Man rises from a state of near total bondage to the universal laws towards a greater and greater freedom as he emerges from his identification with the body to his identification with the spirit. Freedom, like knowledge and peace and joy are inbuilt and valid needs in human beings. It is only in the means of acquiring them and having acquired putting them to use or their application, that we find the difference in the religions, creeds, ideologies and other formulas devised by the human consciousness from time to time. We can also say that there is a hierarchy of freedom, a truth that is difficult for the modern mind with its materialistic vision and self-regard and worldview to understand. Not that the modern mind has done away with hierarchy, – even if it wishes it cannot since it impresses itself from everywhere in nature. Like Freedom, Equality and Unity too is a deeply embedded need in human nature and the three are deeply connected however paradoxical it may seem, but here again the modern mind has not yet found the key. Ancient India deeply rooted in the Sanatan Dharma had the key but lost it later as it’s life isolated and secure within the boundaries of the Himalayas and the Sea got eclipsed by the invasion of alien thought and way of life. Yet even in its days of total eclipse one could still feel something of the light of Sanatan Dharma interwoven in the fabric of Indian life and culture. To discuss this may well go beyond the scope of this article but suffice it to say that in India individual and the communal life both found their freedom and balance by the application of certain principles of Sanatan Dharma that are lost to the modern mind.
The key is in these two words rich with meaning and significance, based on profound experiences and realisation of the Seers who sought for the Truth behind all appearances. These two key words are first, universal or Sanatan and second, Dharma or the Law that runs through the fabric of creation and the warp and woof of our complex many-tiered many-hued existence. The Sanatan Dharma takes into account the truth of individuality as well as collective communal life, the truth of freedom as well as equality and unity and reconciles them in the idea of Dharma, a word that neither religion nor law in the sense it is commonly understood. For it is neither a set of dogmas that all adherents must follow nor a common code enforced upon all by rule of law. Dharma is far more intrinsic and subtle than any man-made rules or religious creed can conjure. This inner law of life that must conduct our outer existence as well has as its goal not only the need of freedom for an individual that is needed for growth but also mankind’s collective march towards a progressive spiritual evolution. Modern mind makes two cardinal errors. First, it does not believe in evolution beyond man’s rational mind and hence takes humanity in its present form with reason as the highest possibility. Its limit of individuality is the freedom to think and speak. Second it lacks knowledge of the soul and its evolution through rebirth, hence cannot understand hierarchy. It seeks to create an equal society through legislation and regulation.
The truth of the matter is that absolute freedom, whether of speech and obviously of action is a chimera as long as man labours in a state of spiritual and other forms of ignorance in which his mind is caught. Our freedom is never a real freedom given the numerous forms of social, educational, heredity, ideological and religious conditioning and indoctrination. True freedom comes only as we grow beyond the mental ignorance into a spiritual light. It is there that freedom and law, individual and the community life are spontaneously reconciled in the light of a higher Truth that dwells in all things and every creature. Once we discover this Truth within, we extend naturally into a universality that takes into account the variations of human nature and the different degree and stages of unfolding. To speak of an absolute freedom of speech before man himself is free of all influences save the One Universal Truth is to create the proverbial paradise mated with fools.
The second important truth which is more of a psychological nature though this too derives from a deeper spiritual understanding is that our words impact and influence life around us. Even when nobody has heard them, even when they have only stayed in the realm of thought and feeling without explicit expression in speech. It is a subtle law of life that the vibrations of thought and feeling and will and desires and fears that we release return back to us multiplied but not before doing the damage to the world with which we are interconnected. Speech in fact can have a far more harmful and have a greater devastating effect than a visible tangible action. In fact, action itself has no value but for the idea force that drives it and whose purpose it knowingly or unknowingly serves.
Thirdly it is a blindness that creates a sharp division between thoughts and feelings and actions. Thought is a first step towards action and speech itself is an action begun. The votaries of an absolute freedom of speech barring a few pragmatic considerations either do not care to understand these well-known truths or else knowing, turn a blind eye towards them.
Lastly freedom, whether of speech or anything else is only one need as we grow from a physical – vital animal like existence into a more mentalised life. There are other even more important pressing needs upon which the future of earth and mankind depends. This greater or rather greatest of all needs is yet to evolve spiritual life. This further evolution requires, among other things mastery over speech and thought just as the evolution of rational man from the animal like ancestors required mastery over action and impulses.
Therefore, to have an unbridled freedom at the present stage of human evolution is dangerous. As a child growing towards adulthood needs to be given freedom in a graded manner even as he is being progressively empowered through education to rightly apply this freedom for improving his individual and collective existence so too freedom of speech must be tempered through spiritual education, especially to empower man to complete the unfinished curve of our further spiritual evolution. Freedom of thought and speech, like everything else, is a means towards an end. To turn it in an end by itself and make it an absolute is to arm the devil with the rule book. To use this freedom as all others to enrich and ennoble us, above all to help us grow out of the religious and the rational towards the spiritual is its true value and only those groups that can rightly understand and use it will be taken up into the future. But if we misuse it then like all other powers gifted by Nature it may well be withdrawn from us or Mankind may well be relegated to an inferior position or even destroying itself.
The choice is ours and in this choice lies concealed the script of our future destiny.