If I have enough money to go by, I am financially free. If I live in a country with freedom of expression, I am politically free. If I am able to emotionally give and receive amid family and friends then there is emotional freedom. However, complete freedom comes only when I know who I really am.
A drunkard on the streets does not temporarily know his name, where he comes from, what is his family background and lineage. He may be a really wealthy person, but due to temporary ignorance, he can even lie down near a gutter on the road blissfully. Knowledge of one’s self is important.
In Vedanta, the emphasis is always given to knowledge of the self—the content of ‘I’ is nothing but a thought. The content of a thought is nothing but consciousness. In each one of us, there is an enlivening consciousness. In that consciousness, we get the first thought called the ‘I’ thought. That thought is the same in all of us, irrespective of whether it is a prince or a pauper. When this pure nature of consciousness is realised as nothing but our own true self, the individual is free from all fetters of bounded actions, says Sri Adi Sankaracarya in Tatwa Bodha.
This sentence is called the Phala Shruti or the result of knowing something. Is it a miracle? How is it possible that just by knowing myself as the consciousness that is the witnessing principle of all that moves and moves not I need not do any work? Well, universally everyone works because they think they have to do it and earn a living. The person at home understands that they have to cook for the family day in and day out, without a grace period of a holiday. It is not the work that hurts, but it is the compulsiveness of the action that is really tiring.
A woman in the kitchen trying out a very interesting chocolate cake recipe is definitely much happier at the job than the one who is cribbing in the kitchen, unbearably standing for long hours, sweating with hurting varicose veins and slogging at the stove, then the dishes, then the serving, the cleaning, and again preparing for the next day at the close of night.
When true knowledge of the self dawns the individual realises that he is just pure consciousness. That truth is present abundantly in every pinpoint part of the universe. In such a state of mind, there is nothing that the person will want. So there are no desires in the heart, no thoughts of wanting erupt in the mind, no words and actions will follow in the direction of want, no results—good and bad—will be created for further impressions of actions that result in more desires. There is freedom, hence, in the knowledge of the self.