The thefreedictionary.com defines the word ‘freedom’ as follows: The condition of being free of restraints, especially the ability to act without control or interference by another or by circumstance. The Oxford dictionary defines it as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.
Freedom was and is always seen as an ideal to be achieved in every sphere. Every country’s history books tell tales of their respective martyrs and their struggles for political freedom. In every sphere of relationship namely international, national, societal, communal, racial, familial, marital, parental, etc., a lot of emphasis is made on freedom. There is mention of a variety of freedoms – freedom of thought, speech, activity, so on and so forth.
But we should think if we really want the freedom that is defined in the dictionary as mentioned above. That would tend to mean anarchy. But is anarchy really desirable? The Free Dictionary dot com defines ‘anarchy’ as the absence of any guiding or uniting principle; disorder; chaos.
A graphical example would help here – imagine a road network system without traffic rules. One may call it freedom of movement but would anyone want to drive on such a road? Definitely not if he cares for his life. One would almost definitely not reach his destination. A structured traffic system is preferable by far.
So what we really mean by achieving freedom is to be dependent on an able shelter that ensures uninterrupted happiness. Actually it is lasting peace and happiness that we want (ānandamayo ‘bhyāsāt), not freedom really. Or in other words, we want freedom from anxiety.
Here in this material world, however comfortable one’s position may be, one has to perceive untold distress in the form of repeated birth, old age, disease and death. The influence of this material energy is insurmountable – daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā (Bhagavad-gītā 7.14). Material energy is known as Durgā which means it is difficult to extricate ourselves from her clutches. There is no freedom here. It is nothing but a prison.
But Bhagavad-gītā (8.20) informs us that there is another world where there is no death or destruction. That place is called Vaikuṇṭha. The definition of Vaikuṇṭha is given as follows: vigata kuṇṭha yasmād iti vaikuṇṭha – that place where there is absence of the miseries of repeated birth, death, old age and disease is called Vaikuṇṭha. That is the kingdom of God. We can cross over this material energy and situate ourselves in that eternal kingdom of God by surrendering to Lord Kṛṣṇa – mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te (Bhagavad-gītā 7.14). Surrender constitutes strict obedience to the instructions of God.
In order to reclaim us fallen souls to that immortal world, Kṛṣṇa, out of His boundless mercy, descends to this material world from time to time in His multi-incarnations, leaves behind valuable instructions in the form of Vedic scriptures and sends His bona fide devotees. If we take heed of the instructions laid down in the Vedic scriptures and follow the path chalked out by the authorized devotees of the Lord, our freedom from material bondage is guaranteed.
But if we, in the name of so-called freedom, perform whimsical actions disregarding scriptural injunctions, then we are preparing for ourselves a dark future in this material world.
Animals exhibit freedom in the matter of paltry sense gratification but for the human being, restraint from the same is recommended because with pacified senses, one’s existence is purified and in such a state, one can attain the divine position of devotional service unto the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and thus achieve unlimited, uninterrupted happiness.
In fact, devotees who surrender unto Lord Kṛṣṇa without reservation are bestowed so much freedom by the Lord that the He allows Himself to come under their control. Examples of such an exalted position of devotees are observed in the pastimes such as Kṛṣṇa acting as the messenger of the Pāṇḍavas and the charioteer of Arjuna, He being tied by the rope of Yaśodā, being taunted by the gopīs and His releasing the Sudarśana discus to protect Mahārāja Ambarīṣa against Durvāsā Muni. There is no limit to such pastimes. Indeed all pastimes of the Lord with His devotees are bound by the unalloyed love of His devotees. This indeed is absolute freedom.