Removing the Mask

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Being natural is a learning, for people put on different masks. Some people consider themselves moralists and are vocal about it in public. Some consider themselves reformists and are vocal about it in public. Some consider themselves to be principled, adarsha. They live their life in that manner and don’t care about other people. If other people are inspired by that, fine; if other people are put off by that, fine, but you are living your principles in life.

People have different opinions about themselves and that is what they project to everybody externally. They don’t live a natural life. In spiritual life it is important to live the natural life, where you don’t have to put on a mask of any kind. For example, people connect satya, truth, with speech, not with life. If somebody thinks of truth, the first idea is that they have to speak the truth. You will never think that you have to live the truth. Living is more important and valuable than speech. That applies to every good quality in life.

If somebody feels kindness, they want to tell everybody, “I am a very kind person.” If somebody is generous, they try to show everybody that they are generous. If somebody experiences compassion, they try to prove to everybody that they are compassionate. All this is self-projection; it is not living the quality. It is using the quality to project yourself and your agenda. This is why people are not able to understand how to live the yamas and niyamas in life.

People are so self-centred and caught up in their own projections that they fail to see the reality behind the appearance. You will never be able to progress as long as you hide away from the reality and not acknowledge your shortcomings. There are people who think, ‘This is too much responsibility. I don’t want responsibility, I want rights.’ They want rights, they don’t want responsibilities. Even that is a projection of the individuality. These are the traits that everybody lives in life and therefore spirituality does not emerge, evolve or grow in anyone’s life.

You do not want to understand or change your shortcomings, you blame others for your suffering and yet you want to be spiritual. It is hypocrisy and it is a paradox. If you identify with hypocrisy, you remain a hypocrite. However, if you think of it as a paradox and try to shift from one to the other, you can change. You should be able to look at your life clearly and objectively and not hide from your shortcomings. The moment you hide from your shortcomings, you are negating spirituality.

After all, what is the teaching of Swami Sivananda? Pratipaksha bhavana, cultivating the positive, the beautiful in you. When you experience something negative, can you not make the effort to change that into something beautiful? That is the sadhana. That is the effort. Progress only happens if there is struggle in life. Advancement in technology happened when there was struggle. Advancement in medicine happened when there was sickness. If there was no sickness, would there be advancement of medicine? Therefore, every opportunity to discover your weakness will always take you one step further. It will give you more strength, courage, conviction and inspiration. That is the yogi’s mind. The bhogi’s mind is the opposite of that. Self-centred awareness projects a mask and yogi awareness removes the mask. This is the natural life.

The best quality

There are times, situations and conditions that influence and affect your thoughts, perceptions, mind and emotions. If in your house one wall is weak, would you not strengthen the wall so the house does not collapse? In your life do you do that? In your material life you do it: ‘This pillar is weak, this beam is weak, this wall is weak, it is cracking, so I must repair it and make it stronger.’ When you recognize a shortcoming and weakness in life, then what effort do you make to strengthen the weak part? The weakest aspect is always misunderstanding people, situations and circumstances. This misunderstanding is the cause of human downfall.

Love is not the best quality in life or in the world. Compassion and kindness are not the ultimate qualities that one has to live. Understanding is the quality that strengthens every other positive quality. If you have understanding, love has meaning. If you have understanding, compassion has meaning. If you have understanding, seva has meaning. In the absence of understanding, these qualities are imposed conditions, disciplines and situations. The moment there is lack of understanding and the imposition comes in, your slide into darkness again begins. If you can cultivate understanding and not think of compassion and love as the qualities that you want to express to project yourself, then that understanding makes you live a spontaneous, natural life, in which luminosity shines from within you.

Never think of love as the quality that you want to attain in life. Never think of compassion as the quality that you want to attain in life. Never even think of attaining self-realization in life. Even that is useless if there is no understanding. The one and only thing that you require in this world is understanding and connection. That connection is not due to a whim of self-satisfaction. That connection is to help you walk another step. This is a vital point that people miss.

Live a natural life and try to remove the masks, one by one. Try to understand and not impose your own beliefs. Expand and enlarge your understanding. Then you will become a human being.

Published in Hatha Yoga Yatra 2