Wednesday, June 26, 2013

uncover the masks

Verse 3.35: It is far better to discharge one's prescribed duties, even though faultily, than another's duties perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one's own duty is better than engaging in another's duties, for to follow another's path is dangerous.

I was thinking about today's verse and that was the first image that came to mind - uncovering the layers and layers of masks.

To me, a mask signifies hiding one's identity. After all, it's hard to see the full picture if there's something covering it.

Bhakti yoga is about realizing we are wearing different layers of masks, using them effectively and gradually letting go of them; thus, allowing our real selves to shine.

Let's talk about two masks that are specifically prominent - the body and our proclivities and tendencies (i.e. our nature). The body is like a full-fledged mask. It does such an effective job of hiding "the real us" that it's hard to distinguish that the body is just a covering.

Any actors reading this today? Perhaps you can relate. When diving into a role or part, you might have delved so deep into a character that you started to identify yourself with it. Similarly, we have spent so much time wearing different bodies (in this life and in so many previous ones) that we've forgotten that it's not who we really are.

As if one wasn't enough, there's another mask that covers the body mask. Sigh....I know. Like I said - layers up on layers.

That mask is our psycho-physical nature. Not only do we identify with the body, but we also identify with certain tendencies, inclinations and proclivities. What's interesting to note here is that Krsna is not stating that we just take off this mask - i.e. He is not stating that we abandon our nature. Oh no. In fact He is stating the opposite.

Krsna is encouraging that we work in line with our nature - i.e. perform our duties/work in accordance with our nature. He goes one step further in fact and states "It doesn't matter whether you are good at it or not, work according to your nature. Even if you can do something better, it doesn't matter."

So what does that mean? Previously we described that there are four natural divisions of society (in terms of work) - the educators/academics, the administrators/leaders, the businessmen/agriculturalists and finally the artists/workers. That's not to say that people can't be a mix of these four - they certainly can! In fact, nowadays it's hard to find someone who has just the nature of an educator, leader etc..

It commonly happens that we can easily do the work of another extremely well, even if it's not in our nature (i.e. an artist might be excellent at typing). Thinking that it's easier to find a job typing, that person might give up their art. Krsna says here - don't do it! By engaging one's nature, it not only promotes a sense of fulfillment but allows one to naturally advance in bhakti

These masks can act as tools, rather than obstacles, if we know how to properly use them in our journey of self-discovery.

The body and our individual natures are not bad. After all, they are gifts given to us by the Supreme. It's how we utilize them that makes all the difference.

By working with an attitude of appreciation and detachment, we can offer our talents and gifts in gratitude to the Supreme. Similarly, we can utilize our body to glorify the Supreme through song, prayers and our very existence. These bhakti processes allow us to work with what we've got, instead of rejecting them. Like we've said so many times before - bhakti is about transformation, not simply negation.

It's up to us what we do with these masks - we can stay covered by them, or use them to free ourselves. What do you choose?

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