So, trustful doubt…prayerful inquiry.
The very first question asked in the Sarvasar Upanishad is:
What is bondage?
Consider this. People usually ask whether God exists. What is God? What is liberation? Does liberation happen or not? What is the soul? Does it exist or not? People begin from where they should end. A diseased man is asking, “What is health?” But an intelligent person, if he is ill, will ask, “What is this illness?” The diagnosis will start with the illness. The first question raised in this Upanishad is: What is bondage? That is the disease, that is the sickness with which we are bound.
Someone is in a prison, tied with chains, enslaved, and is asking, “What is freedom?” He has never tasted freedom; he has been in chains since he was born, always in chains. He has found himself
in chains for as long as he has been aware of himself. His awareness and his bondage are both joined together, and he is asking, “What is freedom?” Perhaps he would not be able to understand; he has not asked the right question. He should only be asking that which he can understand.
An intelligent seeker is a person who only asks the question whose answer he will be able to understand. And if he understands one answer, he will also be able to understand other answers.
That is why the first question is: What is bondage? – “How am I bound?” – because the person who has always been in bondage does not know what bondage is. Even to recognize it as bondage you have to have had some experience of freedom. If you are handcuffed, you will realize that you are handcuffed. But if a child is born in chains, will he ever be able to recognize the chains as chains? They will appear to be a part of his body. And if you try to break his chains he will cry and scream, “Are you trying to kill me?” These chains are his life. They are not separate from him, they are his being.
And that is how we are. As long as we have existed, as long as we have known that we are, our awareness of our existence and of our prison have been joined. We have never experienced freedom. We have never flown in the sky, our wings have never opened in the open sky, we have only known them to be forever closed and unused. We have never known that our wings are meant for flying. We were born and brought up in a prison; this prison has been our very life.
So the right inquiry would begin with What is bondage? But we don’t even know anything about slavery! We are deep in our slavery,