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The Facets Of Character Building-Part IV
Continued From The Third Part
Character-building on a Larger Canvas
Let us look at character-building from the viewpoint of spiritual life, where meditation plays a central role. Meditation depends upon concentration, and concentration depends upon withdrawal
of the mind, which, again, depends upon self-control. Self-control, which signifies mastery over the mind and the senses, is therefore the secret of all success in meditation, and also of mastering the character-building process.
Self-control is a way of life. It is based on exercising and strengthening one's will on the right lines. One has to learn to control one's cravings and channel them in healthier means of expression. Chastity, truthfulness and genuine sympathy are the three indispensable components of a true character. The approach to character-building should be always positive. One should emphasise on nurturing positive virtues rather than getting rid of vices. It is a wide-spread trend these days to emphasise the importance of overcoming addiction to alcohol, drugs or other compulsive habits. In doing so they emphasise on their harmful effects but fail to emphasise on what one should do in place of such habits. The result is that people keep attending camps/seminars and continue with their wrong habits also.
Be it in secular matters or in spiritual matters, building a noble and pure character is the only lasting solution to life's problems.
Nor should one mistake character with talents. By talent is meant some special trait or capacity to do something such as having an aptitude for singing or for writing or public speaking. One should not forget that while we admire talent, it is character what we really respect. Talent may bring us some fame and reputation but it is character which is the real man. Swami Vivekananda rightly pointed out:
“If you really want to judge of the character of a man, look not at his great performances. Every fool may become a hero at one time or another. Watch a man do his most common actions; those are indeed the things which will tell you the real character of a great man. Great occasions rouse even the lowest of human beings to some kind of greatness, but he alone is the really great man whose character is great always, the same wherever he be.”
One of the greatest helps in character-building consists in living with the men of character. If one is fortunate enough to find the company of a man of character, one finds subtle changes taking place in one's own character. For, company has a profound impact on the type of character one develops. More than what we are asked to do, it is the example of people with whom we live or admire that affects us most.
But sometimes we are not that fortunate. In that case reading and deep thinking over the lives and teachings of such men of character is of much help. One should surround one's mental atmosphere with holy and inspiring thoughts. Since we become what we admire, we should choose our objects of admiration and adoration with care.
To conclude, character-building is the way to spiritual growth and is also the fruit of all spiritual realization. It is foundation of true education also. To restrict education to acquisi-
tion of knowledge (or mere degrees, as is the case many times) is to not get educated at all. One may lack academic knowledge but if one has trained one's will, purified and controlled one's mind, he is then truly educated. He alone is able to live a true life and contribute to it meaningfully. Training of will should be the ultimate goal of all education.
Be it in secular matters or in spiritual matters, building a noble and pure character is the only lasting solution to life's problems. Character, however, is not built only in the silence of meditation (though meditation is of great help in that) but in the broad daylight of right action.
About the author
Swami Atmashraddhananda is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order and editor of The Vedanta Kesari from the year 2004 .