We are wearing psychological masks | Sunday Observer

We are wearing psychological masks

20 January, 2019

Although man is mortal, philosophers and sages seem to be immortal for what they have said still rings true. In a world dominated by science and technology we still turn to sages of the past for moral guidance. Modern man has conquered space and travelled to distant planets but at home he is beset with innumerable psychological problems for which there are no solutions. Only philosophers have guided man to think like them when he is faced with problems no scientist or technologist can solve.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, popularly known as ‘JK’, is one of the original thinkers of the modern world. Some of us had the rare privilege of meeting and listening to his enlightening discourses delivered at the John de Silva Memorial Theatre a few decades ago. He was accompanied by Dr E.W. Adikaram who was a brilliant scholar and a philosopher.

Modern man is living in a fast changing world with fleeting moods. As a result human relationships always stand very delicately balanced. If you look at the political scene in any country, you will realize that nothing remains static. Members of Parliament do not remain loyal to a particular party or a leader. Most of them are ready to switch loyalties for personal gain. However, there are a few members who remain loyal to their leader through thick and thin. Even our family relationships are subject to change. After living with a particular person for a long time, you may decide to move away and get into a new relationship. Krishnamurti sees an undisturbed relationship between a tree and a flower or a bird and a tree for their relationships are never disturbed. He said, “The objects of nature do not contribute any factor of disturbance in the sphere of relationship.” However, man projects his psychological moods on the objects of nature and then complains that the latter no longer holds any fascination for him.

Right perception

According to Krishnamurti, most of us are fond of wearing masks. Even when one person removes his mask, the other will be wearing one. This prevents right perception and interrupts communication. If we are all wearing masks, what are we to do? A mask conceals our real face or identity. Mask-wearing is not done physically but psychologically. In simple words, we pretend to be what we are not. This leads to a masked relationship.

In a speech delivered in 1967, JK said, “You cannot look at your wife or your husband, or your political leader, or your religious leader without the ideology, the image that you have created of that person; and his image about you. Therefore, the relationship between the two is a relationship of two images.” Unlike in the natural world, in human relationships one mask is talking to another mask. When we attend a wedding we wear a mask beaming with happiness, but we cannot wear the same mask at a funeral. When we are in love we wear a mask showing affection and decorum. Do we wear the same mask after the marriage? Only a very few married couples manage to do so. Some couples living in two separate bedrooms attend weddings as if they were an ideal couple. We take all the precautions to guard our mask lest our unmasked face be seen by others.

Krishnamurti says, ‘personality’ is the name we give to the psychological mask we wear. When you say that a certain person has personality, what you mean is that he is wearing a good mask. When you attend a wedding, you will see the bride as a well-bred, cultured woman. If you meet her at home, you will see the difference. There are husbands who beat their wives and vice versa. But they do not do so on their wedding day. The word ‘personality’ which comes from the Latin word ‘persona’ means a mask. Thus, if you have a personality, you are wearing a mask!

Defence mechanism

In biological evolution, an organism develops an acquired characteristic for the purpose of its physical survival. It is a defence mechanism. Unlike animals, man is faced with immense psychological challenges. In fact, psychology has become a popular subject and many people study it for personal success. A well-developed personality helps any person to move about in society easily. He will be a welcome sight at conferences and public meetings. It is man’s psychological defence mechanism. Sometimes it breaks down under the powerful impact of a fundamentally different environment. For instance, great leaders love their position in society. Then they stand unmasked.

Krishnamurti has left behind a wealth of reading material for anyone who wishes to understand his philosophy. Sometimes, his views seem to be revolutionary. For instance, he held ashrams in abomination. He said meditation is a voyage of self-discovery which should be done individually, and never in a group of people. He described group meditation as a ‘vulgarity.’ He regarded ashrams as ‘concentration camps’ where the mind is subjected to conditioning influences. He was also against all organized religions and spiritual organizations. He dissolved his own ‘Order of the Star’ after 18 years of its existence. He said, “My only concern is to set man absolutely, unconditionally free.”

Krishnamurti was no ordinary human being as some people tend to believe. He was seriously concerned with the problems of man. He extended his boundless love to man and animals. When he took solitary walks in the jungle, animals never harmed him. Most of his teachings had a Buddhist flavour. As a result, he was hailed as a harbinger of the future Enlightened One.

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