Who am I to let a standard American holiday go to waste? Everything and anything in this world is fair game for commentary and application to the path! 🙂
The Fourth of July holiday is about America’s independence from Britain where a people broke free from the shackles of unjust rule and so “independence” is certainly the right term for this thing we are celebrating every year in early summer. Independence Day. When America celebrates freedom.
In the context of self-discovery, however, these terms — freedom, liberation, independence — these are not equivalent, at least not completely. It’s another case where words get in the way.
You could say that spiritual liberation is being free of the shackles of the ego. In a stricter sense, “liberation” means being popped off the wheel, not subject to the causal relationship of karmas that accrue and are the momentum that push forward into taking another body when this life is done.
Liberation in this sense is actually the opposite of independence. Liberation is a complete merging with Source. It’s a never-coming-back absorption into the infinite.
I’m not sure that this definition is commonly in mind when the term “liberation” is used in a spiritual context. (It’s even worse when people toss about the term “enlightened” which these days is often applied to very UN-enlightened states!).
Most people seek spiritual liberation due to pain. They feel trapped on the inside, tormented by cycles of thoughts that drill them into the ground, that put them in a box and cause suffering. Thoughts of anger, or fear-based thoughts, or other types of internal madness (whether diagnosed or not, we’re all mad to some degree).
We want out.
In that sense, “liberation” is a perfect word to explain that level of relief: You have a breakthrough, and the torment of your misunderstanding is gone.
You have even a mild epiphany, and you experience a sense of freedom.
That happens when the constructs of limited thinking fall away and you are left with only What Is.
But that “what is” part is easily overshadowed by more thinking.
Thinking takes us away from truth.
Thinking is an overlay from which illusion is threaded.
From thinking come concepts — concepts of the world, of an “I” separate from everything else.
Attachment to concepts of identity is where suffering begins. Drop the attachment, and suffering is gone.
When you think there is an “I” here, that needs to be protected and built up and survive, and everything else “out there” — even if the everything else, in your mind, contains God and includes ideas that everyone is divine in your life — then even still, even if the concepts are all good, you will suffer.
Liberation is being free from attachment to these.
But it’s not independence, not at all.
Independence is what the ego wants (sometimes; sometimes it wants to be coddled and babied!). Independence is about autonomy. Liberation in the spiritual sense is about really, truly grasping the reality that all is one and the same. There is no “independent” because everything is one.
You are the thing you’re trying to become independent from. Even if it’s an illusion, your ego is contained within All That Is and so it’s a part of it. In liberation, sometimes it’s reported that the ego dissolves or is destroyed but these are inaccurate terms because they imply that it existed in the first place. For an ego to be destroyed it must exist independently from something else, and that something else then destroys it, but who is this something else?
The “something else” is always you.
Are you destroying the ego?
No, how impossible. It’s another one of those ways where words are imprecise.
And, even someone who has an extreme liberation experience, where they know the truth of who they are, where they are absolutely free in that moment, even then the attachment to the concept of a separate self can return. So the ego is destroyed, and then it comes back?
Yeah I guess that’s sort of true, but these words are flawed to capture reality.
When you’re on an active and engaged spiritual path then there will be moments of lucid clarity. Perhaps you’re dedicated to your meditation practice right now in a new way and you’re committed to being more still in meditation, more present in the silence than ever before. You will have true fireworks of experience — sometimes these come completely unbidden to a person, when they are not even consciously seeking.
These experiences are gifts. They can open the mind and bring a new awareness, and definitely they can be transformative and very inspiring. They can motivate you to recommit to yourself, to finding the truth.
They are not required for spiritual evolution to occur but they can be really exciting! Yet they are always experiences — meaning, they are transient and they are happening to the individuated consciousness. They are still a product of maya, the illusion, the play of eternity.
The experience is not eternity. It’s happening in eternity. (There is an exception, nirvikalpa samadhi, which is beyond experience, but that cannot be spoken of directly.)
It’s noble to be drawn towards liberation, to walk the spiritual path, to seek Truth. Freedom and liberation are real and can be part of your life on this Earth.
When you are truly free, you experience the knowledge that you are an integral part of the whole, that you are the opposite of independent — but not dependent, either! You are one with the source. There is no other than you. There is nothing to be independent from. All is life, and you are that.
Yes, words fail.
Be still. Then you will know.