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Chapter 5: The Bondage of Hope

One who has long hair on his head, one who has shaved his head, one who has pulled his hair from the roots, one who is wearing ochre robes, or is dressed up in a variety of ways, that fool, in spite of having eyes, is blind. Just for the sake of his stomach he dresses up in different ways.

All limbs have become infirm, all hair has turned white, there is not a single tooth in the mouth anymore- such an old man walks with the help of a stick; even then he is bound down with the mass of hope.

Struck by the cold, in the morning he warms himself by keeping the fire in front of him or by keeping his back towards the sun. At night, he sleeps with his chin between his knees, he takes alms in his hands and lives under a tree; even then he does not drop the bondage of hope.

He may undertake the journey to the Ganges or to the ocean, he may undertake many austerities and fasts, he may give away in charity, but if he does not have self-knowledge he will not be liberated even in hundreds of lifetimes.

One may be residing in the temple of God or under a tree, the earth may be his only bed, deerskin may be his only robe, he may have dropped all kinds of possessions and indulgences - who would not be made blissful by such a renunciation?

He may be absorbed in enjoyment of the senses or in yoga, he may be engrossed in somebody’s company or he may be alone, but if his heart dwells in the divine, then it is he who is blissful, it is he who is blissful, it is he alone who is blissful.

There is an old story about an ascetic who was doing sadhana in a dense forest. He was sitting with closed eyes and was praying to God continuously. He wanted to gain heaven. Hunger and thirst didn’t worry him.

A very poor young woman used to come to that forest to collect firewood. Out of kindness and consideration for the ascetic she used to pluck some fruit, bring water from the pond in cups made of leaves and to put them near him. The ascetic was able to sustain himself on these things.

Gradually his asceticism became even more intense. He forgot about hunger and thirst and he neither touched the fruit nor the water. That poor young woman felt very unhappy and sad about this, but there was no way out. Lord Indra also became worried and said that this person was going beyond the limits: did he intend to get hold of the throne of heaven? It was absolutely necessary to disturb his sadhana.

It was not very difficult to do so, because Lord Indra knows the mind of man. A breeze came from heaven and turned that poor, dark, ugly young woman into a stunning beauty. It seemed as if a ray had come down from heaven and turned her ordinary body into a golden one. When she was collecting some water for the ascetic from the pond she saw her reflection in the water and couldn’t believe it, she was looking like a fairy. She became fascinated by her own reflection.

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