Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj explains the nature of healthy independence.
We have fallen prey to our senses, so we are not independent. What we experience now is not fit to be called independence. It is a diseased thing, a diseased form of independence.
In Sanskrit and Bengali, the word for independence is svādhīnatā, which means submission to one’s own soul; it does not mean slavery to the senses. Lust draws us towards something, anger draws us towards another thing, and greed draws us towards another thing. In this way, the senses are our masters, and as they are quarrel with each other, our condition is hopeless. We are not independent. Our senses and so many different inclinations draw us in different directions, and we are their slave. We are helpless.
Independence proper must be understood. A part cannot claim the independence of the whole. So, independence has its jurisdiction. If I desire independence, then I can think that everyone desires independence. But if one independent person approaches another and attacks or consumes them, then the other’s independence is checked. When one person’s independence has encroached on the independence of another, then that type of independence is a diseased form of independence; it is not healthy independence. Healthy independence has limitations and means we must work together with others; it means we must have connection with a higher harmony.
When we seek independence, do we seek to encroach on the independence of others? Is freedom to destroy the independence of others independence proper? It can’t be. What we conceive of at present as independence—independence to harm others—is diseased independence. Does having more opportunity to exploit mean we have more independence? That is not independence proper.
I want independence, you want independence, he wants independence, everyone wants independence. Then, there must also be harmony. There must be cooperation amongst us for there to be healthy independence for us all. Independence and rowdiness are not one and the same. We should be educated to aspire for real independence.
So, what we think to be independence—to lord it over others, to acquire mastery—is not independence proper. Independence does not mean to increase one’s capacity, or have more power, to exploit others. There must be harmonious movement, and our aspiration must be towards harmony. So, we need to understand what is independence proper.
In Kṛṣṇa consciousness, independence ends in slavery. You are to conceive this. The māyāvādīs have much reverence for independence, and they seek to merge into the nondifferentiated area. Their idea is, “We don’t want anything, but we can’t give our independence to anyone. Rather, we shall sleep. We shall die. We can’t give our independence to anyone.” The Vaiṣṇava conception is that independence is slavery to the highest infinite. There, we will get the maximum. We will get the maximum when we come to realise the truth that I am a part of the whole, not a master of the whole. That is mania, madness, and that is not independence. We are to understand the concrete truth that we are a part of the whole. So, our independence must be part of the independence of the whole. Consequently, I must utilise my independence in accordance with the harmony of the whole. That is healthy independence. The reactionary school is māyāvād: “We can’t give our independence to anyone. Rather, we shall commit suicide in Brahmaloka.” Seekers of independence are exploiters in this mundane world of action and reaction, and in withdrawal from that in Brahmaloka, one has no existence of one’s own, what to speak of independence. The concrete and realistic view of independence, that I am independent, you are independent, he is independent, and all others are independent, is that our independence should be that of a part within the independence of the whole, the independence of the absolute. So, we must cooperate with others and submit to the supreme independent being. That is a normal, healthy, wholesome thing. Otherwise, we what we seek is only for a madman: what is not, what cannot be the fact. We are after phantasmagoria: in the name of independence, we will be the master of the whole. This is impossible. We must come to a realistic way of thinking. So, many with independence must live together, and it is possible that all will enjoy independence if they are in a common harmony. Who is representing that common harmony? We should be a slave to Him. By submission to Him, the centre, we get the maximum independence.
Spoken 3 July 1982.