For a horse, it is freedom to gallop. For a snake, it is freedom to crawl, not gallop. But it is still freedom for a snake not to be able to gallop. Failure to gallop is an elegant performance for a snake. Take the example of a jet plane about to take off. A hundred thousand Manjusris might not be able to get it started, but a jet pilot could do so very easily. Sometimes we are millionaires, sometimes paupers. Still, our essential nature does not change at all. We are always in the center of perfect freedom (Gateless Gate, case 41)
What is it to know our original face, the sound of one hand clapping, our essential nature, Christ consciousness, Buddha-nature, or MU? A direct experience of our essence is freedom. It’s been called awakening or enlightenment. Jesus called it being born again. Douglas Harding said it was a recognition of our headlessness. Being completely aware, as the still, vividly awake, boundless emptiness, is to be what we are, completely free, as the space for existence. There is nothing of our essential nature that is bound by anything arising within our nature, yet we are what is arising as and from our essential nature, including the illusion of limitation.
The human paradox is the equanimity of our limited uniqueness as the one and only of its kind and our empty spaciousness as everything. We are completely empty to receive everything and completely full to be everything. We are infinite and zero in one phenomenal experience. To be a realized being is to recognize and live as a paradox. We discover our uniqueness is defined by everything it is not. Our spaciousness is in contrast to our boundaries. Our emptiness is alive with thingness. Our illusory nature is only possible from awareness. Living as an enlightened being is to see the interplay of everything as the stillness in which it arises and embrace the illusion of being unenlightened.
As a horse, we are not the snake and are free to be the horse and not the snake, as the space for a horse and a snake. We get to be a limited, imperfect human being as the space for the world. We get to be a headless human who could not survive without a head. We are the wisdom of the cosmos with no clue about how it works and the delusion we could figure it all out. We are infinity divided by zero, and all the while living from the center of perfect freedom.
We may have glimpses of our infinite zero. Some may even last for more than a moment. Awake or asleep, the one constant is our freedom. This can be known in an instant, just by checking in on our spaciousness. This is what headlessness does for me. No matter how trapped or lost I think I am or feel I am, one glimpse of my headless nature reminds me of my freedom. I may not feel better and can still get pulled back into the vortex of recursive thought, but my freedom is always present. I have faith that with practice, there will be more life lived from spaciousness than not, and I always have my freedom. So do you. Go ahead and take a look for yourself.