The rope fable
We are like a person holding on to a piece of rope.
He holds on for dear life, knowing that if he were to let go he would fall to his death. His parents, his teachers, and many others have told him this is so; and when he looks around he can see everyone else doing the same.
Nothing would induce him to let go.
Along comes a wise person. She knows that holding on is unnecessary, that the security it offers is illusory, and only holds you where you are. So she looks for a way to dispel his illusions and help him to be free.
She talks of real security, of deeper joy, of true happiness, of peace of mind. She tells him that he can taste this if he will just release one finger from the rope.
“One finger,” thinks the man; “that”s not too much to risk for a taste of bliss.” So he agrees to take this first initiation.
And he does taste greater joy, happiness, and peace of mind.
But not enough to bring lasting fulfillment.
“Even greater joy, happiness and peace can be yours,” she tells him, “if you will just release a second finger.”
“This,” he tells himself, “is going to be more difficult. Can I do it? Will it be safe? Do I have the courage?” He hesitates, then, flexing his finger, feels how it would be to let go a little more . . . and takes the risk.
He is relieved to find he does not fall; instead he discovers greater happiness and inner peace.
But could more be possible?
“Trust me,” she says. “Have I failed you so far? I know your fears, I know what your mind is telling you — that this is crazy, that it goes against everything you have ever learnt — but please, trust me. Look at me, am I not free? I promise you will be safe, and you will know even greater happiness and contentment.”
“Do I really want happiness and inner peace so much,” he wonders, “that I am prepared to risk all that I hold dear? In principle, yes; but can I be sure that I will be safe, that I will not fall?” With a little coaxing he begins to look at his fears, to consider their basis, and to explore what it is he really wants. Slowly he feels his fingers soften and relax. He knows he can do it. And he knows he must do it. It is only a matter of time until he releases his grip.
And as he does an even greater sense of peace flows through him.
He is now hanging by one finger. Reason tells him he should have fallen a finger or two ago, but he hasn”t. “Is there something wrong with holding on itself?” he asks himself. “Have I been wrong all the time?”
“This one is up to you,” she says. “I can help you no further. Just remember that all your fears are groundless.”
Trusting his quiet inner voice, he gradually releases the last finger.
And nothing happens.
He stays exactly where he is.
Then he realizes why. He has been standing on the ground all along.
And as he looks at the ground, knowing he need never hold on again, he finds true peace of mind.