Youth and freedom of choice

Kuldip Khajuria

Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. Either man is bound by external forces or internal forces or, in most cases by both.
There is a saying that it is better to be free at hell, than to be a slave in the Heaven……
A real happy and fortunate youth is he who has given up his ego and has surrendered his inexperienced life and intellect to his elders/superiors. A youth who is unbalanced, full of pride and attached to the unholy desires, cannot attain realization. A large no. of youth in the society is suffering because of their ignorance which manifests as “I” and “mine”.
People in India and abroad particularly youth often go against the rules and regulations in the name of freedom of choice or freedom of expression. For e.g. the incident which occurred in 2016 in JNU. They often think that universities, colleges, educational institutions shouldn’t impose restrictions on their eating and dress code. Many of them opine that they are grown up and in a position to take their own decisions. Parents should not impose career choices on us, or restrict us from being friends with opposite sex. Most of them feel that friendly ragging is not a crime or marriages need not to be arranged in today’s scenario, and we should have a right to choose our life partners. The list of their complaints is long and they have only one “defence line”. i.e.
“It is my life; I have the freedom to do what I wish”
What do our Shastras say on this issue? Whether they recommend freedom of choice for individuals or are the Shastras morally quite rigid? To declare in my life that I have the freedom to do what I wish, is a cantankerous attitude and not conducive to our well-being. Presently youth and nations want to survive and grow at the expense of others. Today’s youth is often of the view that “No bonds or limitations are required to be happy and no compulsions to do what one does not like”. It also means the liberty to dress, eat, build, earn, legislate, speak, write, more about marriage and worship as one likes.
Some youth are of the opinion that why should we not be our own authority? Should we depend on the external authorities? This is also a good question, but before we attempt to answer it, let us clear one thing. Even if I decide to be my own authority, how would I like this authority to be? Reliable, perfect, unerring? Or unreliable, imperfect and error prone. The answer is obvious. If I have to guide the course of my life in every aspect without letting me anyone guide, how I should go about it, I must be free from any error. Am I? Some youth is of the opinion that freedom of choice is not required by those who are incapable of taking their own decisions and more obedience is for those who don’t want to or don’t know how to think for themselves.
Recall the imposing obedience of men who effectively extended the order to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, recall the Vietnamese war where villages after villages were destroyed and thousands of civilians killed by the obedient soldiers. Recall the, Iraqi soldiers in the recent Gulf war who occupied Kuwait, tortured its people, looted their properties, in perfect obedience to their tyrant leader Saddam Hussain. Are not these acts of imposing obedience mindless? Many say isn’t much obedience really a form of slavery? Does it breed weakness?
Youth says that we are all free by nature, all knowledge is already within us. We need no authority to guide us. Our knowledge and freedom is being suppressed by the old sayings/traditions, ignorance and bondage are ruling the roost. We are drinking deep the poisonous wine of attachment and desire and reeling with intoxication, we are struggling to find our way home.
Craving to enjoy freedom
There is an inherent tendency in every living creature to live in freedom.
“A parrot, though sheltered in a golden cage and served with the best food, still it wants to fly freely out into the infinite open space. This tendency is becoming even stronger in the case of human beings. People, especially in younger days, want to be free from the regiments, of the society they live in. But they seldom stop to reflect that discipline, is the corner stone of freedom. No doubt, there are wide ranging arrangements for the youth, in the favour of freedom of choice, but in my view, in many occasions, the youth wants to do something which in our view is- useless or even harmful or wrong. Should we need such freedom of choice? This is an important question and everyone has to come to grips with it, sometime or other.
Therefore, before making a choice, the first thing is to make certain, whether our judgment of the things we have is fair and unbiased. If it is so, it would be perfectly right to say No and explain to the authority your stand point. We must have the courage to revise the judgment and go ahead and obey. If on the other hand, you find that your judgment still holds good, then we must of course remain true to ourselves and refuse to obey the authority in that particular situation, even if it entails a setback or some suffering. Some time wrong choices can lead to disastrous results.
“A Tree is known by its fruits”,
Let us take an example from the Mahabharata one of the two epics (the other is the Ramayana) where Indians often go to search for solutions to the problems they face in their life. The venue was in the blind king Dhritrashtra’s court and the game of dice was in progress- where Draupadi was gambled away and dragged into the court. Does the Pandavas rise against this vulgar show of Duryodhana’s authority? No, their eldest brother told them to shut up and they obediently remained shut up. The authority of their brother, they felt, is all supreme. They ignored the call of the higher authority which demanded that the honour of the women be protected. This all happened due to the wrong choice of the authority.
On the other hand’ let us take the case of Bharata in Ramayana. Rama obeyed his father and went to the forest, that was the right thing for him to do. Bharata, on his part, did the right thing too, when he disobeyed both his father and mother: he refused to be anointed as king of Ayodhya and also went to the forest to fetch his brother back. Rama told him to return and ascend the throne. Once again Bharata disobeyed and told him at point blank, ‘no doubt, you are our king’. He returned to Ayodhya as a humble representative of Rama, the king of Ayodhya. In disobeying his father, mother and even brother whom he adored, Bharata was in fact only obeying the higher authority of justice and selfless love. This right choice at the right time has made Bharata one of the most inspiring character in the Ramayana. I mean to say that Bharata doesn’t consider himself helpless, as by Bhishma, Drona and Pandavas brothers on that fateful day of the dice game. Bharata exercised the freedom to choose the authority he wanted to obey. He made the right choice and obeyed as a free man. The crux of the example is that our thinking regarding the freedom of choice must be based on valid and complete data. Further, we must possess the strength to live true to our convictions and must obey or disobey without backing out due to fear or peer pressure. If you are capable of rejecting any idea, proposal, there must be some rational ground.
Scriptures are the manual of life for the freedom of choice
In order to have the clarity and confidence to make the right choices in all situations, the youth must have knowledge of scriptures like- The Bhagavada Gita, Ramayana and Yoga sutras. The students and the youth can also get, the essence, by reading Swami Vivekanada’s works such as Rajayoga, Jnanayoga, Bhaktiyoga, Karmayoga and his lectures, but at present, in some section of youth, a deplorable trend is going on to give less importance to various shastras, by calling them out dated etc. This would be a serious error.
The youth must look upon the history of the country. They will not find in the whole world another country which has done quite so much for the improvement of the human mind. Therefore the youth should not condemn/ criticizie their ancestors, culture and nation.
Hence, it is my earnest advice to youth if you can’t provide comfort to anybody, you don’t have any right to injure also.