Freedom As the Guaranty of Peace and Happiness

3 December 2529

Freedom As the Guaranty of Peace and Happiness

In Buddhism, peace (Santi) and happiness (Sukha) are synonymous. An unhappy person cannot find peace, and there can be no peace without happiness. In the absence of peace, no people can be happy, and those who are unhappy cannot live in peace. The Buddha said: There is no happiness beyond peace.1 However, it is of much significance to note that Buddhism prescribes freedom as another synonym for peace and happiness. Only the free person can be possessed of peace and happiness. Endowed with freedom, people can live happy and peaceful lives. There are roughly four levels of freedom, the achievement of which is indispensable for the realization of peace and happiness, viz.,

1. Physical freedom, or freedom in relation to the material world or physical environment, natural or technological. This covers freedom from the shortage of the basic needs of life, the requisites of food, clothing, shelter and health-care; freedom consisting in safety from life-threatening calamities and unfavourable natural conditions, i.e. to have, among other things, a beneficial natural environment; the wise use of natural resources, the requisites of life and technology in such a way that they serve man to enhance his quality of life and do not subject him to themselves for his good or evil, happiness or sorrow.

2. Social freedom, or freedom in relation to other people, the community, society or social environment. This is represented by freedom from oppression, persecution, exploitation, injustice, crimes, the violation of human rights, discrimination, violence, terrorism, conflict, fighting and war; the non-violation of the Five Precepts; or, in positive terms, a good and friendly relationship with neighbours, social welfare and such values as equality, liberty, fraternity, discipline, respect for law, tolerance and cooperation.

3. Emotional freedom, or freedom of the heart. At the ideal level, this refers to the state of freedom from all traces of mental defilements and suffering, the state of mind that is unshaken by worldly vicissitudes, purified, sorrow-free, secure, and profoundly happy and peaceful, i.e. Nibbāna. It includes freedom from all kinds of mental illness, stress and strain, anxiety, boredom, fear, depression, greed, jealousy, hatred, ill will, sloth, restlessness, remorse and uncertainty; or, in positive terms, the state of being endowed with such beneficial mental qualities as love, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity, confidence, mindfulness, conscience, forbearance, generosity, tranquillity, concentration, mental strength and firmness and perfect mental health, consisting of mental clarity and purity, peacefulness and happiness.

4. Intellectual freedom, or freedom of and through knowledge and wisdom. Belonging to this class of freedom are: the process of perceiving and learning that is clear of and free from distortion by any bias or ulterior motives; freedom of thinking and judgement and the free exercise of knowledge and wisdom that are just, honest, sincere and accurate, not influenced by prejudices, self-interest, greed, hatred or any selfish motives; and the knowledge of all things as they really are, or the insight into the true nature of all things, together with the emotional freedom as its corollary and the life-view and world-view that are based on that knowledge.

These four levels of freedom can be reclassified as three by putting the third and the fourth levels together as one and the same level of spiritual or individual freedom.

The four (or three) levels of freedom are interrelated and interdependent. Without a minimum of physical freedom, the road to the other three levels of freedom is blocked. Without intellectual and emotional freedom, the wise use of resources as physical freedom is rendered impossible. Lacking the freedom of knowledge and wisdom, the mind cannot be set free. In the absence of the freedom of the heart, social freedom is only a dream. Except for social freedom, physical freedom cannot come true.

With this fourfold freedom, peace and happiness are surely secured and they are real peace and real happiness, found both within and without, that is, peace and happiness that are deep-rooted in the mind of the individual and prevalent outside in society.

Under physical freedom, man is relatively free from the oppression of nature and he also does not exploit or spoil nature, but makes wise and unselfish use of natural resources to achieve mutual well-being both of man and of nature. He thus lives in peace with nature. Equipped with all kinds of facilities provided by science and technology as his servant, not himself turning into their slave, man can be said to have fulfilled the physical aspect of the good or ideal life. With this physical freedom as a firm foundation, man is in a good position to realize the other three aspects of freedom.

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  1. Dh.202 (Dhammapada, verse no.202)

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