Have been thinking about it for sometime and here it is now in ink. We talk about being free and freedom is basically considered as a right to do what one wants to do - of course in the limits of social and judicial laws. You are not free to steal or to commit murder. I have had the good fortune of living my life in a free country so far. I was raised in India where social taboos are stronger, still you are free to a great extent and now I am in US - the ultimate free country. I believed in this definition of freedom for a long time and thanked my good fortune. Whenever, I heard about countries where there were military dictatorship or some other kind of oppression, I felt sorry for its inhabitants.
And then somewhere down the line, I started sitting and as I say, peeling of the onion began. How free I am, if all day I follow my desires and my attachments? How free I am, if my happiness and sorrows are controlled by external factors? Like a programmed robot - give me something that I want (I don't know always the "why" behind the want) and I will be happy, take it away from me and I am sad. Sing my praises and I am happy, criticize me and see how hurt I can get.
Dictionary defines freedom as - "the power to determine action without restraint". So we do not have external restraints, but what about internal ones? What drives us to do certain things and not others - why some of us after fame, some after power, money or beauty? What is the fuel that keeps us going - day after day, year after year, life after life? Where does it come from and how justified is it?
Regarding desires, I found that for some of them, I do not even understand the origin and I just act upon them. Sitting meditation allowed me to look at this process and question my never satisfying chase after desires. If I look carefully, a few of desires are result of conditioning, things that I was programmed to run after either by family or by society or by peer pressure. I feel a few of my desires are a result of my past karma, I need to pay certain debts and hence I am motivated to work in that direction. Because I live in US, I have certain desires and when I go back home to India, I see a whole another set of desires that emerge based upon socioeconomic conditions that prevail there. I have to admit, for some of desires and attachments, I can never find any reason and I just honor their presence.
So, how free we are? Are we in control of our happiness and satisfaction or not?