Reflections From A Hindu Perspective | Freedom



There is an ancient fable. One day a caravan of 100 camels and drivers is traveling in the desert. The caravan loses its way and ends up outside a village at dusk. The travelers put up their tents and start tying the camels. They realize that 99 camels have their ropes and stakes, but one of the stakes and rope set is missing. The drivers are worried that if not tied down, the camel will walk away and may join other herds, get lost or worse.

The camel drivers start looking around and go to a hut on the border of the village. An old man living in the hut does not have any rope or a stake to spare. However, he suggests that the drivers should tie the camel with an imaginary rope, given that darkness has fallen, and the camel will not see the rope. The camel drivers laugh at him and think that the old man is senile. But since they cannot find any rope or stakes, they reluctantly go back to the 100th camel and act as if they are tying a rope around his neck and hammering the stake into the ground.

Afterwards, they pat the camel, order him to sit down, and throw some fodder in front of him. The next morning, they get up and untie all the camels who then start walking, but the 100th camel tied with the imaginary rope does not stand up. Since there was no rope to untie, the camel drivers thought that the camel would be able to just get up and walk. However, after multiple attempts and even beating the camel with a stick, the 100th camel does not get up. Finally, the camel drivers perform the entire action of untying the imaginary rope and digging out the stake from the sand. The camel then immediately gets up and starts walking.

Each of us has the 100th camel within us. If we think and make a mental list, there are many imaginary fears and nooses we have hung around our neck, some by our own hands, while others are created and hung by smart merchants of everything. Depending on where we were born, to whom, among which group of people, at what particular time, and who we meet on our way through life, we allow ourselves to be tied down by these imaginary chains, borders, limitations and expectations which prevent us from exploring our true potential and experiencing the true freedom.

A word of caution, though! Freedom of one sometimes ends up as bondage of another. Someone’s freedom of expression from the majority can end up muzzling the expression of the minority (by thought, color, orientation, origin and all other classifications), who experience fear of the effect of their own expression. Conversely, the unfettered freedom of the minority, which when taken over a limit, can also poke into the eyes of the majority. While these disruptive processes are sometimes needed, they should not be taken lightly.

Similarly, complete freedom may not always be a good thing and sometimes may be very dangerous. A paper kite can only soar high in the sky if it is tied to a string. As long as the string is long and gives the kite enough freedom, it can ride the winds of opportunities. But the moment the string breaks, the moral restraint or a bond of love breaks; after an ephemeral flight of freedom, the kite ends up in tatters on a branch of a tree or in a ditch.

The last few weeks of isolation and furlough from employment have given me free time and freedom for the mind to explore and realize that freedom is good and enjoyable, as long as you have a safe and voluntary confinement to return to when needed.

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