A reflection on the Kaushitaki Upanishad
Having previously discussed the self, introspection and consciousness I think that it is now appropriate to begin to unravel the bonds which restrain my intellectual endeavours. In this reflection, I will attempt to come to terms with the implications of my previous reflections, and at the same time try to show a path by which I, and anyone willing to follow, should attempt to commence shrugging off the mental straitjacket of my conditioning. To do this, I will examine the nature of freedom, and from an initial definition attempt to chart a course of liberation.
As I have alluded above, we should commence by asking: what is freedom? The term has many meanings: political, religious, philosophical and sociological – but here I want to focus on the meaning from an individual perspective, and particularly from the perspective of freedom of the mind.
Firstly, I would argue that this is freedom from desire. I don’t mean this in the harsh terms of rejection of pleasure (see on Admixture) but rather that we should strive to harness our instinctual drivers and, where possible, satisfy them in ways that do not compromise our ethics.
However, desire is not the only form of constraint on our intellectual freedom. The more insidious form of shackle is our conditioning. If we accept the preconceived notions, cultural biases and myopic one-sided understanding of history, reality and society, then we choose to remain bound, unable to comprehend the greater whole – forever gazing at shadows dancing on the wall. If instead, we choose to place our own beliefs under the scalpel, then we are granted one of the greatest gifts of all: the ability to choose our mental furniture. Even if the new ideas, theories or philosophies we are exposed to fail to convince us in our quest for truth, then at least we gain some perspective and more completely understand the values, metaphysics and ethics which underpin our belief structures.
Looking at the two above components, freedom from desire and conditioning, I would posit true individual freedom as the liberation of the mind. If a person lives in a free society, absent of violent compulsion or dark oppression, but they are incapable of commencing the quest of self-liberation – they live a slave. I leave you with the most thought-provoking line I encountered in the Kaushitaki Upanishad:
Man asks, “Who am I then?”
Brahman answers, “The Truth.”
S.H. Raza, Untitled, 1975