Isha Upanishad - Super school - Auroville - Isha Upanishad 504

Even when you think that we're planning freely, to do this or to do that, or you could have planned one way or the other. There is a famous question put to Napoleon, you know Napoleon was a great general of the army and he was master planner, he used to plan all his expeditions very carefully and meticulously and it was believed that as a master planner, he could plan one way or the other, free to plan one way or the other and when he was asked whether he was really free, he said: ‘No, there is a force which impels me to plan in one way or in the other way. All the circumstances which are around me, all my abilities of thinking, all my capacities of planning, are so compelling that I can do only in one way and not the other way’.

In other words the conclusion that is derived is that every action produces a consequence and it is not in your hand to prevent the consequence. And once you are in the consequence, you are bound by it and you do another action, it has its own consequence and you are bound in it. It is therefore, argued that the greatest bondage is that you are compelled to act, and once to act, you are compelled to have the consequence and you are bound by the consequence. In that stage of bondage to action and as a result you are bound to have consequence and you are again bound to act because of the sequence in which you are involved and therefore you are bound to act further and bound to be bound in the series of this. It is concluded, action implies bondage and compulsion, it is even argued therefore, that as long as you act you are in bondage but this Upanishad now tells you that in spite of all these arguments, which are unassailable, they seem to be impeccable. In spite of this Upanishad says, you can be free even in action and it says that you must act, not only that you may act or may not act, it says you must act and you should continue to act for a hundred years, you should live and act in this very world. Yet it promises you will not be bound, there is something in the field of action that is closely connected with freedom. And this we do not realise and therefore, we find that there is opposition in bondage and freedom, these two are opposites. To act is to be bound, not to act is freedom, this is the normal argument. And that is why there is a great gospel in India particularly, of inaction, minimise your actions, minimise your wants, your needs, your field of activities until your actions are almost reduced to nil.

As I said even your breathing requires some action, the argument is that there are means by which we can be free from breathing, you can come out of the body altogether. There have been many yogis in India, who have been able to come out of the body altogether, so even breathing is not necessary. But this Upanishad says, ‘no’. So, where is the lever of action really and where is freedom?

 What is the real meaning of freedom, we use this word, freedom, very loosely, without contemplating sufficiently on the concept of freedom. If you examine closely, you will find that the concept of freedom begins to operate when you have before you at least, two options. One of our greatest experiences of freedom is when we are confronted with two options, as long as there is only one option, you don't feel the need of freedom because you're not compelled but the moment two options present themselves before you, you begin to have the idea that I can take this or that. Presentation of option as a result of which you can make a choice between one and the other, you feel that you are free. This is where we first experience freedom, − presentation of options. And very often, we feel that options are presented and I chose this one freely, you do feel that it was free and you chose this instead of that. This is our first experience of freedom. I go to the market with my mother and she says, ‘do you want this pair of shoes or that pair of shoes, both have the same price’, and I freely choose this one, no compulsion. My mother does not say that ‘I must buy this’, no, she says you choose between the two, both are equal price, this is red and this is green and that is yellow anything you choose and I choose this.