I once read a story about how nomads babysit their children. When the parents wanted to go to the village to get some supplies they would leave their children behind by drawing a circle in the sand around the children. They were told they can not leave this circle or many bad things will happen to them. Reinforced by the others of the small group the children out of fear would stay. Sure enough when the parents came back, there remained the children.
A man came across an incident where this old lady was crying bitterly because the villagers had taken a stick and drew a line in the sand around her. They knew she had been raised up as a nomad. Unable to escape the man in his compassion came and with his foot erased part of that circle and pulled the lady out.
Alone the woman could not escape.
Every child is helpless, vulnerable. Every child is conditioned by the parents in many ugly ways. Even the best intensions of the parents has conditioned their child in the ways that they themselves have been conditioned and believe is right. Every society is brought up believing that they have been the lucky ones to have been taught the right way. This is part of the ego, the formation of the personality when there is in the child the developement of trust. Who else do we turn towards for our existance. It is something cultivated in you, in your nature, by your parents, the society, the priest, the rabbis, the imans, the politicians, the educators of the world. Teach that child the ways of God as a youth and this will create obiedience. And even if they stray they will return to the ways that are Right. Every parent loves the obiedient child. No one wants a rebellious child.
How deep this conditioning goes, so much so that we are not even aware of it. We may grow up doing things that have us feeling bad, miserable, unable to even love ourselves sometimes. But we do them anyways, because in that security of trust we have been conditioned into what we come to believe is the right way. You may punish yourself over and over, hate what you are doing to yourself, but still deep down inside from your parents, you society, your spouse, your peers, you do them because you want to feel accepted.
And the ego is very cunning. If you throw it out the front door it comes from the back door,but it goes on grabbing you again and again. Now this has been your conditioning. You may fall in love with someone of a different faith. You may be married and fall in love with someone else. You are not suppose to do that. It is wrong. The self will feel guilty, ashamed. You hide from society because of fear, knowing that you will be cast out because that society will reinforce your conditioning that what you are doing is wrong. They will grab you and kill you. If you are too rebellious, you will become an outcast.
Only now and then does a child escape to find freedom, to escape the clutches of their conditioning. Perhaps someone has come along and with his foot erased part of that circle in the sand. And we are all in a cage of a psychological kind.
Freedom, real freedom happens when we can go beyond even our self. Freedom happens not for the self, but from the self. An awareness is needed and then slowly layers and layers like an onion peel away. When you start peeling it, what will you find in the end? When whole onion is peeled, nothingness is left in your hands. No self is left, it's an absolute empitness as far ego is concerned. And the ego you will find is not the essense of what you are, but what has been surrounding you. You were born not with it. Essense is what you are, personality is what has been created in you by your parents, your society. No one was born a Christian or a Moslem or anything.
We are a bird in a cage.