Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Paul, my good friend and guru-brother. While staying with him he showed me a book of Swami Dayananda’s transcribed talks and pointed out one titled, “Freedom – Absence of Self-Judgement.” While I’ve read a fair amount of Swami Dayananda’s voluminous body of work (all of it high-quality), this piece immediately became my favorite. Why? First, while brevity and directness are not always Vedanta’s strong-suit, this talk had both in spades. Second, and most importantly, it dealt with the most pertinent topic of Vedanta, freedom, an issue that every student of Vedanta finds perplexing at one point or another in their study.
One of the reasons for the confusion regarding the nature of freedom is the close association—and subsequent mixing up—of yoga, meditation and Vedanta. Despite the fact that yoga and meditation are excellent practices (practices that Vedanta advocates), their ideas of freedom are usually different from Vedanta. While yoga and meditation often aim to fully change, control or stop the mind, Vedanta does not. Why? Because Vedanta recognizes a simple fact: While the mind can (and should) be disciplined, it can never be fully changed, controlled or stopped. This means that freedom, as commonly defined in yoga and meditation is impossible. Since freedom is desirable, that seems to present a major problem. However, Vedanta says not to worry. The condition of the mind is not an insurmountable obstacle to freedom because you, the self, are always free from the condition of the mind.
The idea that freedom depends on a certain condition of your mind is by far the most common, persistent and harmful misconceptions about freedom. Because Swami Dayananda clearly pointed out the error of this idea in his talk, I’ve re-printed the transcript below, taking the liberty of italicizing the parts I thought were of particular interest. May it help you make your goal crystal clear.
P.S. – I am always hesitant to quote teachers owing to the possibility that I may misrepresent them in some way. I have a lot of respect for Swami Dayananda so if I have misrepresented him in any way, the fault is mine.
FREEDOM – ABSENCE OF SELF-JUDGEMENT
To judge oneself, at any time, on the basis of the obtaining condition of one’s mind is an error. The present condition of the mind may be sorrow, depression, frustration, regret, disappointment, or just a response to failure. As long as you judge yourself based on the condition of your mind, you are a samsari (one enmeshed in the relative world of beginnings and endings.) When you refuse to judge yourself from the condition of your mind, you are a mumuksu (one who seeks freedom from all apparent limitation) and a jignasu (one who seeks freedom through knowledge). And when you cease to judge yourself based on the obtaining condition of the mind, you are free. This is the only freedom there is—the freedom from the error of self-judgement that is based on the condition of the mind.
The error is evident. The nature of the mind is to keep changing all the time. In the morning you judge yourself in one way, and in the evening in a different way. When the judgement is harbored, the harbored judgement, stored in memory, creates a “personality” out of a person. The personality is purely psychological. It is against the vision of the self that Vedanta is unfolded in the teaching of Vedanta. And if the knowledge of the self that Vedanta unfolds does not work for you, it does not work only because of this judgement. When you refuse to judge yourself on the basis of your mind then you are serious in seeking clarity in the vision of the truth of the self.
This does not mean that you have to always have a particular type of mind. Mind does and will change, unless you anesthetize yourself psychologically, which is unnatural. Thoughts do not “dry up” because the source of thoughts, perception and memory, is always there.
The student says, “I seem to understand the vision, but then why am I still bothered by a jumble of thoughts?” Because of a condition of the mind, the student doubts the vision, the very knowledge. The doubt is an obstacle to gaining the knowledge. Knowledge is not an obtaining condition of the mind, not a state of mind. Knowledge is recognition of the fact that I am thought-free. This recognition is different from a state of mind that is thought-free. The difference between recognizing my fundamental nature as thought-free and aiming for a thought-free mind is the difference between knowledge and ignorance.
Refuse to judge yourself on the basis of the obtaining condition of the mind. Then you are serious in the pursuit of freedom. Then there is freedom. There is no other freedom.
Swami Dayananda – Piercy, CA March 1983