Traditional attire bears such individuality that it not only tells us something about the wearer but it also reveals a lot about where they live, their environment and their social status. Whether distinguished by colors, fabrics or feathers. From time immemorial, the quality, style and richness of clothes have reflected the social strata of a culture.
By contrast, organisations and institutions such as schools, the military, a public service, or even a fast food outlet, all signal to us their roles and position in society by the ‘uniforms’ they wear.
Today, many of us have fully embraced Western brand names and the designer label has now become the statement of ‘where we are at’. In an attempt to assert our individuality, we have unwittingly created a new uniform, this time based on our purchasing power, whether real or credit. Around us there is increasing evidence that our attire is often no longer based on cultural, or even moral values. Traditions are being eroded away, and the sparkle and the glamour once reserved for kings and queens is evident in abundance in any shopping mall. Whereas there is nothing intrinsically wrong with owning or wearing a designer outfit, the question we need to ask ourselves is: “Am I simply wearing the suit?”, or “Is the suit who I think I am?”
In this world of first impressions, the desire to ‘make our mark’ is often irresistible. We are conditioned and encouraged by society’s current day values to judge by appearances, and sometimes we look no further. However if we only ‘judge the book by its cover’ then imagine what we are missing! If we fail to see beyond the outer, embellished layer, then we cannot avail ourselves of the treasures that are contained within.
A spiritual journey is one where the seeker, with a desire to know the deepest truths, begins to peel away the layers to uncover the real essence. The special pilgrimage to Mecca advocates that men must give up their noble dress and wear a garment consisting of two sheets of white un-hemmed cloth; that is, to be simple in front of God. No ornaments, no pretence, no ego. The same is true for a pilgrim of any religion. We realise, as we remove our outer layers – the outer ‘self’ that we present to the world– that deeper layers exist. The body is a dress, a costume that envelopes the soul; the essence of who we are, wherein lies our greatest treasures, is what we need to yet discover.
Any pilgrimage also requires purity of mind. We can only focus on God when our attention is not pulled to the ‘costumes’ of others. To go beyond the influence of the flesh is to elevate ourselves above the ‘mud’, the ‘dust’.
The wisdom embedded in the call to clothe the body in simple attire comes to beckon us to elevate ourselves to go beyond matter and awaken the spiritual light. It reminds us that before God we are all essentially equal and that what will distinguish us from one another in the final reckoning is not artificial beauty, fame or glory, but how pure our heart is. It is what we did for others, not how much we did in selfishness. It is in how much we lived a life of real value.
It’s time… to reassess how we define ourselves and how much we live by our deepest values of love and truth. As we begin to recognise our own real essence, and to see the true depth and worth of the people around us, we can begin to create our own ‘haute couture’ of High Thinking, and Simple Living.
© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK