Paramahansa Yogananda moved to the United States of America from his homeland of India in 1920. He respected and loved this country very much. And he appreciated the freedoms that are enjoyed here. He greatly admired Abraham Lincoln as a great soul. He rejoiced when India won it’s independence from England and, in his way, he worked for civil rights in this country. But more important than political freedoms, he recognized the bondage an individual can cause himself by being too attached to things and ideas. We create a magnetism that can steer us in the wrong direction. And it takes an act of will to move in a new and better direction.
So he taught:
“Freedom means the power to act by soul guidance, not the compulsions of desires and habits.”
I have heard ministers say the same thing: Freedom is not doing what you want, but what you should do.
Yogananda has more specifics to add: “Before you act, you have freedom, but after you act, the effect of that action will follow you whether you wanted to or not. That is the law of karma. You are a free agent, but when you perform a certain act, you will reap the results of that act.”
And: “Man’s freedom is final and immediate, if he so wills; it depends not on outer but inner victories.”
Of course the great focus of Yogananda was to teach the techniques of meditation. So he said:
“The way to happiness is through meditation and being in tune with God.” Which sounds to me like “Love God with all your heart, and soul.”
But after all that is said about freedom, fighting for it, sacrificing for it, defending our country for it, passing laws to insure it, I think one of Yogananda’s most thought provoking ideas about freedom is this:
“The way to freedom is through service to others.”
Which I think might be related to: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The yoga master showed us the way to personal freedom from enslaving attachments. But maybe political freedom could be won and protected through service to others. It’s worth a try.