A Conversation with my Soul – On Rebellion, Truth and Freedom

A man was known in his community as a rebel. He was known to have always done things his way, and not followed societal norms. Since he wasn’t following the normal way of things, he was branded a rebel.

This made the man deeply introspective. He approached the greatest teacher he knew, his own soul. Speaking to his soul, he knew was the same as speaking to the world and accessing its wisdom.

Man (M): Why am I being called a rebel, just because I want to be happy? I am not preventing others from doing what they want. Is having a different opinion of what I want to do so wrong?

Soul (S): Your question asks if what you did was wrong. Who created right and wrong?

M: Did God create right and wrong? But if he did, I don’t want such a God to govern my life. If he has created happiness and sadness inside me, and then asks me to be perennially unhappy, then something is wrong with God. He is a sadist, and I do not want to have a relationship with him anymore.

S: Perhaps, but if God had created right and wrong, it would be the same all over the world. But what is right in the West is wrong in the East and vice versa. So, the very definition of right and wrong changes across the world.

M: So, who created right and wrong? It has to be man himself. Every generation has people who dominate and rule over others, and impose their values upon society. And those who follow them are forced to say they are ‘happy’ and those who oppose them are forced to say they are ‘unhappy’. Why, earning money or marriage is something you have to say makes you happy. If you say you are unhappy with these things, people start calling you mad.

S: Indeed. What do you think is happening here?

M: People want to not just control my behavior, but also decide what I should be happy about and what I should be sad about. This is a perversion of my individual right to my emotions. I am supposed to override my emotions now? I am supposed to say I am happy, just because others are happy, even if I am sad? I cannot stand this division of my soul anymore. Why can’t people just express their truth, which is the only truth?

S: Because telling the truth takes courage. People are afraid to speak the truth.

M: Why? Because they will be attacked like me? Sometimes, no, often I feel that it is better to be hurt on the outside than tolerate this pain that is caused by denying my inner truth. I can tolerate outer attack, however much it hurts, but I can’t tolerate my inner pain when I tell myself lies. Inner pain hurts so much more.

S: Why do you think inner pain hurts? Why not ignore it and wait for it to go away, like others do?

M: Because ignoring inner pain makes me lose touch with who I am, I begin to feel empty and dead inside. What is the use of being dead, an empty shell that acts happy? There is so much falseness in the world … internally dead people acting like they know what they want. No one seems to know what they want, because they have killed their inner pain by ignoring it. And when they don’t know, they rush to fill their inner emptiness with something outside, by listening to the strongest voice, by listening to churches, dictators, priests, corporate leaders, grand visions and promises. When you are no longer living inside your body, anyone else can easily make it their home. People have given up their souls and allowed others to take over. And these same false people now become agents for falseness- when people like me express my truth, because I am still connected to my soul, they attack me, trying their best to make me give up my soul. The world is insane, it is mad.

S: Indeed, it is. You have a choice to make then – your body will survive if you give up your soul, or your body may be attacked if you keep hanging on to your soul. Choose then.

M: I don’t know how I know this, but my soul is the actual part of who I am, my compass, my direction-giver, my happiness index. It is my soul that tells me if I am happy or not, that helps me act. If I give up my soul, I will end up following someone else’s definition of whether to be happy or not. I won’t even have emotions anymore; I will need to ask someone to decide whether to be happy or not. I will need to look at the calendar to decide if today is Christmas or Ramzan to be happy, or if today is a funeral to be sad. What is wrong if I get great news of a job offer on a funeral – don’t I have a right to be happy? What if I lose my money on a festival day? Don’t I have the right to be sad? I despise those who tell me what my emotions should be. My emotions are mine; they are inside me; they are private. No one can or should tell me what my emotions should be – I will decide.

S: Excellent. So, you prefer external attacks by society to dying inside?

M: Yes, I prefer to die externally (body) than die internally (lose touch with my soul). I am not saying I am suicidal, but if a mob attacks me, I prefer dying on my own terms, thank you. In fact, it is required for me to surrender the outer world, die on the outside (psychologically, not physically) to truly find my inner truth. Death is coming for me anyway, but I am going to use this body and this physical life to find and express my truth, even if I am murdered in 5 years for just being myself. And by murder, it could be just physical restrictions and not the true destruction of my body. But death is the absence of life, and I no longer care about external life and death. I only want a connection to who I am to exist and guide me, enlighten me.

S: So, you are a rebel now?

M: No, I am not a rebel because a person who is true to himself can never be a rebel. A rebel is someone who rejects others. I am not interested in rejecting others, I believe in live and let live. I just want to live my life by expressing my soul, and let others do the same. Everyone lives their own truth.

S: So, there is no universal truth?

M: Yes, there are many truths – everyone has their own individual truth, that is revealed when they listen to their soul. The moment you say there is only one truth, you create conflict, religion and division. People get branded as followers, atheists or rebels. Just be true to yourself.

S: Do you feel alive now?

M: Temporarily yes. Tomorrow, I may not feel this emotion this strongly, for my mind fluctuates. I have no control over my mind. I have no control over the outer world. I can only control my present – in space (who I am, inside my body) and in time (where I am now, without delving into the past or future).

S: So, are you not afraid that you will lose touch with your soul tomorrow, when you feel different emotions?

M: if this is my truth, it will always raise its head, knock on my inner door to tell me I am unhappy. I have to trust my soul; I have to trust my truth.

S: But how do you trust something that you can neither see, nor monitor or control. How do you trust something that you cannot check every few minutes?

M: If I don’t trust it, I will become paranoid, wondering if I will feel this way tomorrow just because I feel like this today. The moment I become paranoid, I will start living in the past or future, instead of in the present where my true power is – the power to take action. I can’t act on what my soul wants yesterday or tomorrow, but I can act now, in this moment. So, the moment I lose trust, I also lose the power to act, because I no longer live in the present.

S: So, the only way you can gain power to act on your truth, is by trusting your truth and giving up control over it?

M: Yes, I surrender to my truth, and I learn to trust my soul when I can’t know when it will talk to me again. I call this Faith.

S: So, truth is not rebellion, truth is giving up control, truth is dying on the outside to be alive inside, truth is surrender, truth requires faith.

M: Yes. It looks fancy if you put it that way. But all that is required is for you to listen, and choose to be alive inside than dead inside (while being a blind so-called alive follower on the outside). Don’t deny your soul.

S: Why are you so obsessed with your soul? Let it die.

M: I am not obsessed with my soul. I am afraid of the pain and later, meaninglessness that creeps in if you lose touch with your soul. I do not want inner pain. It is possible to face external torture if you are at peace inside, but it is impossible to enjoy outer beauty if you are suffering and dead inside. It is not outer things that make us happy or sad, but our inner soul that connects us to our happiness, makes us feel truly alive. At the end, it is a choice – do you want to act happy, or be really happy?

S: You mean, happiness, spirituality, freedom is a choice?

M: Indeed, freedom is not compulsory. You are free not to choose freedom, but you are also free to choose freedom. But if you are not internally free, someone else’s definition of happiness and freedom will be forced upon you.

S: So, what?

M: So, nothing. You are at complete freedom to be unhappy; you are at complete freedom to be sad, that is your right. You are at complete freedom to live a life of inner pain too, even if you act happy on the outside.

S: So, again, if you are free to be sad, if you are free to follow falseness, if you are free to choose an artificial life, why bother with this discussion?

M: Because I, I repeat, because I, want inner happiness even if it causes me external pain like societal rejection. This is my choice, and applies only to me. I cannot tell anyone else what to do. I cannot tell anyone else that they should follow spirituality, I cannot tell anyone else to follow my choices. If I start telling others spirituality is the only way to find happiness, I go against spirituality itself. I am alone in this world, alone in my philosophy, alone in my choices – I came into this world alone, and I will leave alone. My choices are only to affect me.

S: Ah, so to find the truth is to be alone? Is it lonely?

M: No, when there are no other people, I compare myself to, there is no loneliness. I am alone, which is a happy state. Loneliness is a false state (false to me), that occurs if I compare myself to another person’s truth.

S: So, if you are alone in your choices, what makes you make your choice?

M: I do not know, I am guided to pursue the truth, perhaps because I want to. Perhaps because I can.

S: So, choice and freedom create choice and freedom? It is a circle.

M: Yes, the world is a spiritual circle. Freedom and choice are part of a circle. Perhaps peace lies at the center.

S: So, if you are taking the decision to follow your truth as part of a deeper choice, how do you know you are right? How do you know if you are doing the right thing?

M: That’s the beauty of it – since there is no single truth, there is no right and wrong. I can follow my truth or not, that is my choice. Not because of it being right or wrong, but because I can. Choice creates choice. Freedom creates freedom. Peace creates peace.

S: Do you want to rest now?

M: Yes

Wanting, Choosing and Getting – The Freedom Conundrum

All of us want freedom. But when something happens to us- good or bad, we can feel out of control. When we think thoughts – good or bad, they are largely out of our control. Our desires come from seemingly nowhere – totally out of our control.

So, who are we then? At the center of us is a space, a silent space that simply watches observes and learns. Go into yourself and you can find this stillness deep inside you.

Now, we want this ‘still’ part of ourselves, the truest part of ourselves to direct our lives, for is that not true freedom? How dare life or circumstances control us? How dare God control us, or indeed tell us how to think, feel or act? We desire freedom.

But what is freedom?

Is freedom about getting whatever we want?

Perhaps we think, if we defeat all our enemies, rise above our humble family backgrounds, show our friends and peers how great we really are, then we are totally free. For only a free man / woman could ever conquer his / her circumstances.

But there are so many events we will never be able to conquer. We will never be able to become the President of Country XYZ (especially if you are born in another country from XYZ). But that barrier has been broken too, and say you become President of XYZ, then you will never be able to simultaneously lead the IMF or the Treasury or any number of institutions that control the President. It is only when you attain a position of power and leadership that you realize how helpless you actually are. You can’t force people to listen to you – you can’t fire everyone under you (for then, you won’t have any supporters left, and we have seen where that has led in the past in the case of certain leaders).

Say you accomplish all of this; you still can’t become President of the World. Even if you accomplish this, you can’t travel and be in 100 places at once – at most you will have to cool your heels in the HQ, issuing commands and doing paperwork, assuming that people live in awe of you. But you will NEVER know. Why? You can’t control people’s thoughts and the way they feel about you, even if you suppress their expression.

You can influence your circumstances, but there is always someone else above, below, or beside you with free will. You can guide the system from one position but not control every point of the system. So, you can’t conquer all your circumstances.

But then, are circumstances merely events? Not all of us are athletes or karate masters who can break down walls. Those are things you really can’t do much about. You can’t control your skin color or race or parents – those are circumstances too. How do you conquer your parents anyway? Replacing them? But if you replaced your parents, you (as you know yourself) would never have been born, and if you hadn’t been born, you would never have felt like deleting your parents and family. Circular logic.

Thus, we are barely capable of getting some of what we want. A lot of what we want goes unfulfilled. Even the richest person in the world has unfulfilled needs – he might want to just enjoy a stroll in the bazaar without getting mugged or kidnapped or photographed, which becomes impossible once people know he is rich and powerful. Getting what you want can destroy your freedom.

Is freedom wanting what you get?

Sometimes we get handed hard lessons – we are forced to go to school and study. We go to school crying and screaming, but ten years later, we are thankful for the experience. We learnt to want what we got. But does that mean if someone abuses us, beats us up, we should want it? Should we go and tell a gangster who is messing around with us to ‘give us more, for that is what I want’? Sure, if you are masochist, but in most cases, wanting what you get is good for some things, and not so good for many other things.

Is freedom following your emotions and choosing things?

Sometimes, we are frustrated and want to give up on learning something new or trying out a new way of life. Sometimes we get too caught up (obsessed) with an activity or person or thing to the exclusion of all else. A parent who is obsessed with a child can end up harming the child’s independence. A husband who is obsessed with his wife can end up driving her to madness and blocking all self-expression (and vice versa for an obsessed wife). A person who is obsessed with doing a job right gets over-attached to the extent he never grows beyond that narrow skillset. Perfection can harm spiritual growth. Choice is good when it helps us try new things, choice is good when it helps us give up things we have grown out of. But choice is not always enough – we do not know when to stop trying or indeed, when to start trying something new.

Triangulating the three forces – True freedom

Who created our choices based on our needs and emotions? Who created our circumstances? Who gets to decide what gifts we receive (talents, body, material possessions) and what we don’t?

Choice Focus: If we think that we only have control over choice, we will suffer by feeling frustrated with our limited gifts and circumstances.

Getting Focus: If we count on life giving us everything (getting), we will suffer because we will stop listening to our emotions and making any kind of choice. We will effectively die inside.

Wanting Focus: If we count on life giving us whatever we want, we may have choice and gifts but no contentment (the getting part). We keep wanting, but the joy of getting comes only when some of our wants are fulfilled. If all our wants are automatically fulfilled, we lose the focus and direction of life – we become too spread out. It is our limitations in getting what we want that give us direction, a compass and at a deeper level, fulfillment. Getting very little of what we want gives us a sense of identity, it helps us define ourselves. Our limitations both shape our lives and give us peace.

If neither wanting, getting or choosing is going to leave us fulfilled, how do we balance the three? The solution is realizing they are three sides of the same triangle:

Once you realize that your freedom has been created by you, through your choices (created by your emotions, which have also been created by you before being born), though your wants (based on your emotions, created by you before you were born) and your luck in getting things (decided before this life began), you achieve true peace. You see others and the world as part of yourself just as you see your emotions as part of yourself.

In this oneness of being, you celebrate your aloneness, for in aloneness, there is no comparison, no competition, no good or bad, just peace and contentment.

Suffering vs. Consciousness – Which came first?

Imagine the following:

Scenario 1: You are starting out on a road. It is a straight road and there are no obstacles ahead of you. You go straight ahead and reach your goal, or destination. There are no twists or turns in the road, in fact, you can’t see anything except mountains on either side. This road is a straight path between you and your destination. You travel this road at top speed.

Scenario 2: Now, imagine you are in a desert. You are a nomad walking the sands. You need to reach your destination and you plot a path through the desert. Sometimes, you find large sand dunes blocking your path, and you walk around them. Sometimes, you find hills and oases blocking your way- you walk around them. You are following a new road, that you yourself have made in the desert. The desert has no path by itself, and yet you carved a path for yourself to make your journey convenient. Your path is not a straight one, but takes you to your destination.

Scenario 3: You are walking in a long corridor that twists and turns (like in a videogame). The only rule is that you need to walk through all the open doors in front of you. Only one door is open at the end of each turn of the corridor and you walk through those open doors. You pass by many closed doors, and as instructed you ignore them, choosing only the open ones ahead of you. You reach your destination.

Scenario 4: You walk the same corridor through the building and this time, you have been given a list of doors that you need to open. The doors are not automatically open this time, but need to be opened. You are okay, because there is only one door at the end of each corridor and it is easy for you to just walk a few feet and open doors one after the other. You reach your destination.

Scenario 5: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. This time too, you have been given a list of doors you need to open, but with a difference. Your map has door numbers on it and clearly outlines which door numbers you need to open. You are fine with this – you walk down corridor 1, and there is only one door marked Door 22 (door numbers are random for some reason); then you walk down corridor 2 and there is only one door marked Door 56, and you open that; and so on and so forth. You follow all the doors blindly (there is only one route available), not bothering to check if the map door numbers match your doors (they do), and you reach your destination.

Scenario 6: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. This time too, you have been given a list of doors you need to open, with a map comprising door numbers on it. There is one small difference – as you walk down each corridor, you find new doors that have been added. You know as per your map (as in Scenario 5) you need to open Door 22 (which was the only door last time), but this time you find your path down corridor 1 having 21 extra doors from Door 1 to Door 21. You open Door 22 as per the map and exit to corridor 2, where you find Door numbers 51-59. But your map says open Door 56 (just like last time) and you do that, and you reach your destination.

Scenario 7: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. The map is exactly the same, the corridor is exactly the same as in Scenario 6 and all you need to do is open Door 22 and Door 56. But this time, you wonder what is behind all the other doors. Do they lead to an easier path? A better life? What if your map is wrong?

Scenario 8: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. You are filled with worries from Scenario 7 about all the other doors you are missing to open. You try opening a door and you find another corridor and more doors, making you even more confused – maybe this IS a great path that you are missing out on? You stop looking at your map and you try to ‘decide’ which door to follow – your previous Door 22 + 56 or New Door 15.

Scenario 9: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. You are filled with worries from Scenario 8 about ‘making a decision’ about which doors to open. The map has been long forgotten, but is safe deep in your pocket. You walk straight ahead and open Door 15 this time, then you walk straight ahead and find a dead end, you walk back and try Door 17, and this leads you to Door 25 which leads you to another Door 43 which leads you to another Door 62 which leads you to your destination. You started out by taking a straight path, but ended up on an unnecessarily long journey.

You begin wondering, “Why does the map keep advising Door 22 + 56 as the shortest route? How does the map know? More importantly, why do I even need a map? Why are there so many doors if they are not supposed to be used? Why are there so many corridors if they are not supposed to be used? Why does the map exist? Who drew this map?” This is consciousness.

And then you wonder further…” Why can’t I just follow any door and follow any path as long as I reach my destination anyway? Why should I be subservient to a silly map, even if it gives me the answer? When I am clearly able to think about what doors to choose, why should I not choose which door to follow?” This is the beginning of our need for ‘freedom’.

And then you wonder, “I hate this silly map, which tells me there is only one way to do things. I will decide for myself which doors to follow. In fact, the door that I follow is bound to be the right one. I have seen other people walking past me, following the map. Many others have walked past me, and opened doors different from mine (not following the map). It is clear that my way of opening doors works and all others are just wasting their time, irrespective of whether they are following the map or not”. This is the birth of our Ego.

And then you wonder, after going through many, many doors and finally reaching your destination tired and hungry – “Why do I have to make all these decisions? Why am I forced to choose doors? Why am I forced to face dead ends and walls that block my every path? Surely there has to be an easier way?” This is called the loss of consciousness and the beginning of suffering.

And then you wonder, “I need to find an easier way to manage these corridors (somehow I find myself at the starting point after reaching my destination each time). I need to stop for a bit and just…stop randomly opening doors. Perhaps there is a way for me to decide what is the best door to open.” And suddenly, something comes back to you – a distant memory asking you to go through Door 22. You ignore this, and go through a complicated path again to reach your destination. To help you mute this ‘voice’ asking you to open Door 22, you turn to drugs and alcohol. You get lost part of the way, but stumble with difficulty to your destination.

You are back at the starting point. This time, your mental and spiritual agony is too much to bear. You are fed up of exploring doors and you just want to get it over with. You kill yourself at the starting point, but you end up reborn exactly where you were, at the starting point. Death doesn’t seem to be a solution.

You find yourself back at the starting point. This time, you choose to listen to your inner ‘voice’ that guides you through ancient memories to Door 22. As you pass through each of the other doors…Doors 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…, you feel regret, sadness, and fear. You fear following a strange voice that keeps guiding you away from all these doors when so many others are going through them. You feel isolated and alone, for no one else seems to understand why you are ignoring all these other doors, without any ‘reason’. You are unable to explain, except by saying you are following your own path. This voice is called the voice of the soul, or sometimes ‘the call of God’. You follow this voice and you question it all the way, “Why are you asking me to open Door 22? Why do you want me to open Door 56? Why are these doors working? This doesn’t make sense at all.” This is called questioning and getting angry with God.

You find yourself back at the starting line. Your frustration has reached new peaks. You just want to get the journey done with. You blindly follow the voice, even when others laugh at you, and sometimes attack you. This is called “spiritual surrender”.

That ends the story. To summarize it all in another way:

  • All of us start out by following a map (pure and innocent)
  • At some point, we decide to ignore the map (known as losing our innocence, spiritual teenage, falling into Sin, eating the apple, birth of the ego etc.)
  • We keep go through a period of questioning everything – the map, our path, our purpose (birth of consciousness, need for freedom)
  • We reach a state of extreme tiredness and frustration, and want our repeating journey to be simple (we call this reincarnation and associated suffering. The learning from one journey transfers to the beginning of the next journey – we call this Karma)
  • We exhaust all our physical energy and decide to follow our soul’s guidance, our deepest instincts (we call this surrendering to God)
  • Our path ceases to restart after our ‘surrendered’ journey (we call this freedom from the cycle of birth and death)
  • We finally find peace (we call this Enlightenment, Mukti, Nirvana or Heaven)