You have to wake up and realize the fact that your imprisonment is your imagination, that your fetters are nothing but the thoughts, that your bondage is nothing but your own unconscious way of living.
Come To The Middle
A youth, Prince Shrona, was initiated by Buddha. The people in the capital could not believe it. No one had ever imagined that Shrona would become a bhikkhu, a monk. Buddha’s monks could not believe it either, their eyes were popping out when Shrona came and fell at Buddha’s feet and said, ”Initiate me, make me a bhikkhu.”
Shrona was an emperor, and a famous emperor. He was famous for indulgence. His royal palace had the most beautiful women of that era. His palace had the finest wines, gathered from every corner of the world. Celebration went on all night long, he slept all day. He was so drowned in indulgence that no one had ever thought he could imagine becoming a sannyasin. When he climbed the steps he didn’t have railings put up, but had naked women stand there. He would climb the stairs putting his hand on their shoulders. He made his house into a heaven. His palace was such that gods in heaven would be jealous.
The bhikkhus asked Buddha, ”We can’t believe it, Shrona being initiated!”
Buddha said, ”Whether you believe it or not, I knew he was going to take sannyas. To tell you the truth it is for him that I came to the capital today. What goes to one extreme will go to the other extreme too. Indulgence is one extreme, he did that completely. Now there is no way to move further there, no way to satisfy the ego. He has whatever is possible in that world. Now a wall has come in front of the ego, where can the ego go now? The ego demands more. Now there isn’t any more, so the ego must return, must go back in the opposite direction. When the pendulum of a clock goes all the way to the right, it must return towards the left. Then it goes all the way to the left and has to return again to the right. When the pendulum of a clock is going to the left, remember that it is gathering momentum to go to the right. And when it is going to the right it is gathering momentum to go to the left. One who has a subtle vision will be able to see this. One who goes into extreme indulgence will one day go into extreme yoga.
Buddha said, ”Wait a few days, you will see the truth of what I am saying.”
And people saw. The other bhikkhus walked on a well paved road, but Shrona walked through thorns and brush, his feet became drenched in blood. When the sun was hot the other bhikkhus sat in the shade of the trees. Shrona would stand in the sun. The other bhikkhus wore clothes, he used only a loin cloth. And it seemed as if he was eager to drop the loin cloth too. Then one day he did drop it. The other bhikkhus ate once a day, Shrona ate only once in two days. The other bhikkhus ate sitting down. Shrona ate standing up. The other bhikkhus kept a bowl, Shrona didn’t keep even a bowl, only his hand… he ate only the food that fit in his hand. His beautiful body shrivelled. Previously people used to come from miles around to see his body. His face had been very charming, immensely beautiful. After he had been a bhikkhu for three months anyone who saw him would not recall that this was Emperor Shrona. His feet became blistered, his body became black, he shrivelled and became just bones. And he went on disciplining himself.
Buddha said, ”Do you see bhikkhus, I had told you that what goes to one extreme, will go to the other extreme! It is difficult to stop in the middle, because the middle is the death of the ego.”
Then Shrona stopped eating. Then he stopped taking water. He continued from one extreme to another. It seemed he would be a guest on this earth only two or three more days, then die. This is when Buddha went to his door, to the tree under which he had built a hut to rest in. He was lying down. Buddha said to him, ”Shrona, I have come to ask you something. I have heard that when you were an emperor you had a passion for playing the veena, and that you were very skilled at playing it, that you took great interest in the veena. I have come to ask you a question: when the strings of the veena are very loose, will music arise or not?”
Shrona said, ”What are you talking about? You know it well, if the strings are very loose music cannot arise, they cannot even sound a twang.”
Buddha said, ”Then I ask you this: if the strings are tightened too much will music arise or not?”
Shrona said, ”If they are tightened too much the strings will snap, music will not arise, only the sound of snapping strings will arise. How can music arise from the sound of an instrument breaking?”
Then Buddha said, ”I have come to remind you. Just as you have experienced the veena, I experience the veena of life. I say unto you, if the strings of life are very tight music does not arise, and if the strings of life are very loose, again music does not arise. The strings need to be in the middle Shrona, neither too tight nor too loose. The greatest skill of a musician is in bringing the strings exactly to the middle, this is what is meant by tuning an instrument.”
This is why when you see Indian classical music, it takes half an hour or an hour to tune the instruments. Tuning instruments is a great art. To bring the strings to that middle point where it cannot be said that they are too loose or too tight, one needs great skill, a very sensitive ear. Only a connoisseur of music is able to tune.
”The veena of life is exactly the same,” Buddha said, ”It is enough Shrona, wake up now. I was waiting to let you come to the extreme. At first your strings were very loose, now you have tightened them too much. Music didn’t happen then, nor does it happen now: are you experiencing samadhi? What is all this that you are doing? Previously you stuffed yourself, now you are fasting to death. Previously you never went barefoot, if you went anywhere the road was covered with velvet. And now if the path is good you will not move on it. You move in the brush, in the thorns, on rough, rugged paths. Perhaps previously you had never drunk water but only wine. Now you are afraid to drink even water! Now you want to avoid water too. Previously at your house incomparable meat dishes were prepared, now you are not ready even to eat dry bread. See how you have moved from one extreme to the other? That extreme was unmusical, this too is unmusical. I call out to you: Now is the time, come to the middle.”
Tears began to ow from Shrona’s eyes. He became alert. He saw his situation.
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. – Buddha