After Buddha had tied five knots in the handkerchief he said, “I want to undo these knots. Before I undo them I would like to ask two questions. One is: Is this handkerchief the same as it was before the knots were tied?”
One of his great disciples, Ananda, said, “Bhagwan, in one way it is the same because the tied knots make no difference to its existence. They don’t add anything and they don’t destroy anything. The handkerchief remains exactly the same, its quality is the same, it is still the handkerchief. But still it is not the same – something has changed. It may not be of any fundamental value but now it has something new in it: these five knots. It is tied together so it is no longer free. The freedom has been lost. The handkerchief is the same but now it is a slave.”
Buddha said, “Right, Ananda, that’s what I wanted to tell my monks. When man is divided he remains in one way the same and yet he is not the same. His freedom is lost, his harmony is lost – and yet fundamentally nothing has changed. You are gods and goddesses, nothing has changed; it is just that the god has become imprisoned. A few knots have come into existence Fundamentally you are as free as a Buddha, existentially you are exactly where I am, and yet psychologically you are not where I am, you are not what Buddha is. Existentially we are all buddhas, psychologically we live in different, private worlds…those knots.”
Then Buddha asked the other question. He said, “Monks, I have another question to ask which is: If I want to undo these knots, what should I do?” Another monk, Sariputra, stood up and said, “Bhagwan, if you want to undo them let me come closer, let me observe them. Because unless I know how they have been tied there is no way to know how they can be undone. What process has been used to tie them? How have they been created? Only knowing that, can they be untied. Let me come closer. And don’t do anything before I look, because if you do something without knowing how the knots have come into existence you may create even more subtle knots. They may become even more difficult. It may even become impossible to open them.”
And Buddha said, “Right, Sariputra, that’s exactly what I wanted to say.”
Before one understands how to attain, one has to understand how one is missing. What are the causes of our misery? How did we become divided? How did this impossible happen – that the indivisible has become divided, that the absolutely blissful has fallen into misery, that gods have become imprisoned? How did it happen?
The “how” has to be known very, very minutely, so first we will go into the “how” of it.