What is in the way of Freedom?

photocredit: Arjuna Ardagh

My teacher in India, H.W.L. Poonja,  used to tell a wonderful story. I remember one day we were all gathered together with him. He used to like to tease us. 

“What is the one thing that most gets in the way of freedom?” he asked. 

“The mind,” somebody suggested.  “The ego,” said another. He shook his head dismissively. “Concepts,” said somebody else. “Beliefs.” This game went one for maybe half an hour. Finally he told us this wonderful story, which I think is my favorite of all time.

A long time ago in a far away land, there was king who had no heir. Now I am sorry to say that this is not a perfectly politically correct story, as in this ancient land it was a king who would inherit the kingdom, not a queen. 

Because he had no male offspring, he sent his squires out to all the villages around, announcing that the next king would be selected not by bloodline, but by an interview. So all of the people from round about were invited to come for an interview with the king. 

When the appointed day came, they all arrived. Of course they lived in the villages, so they had matted hair, they were dressed in rags, many had long beards and many had just bare feet. Before they could be invited for an interview with the king, first they had to go to the royal bathhouse, where each one was scrubbed. Their beards were trimmed or shaved, and they each got a good haircut. When the bathing was over, they were anointed with beautiful oils and scents. Then they were taken to the royal dressing rooms where they got new clothes, made out of silk or velvet or satin. 

Then they went to the royal banquet chambers, where they could eat anything they wanted. There was a buffet that stretched from one end of the hall to the other, with every dish you could imagine from around the world. There were fine wines too, of every possible variety. They dined in a style they had never dreamed possible before, they drank and they drank, and then out came the musicians and the dancers. There was dancing, and drinking, and singing, and all kinds of revelry. 

Finally it came to nine o’clock, and the guards came to ask everyone to leave. These poor people from the villages tried to wrap up a leg of mutton in the beautiful clothes made of silk or satin. But “No,” they were told, “you cannot take anything away from here. You can only take what you came with.” And so they staggered away from the palace, singing and swaying with their arms around each other.

The king called the prime minister. “What happened?” he asked. “I requested you to send out a message to all of my people, so that the next king could be selected by an interview. I’ve been waiting here the whole day but nobody came.”

The prime minister hung his head in embarrassment. “I’m sorry my Lord,” he said, “but they got so distracted with all of the things you provided. They got so distracted by the dancing girls, and music, and food, and drink, that no one remembered to come for the interview.”

The king looked at the prime minister in astonishment. “I can’t believe this,” he said.  If only one of them, one single person, had remembered why he had come, he would have inherited the whole kingdom. Then all of this would have been his, everyday, for the rest of his life. But each and every one forgot why he came.”


I love this story. When you hear it, does it remind you at all about anything in your own life? Do you sometimes wonder if you have also forgotten why you came? When I coach clients in Awakening Coaching, this is perhaps the most important focus of the relationship: To help people to remember why they came.

When a young couple is going to have a child, they have such a pure vision about how the child will be raised. They think of the perfect environment for their son or daughter to grow and prosper, to learn and to become their best. But years later, parents get overwhelmed and stressed, from driving kids to soccer practice, and dentist appointments, and dealing with missed homework, and they forget why they had the child. 

When someone has a vision to start a new business, they raise the capital, they write out their vision statement and their values. But years later, they may find themselves cutting corners to save money, laying off employees, or making deals that are no longer in alignment with their original vision. 

People forget why they came.

And of course this is true in a much bigger way as well. Here we are, with a few decades to live on the planet. We have gifts to give, maybe we have a message to share. Deep down we have values that are important to us, but so many people forget why they came.  

In Awakening Coaching we have developed an elaborate set of tools to help people to relax deeply into who they really are, into their “true nature.” From this “awakening” they can remember, perhaps not with thinking but in a more visceral way, who they are and why they came. They remember the gift they came to give.

Often this starts with a transformed relationship with the physical body. The body, after all, lives in reality, it lives in now. Reconnecting with the body is the first and most important step to coming back to your senses, coming home to yourself. 


Please join me for a tele-seminar this Thursday, February 21st at 6 PM Pacific time, where we will talk about the Language of the Body. I’m going to explain to you how you can communicate with your body more effectively, in a way that can be the foundation to remembering why you came.

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7 Responses to “What is in the way of Freedom?”

  1. Morgine February 19, 2013 at 6:28 am // Reply

    The story does put EVERYTHING in perspective…think I will finish writing my book sooner than later….and I am these days, at least living my purpose in almost everything I do… Celebrating Love’s Magic, without conditions… love the story…I too, will remember it always!


  2. duygu February 19, 2013 at 9:29 am // Reply

    ..thank You Arjuna,beautifuL reminder..keep asking myself everyday..’whats the purpose of Life, and asking ‘what am I’… searching, seeking..
    Everyday when I get up, my life purose, awakening guestions in my mind… and make my day as you remind, ‘remeber the GİFT they come to give’…
    Thinking Debbie Ford now… beautifuL aNgeL..
    rest iN Peace……


  3. chris February 19, 2013 at 10:54 am // Reply

    Deep love and gratitude for Poonja.

    They came asking for an interview.
    They were given other things
    and then told to leave….
    It would make sense IF they were shown where to go for the interview before dinner, otherwise its kind of mean to claim that they forgot, and imply fault?

    Maybe You just forgot to put that part in.


  4. Alissa February 19, 2013 at 11:28 am // Reply

    I would Love to remember and live that. So much is happening. I have more moments of clarity,but how do I hold it longer especially when my other lovely entities are having tantrums of selfishness at home and at work.I wonder is it my depth of love and compation that needs an overhaul.


  5. Paula February 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm // Reply

    Thank you for posting this Arjuna, a beautiful reminder of what matters most, why we are here. Thank you to dear Poonjaji for his delight in sharing the tale.

    A response to Chris above: no, i’m sure Arjuna didn’t forget to put that bit in the tale! It’s highly symbolic of how we live our lives too: the villagers arrived knowing fully the reason why they were invited – did it not rest with each of them to remember the main event? Thank you Chris for your comment, since as i write this it makes it all the more poignant that we ourselves rely upon being reminded of the main event too!


  6. Nancy February 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm // Reply

    What a beautiful Story. Thanks for reminding me of this gift to pass along!!


  7. Hannah February 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm // Reply

    I love Papajy’s story. Thank you so much for sharing it. Very impressive!


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