10 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside listening to Swami Sarvapriyananda tell the story about the laundry man and his donkey.
What questions arise when I focus on “the tied donkey” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
A village laundryman went from house to house collecting laundry to wash at the river. One day, he realized he forgot to bring the rope with which he ties his donkey to a tree. If he didn’t tie the donkey, he was sure the donkey would wander while he washed the laundry. The laundry man didn’t know what to do until a fellow villager told him, “Just pretend to tie the donkey.” So, the laundryman went through the motions of tying the donkey to the tree with an invisible rope. He went down to the river to wash the clothes. At the end of the day, he was glad to see the donkey had not moved. He packed all the clean laundry on the donkey’s back and mounted him. He urged the donkey to go, but the donkey wouldn’t move. The fellow villager reminded him, “Well, you also need to pretend to untie him.” So, the laundry man went through the motions of untying the invisible rope. He remounted and urged the donkey to move. The donkey followed the laundryman’s command. This Vedantic story serves to illustrate that which binds us is an illusion. We are essentially free as the untied donkey. Realize we are not really tied. Realize the rope is invisible.
Meditating on the tied donkey, a Jnana yogi might ask, “What in this life now feels binding? Will seeing this tie as an illusion help to ease any troubles?”