Freedom: the Power to say NO

A Talk by Venerable Gelong Sangyay Tendzin


We all seem to be constantly obsessed with our concern for personal freedom...Yes!


Personal freedom: Why?

Searching for freedom is quite natural. Plunged into the little world that we build up to comfort ourselves, we are constantly shunning away from the object of our fears while attempting to move towards the fulfilment of our expectations. 

This little world is only one aspect of our daily life; an illusory reality that we try our best to reinforce and maintain. Aren’t we simply intending to keep up the image we deem necessary to define ourselves…as if this was a fundamental challenge! 

It is constricting and does not allow us to express our mind’s essence: that of being identical to space and therefore limitless. 

This inner conflict leads to the claustrophobic bondage we impose on our being almost continuously.

How do we achieve Personal freedom?  

The only way to gain such freedom is to build up the Willingness and Ability to say NO to a series of habitual patterns we developed as we coped with our inner struggle with hastily found easy-going responses.

We must change the way we address this inner challenge by shifting our assumption that both relative and ultimate quests are in opposition and in conflict: inner freedom is a dance between both realities, enacted with a sense of balance.

Our ability to perform such a dance depends on the wisdom gained by challenging our dysfunctional habitual patterns governing the way we behave.

The first “No” to say is “No to Distractions”

Why “No to Distractions”?  

Happiness is already present in the nature of our mind.  Distractions impedes us to manifest this innermost happiness. 

Not being in touch with our mind nature, we look for happiness outside of us.

Instead of discovering it to be the fresh fruit of welcoming acceptance and compassion, we only obtain the rotting result of frustrated expectation.

No to Distractions: How?

Meditation is “the method” to reveal us the nature of our mind. It allows us to progressively discover that happiness is a mind state, originating from a decision of the mind to see everything as happening for a reason and therefore ultimately perfect. 

This outlook allows us to abandon the obsessive concern to struggle for freedom.

Happiness, which I jokingly address as “happen-Inness” is a state induced by feeling content with our experience of the “here and now”, or “the momentariness of experience”.

Such state of mind implies peace and joy, two inner qualities that we can acquire through the practice of meditation. Far from trying to impose ourselves some sort of inner silence, trying to achieve a state of “no thought”, the challenge lies in changing the relationship with our thoughts and emotions.

Thoughts and emotions follow habitual patterns just like traffic in a city.

It cannot be stopped but its flow can be regulated so that everything happens harmoniously.

We have no inner freedom as long as we do not find a way to step back and stop engaging in everything that presents itself to us; be it our thoughts or the emotional reactions we generate after processing through our mental consciousness, data perceived through our senses.

As long as we do follow our each and every thought, we are not in touch with ourselves and as a result entertain a state of depression and the feeling of a lack of freedom. We are bound to our thoughts and experience no freedom.

A second “No” to say is “No to our comforting habits”

Why to say “No” to our comforting habits?

We all possess the tendency to behave in a way to constantly ensure the maintenance of our comfort zones. Every one of us seems to be most peculiar in producing particular shields to protect one’s territory from other’s intrusive requirements. 

We are so excellent to justify “doing things our ways” instead of providing immediate adequate response to situations.

“No to our comforting habits”, Ok but How?

The very first step here consists in abandoning systematically seeing ourselves as better than others. Let go of the tendency to behave just as if you knew it better. Knowing better than others how to resolve any problem, any situation. Let go of providing immediate answers to situations; step back and consider your possible response. Look into it, see if it is appropriate, which means requested for and beneficial to others.

Limit your expectations:  you do not need as many things to be possessed or to be done. You will define and demonstrate yourself as much by what you do than by what you do not!

Train yourself to be content with less: 

The very fact to crowd your space comes from a feeling of insecurity. Work on it instead! Train yourself to have lesser needs of physical comfort, less verbal interactions and less spinning thoughts.

A third “No” to say is “No to our impatience”

Why to say “No” to our impatience”?

Leaving our comforting habits unattended quickly leads to becoming extremely short tempered and impatient. On the other hand, practicing patience is most benefitting, to yourself and others.

A steady practice of patience enables one to make efforts with a joyful mind. 

“No to our impatience”, yes but How?

Truly accept and suffer unfriendly interactions with others.

Everyone has his own understanding of what works best in any given situation. DO not expect others to always match yours.

Moreover, allow the needs of people around you to prevail over yours. 

This helps to generate compassion rather than the habit of casting endlessly sour judgments of disapproval when the interests of others differ from yours. Doing so, one engages systematically in negative feelings which oppose personal progress. 

A fourth “No” to say is “No to giving up”

Say “No” to giving up, Why?

As you will put these series of “No’s” into practice, you will progressively experience a direct benefit. It will bring you a stable state of inner contentment with your daily experiences as well as a more harmonious network of interactions with others. 

Yet, at some other time, you may find yourself in trouble and just want to return in your comfort zones.  Doing so will bring you back to square one. Don’t give up: You will succeed!

How to say “No” to giving up?

Giving up is a sign of depression. Develop instead discipline and determination to succeed. Here the practice of breathing meditation helps to gain a state of relaxation that will increase your inner strength allowing us not to give up when the going gets tough.


Let's recapitulate...

So, today we learned Why and How we look for Freedom, which in turn depends on freeing bondage to four ill tendencies.

This is done by practicing the four “No’s”, respectively defined as: 

 No to our distractions:

  • Feeling content with our experience of the “here and now”; Changing the relationship with our thoughts and emotions; § Step back and stop engaging in everything.

 No to our comforting habits:

  • Let go of the tendency to behave just as if you “know-it-better”;
  • Limit your expectations;
  • Train yourself to be content with less.

 No to our impatience:

  • Truly accept and suffer unfriendly interactions with others;
  • Allow the needs of people around you to prevail over yours;
  • Generate compassion; not the habit of casting judgments of disapproval No to the tendency to be giving up:
  • Develop instead discipline and determination to succeed;
  • Practice of breathing meditation;
  • Increase your inner strength and non-conceptual compassion.

I propose you now to rest for a little while and practice inner calm by relaxing your mind yet maintaining the awareness of your breathing. 

You don’t have to change anything in the way you breathe.

Simply breathe normally, while maintaining the awareness of the air going in, stop, going out, stop, going in… just be aware of the feeling of the air going through your throat, in and out.

This breathing practice is very beneficial to both you and others.


Thank you!

darker banner footer 1142px v4

Copyright© by Swiss Religious Association TNG-Suisse. All rights reserved.