What Is Bondage?

I am what I am, a confused confounded entity. At one moment I am a sweet little thing, at another, a terri¬ble monster, because of the variety of gratifications of my physical demands of lusts, mental demands for emotio¬nal satisfactions and because of my perturbed intellect, tossed by its endless mischievous thoughts. Somehow, I am aware of all this. Yet I cannot get out of it. Why this helpless bondage? All these pernicious sorrows arise because I, the Atman, misunderstand myself to be the not-Self (an-atman).
Suppose in a drunken mood you misunderstand your¬self to be your own shadow. Terrible suffering must then start for you. You find that you are lying down on the road, and the traffic is incessantly passing over you. Your head is sometimes in the filthy, way-side gutter. You refuse to move because you are being dragged. Thus, all the sufferings of the shadow become your sufferings. A simple misunderstanding that you are your shadow becomes the source of a chain of terrible sufferings.
Similarly, the misunderstanding, “I am being anatman”, is the spring-board for all bondages and limitations that are suffered in voiceless agony by our personality. To end this misunderstanding would be redeeming at once our personalities from the encrustations of matter and its tyranny. One who is released from the tyrannies of matter is a God-man on earth—perfect, free, liberated totally from the weaknesses which characterize a mortal. God, apparently suffering the sorrows of persecuting matter is man.
In the dream when I forget my real nature, I identify with the things projected by me in the dream and suffer the consequences. The sufferings of the dream last only till I wake up. The moment I wake up and realize my real nature, all the sorrows of the dream end. When in a drunken state 1 forget my real nature, I keep the wrong relationship with the world around me, and consequen¬tly, I come to suffer. A mad man, because of some psychological changes in him, forgets himself, and starts behaving wrongly in the world around him. In the same manner I, who is God, the Para atman, the pure Self, not understanding myself, in the non-apprehension of my Real Nature, start creating misapprehensions. Then identifying myself with the not-self, which I am not, I come to suffer the pains of existence created by myself for myself.
This identification with the not-Self in each one of us is the cause of our life’s sufferings. In a cinema-hall, we iden¬tify ourselves with the hero or the heroine on the screen. We feel happy at their happiness and agony at their sorrows.

As a result of this bondage, this is nothing other than our identification with the not-Self; the Atman— which is never born nor ever dies, which is ever the same, Eternal, Pure, seems to suffer the pangs of an app¬arent birth and death. Such a fall from the height of an eternal and everlasting state of perfection to the ever-changing ephemeral state of imperfection is caused by this identification alone.
The ‘unreal’ is that which was not and that which shall never be, but only apparently exists. This is otherwise called an illusion. The body which was not there before birth and shall not be there after death, but is only tem¬porarily existent, must fall under the category of the ‘unreal’. But because of Man’s spiritual ignorance, and his consequent bondages, this body which is mortal, is considered by him as his real nature.
When this body is not only considered real, but in total identification with it, when a man asserts that the body alone is real, then there can be only one duty in life for him. That duty is to fatten, to nourish, to feed it and enjoy himself thoroughly. Here we have the true to life picture of what we are.
Think of the tragedy. You must attend to this body cons¬tantly, all the twenty-four hours of all the three hundred and sixty-five days of a year, nay, and one day more in a leap year. There is no escape. You must be with it all the time, without any holiday. An all-time-servant you become of your own body. You can have a release from your office, home, friends, society, —from everything, but not from this body-catering-mission in life.
Because of this indentification you must preserve this body, feed it, clothe it, treat it, when ill, and when necessary it must also get a blood transfusion or a heart transplant. It is not sufficient that we look after and preserve the body, but we must also run after all the ob¬jects desired by it—house, car, radio, air-conditioner, television and what not! ‘Why am I living so contentedly in this slavery?’ ‘Because this body is me. My body’s happiness is my happiness.’
Once we are under the hallucination that we are worms, we certainly become afraid of all insectivorous birds. This fear will vanish only when we are convinced that we are human beings and not worms. No matter how many times a psychiatrist tells us that are not worms, it will not help us if we do not realize that we are human beings.
Similarly, however much the Teacher may tell us that we are the Para atman, we may read and study books like the Vivekachoodamani, we may attend satsangs, and discuss in study groups, but deep down in ourselves we are convinced that we are this body only. Why? Because of the avidya, the non-apprehension of our Real, Divine, Spiritual Nature.
The Silk-worm spins fine threads from its own saliva and weaves a cocoon around itself. The cocoon becomes stronger and stronger until at last the worm gets en¬tangled in it and cannot come out. Similarly, once the misunderstanding that, ‘I am the body’ has arisen, this false notion makes endless demands for the preserva¬tion of the body. These demands multiply and they become so strong that the individual gets gagged and bound by them.
Under the circumstances, your personality becomes con¬ditioned by these endless demands and your essential vitalities, capacities and intelligence fail to bloom and express themselves as they get shackled and conditioned at all times by your past, which you have woven into ines¬capable patterns around yourself. All this arose from one the same spring-board—you forgot yourself. You lived all along, misunderstanding yourself to be the matter equip¬ment of BMI, the not-Self (anatman). In this condition, you come to experience sufferings. This is called bondage (samsara-dukham).