You see this false body as true; thus you have
placed yourself in bondage (sggs 1231).
Egoism binds people in bondage, and causes them
to wander around lost (sggs 227). (sggs 729).
Bondage results due to man's mistaken self-identity. And this mistaken identity results due to ignorance of one's True Nature as Unconditioned Consciousness. Man is constituted of Spirit (Aatmaan) and matter (non-self or Maya). The Spirit is eternal, whilst the matter is constantly in flux. Although the Pure Spirit is man's Essential Nature, but in ignorance he generally continues to identify himself with the matter — body, mind and intellect personality (false ego) — in all his experiences in which there is the underlying "I" consciousness. This ignorance and superimposition of the non-self on the Real Self or Mool with (Source, Origin, Jot....) is the root of man's so-called bondage. In other words, man's not understanding this consciousness itself is the bondage. The Gurbani (SGGS) explains it in very simple words as follows:
  • ਮਿਥਿਆ ਤਨੁ ਸਾਚੋ ਕਰਿ ਮਾਨਿਓ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਆਪੁ ਬੰਧਾਵੈ ॥: Mithiaa tann saacho kar maanio ih bidh aap bandhaavai: O man, you see this false body as true; in this way, you have placed yourself in bondage (sggs 1231).
  • ਤ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਗੁਣ ਬੰਧੀ ਦੇਹੁਰੀ ਜੋ ਆਇਆ ਜਗਿ ਸੋ ਖੇਲੁ ॥: Trihu gun banddhee dehuree jo aaiaa jagi so khel: The three qualities of Maya hold the body in bondage; whoever comes into the world is subject to their play (sggs 21).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਬੰਧਨ ਬੰਧਿ ਭਵਾਵੈ ॥: Houmai bandhan bandh bhavaavai: Egoism binds people in bondage, and causes them to wander around lost (sggs 227).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਸਭੋ ਜਗੁ ਬਾਧਾ ॥: Maya mohi sabho jagu baadhaa: Attached to Maya, the whole world is in bondage (sggs 394).

One has landed himself in bondage by identifying with a body or name and form. This mistaken identity is the root of our sorrows (Dukha) faced by each one of us in our respective worldly life. All the afflictions that pertain to the body-mind-intellect individuality — which is ephemeral in nature — are transposed on the Mool with (Source, Origin, Jot....) and thus the person suffers because of this ignorance. The limitations created in the expression of our individuality due to the ceaseless demands of our body (senses), the countless agitations of the mind and the painful restlessness of the intellect is what we call philosophically as the bondage. So long we are in this bondage of the worldliness, the Truth remains hidden from us. We remain in bondage until the ego-idea is not removed.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਵਹਿ ਤਾ ਉਬਰਹਿ ਨਾਹਿ ਤ ਬਧੇ ਦੁਖ ਸਹਾਹਿ ॥੧॥: Nanak gurmukh hovahi taa ubarahi naahi ta badhe dukh sahaahi ||1||: O Nanak! If (the Msnmukh person - mind-willed...) becomes the Gurmukh, then he is emancipated; otherwise, he remains in bondage, and suffers in pain ||1|| (sggs 591).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੋ ਮੁਕਤੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਬੰਧ ਵਿਚਾਰੇ ॥: Gurmukh hovai so mukat kaheeai manmukh bandh vichaare: One who becomes Spiritual being (Gurmukh) is said to be liberated, while the poor materialists (Manmukhs) are in bondage (sggs 796).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਵਿਸਾਰਿਆ ਸਚੁ ਮਰਣਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਧੰਧਾ ਕਰਤਿਆ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਇਆ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਦੁਖੁ ਸਹਾਮੁ ॥: Maya moh visaariaa sach marnaa Harinaam. Dhandaa kartiyaa janam gayiaa andar dukh sahaam: Emotionally attached to Maya, the mortal forgets Truth, death and God's Name. Engaged in worldly affairs (Maya), his life wastes away; and deep within himself, he suffers in pain (sggs 1248).
  • ਹੋਂਦਾ ਫੜੀਅਗੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਾਣੁ ॥: Hodaa farreeyag Nanak jaan: O Nanak, know this: egoism leads to bondage (sggs 1289).

Based on the foregoing verses, we can divide all human beings in two categories: materialists and Spiritual Beings. The people with materialistic outlook or conditioned consciousness — referred as Manmukh in the Gurbani — assert that everlasting happiness is attainable only in acquisition of sense-objects. They endure body-identity and feel like perpetuating it eternally. The true scriptures and the masters however tell us to the contrary. The pleasure that's experienced upon fulfillment of any craving is fleeting. Such temporary experience of happiness attained from the enjoyment of material objects can be compared to a person suffering from scabies who upon scratching experiences transitory relief; but this scratching only worsens later. Whenever a desire for material objects is fulfilled, the inevitable result is greed and more. On the other hand, if a desire remains unfulfilled, it manifests in fear and anger. This is attachment, which leads to bondage. Hence, the disease of craving for sense objects is such that even if a man acquires all the wealth and possessions of the world, his disease of worldly craving will go on multiplying.

  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮੈਲੇ ਮਲੁ ਭਰੇ ਹਉਮੈ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਵਿਕਾਰੁ ॥: Manmukh maile mal bhare haumai trisanaa vikaar: The Manmukhs are polluted. They are filled with the pollution of egotism, cravings and evil passions (sggs 29).

We can look at it from an another angle. Due to the rise of objectivity in our consciousness, the consciousness becomes conditioned and limited: that is bondage. Materialists in bondage fritter away their efforts chasing the vanishing pleasures, not realizing that the same, in the long run will result in mental agony, distress and physical discomfort. Their materialistic existence in life can be compared to a lobster floating in cold water in a container of a restaurant. Upon demand, as the container is heated from below, the lobster will enjoy the stay there initially because of the warmth. But that joy is only temporary, because as the water reaches boiling point, it will be unable to withstand the temperature and ultimately perish. Similarly, bondage to worldly objects may fetch temporary peace and happiness but it will push man into an bottomless pit of passion and sin.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਬੰਧੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਕਰਾਏ ॥੪॥੩॥: Nanak manmukh bandh hai gurmukh mukati karaae ||4||3||: O Nanak, the Manmukhs remain in bondage (with hopes, desires, etc. They become hurdles on his Way); the Gurmukhs are liberated (From these) ||4||3|| (sggs 559).
  • ਅੰਧ ਕੂਪ ਮਹਿ ਪਰਿਓ ਪਰਾਨੀ ਭਰਮ ਗੁਬਾਰ ਮੋਹ ਬੰਧਿ ਪਰੇ ॥: Andh koop mahi pario paraanee bharam gubaar moh bandh pare: The mortal has fallen into the deep, dark pit, and is entangled in the darkness of doubt, and the bondage of emotional attachment (sggs 823).
  • ਪਾਪ ਬੰਧਨ ਨਿਤ ਪਉਤ ਜਾਹਿ ॥: Paap bandhan nit paut jaahi: The bondage of sin continues to hold man (sggs 1192).

Emotional attachment to worldly relationships or sense objects clouds one's subtle sense of discrimination (Bibek Budhi), which leads to his bondage. Man in bondage cries out "I, me, mine, you". He exclusively thinks about his body, spouse, children, comforts, money, sex, name and power. Overtaken by passions — lust, greed, anger, sense-attachment, self-conceit, enviousness and stubborn mindedness (and their numerous variations) — he loses Divine Virtues. He becomes irreligious and comes down to the level of animals. He does havoc and corruption in selfishness. He gives up the path of compassion and truth, and adopts the path of error and violent destruction. Religious rituals or deeds done in bondage result in calamities. In bondage one sees body, Jaat-Paat (caste), differences, good and bad, likes and dislikes, and so on. A man in bondage is neither concerned about bondage, nor deliverance, nor his conduct. His reading of the scriptures, worship, or religious practices become a chain of bondage around his neck. Every act performed in such obscured consciousness becomes suffering in disguise for him.

  • ਮੇਰਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਜਾਨਤਾ ਤਬ ਹੀ ਤੇ ਬੰਧਾ ॥: Meraa teraa jaanataa tabb hee te bandhaa: He is concerned with "mine and yours", and so he is held in bondage (sggs 400).
  • ਮੇਰੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਧਾਰਿ ਬੰਧਨਿ ਬੰਧਿਆ ॥: Meree meree dhaar bandhan bandhiaa: Crying out, "Mine, Mine!", man is bound in bondage (sggs 761).
  • ਮਮਤਾ ਮੋਹ ਧ੍ਰੋਹ ਮਦਿ ਮਾਤਾ ਬੰਧਨਿ ਬਾਧਿਆ ਅਤਿ ਬਿਕਰਾਲ ॥: Mamataa moh dharoh madi maataa bandhan baadhiaa ati bikaraal: Intoxicated with the wine of attachment, love of worldly possessions and deceit, and so bound in bondage, man is wild and hideous (sggs 806).
  • ਬੰਧਨ ਮਾਤ ਪਿਤਾ ਸੁਤ ਬਨਿਤਾ ॥ ਬੰਧਨ ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਹਉ ਕਰਤਾ ॥: Bandhan maat pitaa sut banitaa. Bandhan karam dharma hau karataa: Mother, father, children and spouse - all place the mortal in bondage. Religious rituals and actions done in ego place the mortal in bondage (sggs 1147).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸੇਵੇ ਜੀਅ ਕੇ ਬੰਧਨਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਹਿ ॥: Bin satgur seve jeea ke banndhanaa vich houmai karam kamaahi: Without serving the True Guru (Self, Truth, Spirit, etc.), the soul is in the bondage of deeds done in ego (sggs 589).
  • ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਪੜੈ ਬੰਧਨ ਮੋਹ ਬਾਧਾ ਨਹ ਬੂਝੈ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਪਿਆਰਿ ॥: Pandit parrai bbandhan moh baadhaa nah boojhai bikhiaa piaar: The Pandits read the scriptures, but they are trapped in the bondage of emotional attachment. In love with evil, they do not understand (sggs 33).
  • ਬੰਧਨਿ ਬੰਧਿ ਭਵਾਈਅਨੁ ਕਰਣਾ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥: Bandhan bandhi bhavaaeean karanaa kashhoo na jaai: Bound in bondage, people are made to wander, and they cannot do anything about it (sggs 1414).
  • ਬੰਧਨ ਮੁਕਤਾ ਜਾਤੁ ਨ ਦੀਸੈ ॥: Bandhan mukataa jaat na deesai: One liberated from bondage does not recognize Jaat (sggs 1318).
  • ਇਕਨਾ ਗਲੀਂ ਜੰਜੀਰ ਬੰਦਿ ਰਬਾਣੀਐ ॥ ਬਧੇ ਛੁਟਹਿ ਸਚਿ ਸਚੁ ਪਛਾਣੀਐ ॥: Ikanaa galleen janjeer bandh rabaaneeai. Badhe shuttahi sachi sachu pashhaaneeai: Some have chains around their necks, in bondage to the Lord. They are released from bondage, realizing the True Lord as True (sggs 1287).

In conclusion, bondage is Maya; fruitive or causative Karma; and the veil of duality (Doojaa Bhaav) or the source of ignorance which separates the Jeeva (individual being) from the Divine. Simply put, bondage is the conditioned mind attached to any of the sensory perceptions. Other expressions for bondage include physical ego or false self; movement in consciousness; desires or craving for sense-objects; dense coloring of the sense-bent mind caught in the activity of the manifest state; an individual's subjugation to pleasure and pain; illusion or imagination that never ends and never exists; delusion; emotional attachment; mortality; finitude; Sansaar; birth-death cycle; separation from Truth; foolishness which adorns the head of all Dukha and calamities; modified and differentiated being; mistaken identity, non-recognition of "Joti Svaroop", or ignorance of the soul's Oneness with the Pure Spirit; and so on.

  • ਮਨ ਕਾ ਅੰਧੁਲਾ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾ ਬੰਧੁ ॥: Mann kaa andhulaa maya kaa bandhu: Mentally blind is in Maya's bondage (sggs 354).
  • ਅਨਿਕ ਕਰਮ ਕਰਿ ਥਾਕਿਆ ਭਾਈ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਬੰਧਨ ਪਾਇ ॥: Anik karam kar thaakiaa bhaaee fir fir bandhun paai: People are so tired of performing their many causative Karma, O brother, but they fall into bondage again and again (sggs 608).
  • ਜੋ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਸਾਕਤ ਕਾਮਨਾ ਅਰਥਿ ਦੁਰਗੰਧ ਸਰੇਵਦੇ ਸੋ ਨਿਹਫਲ ਸਭੁ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੨॥: Jo doojai bhaai saakat kaamanaa arath duragandh sarevade so nihafal sabh agiaan ||2||: The faithless cynics (Maya stricken - ਮਾਇਆ-ਵੇੜ੍ਹੇ) in their love of duality (or Maya) and sensual desires, harbor foul-smelling urges (ਵਿਕਾਰਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਲੱਗਣਾਂ - to be engrossed in passions). They are totally useless and ignorant (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਲੋਂ ਬੇ-ਸਮਝ) ||2|| (sggs 734).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਏਈ ਬੰਧਨਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੋਨੀ ਪਾਹਿ ॥: Houmai eaeee bandhanaa fir fir jonee paahi: This is the bondage of ego, that time and time again, they are reborn (sggs 466).

Based on the aforesaid facts, it can be concluded that it is impossible to purify the mind while in material bondage. Since the intuitive peace and happiness is internal; the goal of satisfying desires by external progress in materialism cannot bring about inner joy. The search for eternal peace and happiness is not a matter of choice. It is a universal quest. But, as indicated in the scriptures, without self-purification (removal of the ego-idea) it is foolishness to hope for such Anand (Bliss). The aim of all Spiritual endeavor is to remove our ignorance by which we can gain insight into our essential status as the Intact Consciousness, which is eternally Blissful.

  • ਧਰਣੀਧਰੁ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਨੀਚ ਕੁਲ ਸੇਵਹਿ ਹਉ ਹਉ ਕਰਤ ਬਿਹਾਵਥ ॥: Dharneedhar tiaag neech kul sevahi hayu hayu karat bihaavat: Abandoning the Divine, man serves lowly Maya, and thus he passes his life acting egotistically (sggs 1001).

This brings us to the second category of human beings: the Spiritual Beings referred as Gurmukh in the Gurbani. They lead Spiritual Life (also called Divine or Eternal Life) of non-attachment, purity and contentment; for they know that only by knowing one's True Nature one can overcome material afflictions, and become eternally blissful. Hence, people with Spiritual outlook spend their time and energy on the Spiritual path (Aatam-Maarag) practicing dispassion, resorting to acquisition of Self-knowledge (Aatam-Giaan), practicing love and devotion, doing selfless service, meditating on Divine Name, and associating with Sat (Truth) within and outside; without however sacrificing the household duties and responsibilities.

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਬਾਧਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਛੂਟਾ ॥: Houmai baadhaa garmukhi shootaa: Egotism is bondage; by becoming a Gurmukh, one is emancipated (sggs 131).
  • ਬੰਧਨਿ ਬਾਧਿਆ ਇਨ ਬਿਧਿ ਛੂਟੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੇਵੈ ਨਰਹਰੇ ॥੧॥: Bandhan baadhiaa in bidh shootai gurmukhi sevai narahare ||1||: Bound in bondage, the man is released only by this method: by becoming a Gurmukh, serve God ||1|| (sggs 1112).
  • ਬਿਖੈ ਰੋਗ ਭੈ ਬੰਧਨ ਭਾਗੇ ਮਨ ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਜਾਨਾਨਾ ॥: Bikhai rog bhai bandhan bhaage mann nij ghar sukh jaanaanaa: The diseases of corruption, fear and bondage have run away; my mind has come to know peace in its own true home within (sggs 339).
  • ਜਗੁ ਬੰਦੀ ਮੁਕਤੇ ਹਉ ਮਾਰੀ ॥: Jag bandee mukate hau maaree: The world is held in bondage; he alone is emancipated, who conquers his ego (sggs 413).
  • ਮੁਹਬਤੇ ਮਨਿ ਤਨਿ ਬਸੈ ਸਚੁ ਸਾਹ ਬੰਦੀ ਮੋਚ ॥: Muhabatte mani tani basai sach saah bandee moch: Enshrine love for the True Divine in your mind and body; the Liberator from bondage (sggs 724).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਮਾਲਿ ਤੂੰ ਬਧਾ ਛੁਟਹਿ ਜਿਤੁ ॥: Nanak naam samaal toon badhaa shuttahi jit: O Nanak, contemplate the Divine Name, and it will release you from bondage (sggs 729).
  • ਹਕੁ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਸਚੁ ਖੁਦਾਇਆ ਬੁਝਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਬੰਦਿ ਖਲਾਸ ਤਰਾ ॥: Hak hukam sach khudaaiaa bujhi Nanak bandi khalaas taraa: Realize the True Hukam (Divine Will, Eternal Law, or Command), O Nanak; you will be released from bondage, and carried across (sggs 1084).

— T. Singh