Both bondage and liberation occur to the mind

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The sages across time have thundered the truth that you have always been free and liberated. Then a question can arise as to what is the need of practice if I’m already free?

To be able to clearly understand this, we have to take a look at the cause of our bondage, and what it truly means to be free.

What is our bondage?

Bondage is the deeply rooted idea that “I am bound”. And by that I mean that we are just this limited body, which includes the physical as well as the mental. This idea has to be broken down, but it isn’t easy as we have cultivated this idea for a long long time, making it’s root spread wide and deep.

Every time we have a thought such as “I am so and so…”, we have re-spawned our idea of limited identity. If we seriously believe this limited identity, that’s where our suffering starts, because this limited identity is…. limited. We feel a sense of incompleteness which never seems to end.

What is the root cause of bondage?

The root cause of bondage is the ignorance of our true nature. It’s like having a misunderstanding of who we really are. And the only cure to that is experiential knowledge of our real nature which will break the bonds of our misunderstanding.

What keeps us from realizing our true nature?

If being liberated is as simple as acquisition of knowledge of our true nature, then why don’t we get realized after hearing the truth? This is because mere book learning isn’t enough. To give you an example, looking at a description of a chocolate eclair will give you an idea of what it looks and tastes like. This is an indirect knowledge of the eclair. But you will have no real experience of actually knowing what it tastes like. Only by eating a bite of the eclair would you gain direct experience of the eclair.

Similarly, by hearing the truths of your essential nature you only gain indirect knowledge of yourself. You have to make the effort of looking at ourselves in a quiet mind.

 

What is my mind?

Our minds are essentially ideas that we’ve absorbed over time. And we take some ideas more seriously than others. For example, I used to take other people’s opinion of me extremely seriously. I used to get upset when I thought that someone did not have a high opinion of me. But over time I started to notice that I’d been trying to protect an imaginary image of myself. And there was no end to the complexity of my imagination. The only way to be free of this, was to give up my attachment of trying to protect my image.

What does the work entail?

We have to examine every idea of my limited self that we have. And I mean really examine it. By seeing its fundamental unreality, we have to abandon each idea. To give you an example, I used to take other people’s opinion of me extremely seriously. I used to get upset when I thought that someone did not have a high opinion of me. But over time I started to notice that I’d been trying to protect an imaginary image of myself. And there was no end to the complexity of my imagination. The only way to be free of this, was to give up my attachment of trying to protect my image. I had to consciously look at this thought every time it came up, and let go of it by constantly reminding myself that this idea of self is not me. By constantly reminding myself that I am not this image, I was retraining my mind. This is a process of negation and sublimation of our limited sense of self. We have to apply this process to all the various ideas of self that we accumulated over time.

Once we have done enough of the work, where we have abandoned many ideas of our limited sense of selves, our essential nature will automatically start to be revealed. We will start to see that we are what we are looking for – we are bliss itself.

Then we will have a direct experience of the wise sages – we have always been free. Only our minds have been holding us back. Only our mind needed to have this deep and profound insight. Our real Self, is ever free, always shining as I, I, I.

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