Saturday, January 16, 2010

What Is It That Binds You?

I was talking to a Zen Buddhist over Facebook this morning and we were discussing the topic of how different traditions approach the topic of enlightenment. He said that when a person asks how to attain enlightenment in Zen he is then asked "What is it that binds you?"

After hearing this statement even now, hours later, my consciousness is reverberating like a brass bowl that has been expertly played. What is it that is holding you back, holding you to this world, keeping you from experiencing the Divine in your life every day, keeping your consciousness locked in the material, the ego, your desires? What is it that you are holding onto? What is it that binds you?!

At each level of our development we are seeking a deeper and subtler degree of purification. I have always asked myself "What is it that I need to purify?" or, having noticed myself reacting inappropriately or being attached to something said " I need to purify myself of this". But there is something about the word "bind" that strikes me on a whole new level. I might be just looking at the the same thing from a different perspective, but using the word "bind" instead of "purify" invokes a sense of urgency within. When I think of the word "purification" I associate that with time. Yes, purification takes time so even though I am working on purifying these lower qualities I now see that part of my consciousness doesn't mind if it takes longer to accomplish.

The word "bind" however makes me feel suffocated, controlled, and held back. It is as if someone is telling me "No, you can't live in your full potential because you are being shackled to this existence by illusions, desires, appetites, addictions, and attachments." Re-framing it this way makes me want to go into the Temple right now and stay there doing magic until I emerge like the Buddha from underneath the Bodhi tree. In fact, here I am equally kicking myself and equally rejoicing as I realize I have awaken from another layer of slumber. How easily we fool ourselves into thinking we are progressing when really we are half-sleeping on the floor of enlightenment.

The irony is that they only thing that is binding us to this lesser state of consciousness is ourselves. If we look at The Devil card in the Book T based tarot decks we see that the man and woman standing beneath the Devil, bound to him, are in fact holding the chains. They can choose to release them at anytime, yet their own ignorance causes them to believe they are trapped, tortured, and forced to live in an imperfect existence. We hold the chains to our bonds. Equally, we hold the key to our happiness. Now when I think of "purification" I think of "cleaning out", but when I think of "binding" I think of letting go. What is there to clean out? Nothing. We are created in the image and likeness of the Divine. What is there to let go of? Everything, because there is only one true state of consciousness and that is Unity. Enlightenment is a state of consciousness, it is not dangerous. There is nothing dangerous about immediately achieving it. What is dangerous are the paths sometimes used to get to enlightenment ;techniques used wrongly, purification done too strenuously, but if done correctly, they can be a jewel worth more than any physical trinket.

What I am trying to say is this, it is important to follow our chosen path, and it is important to practice our techniques (properly) so that we can ripen our consciousness. It is the ripened consciousness that is free to realize the bonds which he is so fervently holding onto. But it is important not to hold ourselves back by the false belief that we cannot live in the Truth until some far off time. The Truth is here now. It exists now. It is all around us and within us now. By remembering this at all times it is as if we keep a suitor waiting on the other side of the door so when we are ready to open the door we can embrace him that much more passionately. Let's not forget that our True Nature is there at all times...we only need to turn to it.

Nosce Te Ipsum

Soror FSO

"Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment chop wood and carry water" - Ancient Chinese proverb


  1. How true! Very well put. Thank you. I have always loved that Chinese proverb at the end.