The Buddha Mask (And Other Spiritual Facades)

spiritual masksAs seekers, we may believe we have become aware now and dropped our false personas, but sometimes we have only traded it in for a new mask – a spiritual persona. In a hilarious group session a few months ago, my mentor GD helped us dissect and laugh at the masks we may wear as seekers, healers and therapists. Here’s my light-hearted summation of the key spiritual ‘displays’:

The Buddha Mask: You’ve seen the statue, now meet the person. Unaffected by others, far removed from worldly emotions, this mask says: You can’t touch me… I am beyond it all. Behind it hides sensitivity, fear and confusion. During my early Vipassana days, some people called me ‘aloof’ instead of ‘aalif’!

The Positivity Mask: Those who practice affirmations and positive thinking sometimes feel compelled to uphold an abnormally high frequency of ecstasy. Ask them how they are, and an automated voice reply comes: “AMAZING! Life is full of miracles!!” But when it is a mask, their eyes, their energy, and their aura tell a different story.

The ‘Superior-Seeker’ Mask: They enter a room, and the whole room suddenly feels unworthy. They carry a subtle air of superiority. They are on the high road to heaven and they smile beatifically upon all the creepy crawlies with an air of cultivated compassion. Proving superiority all the time is a dead giveaway for a sense of inferiority inside.

The Messiah Mask: They are out to change the world – one flailing, resisting human at a time. These are the givers of support and nurturance and advice… whether anyone asks for it or not! But give they must, because they need to avoid the confusion and emptiness within. A beautiful, socially approved mask and hence more difficult to let go of…

The Pundit Mask: References obscure texts and uses big Sanskrit words. Will disrupt a conversation to quote a 16th century Indian mystic or a little-known modern non-dual teacher. It’s a mask when they talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.

The Lost-in-Space Mask: They find a way to bring Pleaedians, Archangels and Entities into every normal conversation. They would interrupt you to whisper conspiratorially that there’s a 6th dimensional entity behind you right now! They take name-dropping to a whole new dimension.

While the masks may be twisted and rigid, the people underneath these masks are not foolish or nasty. They are you and me, GD said, innocently trying to cover up a wound of not-being-enough by putting on a show. Masks are a way of saying ‘I am special’ but ironically, each mask ends up proving the opposite: each mask reveals a lack of self-love and self-acceptance-as-I-am.

All of us play a variety of roles in life. When we are conscious of the role playing, there is no problem. Masks are problematic because they are compulsive and unconscious, and the behavior comes from ego not insight.

And whenever the ego creates a mask, it has to suppress the opposite in oneself – a compulsive giver finds it hard to ask for help; the intellectual ceases to listen and ask questions; Buddha-face cannot show vulnerability or intimacy when needed.

When someone asked GD at the end of the workshop how she could prevent the mask from coming back on later, GD replied, “Make a joke of it, phone us all up and say: ‘Hey look, my mask is back!’ The moment you become aware, it loses its power. And once you make it a joke, it disappears.”

And in the absence of masks, he reminded us, we can become like the beautiful little children we all are inside – who can be all of the above when required – and their exact opposite when required – without holding onto any particular face.

*

33 thoughts on “The Buddha Mask (And Other Spiritual Facades)

  1. Wow Aalif ! Very very well written. And got us quite nostalgic too. Recollected how simply Bhai manages to cut through the crap and gets us to see the truth as it is, if we are willing to.
    Keep them coming Aalif. This blog of yours is my favourite. I will refer to it again and again.

    • Thanks Mega… glad it resonates with you. GD really works hard on fine-tuning & making sure the words are just right so the message comes through… And by the way, “cut through the crap” is one of his pet phrases too! 🙂

  2. it seems these masks are basically a way of self protection ourselves from some imagined fears. so much of what we do, is to simply protect ourselves, our ideas, beliefs, concepts.

    • Yes, masks are protection. And masks also need to be upheld against a constant threat from life. In our desire to make the mask real, we try to eliminate or escape everything that goes against it. And while masks appear to prevent Life from hurting us, sadly they also prevent us from truly experiencing Life – except through narrow eyeholes… 🙂

  3. Hahaha! I loved this, Aalif! I’ve worn them all along this long journey, except the Pundit mask, and that’s probably only because I could never remember long quotes and no doubt would have ended up making a tit of myself! Thanks for a good laugh and a trip down spiritual memory lane!

  4. It is funny to read this. I had a discussion about a very similar subject with some friends in Nepal. All about this masks and transformations that are only deeply rooted in ignorance. It happens very often that, due to ignorance, seekers transform themselves into something else instead of getting free of becoming. It is another just another way of grasping. Making a holy cow out of everything experienced and becoming something else. Just another illusion. What a pleasure for the ego to play masquerade! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing these precious thoughts!
    JC

  5. I was speaking to a girl, just the other day about this…the conversation veered from her wanting to lose weight…& I told her to strongly tell herself she loves & accepts herself just the way she is, fully & unconditionally. And speaking of masks, hers is one of a very strong, determined, frank person. She replied: “I can’t do it…it’s ridiculous, but I’m scared & I feel I can’t do it”. Maybe all our masks are are just this: the expression of the self that never is let be. It is perhaps it’s salvation & it’s revenge.
    I pray everyone should find the leisure & courage to just be.
    Thank you for the beautiful post 🙂 Your posts remind me that eventually, all our questions get answered, in due time!
    Have a beautiful day Sir 🙂

  6. but no body is aware of the original MASK. what you are talking about, they are mask on the mask. now do not say–sahi Baat hai ! tell me, what is the original mask? and who is wearing it?
    with HIS blessings, whosoever.

    • That’s a deep insight from a truly transcendental perspective. Will not cheapen the question with a verbal, mental answer…
      And I have to say ‘sahi baat hai’ kyunki jo aap bol rahe hain yeh galat baat nahin hai… 🙂

    • May I add my two-bit here………..:))) Even though we agree and laugh at our masks….(or not), I keep reminding myself that all my ego-personality-masks have been ‘chosen’ by my Higher Self in this particular life-expression, for some valid reason. I may or may not understand that reason in its totality but that doesn’t take away from its validity….Something like an actor choosing to play different roles….Each role eventually enriches the actor in more ways than one….So do our masks!! In my current understanding each mask is playing a great role in my evolution and when that role is over, it will fall off by itself…….Until then I may observe (enjoy) its antics and lighten myself….just as the actor does while watching his/ her own movies!!

  7. loved the distinct potrayal, a brilliant job at capturing human emotions. Took mr down memory lane when i attempted a similiar version but instead of masks termed them as different flavours of ice-cream. I am re-discovering myself. God bless you.

  8. i think i left a message out here, wonder where it disappeared ??? Hope not masked in the so-called techie shambles 😉 I cannot recollect what exactly i wrote nevertheless, attempting to retrace a bit. Took me down the memory lane a couple of years back when i just penned for myself how one comes across varied emotions or rather pretences, the concept however i linked to flavours of icecream. Just beautifully potrayed. A sojourn of the self @ various intervals.

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