Golden Gate Hall, Thursday afternoon, 22 January 1903
What does the Swami mean by saying “We shall be free”?
Really the expression”We shall be free”is strictly speaking erroneous. It is not as to our becoming free, for we are free at this very moment; we are free from the very beginning; we never were in slavery or bondage. So, to say”We shall be free,”is strictly speaking erroneous. In common parlance, however, it is intended to signify knowledge, or the receiving of knowledge. You know that the thraldom of slavery, from which people of this world are released or uplifted, is no real thraldom, no real slavery or bondage. It is only the result of wrong thought, ignorance, and the consumption of false knowledge. There is no real slavery or bondage; and the acquisition of true knowledge, the realisation of the true Self or Atman at once sets you free, free through all eternity. That freedom was never lost. So you have not to think of your freedom as expressed in the future, but of freedom which has been yours always, which is your birthright, which is your own nature.
A man had a precious, long necklace round his neck, and at one time he forgot everything about it. He was much grieved at not finding the necklace round his neck, and he went groping about in search of it, but could not get it. Someone told him the necklace was with him, and he was very happy. Now, the necklace was not found in the strict sense of the word, for in reality it was there all the time; it was not lost but was forgotten. Similarly, your real Atman, the”I am,”has always been the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; but the mind, the intellect is to over-come ignorance. When the mind believes that the precious necklace is got, in this sense we might say that you regain your freedom. You have found or obtained your lovely necklace which was, strictly speaking, never lost.