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Are a person’s actions bound by the result of the actions of many lives, and if so, then what is left in the hands of the individual in this life? *

The question is: “If we are controlled by our actions in the past and the values of our past lives, what can we do now?” It has been rightly asked. If it is true that a person is absolutely bound by his past actions, then what is in his own hands? What can he do in the present? And if it is true that he is not at all bound by his actions of the past, then what is the point in doing anything? – because if he is not bound by his past actions, he will not be bound tomorrow by whatever he does now. So if he does something good today there will be no possibility to benefit from that good deed tomorrow. And if he is totally bound by his actions in the past there will be no meaning in anything he does – because he cannot do anything, he will be totally bound.

On the other hand, if he is totally free there will be no point in doing anything, because whatever he does tomorrow he will be free of it, and his past actions will not affect him. That is why man is neither completely bound nor completely free: one of his legs is tied and the other is free.

Once somebody asked Hazrat Ali, “Is man free or bound by his actions?”

Ali said, “Raise one of your legs.”

The man was free to raise either his left or right leg. He raised his left leg. Then Ali said, “Now raise the other one.”

And the man replied, “Are you mad? I cannot raise the other one now.”

Ali asked, “Why?”

The man answered, “I can only raise one at a time.”

Ali said, “The same is the case with man’s life. You always have two legs but you are able to raise only one at a time; one is always tied.” This is why the possibility exists for you to free the leg which is bound with the help of the leg which is free to move. But the possibility also exists for you to tie the one which is free with the help of the one which is tied up.

Whatsoever you have done in the past, you have done. You were free to do it, you have done it. Part of you has become frozen and is bound, but another part of you is still free. You are free to do the opposite of what you did. You can cancel what you did before by doing the opposite. You can destroy it by doing something different. You can dismiss it by doing something better. It is in the hands of the individual to wash away all his past conditionings.

Until yesterday you were angry; you were free to be angry. Certainly, someone who has been angry every day for the last twenty years will be bound by anger. For example, there are two people: the one who has been continuously angry for twenty years gets up in the morning one day and cannot find his slippers next to his bed; the one who has not been angry in twenty years also gets up in the morning and does not find his slippers next to his bed – which of them is more likely to get angry in this situation? Anger will arise in the first man, the man who has been angry for twenty years.

In this sense he is tied, because the twenty-year-old habit of becoming angry will immediately arise in him when something does not happen the way he wants it to happen. He is tied in the sense that twenty years of conditioning will make him feel inclined to do the same thing he has always done. But is he so tied that there is no possibility for him not to become angry?

No, nobody is ever that bound. If he can become aware right this moment, then he can stop. It is possible not to allow the anger to come. It is possible to transform the anger. And if he does that, the habit of twenty years may prove to be a problem but it will not be able to stop him completely – because if the one who has created the habit moves against it, he then has the freedom to completely destroy it. Just by experimenting with it a dozen times he can be free of it.

Past actions bind you, but they don’t bind you completely. Actions grip you, but they don’t grip you completely. They have their chains, but all chains can be broken; there is no chain which will not break. And something which does not break cannot be called a chain.

Chains bind you, but intrinsic to all chains is the possibility that they can be broken. If there is a chain which cannot be broken, you will not be able to call it a chain. Only what binds you but can also be broken can be called a chain. Your actions are chains in the sense that those chains can also be broken. One’s consciousness is always free. You are always free to go back over the steps that you have taken and the path that you have walked on.

So the past is restricting you, but your future is totally free. One leg is bound and the other is free. The leg of the past is tied, the leg of the future is free. If you want to, you can raise this leg of the future in the same direction as where the leg of the past is tied. Then you will go on being tied up. If you want to you can raise the leg of the future in the direction that is opposite to the leg of the past – and you will go on becoming free, it is in your hands. The state when both legs are free is called moksha, enlightenment. And the absolutely lowest kind of hell is the state where both legs are bound.

For this reason there is no need to be afraid of the past, or of past lives, because one who has done those actions is still free to do other actions.


* - Excerpt from OSHO. The Path of Meditation


Updated on 09-04-2018

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