Most of us have had the experience where someone tells us, “You are two faced” or “you are speaking from both sides of your mouth”. I recall from watching the old western movies that there was a saying among American Indians in America. Something like, “one should not speak with a forked tongue”.
Being two faced, speaking with a forked tongue, speaking from both sides of the mouth, etc., essentially mean the same thing. It means that the person saying this to us feels we are being tricky and sneaky in some way. The suggestions to act with integrity and honor exist in all cultures.
Interestingly, we perceive much wider gaps between the words and actions of others than ourselves. There is generally a tendency to view our own behavior in a more favorable light than that of others. That is not good or bad but simply one manifestation of the root instinct to survive by avoiding cognitive dissonance.
Psychologists tell us that our perceptions about the world and others in some way are meant to be self-serving. Given the ambiguity present in the world of politics, business, organizations, and our personal life, multiple interpretations of events, situations, and people are possible. We tend to pick those views and outlooks which in some way satisfy or confirm our biases. That is just how it is.
Philosophically, when we accuse others of being duplicitous, two faced, wearing a mask, and lacking integrity in their actions, we are essentially trying to say something meaningful about our perceptions. The assumption that our perceptions are objective, free from error, and right on mark is always taken for granted.
If we reflect carefully, we find that we can only see the masks of others through our own mask. Just as others are prisoners of their conditioning which affects their outlook, the same is true of us. Even with the most minimum observation and basic analysis, we can conclude that the illusion of freedom only covers up the puppet like and predictable behavior that is common to human beings.
Having said all that, my observation is that there are indeed tangible differences between human beings that are inherent in their nature. According to ancient yogic psychology, people’s behaviors are influenced by the three mental forces that act on them. These three forces are known as “Gunas” in Sanskrit. The theory of Gunas is part of classical Hindu literature and embedded in texts on yogic psychology. Sri Krishna mentions to Arjuna the nature of Gunas and how the combination of various Gunas affect human behavior.
When Sattva Guna predominates in a person, the individual tends to be honest, straightforward, rational, calm, and thinks of the good of others. When Raj Guna (Rajas) dominates, the person tends to be passionate, hard working, goal oriented, excitable, quick of temper, and eager to confront opponents and fight. When Tamo Guna (Tamas) predominates, the person’s behavior tends to be thoughtless, uncaring of others, and there is avoidance of personal responsibility, and the inability to think rationally and logically.
Yogic psychology explains why some some people are more cunning, deceitful, and violent than others. One can infer the nature of persons from their actions and behaviors. So although we are all conditioned in some way to perceive reality through our own special personality lenses, the refinement of our conditioning certainly differs according to the mental forces or gunas that are influencing us.
We do not have to look far in the world of business, politics, and world affairs to find suitable examples of grossly unethical, immoral, and violent actions and decisions. In face of such things, how should a person act or react?
How should we deal with individuals who we perceive as crooked, deceptive, dishonest, cunning, scheming, and bent on causing harm to us or others. This is the most difficult question that perpetually faces us at a personal and national level.
I believe the answer to that is that we face such people or situations by being authentic and true to our nature. When we are grounded in certain basic principles firmly, these influence our actions and bring stability in our life.
In the beginning of the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna refuses to fight in the Mahabharata war. Krishna tells Arjuna that his very nature would compel him to fight. Given the circumstances, once the arrows started flying, the warrior in Arjuna would come alive.
So Krishna’s advice to Arjuna was to engage in action but without anger or fear or expectations. Simply do the right thing and leave the rest to the higher power.
Self-Realization makes our actions spontaneous and straight forward. After all, who are we trying to impress? And what will we get if someone is temporarily impressed with us? Surely, the admiration and even adoration of others, like all things, is transient with a beginning and an end.
That is why it is best to ground oneself in the Truth of Being and abide in the authenticity of one’s own self. That is all we can do.
Truth is utterly simple. Sometimes it is difficult to see what is so close, what one actually is. That is why we call Self-Realization a Radical Understanding. Seeing the obvious clearly as the obvious as one’s own Self is the way. Abiding in That, one is consumed by That, and becomes That, and sees One has always been That.
To be totally and utterly free is possible, because Freedom is our very nature.
Love and light to all