In The Path of Sri Ramana Maharshi: Part One–The Jnana Aspect of the Teaching, Sri Sadhu Om tells us a story about a man who is apparently imprisoned. The story goes like this:
The man, believing that he is in a triangular-shaped prison, continues to search along two walls that meet–let’s say–at a right angle. Along the first wall, he finds no opening, no means for escape. All the way up and down the seam between the two walls he also discovers no crack, no aperture. And as he gropes along the second wall, he is at a terrible loss.
Bemoaning his fate, the man is lucky enough to have a friend standing outside. Out of compassion, the friend approaches the imprisoned man and says to him, “Well, why don’t you search for a way out on the third wall behind you” (p. 164)!
The man turns around and quickly realizes that there is no third wall!
Immediately, he intends to run out of the prison, but the friend says to him, “What! Why do you run away? Is it necessary for you to do so? If you do not run away, will you remain in prison” (p. 165)?
The man now knows:
“Oho! yes, yes! I was not at all [i.e., never] imprisoned. How could I have been imprisoned when there was no wall at all behind me? It was merely a delusion that I was imprisoned, I was never imprisoned, nor am I now released! So I do not even need to run away from near these walls where I am now! The defect of my not looking behind was the reason for my so-called bondage; and the turning of my attention behind is really the sadhana [spiritual practice] for my so-called liberation. In realty, I am evey remaining as I am, without any imprisonment or release. (p. 165)
Such is Self-realization.