I shared the following quote on Facebook yesterday and asked people to leave a comment with their interpretation of its meaning:
“If a thief is shackled by iron handcuffs and a king by golden handcuffs, does that mean that the king is not bound?”
—Shri Sadguru Siddharameshwar Maharaj
If you read the comments, you'll notice how every person perceived the teaching quite differently.
The world is no different. We only see our own reflection.
Every one of our perceptions is filtered through our life’s unique conditioning and circumstances, which the mind then projects onto the world.
But… I digress, that’s a bonus teaching.
In the above quote's metaphor, both the thief and king are shackled and bound. Neither man is free.
Both men are handcuffed by chains they have unknowingly placed upon themselves.
They are imprisoned by their desires. They are victim to their own ignorance.
The thief’s ignorance is obvious. He has taken what wasn't his, and for this, his freedom has been taken away.
The king’s ignorance is no different. He surrounded himself with opulence, wealth, power, and prestige, and unknowingly bound himself by the very same thing as the thief—by attaching his happiness onto something external, to things that were outside of him, and that weren't truly his.
If someone offered to unlock the thief’s iron chains, he would gladly accept, and he would be free. But, if someone offered to unlock the king’s golden chains, he would certainly resist. He would refuse to let go of the perceived wealth that he finds himself chained to.
His desire for riches is simply far too great. His attachment to the idea of the happiness the gold might bring in the future, limits his freedom now.
He ignores the present moment for a future that will never come.
The king is blinded by his ignorance. He is bound by the very thing he seeks—wealth. His desire to keep his golden handcuffs prevents him from realizing the freedom that is being offered to him. To be free, he only needs to let go of his conceptual attachments.
True freedom is blind to social status or circumstance. True happiness doesn’t require any external attainments or material wealth.
After all, you don’t possess your possessions, they possess you.
Liberation can only be self-realized by realizing your true Self within, when you are empty of any notion of lack, when you are empty of desire, and when you no longer limit your happiness by false concepts that attempt to define it.