Focus not on freedom — focus on love
Today’s culture often enthrones freedom as the highest good, as an absolutely inviolable tenet.
Undoubtedly, freedom is one of our innate longings, and it needs to be protected. Yet in our idealization of freedom, we shouldn’t forget that freedom is itself not the ultimate end — it is a means to some higher, nobler purpose. The purpose that brings us the deepest fulfillment is love: we all want to love and be loved.
And forming any kind of loving relationship requires subordinating freedom to love. When two people get married, they give up much of the freedom they may have earlier had to dally with others so that they can deepen their mutual relationship. Similarly, when a mother has a baby, her freedom is often curtailed by the need to care for the baby. But the love inherent in such caring brings a profound fulfillment that freedom alone can’t.
If we approach spiritual life and bhakti-yoga with freedom-centered spectacles, we may find bhakti’s rules restrictive. But if we shift our focus from freedom to love, we will realize that those rules facilitate the freedom to love. They help us raise our consciousness from matter to Krishna, thereby kindling our devotion for him and enabling us to relish the supremely fulfilling bond of love with him.
And Krishna doesn’t just ask us to follow rules — he also offers us his love, and the protection and liberation thereof. At the Bhagavad-gita’s conclusion (18.66), when he asks us to devote ourselves to him, he assures that he will protect us from any untoward consequences. Ultimately, he grants the supreme freedom: freedom from material existence’s many limitations and miseries. When we practice bhakti-yoga diligently, he, by his grace, takes us to his eternal abode, where we can live and love with full freedom.
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