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Do You Want to Be Absolutely Free?

By Shian (NamoAmitofuo), The Daily Enlightenment, Published on the Buddhist Channel, Dec 16, 2004

Singapore -- In Sartre's modern classic "The Age of Reason", two lovers were arguing on commitment... Marcelle angrily bursts, "You want to be free. Absolutely free. It's your vice." Mathieu edgily exclaims, "What else can a man do?"

Seems like Mathieu loved Marcelle as much as he loved freedom - thus the fight. The matter of whether he is responsible aside, what else should you do, other than to strive for your absolute freedom, to be bound by nothing whatsoever? Afterall, freedom should be sought, as an undeniable attribute of the True Happiness that we all want.

We are trapped by the constraints of this world and our commitments to it, as we yearn to transcend it. What makes this more of a struggle is that we want the best of both worlds. We have this unspoken secret craving for absolute freedom to enjoy Samsara's worldly pleasures and Nirvana's divine bliss at the same time. Plain greed perhaps, but are they really conflicting polar opposites? We do not realise that much of the duo can indeed be savoured harmoniously. We only need to purge ourselves of craving for freedom which ironically impedes freedom itself, which is a state of not being bound by anything, including craving.

In Stonepeace's words, the existential paradox of freedom is that "Everyone is free to choose, yet no one can choose not to be free. The one choice you cannot make is to deny your choice." Thus did Murdoch utter, "We are condemned to be free." Yes, we are free, but we fall short of the absolute freedom Marcelle was talking about. Our free will is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways, for better or worse, depending on whether your choices condemn or free you. Choose with wisdom. What do you want?

Of worldly things, we want and want. Ironically, what we really want is to be free of wanting, for deep down, we know that wanting and getting all we desire, even one's dream lover, does not mean or bring absolute freedom. The ability to want and get anything seems to be absolute freedom. But because wanting can be endless, it becomes a bottomless pit which traps us with constant unfulfillment instead. Our mundane pseudo-freedom thus binds us from absolute freedom.

The Buddha taught that absolute freedom comes from freeing ourselves of our attachment (craving), aversion and delusion. If you conscientiously work towards overriding those defilements with increasing generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom respectively, absolute freedom will loom closer and closer. Remember - "You want to be free. Absolutely free. It's your vice"... only if you don't know how.

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