How Buddhism believes in freedom

By Phuntsok Wangchuk Leh, Nov 04, 2013
Leh :
Buddhism begins with suffering for the sake of providing solution for suffering. Accomplishment of eliminating suffering is the freedom which can be attained by human effort in the life time.
All religions believe in “liberation”, or commonly called “freedom” or “happiness” as well. Having hope to a higher level of happiness, all religions set out the journey to pursuit happiness by emphasizing on their respective religious believes. They introduce what is called happiness and provide instructions to achieve liberation. The term “hope” gives a sight of happiness to people, it signifies the main feature of religion. So it is appropriate to say that “hope” is the key word for defining religion.

We can hear the term “liberation” in many occasions, especially it is used frequently by many religions. But the cognition and understanding of liberation that based on their believes, is very different from each other. The term “liberation” may contain less meaning for some religions but a broader meaning for other religions. For instance, ascetics who believe soul is bounded by own body, human body is an obstacle to liberate the soul. In order to attain liberation it is necessary to go beyond the human existence “death”. They would punish their own body which is believed to be their practice. They also denied worldly pleasure as a pleasure. According to them, liberation is considered as individual soul merged into cosmic soul, thus it has an eternal quality and is only attainable after death. Some religions do not exclude the mundane pleasure like ascetics do, instead they accept worldly pleasure such as joyfulness and virtue. On top of that they also believe in self liberation. Their notion of liberation is the merging of individual soul into cosmic soul, which is similar to ascetics. The importance to be noted here is that, all religions except Buddhism, believe liberation is only attainable after death, i.e. there is no possibility to arise liberation during living human life time. As Buddhists believe the absence of suffering is called liberation. That is the reason why description regarding to suffering makes different from cognition of liberation.

On the basis of Buddhism, the three poisons aggression, passion and delusion are known as the cause of suffering, they bind all sentient beings in cyclic existence. To escape from cyclic existence the three poisons must be destroyed. This capability of getting rid of cyclic existence is only possessed in human beings. The accomplishment of overcoming from cyclic existence accurately defines the liberation “Nibbana” in Buddhism. Thus Buddhist approach to be free from suffering that human experience in life, can only be accomplished during the life time. Strictly speaking, Buddhism asserted that “Nibbana” can only be attained by human intellectually during their life time. The assertion of liberation occurred after death is denied by Buddhism.

The suffering mentioned in the first noble truth “dukkha”, has a broader meaning than usual understanding. There is not any English term which contains neatly the same range of meaning as dukkha. Generally the term dukkha covers all conditioning force, basically every changeable phenomena is recognized as suffering. Buddhism categorized all sufferings into three kinds of suffering, which are suffering of suffering, suffering of change and suffering of pervasive.
Suffering of suffering refers to negative emotions such as pain, sickness and anxiety in both physical and psychological way. It is accepted as suffering in the ordinary sense.

Suffering of change refers to conditional happiness which is gradually changeable and may not remain in next moment, due to the fact that conditioning experience will eventually disappear. It becomes suffering gradually. In this aspect, the second level of suffering is described as suffering. It may seem contradictory that the second level of suffering is described as pleasure and suffering at the same time. Buddhism does not exclude sensual pleasure in terms of relative happiness, as there are many relative happiness discoursed by Buddha, for example joyfulness, friendliness etc. Buddhism asserted it as happiness since it is free from the first level of suffering. According to Buddhism, there is not such a phenomena which can be described without depending on the information of other matters. It is because there is not such a static and eternal phenomena. Therefore all descriptions must relate to other descriptions. Likewise the second level of suffering is suffering because it is conditioning experience. It is also happiness because it is free from physical and psychological sickness. As a result, it is dependent arising.

The third level of suffering is the deepest level of suffering. In the emotional consideration, it refers to neutral feeling. This suffering is described as a feeling which is completely absent of physical or psychological sickness, and conditioning happiness such as joyfulness or harmony, that are the first and second level of suffering respectively.

In conclusion, the above classification has indicated clearly that conditioning experience including unhappiness, happiness and neutral feeling are described as suffering. All conditioning feelings belong to one of these three sufferings. Elimination of these sufferings means cause of suffering is also eliminated. In other words, the elimination of passion, aggression and delusion is the achievement of final freedom or attainment of higher level of happiness. In Buddhist perspective, there is no any place or external approach for liberation. The freeing from clinging to self and self-centered desire is known as Nibbana, the freedom in Buddhism.