become free from the oppression from limiting constricting beliefs imposed from the outside world, more gets revealed to us on how much we can become slaves to our own mind’s limiting beliefs about ourselves and our own negative thought patterns. Some of these thoughts and patterns run deep from wounds of our past.

Most of us grew up with the freedom of democracy in the USA and in other countries. Even though we might not agree with some of the “rules” that have come out of democracy we still have the freedom to speak our thoughts without risking our lives. This is where our freedom, or oppression, shifts from being imposed by the exterior outside world to the critical and self-deprecating thoughts of our self-imposed interior world which I think is where most of us are familiar with.

One of the most fascinating subjects for me is how we attempt in getting free from our own thoughts. This is a teaching and a great discussion from Buddha dharma and in a lot of the great mystical traditions.  It is really possible to become free from our metal fabrication of suffering, which is dictated by our feelings and emotions of guilt and shame.  When we get exposed to these teachings and begin to see things differently we then get the opportunity to practice…. To choose our mental state, whether it is positive or negative. And that our state of mind is just a product of our thoughts… the judgments of our environment and our past.

buddhaquoteUnderstanding the Law of Impermanence is an important way to look at the sources of our suffering. Because we have a body and a mind we are going to experience suffering. We will get old and our bodies will begin to fail, and we will experience pain in our body. Our mind will have thoughts that see things happily in one minute and will change to suffering in the next minute. The mind and its feelings/emotions and the body and its pain are all temporary states and impermanent. We can’t prevent or control any of it.

We cannot prevent our thoughts from arising and we cannot prevent our bodies from dying. When we go along following our thoughts (happy or not) and the pain that comes from our bodies we get to know suffering.  The body and the mind are suffering and realizing this time and time again we will see the crystal-clear truth that our body and our mind are not “good” or any special things. We will look at all of the things that we desire for our happiness and all the material things that we want to have and realize that all we want is to experience happiness and be free of suffering.

I am a believer of having intentional practices in our lives. Whether we are a sports player, musician, yogi or meditator… we practice. We practice to develop mastery. We also practice detachment, a letting go of negative thought patterns. We practice pointing our mind towards a more easeful and peaceful existence and way of being. We detach ourselves from the suffering thoughts in our mind, of the pain we may experience as our bodies become old and decrepit. It is through these practices where our heart will not waiver and suffering cannot make its way in.

When we can finally see that the body and mind are impermanent we can detach from a particular outcome of our desires embedded within our self-identity and be able to see things more clearly as they are. We become free from our own self-created suffering. We will be able to see ourselves and then each other in our own unique perfection because the desire for expectations have been eliminated. Once we see clearly in our practice that our body and mind are impermanent we will know the cause of suffering, which is craving or aversion, and be able to be free by the practice of eliminating them from our minds thoughts. Through our practices, we will be able to stay grounded, keep a peaceful state of mind and not be affected by our own or suffering.

This is the ultimate freedom. Enlightenment. Nirvana.