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Mind is Master

“Mind alone is the maker of slavery or freedom."
—Bhagavad Gita

“The mind alone is the maker of slavery or freedom.” What does Shri Krishna mean by this? What is mind? What is slavery? What is Freedom? What have each of these to do with the other? Apparently it seems a paradox how freedom or slavery can be of one’s own making—the making of one’s own mind. Were the slaves in America (before slavery was abolished) slaves of their own making—of their own voluntary accord? Is every English baby that is born, free of its own making? But there lies a deeper Truth beneath these contradictions—yes, a deeper unity of mind and slavery or mind and freedom. What was it that enslaved the Negro? His own instincts and passions and his ignorance made him an easy victim to the European colonist. If he possessed knowledge, if he were not a slave of his natural instincts and passions, he could not have been made a serf. What is it that gives an Englishman his boasted freedom? Is it the privilege—the constitutional or legal provision of Habeas Corpus or the Magna Charta? Was it possible to obtain these—nay, exact these from the despotic Kings without a freedom of mind on the part of those who asked them? No, those who forced the King to sign the charter, or those who executed Charles I and deposed James II were not slaves of their passions or fears, and so far only did they obtain freedom —and it is in so far only that an English baby of today inherits the good work of its fathers. But this does not go to the root of the matter —has not the mind to do with each and every act of our life— our voluntary fiats and negations? If in the details of life you are a slave of your present instincts, momentary passions, transitory impulses and stubborn prejudices, are you any better than the slave of some years ago? If, for example, you cannot live without so many servants, or so much wealth or so much flattery—if life without these and the like, is insupportable to you—are you not a slave of all these? Are you not in such a case in bondage to a standard of comfort and luxuries fixed by yourself and those who constitute your society? In such a case, you hold out till the last, when you are utterly helpless and hopeless of running a race with others for material prosperity. You are then cast hopelessly behind, to your deep sorrow, to the regret of friends, and the ridicule of enemies. Even some of your so-called friends forsake you; your more fortunate relatives avoid you or ignore you—their pride is humiliated to own a poor relative. In the race for material Prosperity, all are not equally fortunate; and you were a slave to your desire to keep up appearances, while your circumstances did not permit you to hunt after such game. You are yet a slave to a false and empty idea of respect that you feel so sorry when you have lost the means of commanding such respect. Be deaf to flattery and applause. Do not seek to be “pleased” but to be “purified”; seek to be intellectually and morally elevated; this is real worth. When your mind is free from the trammels of custom, tradition, or prejudice—if your heart is no more a haunt for evil passions—if the seed of selfishness no more preys upon your vitals— that moment, that catastrophe in your life-history is the moment of freedom. No political liberty—no equality of rights—no socialistic achievements—will make you free, if you are a slave to yourself. Rise superior to your lower self, and all that the World calls freedom, with freedom’s blessings, will follow. There is no greater bondage than the bondage of self; no greater freedom than the freedom of Truth. Mind is the maker of freedom or slavery.

Well-makers lead the Water wherever they like; fletchers bend the arrow; carpenters bend a log of wood; wise people fashion themselves; wise people falter not amidst blame and praise, Having listened to the law, they become serene, like a deep, smooth, and still lake.


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