I have heard of a magician who used to rear sheep to sell to the slaughterhouse. He would feed them well and when they were fattened up, he would kill them and sell their flesh. What was more, he would hypnotize his flock and make them believe they were lions, so that when the fatlings were killed before them, they were not afraid. They thought: “Well, these lambs, they are to be killed. We are lions and the question does not arise.”
So every day one lot was killed and the rest remained blissfully unaware of their fate. It was only when their turn came that they realized the truth; but then it was too late. There was no way of escape. If they had pondered a little when they saw the others being killed perhaps they would have run away. But the poor things had completely forgotten their origin. And when a lamb is under the illusion that it is a lion, it becomes the most feeble and debilitated specimen of its kind. When someone asked the magician what he had done that his lambs did not run away, he said: “I have done to them what each man has done to himself. We believe ourselves to be what we are not. I made the lambs believe themselves to be what they are not.”
Each man considers himself to be independent, and this is the biggest of falsehoods. As long as man believes he is a free soul, he will do nothing toward attaining freedom. Therefore it is very necessary to be aware first – that we are not free. And when I say “we,” I do not refer to my neighbors alone. I include myself.
I am a slave and it is absolutely necessary that I undergo the entire pain and anguish of this slavery. It is necessary to experience all its different dimensions as well as the various directions from which this holds us in thrall. In what shape and manner it rides over us; what the links are that holds us captive – all this must be known. It is impossible to break down this spiritual slavery without being fully acquainted with it.
If a man wants to escape from prison, what would he do? First of all he has to understand and accept that he is a prisoner and that he is in prison. Then he has to know his prison, every nook and corner of it, for then only can he plan his escape. The more familiar he is with the prison house, the easier will be the escape. That is why care is taken that the prisoner does not know the layout of the jail. Once he knows, he is dangerous and can break through anytime; for knowledge always liberates.
Even the knowledge of the prison liberates and therefore this knowledge is dangerous in the hands of the captive. The best way to keep the prisoner in the dark is to delude him into believing that the prison is a temple of God and no jail, and he is a free human being; and that all the world exists within its four walls; outside these walls there is nothing. And if he finds things unbearable, let him paint the dirty walls. Make a garden, grow flowers – its fragrance will become a source of joy. Beautify the prison, for it is a house. And the captive who believes all this, will he ever be free?