You are not imagining things, and in course of time you will yourself feel and know that what you see inside is more real than that which you see outside.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat
There was a famous politician who was quite conscious of the way that he appeared in the media. Indeed, he realized that his skin looked more radiant under yellow light and that his profile shots were most appealing when taken from the left side. Whenever he had dinner outings or public appearances, his assistant was assigned the task of going to the restaurant or venue beforehand to choose a table with the best possible lighting and seating that featured his left profile.
In today’s world, artists, celebrities and people in the public-eye are not the only ones who are conscious of their image – we, ordinary people, too have started to play a very active part in how we present ourselves to the world. We want the world to see us in a certain light – we want to be viewed as beautiful, powerful, interesting and happy. So we stream on to the internet images of ourselves in which we look our best and appear our happiest. Social media has become a part of our daily routine, with constant status updates, instagrams, tweets and so forth. But are we telling the world the truth? Or just like the politician, are we selectively portraying ourselves in a certain favourable light? More importantly, are we telling ourselves the truth? In fact, what is the truth?
The fact is that most of us adorn ourselves with multiple layers because we are somewhat uncomfortable with who we really are. By hiding behind our social status, our designer clothes, our jewellery, our coloured hair and perfectly manicured nails, we evade facing ourselves. The end product, the image we present to the world is many layers of illusion. But stripped to our core, what remains? And more importantly, how comfortable are we with the person underneath all those layers.
Unfortunately, we have been born into a world of illusion. Everything we believe to be real is in fact perishable, unreal and subject to decay. We blindly pursue the illusion, attempting only to enhance the facade, because quite frankly, we don’t know any better. We have been born and brought up in this world, and have naturally started to define ourselves by its parameters. And the irony of it all is that in doing so, we are actually concealing our true beauty. In the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, Sayuri Nitta beautifully unveils the illusion behind a geisha’s perfection and flawless elegance. In Japan, geishas were considered to be living pieces of art, beautifully adorned with silk robes and immaculate white makeup. But Sayuri Nitta explains in the movie: “She (the geisha) paints her face to hide her face.”
There is an ancient proverb that states, “There is none so blind as those who will not see.” We have chosen to turn a blind eye towards who we really are, embracing the illusion instead. But the illusion cannot sustain us forever – there is only so much that it can provide - because at our core we are much more. So a sense of emptiness eventually sets in for us all.
There is a story of the 1930s actor Charlie Chaplin that sheds light on this point. In those days, Chaplin was considered as one of the most famous men on earth. He was once travelling privately by train and did not expect anyone to greet him at his destination. However, news of his arrival somehow leaked to the press, and to his surprise he found a mob of fans waiting to greet him as he disembarked from the train. Being a showman, he put on a smile for his fans, made them happy, and then retired to his hotel room. That night, however, he wrote a letter to a dear one in which he confessed that as he disembarked from the train, into the sea of adoring fans, he actually never felt so alone in his entire life. Similarly, Albert Einstein once said: “It is strange to be known so universally, and yet to be so lonely.”
The magic of the illusion eventually fades for us all, and we are left with a sense of loneliness, emptiness, searching for a glimpse of the truth. Is anything real in this play called life? Is the love that we feel in this world even real? Maharaj Charan Singh advises us that even the love we feel is an illusion:
There’s no real love in this world at all; it’s just a self-deception. Nobody belongs to us; we don’t belong to anybody. We deceive ourselves; people deceive themselves. They’re living in an illusion that we belong to each other, that we are meant for each other. We belong only to the Father; the rest is just karmic relationships with each other.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
If love isn’t even real, then what is? Only one thing: the relationship between a disciple and his Master. Those precious moments spent in silent remembrance of our Master are the only few glimpses of reality that we have during our short stay in this world. Yet, both silence and darkness tend to make many of us uncomfortable. We cling to our outer layers, because it takes a lot of patience and courage to take a peek at what lies within. So we spend our entire lives hiding from our true beauty. We avoid facing, embracing who we really are. Perhaps it is time to focus less on portraying ourselves in a certain light and turn towards finding our inner light, which shines ever so brightly.