Despite America's present political crises, confusion, and seeming apostasy, this nation has been a beacon of hope for generations of people throughout the world who have been enslaved by a rigid status quo of one sort or another. Despite America's many failures to live up to its ideals (too countless to list), those who can vote with their feet "vote" for living here. Nonetheless, I, like so many, are not at all "proud" this July 4th, nor many other July 4ths.
But we do uphold and honor those truths that are "self-evident!" Freedom is one of the soul's deepest yearnings.
Spiritually, freedom means to break the bondage, the delusion, and the hypnosis that I am even this human body and personality! As it has been well said, Self-realization is to know that I am a child of God having a human body and experience. Admittedly, few people on earth seek this realization, eager as most are to deepen their attachment to their bodies, personalities, success, pleasure, health and human love.
Krishna states bluntly in the Bhagavad Gita that "out of a thousand, one seeks me." For those of us who do sincerely seek to "know the truth that shall make me free" we know how difficult that seems most days but we mustn't be discouraged for as Paramhansa Yogananda stated to a disciple who was discouraged, "You don't know how much good karma you have to even want to know God." He meant we cannot know at too early a stage how many countless incarnations we have experienced even just in human form to get to the place of wanting to know the transcendent truth behind "all seeming."
The soul's bondage therefore is not social or political prejudice. There is an Ananda member who is in prison for life for a murder he did not commit. He has no freedoms, relative to political life, yet he is advancing rapidly toward soul freedom, using his freedom from the daily preoccupations of life to meditate and serve.
The concept of "original sin" is a contrived one to be sure but that doesn't mean it isn't true. It is obviously true in a karmic and reincarnational sense. We are born with a full agenda of traits and inclinations. We have returned to continue learning lessons but we have returned owing principally because of our past actions that kept us bound to the wheel of "samsara" (rebirth with its attendant and inevitable suffering). The teaching of karma and reincarnation state clearly that once all physical, earth-bound desires are gone we need not return to this world to continue our path to soul freedom.
America was born in a powerful affirmation of high ideals. That we haven't lived up to them should be no surprise as with each generation and each reincarnation, souls continue toward perfection of these ideals. But fair warning:
Perfection will never be achieved in a social or political way because the warp and woof of what makes incarnation in human form so attractive is that perfection constantly slips from our grip. Good and evil, success and failure vie constantly for our attention. There is no absolute perfection in a world of unending fluctuation between the opposites. Our impulse, a deeper-than-conscious knowing, towards perfection can only be realized in the perfect bliss of the soul. But, we have forgotten and we continue mistakenly to seek it outside of ourselves.
Bit by bit, slowly, slowly, we learn. This process is not a rejection of this world, nor a rejection of the impulse to improve it, whether politically, personally, or socially. It is right and just to work towards expressing high ideals in this world but only as we work toward inner perfection: the one reflects the other. We have to work out our personal and often our family, race, gender or national karma as well. For the reality of our separateness is our most profound delusion.
We achieve neither success nor Self-realization ALONE for the simple fact that "we are One." This doesn't mean we have to wait for every soul to achieve freedom for we have been given the choice to seek it or not. But we, at least, cannot achieve that freedom under the delusion that we are separate! We must help others.
So, let us celebrate the high ideal of freedom: on all levels of consciousness and let us pray that Americans affirm on this day our personal commitment to truth, honor, justice, equality, and compassion. In this way we "be the change we seek" and in the process contribute to a society based on mutual respect, recognition, and freedom.
Blessings and joy to you this July 4th!