Remember, when we give a name to something it is in fact naming a utility. It is a compulsion of language to use the same name even when the utility is not there. For example, a fan: when one is fanning with it in hot weather it is called a fan; but when the fan is not in use and is put away it should not be called a fan. A fan means something that is already being used to fan, which is presently functioning as a fan. But when it is lying idle, when it is not fanning the air, it should not be called a fan.
Legs are something with which you walk. But when you are not walking, they should not be called legs. The name should be of the function, of the action. But language would become too difficult – a separate name for a walking leg, a separate name for an idle leg – it would all get too complicated; so somehow we carry on.
Thus the word fan has two implied meanings. One, a fan which is already fanning the air; and the second, a fan which can fan the air, which has the potential to fan the air. We use the same word in both the senses. There are uses for a handkerchief: something can be tied up in it. But a handkerchief which is itself tied up, now nothing else can be tied up in it.
Buddha said, “I want to ask one more question, and that is, that if I want to untie this handkerchief, what shall I do?” Saying this, Buddha began to pull the handkerchief from both its ends; the knots became even smaller and tighter.
One disciple shouted, “Excuse me, but what you are doing is going to make the knots even tighter and render its untying almost impossible.”
Buddha said, “One thing is now clear, that the handkerchief cannot be opened up by doing just anything. I am doing something, but you are saying that this is making the situation worse. So what will have to be done to open up the handkerchief?”
One disciple replied, “First of all we shall have to know how the knots have been tied. As long as the nature of the knots is not understood, it is not possible to undo them. So first we would have to see how the knots are tied. The manner of undoing the knot is just the reverse of the manner of making the knot. And as long as we do not know the manner in which the knots were tied, it is better not to do anything than to do something, because by doing something the complications may increase and the knots may get tighter, rendering the solution more troublesome.”
In our consciousness there are also knots. And the situation is exactly the same: we are not changed at all and yet we are changed. Our nature is exactly the same as that of the supreme Brahman, but there are some knots in us. And as long as these knots are not undone, we cannot be that ultimate nature which is knotless.
Jainas have given a name to Mahavira which is very lovely. The name is: Nirgrantha, the knotless one. Whenever Buddha refers to Mahavira he always calls him Nirgrantha Natputta, that son of the Natha family, that boy born in the Natha community, who became knotless; whose knots were cut, opened.