Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On “Freedom to…” and “Freedom from…”


There seems to be universal support of freedom, regardless of one’s age, religion, sexual orientation, financial wealth, race and nationality.

In the U.S., we talk about freedom of speech and religion, and other “rights” afforded to us as Americans. There are also laws that guarantee freedom of information as well as general sense that freedom is an important aspect of American life.

In Buddhism, freedom is not only a significant topic of discussion but a way to attain happiness, its ultimate goal, rather than a privilege you are afforded since birth. When you can free yourself from suffering presented in life, you can be happy.

As my wise friend noticed, it is interesting that these “freedom of x” cherished in the U.S. focuses on our freedom to be able to do something: our freedom “of” is really a freedom “to”, whereas the Buddhist concept of freedom has to do with freeing oneself from something: freedom “from”.

Preposition has been one of the trickiest things to master when I was learning English. Sometimes there can be multiple correct prepositions depending on what you want to say: is it “on” the playground or “at” or is it “in”? It depends on the verb and context. Some prepositions require more nuance, while others can be completely wrong: e.g., you can say wait on someone or wait for someone. They mean different things. But wait at someone doesn’t make any sense. Who would have thought that a pair of prepositions that are opposites, when attached to freedom, could both represent the highest forms of what we value?

Having something to pursue liberty vs. not needing something to be happy.

Luckily, I don’t have to choose because I have First Amendment rights to embrace both and write about it.

Photo: Beijing, China, where Buddhism was not allowed under Communist rule and there is still no freedom of speech


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This entry was posted on September 2, 2015 by in Buddhism, Culture, language and tagged , , , .
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