Dialectic and Freedom
I THE CONCEPT OF FREEDOM FREEDOM is freedom from pain; it is the eradication of suffering-actual and possible. Pain is frustrated will. We desire, consciously or otherwise, to acquire and enjoy things; we may have the utmost liberty in desiring things; but
objective conditions are not always in consonance with our desires; often they are not. An unfavourable balance on the subjective side results; there is suffering. The root-cause of pain is desire, passion and attachment. Freedom is the achieving of a state of passionlessness. It is essentially a negative process and not the acquisition of merit or other values. Not that the practice of virtue or acquisition of merit (pu:Q.ya-sambhara) is not needed for achieving freedom; but it is a means, not the end. According to the Madhyamika, attachment is dependent on constructive imagination (vikalpa). We are attracted to things as we invest them, in our imagination, with this or that quality. This is a subjective affair; it is not real.l Freedom is the total cessation of imagination (sarva-kalpana-k~ayo hi nirva:Q.am). Summing up the essence of spiritual discipline Arya Deva characterises it as a "Take away all." "Desisting from vice, freeing oneself from the substance-view and lastly giving up all (standpoints) are the stages of this process. " 2
Freedom being a process of negation or annulment of ignorance and passions it is possible to reach perfection; and this can be permanent, being natural to the spirit. If it were an acquisition, there could be no finality; the pile of merit can mount higher and higher; there is no conceivable limit to its size. The acquisition, conditioned as it must be by special causes, will be transitory, the length of the duration notwithstanding. The acquisition calls for special aptitudes
and efforts; and the resultant merit will perforce vary with the individuals. Freedom or Nirva:r:ta does not admit of degrees or hierarchy; it is equal and universal in all. The Madhyamika treatises speak of this state as Samata.1 (equality). All beings, irrespective of their status and attainment, are equally heir to Buddhahood-the highest perfection as unconditioned Nirva:r:ta. They contain within them the seed of Enlightenment and Perfection (Tathagatagarbha). The Uttaratantra, 2 quoting the Tathtigatagarbha Sutra says: "All living beings are endowed with the Essence of the Buddha." What is the meaning of this? The Body of the Supreme Buddha is all-pervading,
Again it is said: "Just as, being essentially free from (dialectical) thought-construction,
Spiritual discipline is of the nature of purification or removal of the hindrances and defilements that cover up the real. Beings are found in various stages and degrees of purification, though they are essentially one as Buddha. It must not be thought that the process being negative, it is short or easy of accomplishment. The Prajntiptiramitti and other texts speak of the career of the Bodhisattva as difficult and arduous, calling for the intensest efiort sustained for countless aeons (asarhkhyeya kalpa). It does mean, however, that the ills and defilements, however long-standing and great they may be, are accidental accretions to the spirit. They are capable of complete removal by Intuitional knowledge (prajfia). The absolute power of the intellect over the will, the wrong exercise of which is the cause of suffering, is the basic implication of the Madhyamika spiritual
discipline for freedom. Evil or erratic willing is the consequence of ignorance of the real; the removal of ignorance effectively does away with all forms of evil-metaphysical evil (finitude), moral evil (vice) and physical evil (pain).