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Chapter 2: Empty Heart, Empty Mind

If you look around yourself you will find many ropes - almost a net. And if there was one rope only, it would be easy to cut it and be free. There are so many ropes.your whole personality consists of ropes. Even though those ropes make you a prisoner - they give you nothing but misery and trouble, they don’t allow you to have your dignity and your mastery - somehow they are long-time acquaintances and to drop them feels like you are cutting something of your own being. They have become your second nature.

It happened in the French Revolution that the revolutionaries opened the doors of a great prison thinking that they were doing something great. That prison was meant only for people who were to be imprisoned for their whole lives, the very dangerous criminals, so their handcuffs had no keys, because there was no need, they would never be free. So after handcuffs were put on and chains on their feet, the keys were thrown in a well which was just in the center of the prison.

The revolutionaries tried to cut off their handcuffs, their chains, and they could not believe that the prisoners were so resistant. Somebody had lived for forty years, somebody for fifty years - there was even a man who had been there for seventy years, and he said, “Now the eyes cannot tolerate even to come out in the light. We have been living in dark cells, and after seventy years the world must have changed too much. Even our own friends and wives, most of them must be dead. Even our children won’t recognize us.

“It is so cozy and comfortable here - no work, the food is given. It is rotten, but it is given at least every day, you don’t have to work for it; you don’t have to look for employment. And we have become so accustomed to our small dark cells that we cannot conceive now of another kind of life.” But revolutionaries are revolutionaries; they are stubborn people. They forced them. They cut their chains and their handcuffs and forced them out of jail. But they were surprised that by the evening they were all back.

It is something so important, it is far more important than the French Revolution itself. The prisoners begged them, “Don’t force us. Outside does not exist for us. The gap is too big - seventy years - and we are living very happily.” A few of them said, “We cannot sleep without the chains.” They have become almost like teddy bears.

The same is the situation of almost everyone: your chains have become teddy bears. However dirty, smelly, greasy and Italian, but on every airport, on every railway station you will find children dragging their teddy bears. They will not leave them because they cannot sleep without them. With them it feels so warm and they have been such friends, no quarrel.

We are all accustomed to many ropes.

Rinzai is saying,

“If he should not come in a particular way, he would have bound himself without a rope.”

Only if he comes like a lion roaring, alone, no more part of the crowd, no more dependent on the crowd, no more a Christian, no more a Hindu, no more a Buddhist - if he has thrown all the scriptures and all the conditionings away, he will come in his full glory, a man in his total dignity.

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