When you utter the word “Free”, what exactly do you mean? Freedom from what?
Freedom from this world? Or Freedom from yourself? We are our own masters who enslave ourselves.
According to Indian philosophy, hermitage is not Freedom. It is an escape from the mundane material world. The hermit is someone who has escaped from the chaos. “Sadhu” is trapped in his Sadhana, he is not free.
Freedom for that matter is achieved when the subject does not care of circumstantial causes that may impact his situation.
For example, a hermit who lives alone in an island is not free (Read Tom Byron’s example below) . He is a slave to his thought of living alone. The moment somebody makes a hut near his hut, his peace is disturbed. Which gives us the conclusion that the hermit is a slave to the idea of living alone.
However, a person who wanders around without caring about circumstances, situations, weakness can be called a free man.
I will share an example.
Swami Vivekananda is a close example. He begged in streets, was a guest to Maharajas, went to America to deliver a speech, was offered a position at Harvard university to teach Vedantic principles, went to Europe to spread Hinduism but never ever fell for anything. He wandered across, never taking up the bait.
His guru Ramakrishna Pramhansa was not free. He was trapped in the concept of “God”, his belief in God trapped him to Dakhineshwar, the place where Vivekananda met him. He never abandoned that place since that temple and Goddess Kali was his weakness.
Naren was a free man. He had his principles, knowledge and wisdom with him and he never worked for anyone. He chosed to beg for food, he could have taken up a job to make ends meet but he did not. Material fulfillment was not the objective of his life.
A person who has won himself can be said as “Free”. The world can be ignored, all you need to do is Win yourself.
This does not mean that one takes up an asylum in a Jungle to “avoid” the world. That is not freedom. That is escape. To be really free, you need not abandon this material world. You can remain in this world and just win yourself.