Learn to live free

Two lovebirds dwelt in a huge golden cage and were treated royally by a king. Once, when the cage was open, the female flew away. Fascinated by freedom and her frolicking in forests, she returned to take her mate with her. But he preferred captivity:

“We’re in a golden cage and the king feeds us. I’d rather stay here!” “But, love,” she begged, “Aren’t we born free, to fly unfettered?” He disagreed: “Go away! Close the cage! It’s too burdensome to be free!”
Like the birds of the air, most of us are born free. Celebrating Independence Day — Swatantra Diwas — it’s heartwarming to hear the strains of the Jana Gana Mana and salute the Tiranga with a sense of patriotism and pride. Colourful though our kaleidoscopic customs, cultures, traditions, languages and religions be, there’s always the danger that our “swa-raj”, our self-rule, could degenerate into captivity for Mother India rather than freedom for us all. “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it,”
said Lokmanya Tilak succinctly, summoning us to a relentless struggle. The birthing of free Mother India was bloody with the pangs of Partition. Looking back regretfully down the highway of history doesn’t help; but, I have the here-and-now and my deepest “self” that must first be set free.
Swa-raj is a struggle for independence not merely of myself and my country “from” outside powers and rulers, but of myself and my country “over myself” — i.e. freedom from ego-inflating and self-alienating pride, oppression, corruption, injustice and class-caste-creed discrimination. Self-control is the first step towards true freedom.
Independence is interdependence. If I wish freedom for myself, then as much as I cherish it for myself and my family, I must ensure that I not only respect the freedom of others but wholeheartedly work towards ensuring true freedom for all — especially the last and the least.
Mahatmas like Buddha, Mahavir, Jesus, Guru Nanak, Confucius and others were supremely free because of their love and compassion for all beings. They realised that the lives of everyone and everything is organically related. Their words — more so, their lives — teach us that we can be free only if we truly love, serve, sacrifice and live for others. Freedom is no freedom at all unless each and every citizen is freed from paralysing prisons of poverty, fear, ignorance, disease, injustice, superstition and discrimination.
Freedom is an “inside job”. You and I have the power to open all cages and shatter all fetters. May “swa-raj” be achieved within myself, first, and then you-I-we can creatively collaborate to create a truly peaceful, prosperous and Free India.

Francis Gonsalves is a professor of theology. He can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com

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