Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society

For twelve Sundays Nalandabodhi Connecticut is offering a book discussion group on H. H. Karmapa’s book Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society. Below is a summary of the seventh chapter that will be the basis of our online discussion on Sunday July 12th at 10:30 a.m. For more information, go to Events on this website.

Chapter 7 – Authentic Freedom (Summary)

What do we mean by Freedom? Doing whatever we want? Exercising our will over others? No obligations to others?

These meanings are based on the idea of self-sustaining separate entities. Other’s needs undercut our freedom. Relationships bind us and limit our freedom. This view leads people to dominate and oppress others.

Freedom is not a limited resource. One person’s freedom does not limit another person’s freedom.

Everyone can experience real freedom.

Wisdom distinguishes ego-centric ideas of freedom from authentic freedom.

We cannot exist outside of interdependence. Therefore freedom cannot mean escaping those inherent connections – our own freedom is inseparable from the freedom of all. One person’s freedom does not detract from other’s freedom. We all enjoy this freedom without conflict.

Freedom’s Inner Conditions

Authentic freedom arises initially from inner conditions – our own minds. Freedom is not about controlling our outer circumstances. No matter how challenging our circumstances. We can experience freedom if we cultivated inner resources. Also, we could have lots of external freedom and yet be bound by inner turmoil.

With inner freedom we have the freedom to work on the external circumstances that are beneficial for all.

What do we really want when we say we are seeking freedom? When we contemplate this we can see that what we desire is genuine happiness. If we feel free, we feel happy and if we feel happy we feel free. We must cultivate the inner conditions that give rise to those states.

Freedom Starts Here

Can’t achieve freedom by disentangling ourselves from connection and responsibility for others. If we try to leave interconnection behind, we are doomed to fail.

Tibetan saying: “Being in control of oneself is happiness; being controlled by what is other is suffering.”

However, we can also fall victim to inner forces that take over and control us. Being slave to our inner masters of jealousy, greed, resentment or prejudice is not freedom.

Authentic freedom means freedom from the control of destructive emotional forces. It requires wisdom and patience to work with these.

First step: Reflect on how emotional forces work. Determine which are constructive and helpful and which are destructive and harmful.

Second: Enter into a dialogue with the destructive forces and get them to release their hold. You do not need to do their bidding.

Example: When we are angry we may ponder ways to bring down the person who hurt us. This way we harm ourselves (lose sleep, eaten up inside, health suffers). When we experience anger we are the first victim. Recognition is the first step to dealing with it.

Benefits of Self-Discipline

Self-discipline or Self-mastery can be developed joyfully. We can chose, wholeheartedly, to do what we know is the best thing to do. This requires Mind Training.

When HHK feels constricted by his position, he asks his mind to open a bit more.

We have the freedom to work with our minds. No one is in control of our minds by ourselves. We can work with it to open further.

Abundant Freedom and Happiness

Inner freedom does not mean freedom to follow emotional impulses.

Freedom is rooted in wisdom: Intelligent application of discernment joined with contentment; appreciating what we already have.

Freedom and happiness do not depend on enjoying one particular set of external conditions or having one particular experience.

Discernment allows us to see that we have numerous opportunities open to us. Patience provides a longer view beyond instant gratification. An open heart and mind allows HHK (and us) to stay open to the choices we can make. Mental flexibility contentment and satisfaction with what we can do and can experience rather than fixating on what is beyond our reach. In this way, inner qualities work to create a state of authentic freedom.

Also, in our interdependent world, pursuit and experience of freedom must take others into account as well.  Freedom depends on and involves other people.

We can’t say, “My freedom or happiness is more important than that of anyone else.”

We are equal. Everyone is fully deserving of respect, understanding, and empathy. We cannot disregard the freedom and wellbeing of others in pursuit or our own comfort or freedom.

Practical reality: Failing to consider others goes against our interdependence.

Freedom can be achieved in a context of interdependence and should not be confused with momentary gratification and ego-centered impulses.

Authentic freedom arises when we bring together inner conditions that work interdependently to allow us to experience true freedom. Inner conditions mean discernment, empathy, openness, patience, wisdom, and contentment. These make true freedom possible.

Inner Contemplation

Outer conditions play a role in our ability to free ourselves. And finding our own freedom is not enough.

First, we must start with inner freedom, liberating our own mind. Attaining inner freedom protects us from external forces that would limit our own freedom and makes us able to fight for freedom for others.

Example: If we want to fight against discrimination against women, we must first free our own minds from discriminatory attitudes (including subtle). Working to free our own mind includes noticing the ways in which we are confused.

External conditions: We must be aware of external conditions that limit freedom. For example, communications technology and consumerist culture.  These forces can limit our freedom if we don’t know how to engage with them.

On the one hand, social media and the internet can facilitate free exchange of ideas. On the other hand, electronic media controls our freedom in many ways:  (1) consumerist vision; (2) social interest groups (including ISIS). Information is manipulated and we are manipulated if we believe misinformation.

Technology also can impinge on our freedom. We think we are having a private conversation on a cell phone, but not so.

Our fears and anxieties are used to control us (e.g. post Sept 11). Fear leads us to agree to limits on our freedom and privacy. Focusing on external sources of fear makes our minds vulnerable to fear and hatred.

We must work with our own minds to provide internal protection in order to be capable of working to bring conditions of freedom to others.

We share the world with people whose external conditions are lacking in freedom: (1) Many people are enslaved, especially women and children of poor families sold into servitude. (2) Limits on freedom of movement, freedom of self-determination, freedom of religion – exist in many places.

We can and must concern ourselves with the outer conditions of people’s freedom.

We must concern ourselves with the wellbeing of those people who are suffering because they are deprived of their basic human freedom. We are all responsible to change the external conditions.

We see our need for freedom and naturally wish for our families to be free. We can see the whole world as our bigger family. We are totally interconnected with all of the world.

Our freedom struggle begins with our own hearts and minds, but then must reach its fruition in the broadest possible context of universal freedom.

This entry was posted in Engaged Buddhism, The Mind. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>