“Man is not what he thinks he is; he is what he hides” – Andre Malraux (1901-1976, French Novelist)
“Wow! He really looks stunning; is he some demi-God?” I asked innocently, looking at a huge billboard.
Sishir, my friend laughed, “He’s known as a Greek God and you should know more than others that appearance is deceptive”
“Well err”, I flustered. I was expected to be well acquainted with the spiritual philosophy of the shallowness of it all.
“Yeah, I don’t see movies, but he’s some big name?”
“He’s Hrithik Roshan”, revealed my friend, “he doesn’t have a great body as you think. Cinema always makes people look bigger”
“He’s surely a fitness freak?” I probed. “That’s far from truth”, Sishir now decided to enlighten me. “You know he’s got a severe slip disc and a severe imbalance with big biceps and triceps but a thin body”
“Really” I was amused and curious to know more.
“He ignored the basic muscles like the hip, lower back, thighs, calf, hamstring etc but focused on those that the world would see him display on screen. And the result is he looks gorgeous on screen but is in terrible and relentless pain. He has broken back, broken knees, and has torn his shoulders and is playing a superhero. What an irony!”
This could very well be the plight of many spiritual heroes. Respect and praise shower upon a practitioner who’s lasted a few decades on the Bhakti path. The inside story could however be different if the hero in question has worked hard only on the ‘muscles’ that are seen by the world. Although all his juniors- like the fans of Hrithik- would go gaga over him, yet his neglect of ‘health muscles’ would cause him to pay dear.
Preparing for good classes, excellent counseling, expert management skills – and many other abilities would give excellent results, and it’s visible to all. However the time a devotee spends chanting and praying or exploring his own inner conscience, goes unnoticed by the world. One’s serious self-introspection could help him come closer to his real self and God. However this calls for hard work and little recognition by the world. But if even once a young seeker gets taste of appreciation and recognition for his external expertise,it’s tempting to pursue these with zeal. While appreciation can be a healthy ‘tonic’ unfortunately it also has a vicious effect when consumed as an overdose;it could be an ‘intoxicant’. And then we spend more time in activities that give us external glory while neglecting basic spiritual practices that would nourish us spiritually. The result is one may only show the world he is a devotee, while inside he could be hollow. William Shakespeare in his classic comedy ‘Merchant of Venice’ writes:
“All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Glided tombs do worms enfold.”
Eventually he would have a ‘slip disc’ and could leave the path of Krishna consciousness. That would shock all others in the community; ‘he was so good, how could he leave the spiritual path?’ or ‘I saw him do so many things so well, how could he have difficulty in spiritual life?’- These are common expressions of bewilderment by the naïve.
The world may go by externals but God, Krishna, and one’s own true inner voice calls upon a practitioner to be honest. And if we don’t work on our inner life, and if our inside is not congruent with our outside, soon the inside would take revenge; the world would eventually know we aren’t as advanced as we professed to be. Even if we fool the world, could we live with untruth for long?