From the book: “Experimenting with the Truth” by Prabhuji

Chapter: I have often heard you speak of freedom. What do you mean by freedom?

Most people believe that freedom means escaping from life’s limitations. They confuse freedom with overcoming oppression: the prisoner wants to be free from jail; the slave, from the master; the depressed person, from sadness; and the sick, from pain. Freedom, however, is not the same thing as emancipation or release, even though they are synonymous in the dictionary. Emancipation means releasing oneself from something. Freedom, on the other hand, does not entail any kind of escape; it cannot be dependent on anything.

Release from slavery is born from slavery and, therefore, remains an integral part of it. Its very existence depends on slavery, and thus, it is not exempt from oppression. The same happens with relief from hunger or a toothache: it is just a desire to exchange an intolerable situation for a pleasant one; that is, to exchange uncomfortable conditions for more promising ones. It is merely a reaction against what we wish to be released from. It is not a pursuit of freedom but an escape from certain circumstances. Release from poverty is not related to freedom but rather to money. Release from disease has nothing to do with freedom but rather with medicine, pain, and hospitals; and release from slavery, with shackles and prison cells.

Some live their lives running away from freedom because they are afraid to accept the responsibility. They are content with just imagining what freedom is and blaming others for their oppression. The people of Israel were released from captivity when they left Egypt, but they only became free on Mount Sinai, when they accepted the responsibility of receiving the Torah.

In his essay Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin makes a difference between positive and negative freedom, both clearly reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The negative is “freedom from something,” meaning the absence of obstacles to action. The positive is “freedom for something,” the possibility of choosing the actions that accomplish our goals.

The idea of freedom most people have is limited to these two types: positive and negative; freedom from something and freedom to do something. The first is related to the past, the second to the future. However, both are merely psychological reactions and superficial types of emancipation. They go after our mental projections, not reality. Real freedom cannot be conceived from within the limitations of the mind, but only when the content of the mind is transcended.

Reasoning is nothing but a response to our conditioning, from the experiences accumulated in our memory. Thus, thought is inevitably chained to this heavy load of accumulated experiences.

We are not free from our psychological limitations. According to Karl Marx, the economic structure of capitalist society defines how we interpret the world. As victims of this “false class consciousness,” we necessarily interpret the world from a viewpoint determined by our social class. Marx believed that the only way to disentangle ourselves from the limitations of this perspective and to be free was by understanding dialectical materialism and adopting socialism, which, of course, is highly debatable. As a matter of fact, political freedom does not exist, because it only has meaning in relation to others. Various political movements have tried to impose their own concept of freedom and turned into totalitarian and oppressive regimes.

We are conditioned not just by capitalism but by society as a whole and all that it implies. Likewise, we indisputably lack the psychological freedom needed to access reality. Expressions such as “freedom of thought” or “freedom of worship” are nothing more than verbal stimulants that activate our conditioning. All of our ideas and concepts about other people, about the world, about life, and therefore about freedom, stem from our psychological limitations. Only by transcending this conditioning will we gain an objective perception of reality. Without a clear perception, aspiration for freedom is impossible.

Authentic freedom has an existence of its own. It is independent of everything and has no cause or motive. Absolute freedom simply is. The Sanskrit term mokṣa means “freedom.” Those who aspire to freedom are called mumukṣu, ones who aspire to the authentic freedom that flourishes from consciousness.

True freedom is not physical, mental, economic, or sexual. If we found ourselves alone in the desert, a suitcase with ten million dollars would not increase our freedom one bit. Authentic freedom does not belong to objective, temporal, and therefore, illusory reality. Freedom is subjective and belongs to eternal and infinite consciousness. Since it is an intrinsic quality of our reality, freedom cannot be given or taken away from us; it is inherent in our true nature. Nothing and nobody external to us can liberate or suppress us. In fact, we do not even have the freedom to renounce our freedom. It is possible to oppress the body or the mind, but consciousness can never be limited. Meditation is the only opportunity to recognize freedom without any kind of limitations. Only within the depths of our interior are we free from the body, mind, emotions, and all that we believe ourselves to be. The New Testament points this out: “Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (John, 8:32).

Absence of freedom means lack of consciousness. We are as free as we are conscious. Such freedom is not “from something,” nor “for something,” but simply to be what we are. Freedom is a return to the state of original and pure consciousness. Our authenticity is freedom, which is the divine source and origin of any virtue.

When we transcend the relative, the Absolute is revealed; when we go beyond falsehood, reality is unveiled; when the illusory and temporal is transcended, Truth is recognized; and when we go one step beyond the ego, freedom is discovered. Only the recognition of Truth will allow us to transcend the fetters of illusion and know who we really are.


From the book: “Experimenting with the Truth” by Prabhuji

Chapter: When talking about freedom, you mention responsibility. Isn’t responsibility an obstacle to freedom?

To answer your question, we need to understand four factors: freedom, responsibility, control, and discipline.

Generally, people think that freedom is the ability to do whatever they want without any limitations. They believe that freedom means choosing and deciding without restrictions. This notion, however, does not recognize the responsibility that freedom entails. As the Argentinian writer Jorge Bucay said, “The true seeker grows and learns and discovers that he or she is always primarily responsible for whatever happens.” Bucay is right: the freedom to make conscious decisions always comes with responsibility. Freedom is responsibility, and vice versa. George Bernard Shaw said, “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” Responsibility means consciously accepting the consequences of our choices.

We must understand that a conditioned mind lacks freedom. Such a mind may dream of being free, but it only responds according to its conditioning. Freedom, however, is not about responding indiscriminately to all of our mental and emotional demands. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” As long as our yearning for liberation is born from oppression, we will seek to escape its bonds rather than free ourselves. We often think that if the oppressing element vanishes, we will be free. Hence our attention is focused on the chains, on what we desire to be liberated from, rather than on freedom itself.

Now we should understand what responsibility is. Many people link it to duty: we think that being responsible means fulfilling our obligations diligently. Furthermore, we hold ourselves accountable if we fail to meet them. This idea is both incomplete and superficial. The deeper meaning of the term responsibility, which comes from the Latin responsum, is the ability to respond. If we live like sleepwalkers, we cannot respond properly.

Responsibility means responding appropriately to life’s events with all our capacity. If we were all responsible, we would not need laws, judges, or policemen. But since society is made up of immature people, governments resort to control to maintain order. A higher state of consciousness would allow us to adequately respond to life and to make this world a paradise.

Every moment and situation is a call and requires a response that satisfies the demands of life. Unfortunately, many such invitations remain unanswered because we are not present. Due to our conditioning, we are stuck in memories of the past or hopes for the future. We are absent from the present and from reality. We suffer because we cannot adequately respond to life’s invitations. There is no one in the universe who can respond as we would. But in order to respond in our own style, we have to transcend conditioning and regain the ability to listen.

The Sanskrit term śravaṇa means “to listen.” Listening with precision requires silence, as it is impossible to talk and simultaneously perceive what someone is saying. As silence intensifies, attention sharpens. The inner stillness that the śravaṇa requires is not absence of noise but of preconceived ideas, concepts, conclusions, and mental fluctuations. Surely, the first step on the retroprogressive path is cultivating receptivity. Cultivate listening: when you have a doubt related to your health, listen to your body. When you are not sure what direction you should take in life, listen carefully to existence deep within your heart. Those who cultivate the art of receptive and alert listening find silence and peace. Only if we are consciously present in the now will the ability to respond flourish in us. Inner responsibility is born when we are attuned to the present. Responding appropriately requires being in tune with the now.

Responsibility is discipline. By learning something we respond, and by responding we learn. To be able to ride a bicycle, for example, we need to learn how to respond. If the bicycle tilts to the left, we lean to the right, and vice versa. With a lot of attention, observation, and presence, we respond to the various situations that the learning process requires. It is impossible to separate responsibility from learning. Responsibility is discipline; responding is learning.

When we notice our own unacceptable, undesirable, or indecent inclinations, we often try to repress them by exerting control. Yet, this resistance is still an egotistic assessment for our personal convenience. Even our ambition for freedom falls into the same category. The ego may be controlled, but it will remain an ego nonetheless. This control, or misunderstood discipline, does not help us eliminate our inclinations but only repress them. Repressive control hardens us and creates a conflict between “what I am” and “what I should be”, between “what I see” and “what I should be seeing.” Hiding our internal conflict, we become atrophied and lose agility. Although repressed and restricted, these undesirable inclinations continue to live and move within us.

You are still not free, you seek freedom. Your seeking made you sleep-deprived and over-awake.

You aspire to the free heights, your soul thirsts for the stars. But your wicked instincts also thirst for freedom.

Your wild dogs want to get free; they bark with joy in their cellar when your spirit contrives to liberate all prisons.

To me you are still a prisoner who plots his freedom. Alas, the soul of such prisoners grows clever, but also deceptive and rotten.

The one who is free of spirit must still purify himself. Much prison and mold is left in him: his eyes must still become pure.

(Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche)

Control paralyzes certain inclinations and creates habits. It turns living beings into robots and destroys intelligence and creativity. Control shrinks us; it impels us to perform specific actions and aggravates our conditioning. Clearly, freedom is not acquired through control, because we cannot be free within our conditioning, whether positive or negative. To reach freedom and responsibility, sensitivity is required. Sensitivity is not cultivated by control but with discipline. Therefore, it is necessary to separate the terms discipline and control because, although they sound similar, they are completely different.

The word discipline comes from the Latin term discipulus, which, in turn, is derived from discere or disco, i.e., “one who learns” or “one who has an aptitude for learning.” People relate discipline to control, but these two are totally different. Control is a series of laws, rules, and regulations, while discipline is born of understanding and awareness. Many think that it is necessary to dominate animal nature; yet, control is also part of the egoic phenomenon. Control assaults our nature, whereas discipline is spontaneous and blossoms out of consciousness.

Free beings, and therefore responsible beings, require no control, for they are aware of their own needs and those of others. Those who are unconscious and irresponsible have to be controlled because they lack the sensitivity to respond to existence. Conscious beings are disciplined but free of control. They live awake like seagulls flying high, in total freedom, without laws or rules.

Now we shall examine how freedom, discipline, and responsibility are related. Discipline, in its true meaning, is learning, not in the sense of accumulating knowledge or information, but in the sense of perceiving and observing what is, as it is. In order to learn, it is necessary to completely free ourselves from all accumulated information. Otherwise, instead of observing what is, we will project what we know on what we are learning. We will not observe reality, but only what we grasp according to our conditioning. The freedom to perceive and to observe is essential for learning. If we wish to study ourselves, we must get rid of all beliefs, concepts, and conclusions about what we are. This kind of learning is responsibility, because it is a response to existence.

Society confuses control with discipline, because it maintains a semblance of order by controlling unconscious people. Unlike imposed order, discipline reveals the harmony of life. Trying to control our thoughts will not help us create inner order. Inner harmony can be discovered only by observing our mental activity.

From within the known, our reaction will always be mechanical. Only when we become free from all conditioning and respond to the call of existence will we act responsibly. Once we transcend memory, we will respond consciously. To be responsible is to be disciplined. An irresponsible being has to be motivated or impelled through control; only those who are responsible can learn.

No, dear friend, responsibility is not an obstacle to your freedom. Responsibility and discipline are implicit in freedom.


From the book: “Experimenting with the Truth” by Prabhuji

Chapter: Dear Prabhuji, can freedom be misused?

Unlike slavery, freedom can be misused. It is said that to err is human; hence, anyone can use freedom inappropriately. Slavery, on the other hand, can never be misused. Prisoners are deprived of their ability to choose. Slaves cannot misuse their captivity. When freedom is taken away, misjudgment is also impeded. Freedom entails choice and, therefore, the possibility of going in the wrong direction.

For Aristotle, human beings are rational creatures, but their instincts remain animalistic. Even though they have the faculty of reason, they share their instinctive desires with the animal kingdom. According to Descartes, nature pursues its own goals through animals, which act in accordance with their instincts. Just as it is for animals, most of human behavior is motivated by certain instinctive demands. Since only human beings have access to freedom, only they can misuse it. Their freedom entails moral responsibility. In his famous work Existentialism is a Humanism,  Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: “Man is condemned to be free.” The French philosopher thought that freedom was inherent to the human condition and that human beings were responsible for using it. Mankind is the only species capable of being free and of mitigating, sublimating, and transcending its desires.

For Friedrich Nietzsche, human beings are not the final goal but only a phase in a process leading to greatness. Humanity represents an evolutionary bridge between the beast and the overman.

Mankind is a rope fastened between animal and overman—a rope over an abyss […] What is great about human beings is that they are a bridge and not a purpose: what is lovable about human beings is that they are a crossing over and a going under.

(Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche)

Nietzsche is right. Unlike animals, human beings are not complete. Chickens are born as chickens and cannot change their nature; the life of an animal is a finalized process. Human beings, on the other hand, are “under construction.” They are a process stretching between animal and divine nature, between the instinctive and the transcendental essence. They move from unconsciousness to consciousness. They are a rope strung over an abyss into which they can fall if they misuse their freedom. They can hit the bottom or reach divine heights, lift themselves up or tear themselves down, transcend the mind or fall under it.

The singularity of human beings lies in the fact that they are not born completed and programmed. Understanding and accepting this freedom turns our life into a challenge to complete ourselves.

In the Bible we read: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’.” (Genesis, 1:26). However, many verses declare that God is unique, for example: “… the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.” (Deuteronomy, 4:39). So, how can a single God speak in the plural? With whom does God speak when He says “let us make”? Who else joins God in the process of creation? If I say to someone, “Let’s dance,” they will understand that I am inviting them to be an active participant in the dance. When God says “let us make,” regardless of whom He is addressing, He is clearly referring to another active participant in creation. In fact, He was speaking to the first man, Adam. God created all creatures, but unlike animals and the rest of creation, human beings are not just His work but a partnership between Him and them. By saying “let us make man,” God tells Adam that His creation, in fact, is ours. He tells us that even though He created us, it is our duty to continue. By completing ourselves, we are taking part in the divine work. Human beings are not a finalized creation but architects of their own destiny. Their essence is freedom. To deny this is to rob them of their essence.

The misuse of freedom is obviously possible because humans can err. Freedom implies that we can make right or wrong decisions. If we were not able to choose incorrectly, we would not be truly free. Naturally, going down is tempting, because it requires less effort and energy than going up.

Freedom is a challenge that implies responsibility. We are intimidated by the risk of erring. That is why most people choose to place their lives in the hands of others. We blame others for our defeats and failures. We criticize our parents for the way they raised us, and we put spiritual masters in charge of our enlightenment. Afraid of making mistakes, we live according to rules decreed in a sacred book or by a guru. We renounce our freedom to keep from making a wrong decision. If we were not afraid to accept responsibility over our lives, society would be full of enlightened beings. Every day we would see beings such as Krishna, Jesus, and Buddha. However, we have been intimidated for centuries, both by politicians and religious leaders. Politicians have frightened us with poverty, hunger, and war, and religious leaders have done so with hell. Fear has been cultivated in order to dominate the masses, and that is why there are so few enlightened beings. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It is beyond my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.”

Free beings can make mistakes but never fail, because errors teach them and contribute to their development. As Carl Jung said, “In this way, the last thing I want to tell you, dear friends, is the following: live your life as best you can, even if your life is based on an error, because life must be consumed, and truth is reached by error.” Instead of defeats, errors are an integral part of our evolutionary learning process.

It is not my intention to restrict anyone’s freedom but to help understand it. Having comprehended what freedom is, make your own decisions. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, because in the long process of development, errors are as important as successes. The important thing is not to avoid falling down but to understand the lesson. In the school of life, we learn from both our defeats and triumphs.


From the book: What is as it is by Prabhuji


Meditation – the path to freedom

February 20, 2010

oṁ gaṁ gaṇapataye namaḥ
oṁ guṁ gurubhyo namaḥ
oṁ aiṁ sarasvatyai namaḥ
oṁ saha nāv avatu
saha nau bhunaktu
saha vīryaṁ karavāvahai
tejasvi nāv adhītam astu
mā vidviṣāvahai
oṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
hariḥ oṁ tat sat

For any religious person, seeker, dreamer, or anyone who lives with a yearning for freedom, one of the most important questions is if freedom is possible. And, what does this freedom mean? What does freedom consist of?

Some people think of politics when hearing the word freedom. However, freedom from communism or imperialism, freedom from the Chinese, the Arabs, or the Jews, freedom from my husband or wife; all of that isn’t true freedom because in that kind of freedom, we’re still completely focused on our fellow man, on the other. It’s an external and superficial freedom. We can call this material freedom.

It requires abundant introspection to understand that it’s impossible to change what happens, but what matters is changing how we see what happens to us. As is often said, don’t try to change the situation; change your attitude toward it.

Thus, when we speak of true freedom, we are referring to being free from ourselves. Is it possible to get rid of our behavioral patterns, of this mind, which is what we are, or at least what we believe ourselves to be?

The mind is made up of pain, misery, fears, ambitions, complexes, desires. Everything that constitutes it was added by others, and all this is what I believe myself to be. In fact, it is what I am, because according to the way we see our lives now, that is what we are. And the major question is: Is it possible to transcend all this mental content and liberate ourselves?

That is our world in which we move and live. Our world is between our ears. It’s the mind. That is what we are and that is our reality: the reality of our complexes, our ways of reacting, our attitudes, our fears and worries. That is our world and that is what we are. Can we free ourselves from this?

Why free ourselves? Because all that is mind is limited: comes from matter, from others, from the dimension of forms. It’s information received from our parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, schoolmates, co-workers, fellow soldiers, etc. Everything—from my name to the newspaper that I like to read, and my way of reacting when someone treats me with sympathy or contempt—comes from the dimension of forms, which is limited; therefore, all that I am is necessarily limited.

Being in this way, I am a limited being, and therefore, the desire for freedom is a grace. If I’m able to break free, I would be liberated from matter. Whether or not I can free myself is a very important question.

Now we can understand that nothing I do as the mind, as this content, can lead me beyond the mind. This is very important. Nothing I do as the I-idea, as the I-ego, as the I-concept can help me to transcend what I am. Nothing the ego does can take it beyond itself. And since there is nothing that can be done, all that remains is, so to speak, to sit and watch.

This is what is called dhyāna, or “meditation” in Hinduism, or Sanātana-dharma.

Meditation can only come after you experience that there is nothing you can do, that any effort will be fruitless, because every action stems from an idea, behind which is hiding a thought, and any thought or idea comes from the limited contents of the mind. Thus the “I”—the limited “I,” the I-idea—cannot bring itself beyond itself. It’s impossible to lift myself by holding myself tightly. Hence, nothing else remains but to watch… observe… and do nothing. And here we reach dhyāna, or “meditation.”

But, what is meditation? It’s to observe without doing anything on any level. On the physical level, action is simply the expression of a thought, a desire, an idea, so we must not do anything on the mental level: yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ. Meditation is to do nothing on the mental level, without any movement of the vṛttis; it’s just observing.

In this observing, we observe forms and movements. This is what we realize in karma yoga: the observation of action. In hatha yoga, while practicing the yogic postures, asanas, we observe each effort, each muscle, and each tendon. In prāṇāyāma, we observe our breathing: while inhaling, how the air passes through our nostrils, and while exhaling, how it comes out.

In this process of observation, we gradually interiorize. As we interiorize, we notice that what we once thought was internal becomes external. What was once the closest, my body, becomes distant, becomes something, because by observing my body, I create a distance between the “I” and the body. This is disidentification. The body stops being me to become just a body. In the same way, we continue internalizing, as we observe our thoughts, then our emotions and feelings. This is meditation.

Meditation is an observation of what is, as it is, without the influence and interference of the mind. The mind ceases to be the meditator and becomes the meditated, the observed. This is a serious challenge for many spiritual seekers: how do I cease identifying with the ego in order to discover what I really am? How do I get liberated from the ego? You can’t fight against the belief you have about yourself and reject the ego or reject yourself as an ego. You can’t push, kick, or beat yourself up. However, if you observe your reactions, your conclusions, the movement of thoughts and ideas, and your behavioral patterns, at a certain moment you will see a very interesting phenomenon: all that you manage to observe becomes subtle, loses solidity. Every idea, every concept, every conclusion, and every thought you observe, loses its substantiality: it evaporates, disappears. And simultaneously, the subtle gets fortified: the soul, the spirit, consciousness, and observation are getting solidified, until you reach the final level before nirvikalpa-samādhi: the observation of the observer, the observation of the meditator, the observation of yourself.

What will happen then will be the most marvelous revelation: you evaporate, you become subtle, you lose your solidity. The “I” evaporates, that which was most solid in your life: I want, I don’t want, I like, I don’t like, me, mine. The “I” is what we fear losing more than anything in the world, that which makes us feel threatened if something or someone diminishes it in any way. And in the moment of its disappearance, consciousness is revealed in its full splendor.

A question has puzzled me for a long time. How is it that the ideas and conclusions disappear? Why do the concepts, thoughts, and the “I” dissolve when they are observed? Why do they lose their solidity? Where do they go? Why does the observation get stronger? Why does observation, which was the most subtle and the most difficult to perceive, become solid and substantial, reaching its maximum expression when the meditator dissolves? Where does all this go?

Do you know why this dissolution takes place? By observing, this experience happens: you notice that you are not the thoughts, the ideas, the conclusions. You are not that thought, that I-idea that you believe yourself to be, but on the contrary, the thoughts and the ideas are you. You are not the conclusions and the concepts, but they are you. They originate in you, they are part of you, they are you.

Just as the wave is not the ocean—as it is limited, it has a beginning and an end, it is temporal—but the wave is ocean because it is made of water, in the same way, you are not the thoughts, concepts and conclusions, the “I,” but they are you, because when you see them, when you observe, they are revealed as consciousness.

Every thought or idea that you observe evaporates as something separate, disconnected, but at the same time is revealed as consciousness. Then, consciousness acquires solidity and grows: the ocean becomes perceptible until finally, you don’t see waves, bubbles, or foam, but you see the infinite ocean of consciousness: tat tvam asi. That infinite ocean of consciousness is you; it’s what you really are.

śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
hariḥ oṁ tat sat