Here is a Zen story about the Third and Fourth Zen Patriarchs Sengchan and Daoxin:
Sengchan eventually succeeded Hueke and became the third Zen Patriarch. He helped spread the rain of truth.
One day a young monk came to see him. He asked Sengchan, “What kind of mind/heart can be considered the Buddha mind/heart?”
Sengchan questioned him; “What kind of mind is your present mind/heart?”
The young monk said, “I am not aware of my mind/heart.”
“Since you are not even aware of your mind/heart, how can there be a Buddha mind?” Sengchan said to him.
Shortly after, the young monk exclaimed, “Master I beg you to show your compassion and lead me to the Dharma of liberation.”
Sengchan asked him “Who has put you in bondage?”
“Nobody has put me in bondage” answered the young monk.
“Since nobody has put you in bondage, it means you are free already. Why should you continue to seek liberation?” replied Sengchan. At this moment, the monk became enlightened. He went on to succeed Sengchan and become the Fourth Patriarch, Daoxin.
So who binds you? In an article I wrote last year called “The Real Free Man” I explored how most people have bodily freedom but don’t have a free spirit. Why don’t people have a free spirit? It is because, when defining what a successful life is, the media and worldly concepts like “Best School…Best Job…Best Car” influence us. Our world and environment influence us every day. It may be a strong influence, like public policy, or small, like commercials or stories about people who line up to buy an Iphone or a famous brand name shopping bag. We need to be aware how these bind our spirit.
When Sakyamuni Buddha spread the Dharma for forty-five years, many noble and capitalist people followed him. But he still kept a regular life. He got up at dawn, did meditation until noon then walked out to beg for food for his lunch. Sometimes he went to visit some monks before starting to beg. After lunch he would sit in contemplation until evening then he talked about Dharma with his disciples until nightfall. He never thought that because he is a noble Buddha people had to support him. He did not develop a bad attitude. Many modern people care about everything exterior rather than having peace of mind/heart.
So when you feel your spirit is not free ask yourself, “Who has put me in bondage?” or “What has put me in this situation?” Sometimes this useful question can help you discover what is binding you.