On Tuesday we celebrated Independence Day (4th of July) in the Unites States. Today is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday (July 6). Two reasons to reflect on what freedom really means.
For some people freedom means they can say and do exactly what they want. For others it means they can go wherever they want to go. Both in Yoga philosophy and Buddhism true freedom is defined differently, however. True freedom lies in the liberation of our mind. We need to free our mind from the confinements of craving and aversion. We need to learn how to be content in the moment, without the mind interjecting. Two sayings of the Buddha’s capture this intention:
“To refrain from evil
To achieve the good,
To purify the mind,
This is the teaching of all Awakened Ones.”
“Just as the ocean has one taste, the taste of salt, so my Doctrine and Discipline has one taste, the taste of freedom.”
This sounds great – at least it does to me – but how do you do that; how do you liberate your mind and be content in the moment?
The practice of Mindfulness Meditation is a key practice to develop the ability to control the mind. We can actually learn to see things as they really are, without the judging mind continuously having an opinion about things and triggering reaction rather than skillful action. It is this reaction that causes our suffering. If we can let the circumstances be as they are, let other people do what they do, our experience will not be defined by our opinionated mind. The Dalai Lama says: “Inner peace is the key: if you have inner peace, the external problems do not affect your deep sense of peace and tranquility. In that state of mind you can deal with situations with calmness and reason, while keeping your inner happiness. That is very important. Without this inner peace, no matter how comfortable your life is materially, you may still be worried, disturbed or unhappy because of the circumstances.”
First attempts at Mindfulness Meditation can be very frustrating. Our mind doesn’t shut up, and our body wants to move rather than to sit still. An initial reaction may be to give up, and say: “This doesn’t work. Meditation is not for me.” Skillful action, however, is to acknowledge the challenge and the discomfort, and persevere nonetheless. “Liberation can be worked out only in the laboratory of one’s own body and mind, in the immediate actualities of our physical and mental experience.” It will be after we have experienced the benefits of meditating, and the effects of a calm mind, that we will be more encouraged to continue our practice.
When we carry a sense of inner peace into our daily lives, our days may seem brighter, unburdened by a heavy mind. From this place of equanimity we have the capacity to treat others with kindness and compassion. It is in this state that we will be able to endure torture and exile – whether literally or figuratively speaking. The function of the Dalai Lama is to incarnate compassion on earth. The office of the Dali Lama is an “activity of presence”. “The Dalai Lama is a receiving station toward which the compassion principle of Buddhism in all its cosmic amplitude is continuously channeled (…) to all sentient beings.”  Whether the Dalai Lama will be able to continue his legacy after his death is uncertain, since the Chinese are determined to extinguish the light of all (Tibetan) people for him to serve. We need to uphold this practice of compassion and inner peace, or otherwise something important will be withdrawn from history, “for as rain forests are to the earth’s atmosphere, someone said, so are the Tibetan people to the human spirit in this time of planetary ordeal.” Let’s all keep up our practice, and continue to cultivate compassion, inner peace, and a liberated mind. It is a small price to pay for true freedom!
Marije leads a monthly Silent Retreat Day for those interested in deepening their meditation practice. Read more here.
 From: Buddhism, A concise introduction, Smith & Novak, p. 87
 idem, p. 80
 idem, p. 111
 idem, p. 111