There is one thing: to be a man; and there is another thing:
to be a person, a man, by completing the individuality in which
is hidden the purpose of man's coming to earth. Angels were
made to sing the praise of the Lord, jinns to imagine, to dream,
to meditate; but man is created to show humanity in character.
It is this which makes him a person. There are many difficult
things in life, but the most difficult of all is to learn and
know and to practice the art of personality.
Nature, people say, is created by God and art by man; but
in reality in the making of personality it is God who completes
His divine art. It is not what Christ has taught that makes
his devotees love him; they dispute over those things in vain;
it is what he himself was. It is that which is loved and admired
by his devotees. When Jesus Christ said to the fishermen, 'Follow
me, and I will make you fishers of men', what did it mean? It
meant, 'I will teach you the art of personality which will become
as a net in this life's sea.' For every heart, whatever be its
grade of evolution, will be attracted by the beauty of the art
What does mankind seek in another person, what does man expect
in his friend? He wants him rich, of a high position, of a great
power, of wonderful qualifications, of wide influence; but beyond
and above all he expects from his friend the humane qualities
which are the art of personality. If one's friend lacks the
qualities which are the art of personality, all the above things
are of but little use and value to him.
There is a question: how are we to learn it? We learn it
by our love of art, by our love of beauty in all its less various
aspects. The artist learns his art by his admiration of beauty.
When a person gets an insight into beauty, then he learns the
art of arts, which is the art of personality. A man may have
a thousand qualifications, or rank, or position; he may possess
all the goods of the earth, but if he lacks the art of personality
he is poor indeed. It is by this art that man shows that nobleness
which belongs to the kingdom of God.
The art of personality is not a qualification. It is the
purpose for which man was created, and it leads man to that
purpose in the fulfillment of which is his entire satisfaction.
By this art man does not only satisfy himself, but he pleases
God. This phantom play on the earth is produced for the pleasure
of that King of the universe whom the Hindus have called Indra,
before whom Gandharvas sang and Apsaras danced. The interpretation
of this story is that every soul is destined to dance at the
court of Indra. The art of personality is, in reality, learning
to dance perfectly at the court of Indra. But the one who says,
'But how can I dance? I do not know how to dance,' defeats his
purpose. For no soul is created to stand aside and look on,
every soul is created to dance in the court of Indra. The soul
who refuses certainly shows its ignorance of the great purpose
for which the whole play is produced on the stage of the earth.
Gratefulness in the character is like fragrance in the flower.
A person, however learned and qualified in his life's work,
in whom gratefulness is absent, is devoid of that beauty of
character which makes personality fragrant. If we answer every
little deed of kindness with appreciation, we develop in our
nature the spirit of gratefulness; and by learning this we rise
to that state where we begin to realize God's goodness toward
us, and for this we can never be grateful enough to His divine
The great Sufi poet Sadi teaches gratefulness as being the
means of attracting that favor, forgiveness, and mercy of God
upon ourselves in which is the salvation of our soul. There
is much in life that we can be grateful for, in spite of all
the difficulties and troubles of life. Sadi says, 'The sun and
the moon and the rain and clouds, all are busy to prepare your
food for you, and it is unfair indeed if you do not appreciate
it in thanksgiving.'
God's goodness is something that one cannot learn to know
at once; it takes time to understand it. But little actions
of kindness which we receive from those around us we can know,
and we can be thankful if we want to be. In this way man develops
gratefulness in his nature, and expresses it in his thought,
speech and action as an exquisite form of beauty. As long as
one weighs and measures and says, 'What I have done for you'
and "What have you done for me', 'How kind I have been to you'
and 'How good have you been to me', one wastes one's time disputing
over something which is inexpressible in words; besides one
closes by this that fountain of beauty which rises from the
depth of one's heart. The first lesson that we can learn in
the path of thankfulness is to forget absolutely what we do
for another, and to remember only what the other person has
done for us. Throughout the whole journey in the spiritual path
the main thing to be accomplished is the forgetting of our false
ego, so that in this way we may arrive some day at the realization
of that Being whom we call God.
There is a story of a slave called Ayaz, who was brought
before a king with nine others, and the king had to select one
to be his personal attendant, The wise king gave into the hands
of each of the ten a wineglass and commanded him to throw it
down. Each one obeyed the command. Then the king asked each
one of them, 'Why did you do such a thing?' The first nine answered
'Because your Majesty gave me the order'; the plain truth cut
and dried. And then came the tenth slave, Ayaz. He said, 'Pardon,
sire, I am sorry,' for he realized that the king already knew
it was his command; by replying, 'Because you told me,' nothing
new was said to the king. This beauty of expression enchanted
the king so much that he selected him to be his attendant.
It was not long before Ayaz won the trust and confidence
of the king, who gave him the charge of his treasury, the treasury
in which precious jewels were kept. This made many jealous,
this sudden rise from a slave to a treasurer of the king, a
position which many envied. No sooner did people know that Ayaz
had become a favorite of the king than they began to tell numerous
stories about him in order to bring him into disfavor with the
king. One of the stories was that Ayaz went every day into the
room where the jewels were locked in the safe, and that he was
stealing them every day, little by little. The king answered,
'No, I cannot believe such a thing; you have to show me.'
So they brought the king as Ayaz entered this room, and made
him stand in a place where there was a hole, looking into the
room. And the king saw what was going on there. Ayaz entered
the room and opened the door of the safe. And what did he take
out from it? His old ragged clothes which he had worn as a slave.
He kissed them and pressed them to his eyes, and put them the
table. There, incense was burning, and this that he was doing
was something sacred to him. He then put on these clothes and
looked at himself in the mirror, and said, as one might be saying
a prayer, 'Listen, O Ayaz, see what you used to be before. It
is the king who has made you, who has given you the charge of
this treasure. So regard this duty as your most sacred trust,
and this honor as your privilege and as a token of the love
and kindness of the king. Know that it is not your worthiness
that has brought you to this position. Know that it is his greatness,
his goodness, his generosity which has overlooked your faults,
and which has bestowed that rank and position upon you by which
you are now being honored. Never forget, therefore, your first
day, the day when you came to this town; for it is the remembering
of that day which will keep you in your proper place.'
He then took off the clothes and put them in the same place
of safety, and came out. As he stepped out, what did he see?
He saw that the king before whom he bowed was waiting eagerly
to embrace him; and the king said to him, 'What a lesson you
have given me Ayaz! It is this lesson which we must all learn,
whatever be our position. Because before that King in whose
presence we all are but slaves, nothing should make us forget
that helplessness through which we were reared and raised, and
brought to life, to understand and to live a life of joy. People
told me that you had stolen jewels from our treasure-house,
but on coming here I have found that you have stolen my heart.'
Every impulse has its influence upon the word and upon the
action. Therefore naturally every impulse exerts its full power
through words and deeds unless it is checked. There are two
types of persons: those who have learnt to check their word
and action when they exert their full power, and express themselves
abruptly; the other kind of persons are those who mechanically
allow this natural impulse to show itself in their word and
deed without giving any thought to it. The former, therefore,
is gentle, and the latter is man. Gentleness is the principal
thing in the art of personality; one can see how gentleness
works as the principal thing in every art. In painting, in drawing,
in line and color it is gentleness which appeals most to the
soul. The same we see in music. A musician may be qualified
enough to play rapidly and may know all the technique, but what
produces beauty is his gentle touch.
It is mainly gentleness which is the basis of all refinement.
But where does it come from? It comes from consideration, and
it is practiced by self-control. There is a saying in Hindustani:
'The weaker the person, the more ready to be angry.' The reason
is that he has no control over his nerves; it is often lack
of control over oneself which is the cause of lack of gentleness.
No doubt one learns gentleness by consideration. One must
learn to think before saying or doing. Besides one must not
forget the idea of beauty. One must know that it is not enough
simply to say or do, but that it is necessary to say or do everything
beautifully. It is the development of the nations and races
which is expressed in gentleness. Also, it is the advancement
of the soul's evolution which expresses itself in gentleness.
Nations and races, as well as individuals, will show backwardness
in their evolution if they show lack of gentleness.
At this time the world's condition is such that it seems
that the art of personality has been much neglected. Man, intoxicated
with the life of cupidity and the competitive spirit, is held
by the commercialism of the day, is kept busy in the acquirement
of the needs of his everyday life, and the beauty which is the
need of the soul is lost to view. Man's interest in all aspects
of life, science, art, philosophy, remains incomplete in the
absence of the art of personality. How rightly the distinction
has been made in the English language between man and gentleman!
There is a tendency hidden behind human impulse which may
be called the persuasive tendency. It may manifest itself in
a crude form, or it may be expressed in a fine form. In the
former aspect it is a fault, and in the latter aspect it is
a mistake. When crudely expressed, someone urges another to
agree with him, or to listen to him, or to do as he wishes by
fighting, by quarreling, by being disagreeable. Often such a
person, by the strength of his will power or by virtue of his
better position in life, gets his wishes fulfilled. This encourages
him to continue in the same way until he gets a disappointing
result by his method, if he ever does.
The other way of persuading is a gentle way, by putting pressure
upon someone's kindness, goodness, and politeness, exhausting
thereby his patience and testing his sympathy to the utmost.
By this people achieve for the moment what they wish to achieve,
but in the end it results in the annoyance of all those who
are tried by this persuasive tendency. Does it not show that
to get something done is not so hard as to be considerate of
the feelings of others? It is so rare that one finds a person
in the world who is considerate of another person's feelings
even at the sacrifice of his own desires. Everyone seeks freedom,
but for himself. If he sought the same for another he would
be a real freemason.
The persuasive tendency no doubt shows great will power,
and it preys upon the weakness of others who yield and give
in to it owing to love, sympathy, goodness, kindness, politeness.
But there is a limit to everything. There comes a time when
the thread breaks. A thread is a thread; it is not a steel wire.
And even a wire breaks if it is pulled too hard. The delicacy
of the human heart is not comprehended by everyone. Human feeling
is too fine for common perception. A soul who develops his personality,
what is he like? He is not like the root or the stem of the
plant, nor like the branches or leaves, he is like the flower,
the flower with its fragrance, color, and delicacy.
The whole of manifestation is the expression of that spirit
of the Logos, which in Sufi terms is called Kibriya.
Through every being this spirit is manifested in the form of
vanity, pride, or conceit. Vanity expressed crudely is called
pride. Had it not been for this spirit working in every being
as the central theme of life, no good or bad would have existed
in the world, nor would there have been great or small. All
virtues and every evil are the offspring of this spirit. The
art of personality is to cut off the rough edges of this spirit
of vanity, which hurts and disturbs those one meets in life.
The person who says 'I,' the more he does so, the more he disturbs
the minds of his listeners.
Many times people are trained in politeness and are taught
a polished language and manner; yet if this spirit of vanity
is pronounced, it will creep up in spite of all good manners
and beautiful language, and express itself in a person's thought,
speech, or action, calling aloud, 'I am, I am!' If a person
be speechless, his vanity will leap out in the expression of
his glance. It is something which is the hardest thing to suppress
and to control. For adepts the struggle in life is not so great
with the passions and emotions which sooner or later by more
or less effort can be controlled; but vanity, it is always growing.
If one cuts down its stem then one cannot live, for it is the
very self, it is the I, the ego, the soul, or God within; it
cannot be denied its existence. But struggling with it beautifies
it more and more, and makes more and more tolerable that which
in its crude form is intolerable.
Vanity may be likened to a magic plant. If one sees it in
the garden growing as a thorny plant, and one cuts it down,
it will grow in another place in the same garden as a fruit-tree;
and when one cuts it down again, in another place in the same
garden it will spring up as a bush of fragrant roses. It exists
just the same, but in a more beautiful form which gives happiness
to those who touch it. The art of personality, therefore, does
not teach the rooting out of the seed of vanity, which cannot
be rooted out as long as man lives; but its crude outer garb
may be destroyed in order that, after dying several deaths,
it may be manifested as the plant of desires.
Dignity, which in other words may be called self-respect,
is not something which can be left out when considering the
art of personality. When one asks what it is, and how this principle
can be practiced, the answer is that all manner of light-heartedness
and all tendency to frivolity must be rooted out from the nature
in order to hold that dignity which is precious to one. The
one, who does not care for it, does not need to take trouble
about it; it is only for the one who sees something in self-respect.
A person with self-respect will be respected by others, even
regardless of his power, possessions, position, or rank; in
every position or situation in life that person will command
There arises a question: has light-heartedness then any place
in life, or is it not necessary in life at all? All is necessary,
but everything has its time. Dignity does not consist in making
a long face, neither is respect evoked by a stern expression;
by frowning or by stiffening the body one does not show honor;
dignity does not mean being sad or depressed. It is apportioning
one's activities to their proper time. There are times for laughter;
there are times for seriousness. The laughter of the person
who is laughing all the time loses its power; the person who
is always light-hearted does not carry that weight in society
which he should. Besides light-heartedness often makes a man
offend others without meaning to do so.
The one who has no respect for himself, has no respect for
others. He may think for the moment that he is regardless of
conventionalities and free in his expression and feeling, but
he does not know that it makes him as light as a scrap of paper
moving hither and thither in space, blown by the wind. Life
is a sea, and the further one travels on the sea the heavier
the ship one needs. So for a wise man, a certain amount of weight
is required in order to live, which gives balance to his personality.
Wisdom gives that weight; its absence is the mark of foolishness.
The pitcher full of water is heavy; it is the absence of water
in the pitcher which makes it light, like a man without wisdom
who is light-hearted. The more one studies and understands the
art of personality, the more one finds that it is the ennobling
of the character which is going forward towards the purpose
of creation. All the different virtues, refined manners, and
beautiful qualities, are the outcome of nobleness of character.
But what is nobleness of character? It is the wide outlook.
A noble-minded person shows, as something natural in his
character, a respect for his word, which is called his word
of honor. For that person his word is himself; and this reality
can increase to such an extent that even his life could be sacrificed
for his word. Someone who has reached this stage is not far
from God, for many times in the Scriptures it is said, 'If you
want to see Us, see Us in our words.' If God can be seen in
His words, the true soul can be seen in his word. Pleasure,
displeasure, sweetness, bitterness, honesty, dishonesty, all
these are to be discerned in the words man speaks; for the word
is the expression of the thought, and thought is the expression
of the feeling. And what is man? Man is his thought and feeling.
So what is the word? The word is man's expression, the expression
of his soul.
The man on whose word you can rely, that man is dependable.
No wealth of this world can be compared with one's word of honor.
A man who says what he means proves his spirituality by this
virtue. To a real person to go back on his word is worse than
death, for it is going backwards instead of going forward. Every
soul is going onward toward his goal; and the person who is
really going onward shows it in his word. At the present time
it is necessary to have so many courts and so many lawyers and
hence so many prisons which are increasing more every day, that
this all shows the lack of that virtue which has been valued
by the noble-minded ever since the beginning of civilization;
for in this quality man shows his human virtue, a quality which
neither belongs to the animals nor is attributed to the angels.
What is religion? Religion in the true sense of the word is
beyond explanation. It is a thin thread, too delicate to be
touched, for it is too sacred to be touched. It is the ideal
which can be polluted if it is touched; and it can be found
in that sensitiveness which in other words may be called spirituality,
the regard for the word.
Many in this world have undergone sacrifices; sufferings
and pains have been inflicted on them, but it was only to put
their virtue of the word to the test, for every virtue has to
prove itself by going through a testing fire. When it has proved
itself in its trial it becomes a solid virtue. This can be practiced
in every little thing one does in one's daily life. A person
who says at one moment one thing and another moment another
thing, even his own heart begins to disbelieve him.
Among the great ones who have come to the earth from time
to time, and have shown a great many virtues, this virtue has
been the most pronounced. Muhammad, before coming before the
world as a prophet, was called Amin by his comrades, which means
trustworthy. The story of Haris Chandra is known to the Hindus
down the ages, the example he has set is engraved upon the mind
of the whole race. The story of Hatim, a Sufi of ancient times,
has been a great inspiration to the people of Persia. In whatever
part of the world and in whatever period, by the thoughtful
and those with ideals the word of honor will be valued most.
There is a sense of economizing to be found more or less
in every soul; and when this tendency works with those around
one and those with whom one comes in contact, one develops one's
personality. The desire to spare another, to have patience instead
of trying his patience to the uttermost, is the tendency to
economy, a higher understanding of economy. To try to spare
another from using his energy in the way of thought, speech,
and action, all saves his energy for the other and for oneself
it is adding beauty to one's personality. A person ignorant
of this in time becomes a drag upon others. He may be innocent,
but he can be a nuisance; for he neither has consideration for
his own energy nor thought for others.
This consideration comes to one from the moment one begins
to realize the value of life. As a man begins to consider this
subject he spares himself unnecessary thought, speech, or action,
and uses his own thought, speech, and action economically; and
by valuing one's own life and action one learns to value the
same in others. The time of human life on earth is most precious,
and the more one practices economical use of this precious time
and energy the more one knows how to make the best of life.
Apart from one's own speech, even hearing another speak is
a continual tension; it robs a person of his time and energy.
The one who cannot understand, or at least does not try to understand
something spoken in one word, and wants to put into a sentence
what can be said in one word, certainly has no sense of economy;
for economizing with one's money is much less important than
the economy of one's life and energy and that of others. For
the sake of beauty, grace, and respect, when dealing with others
one must go so far and no further.
One cannot drive with the same whip a friend, an acquaintance,
and a stranger. There again the question of economy must be
considered. Without the sense of economy, one might try the
goodness, kindness, generosity, and endurance of others to such
a degree that in the end of the trial it would work out to the
disadvantage of both. The person who is sensible enough to guard
his own interest in life may be called clever, but the one who
guards the interests of others even more than his own is wise;
for in this way he does things without knowing to his own advantage
also. It is the same sense of economy which one uses with little
things in one's daily life at home and in business; the same
sense used in a higher form, by thoughtfulness and consideration,
makes one more capable of serving others, which is the religion
After having acquired refinement of character, and merits
and virtues that are needed in life, the personality can be
finished by the wakening of the sense of justice. The art of
personality makes a statue, a fine specimen of art, but when
the sense of justice is awakened that statue comes to life;
for in the sense of justice lies the secret of the soul's unfolding.
Everyone knows the name of justice; but it is rare to find someone
who really is just by nature, in whose heart the sense of justice
has been awakened.
What generally happens is that people claim to be just, though
they may be far from being so. The development of the sense
of justice lies in unselfishness; one cannot be just and selfish
at the same time. The selfish person can be just, but only for
himself. He has his own law most suited to himself, and he can
change it, and his reason will help him to do so, in order to
suit his own requirements in life. A spark of justice is to
be found in every heart, in every person, whatever be his stage
of evolution in life; but the one who loves fairness, so to
speak blows on that spark, thus raising it to a flame, in the
light of which life becomes more clear to him.
There is so much talk about justice, so much discussion about
it and so much dispute over it; one finds two persons arguing
upon a certain point and differing from one another, both thinking
that they are just, yet neither of them will admit that the
other is as just as he himself.
For those who really learn to be just, their first lesson
is what Christ has taught: 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.'
One may say, 'If one does not judge, how can one learn justice?'
But it is the one who judges himself who can learn justice,
not the one who is occupied in judging others. In this life
of limitations if one only explores oneself, one will find within
oneself so many faults and weaknesses, and when dealing with
others so much unfairness on one's own part, that for the soul
who really wants to learn justice, his own life will prove to
be a sufficient means with which to practice justice.
Again, there comes a stage in one's life, a stage of life's
culmination, a stage of the soul's fuller development, when
justice and fairness rise to such a height that one arrives
at the point of being devoid of blame; one has nothing to say
against anyone, and if there be anything it is only against
oneself; and it is from this point that one begins to see the
divine justice hidden behind this manifestation. It comes in
one's life as a reward bestowed from above, a reward which is
like a trust given by God, to see all things appearing as just
and unjust in the bright, shining light of perfect justice.
The art of personality is like the art of music; it needs
ear-training and voice culture. To a person who knows life's
music the art of personality comes naturally; and it is not
only inartistic but also unmusical when a soul shows lack of
this art in the personality. When a man looks at every soul
as a note of music and learns to recognize what note it is,
flat or sharp, high or low, and to what pitch it belongs, then
he becomes the knower of souls, and he knows how to deal with
everybody. In his own actions, in his speech, he shows the art;
he harmonizes with the rhythm of the atmosphere, with the tone
of the person he meets, with the theme of the moment. To become
refined is to become musical; it is the musical soul who is
artistic in his personality. Spoken in different tones, the
same word changes its meaning. A word spoken at the proper moment
and withheld at the moment when it should not be expressed,
completes the music of life.
It is the continual inclination to produce beauty which helps
one to develop art in the personality. It is amusing how readily
man is inclined to learn outer refinement, and how slow many
souls are to develop that art inwardly. It must be remembered
that the outer manner is meaningless if it is not prompted by
the inner impulse towards beauty. How God takes pleasure in
man can be learned from the story of Indra, the king of Paradise,
at whose court Gandharvas sing and Apsaras dance. When interpreted
in plain words this means that God is the essence of beauty;
it is His love of beauty which has caused Him to express his
own beauty in manifestation, for it is His desire fulfilled
in the objective world.
It is amusing sometimes to watch how good manners annoy someone
who is proud of his bad manners. He will call it shallow, because
his pride is hurt at the sight of something which he has not
got. The one whose hand does not reach to the fruit says, when
he fails, that the grapes are sour. And for some it is too fine
to become refined, just as many will not like good music but
are quite satisfied with popular music. And many even become
tired of a good manner, for it seems foreign to their nature.
As it is not a merit to become unmusical, so it is not wise
to turn against refinement. One must only try and develop beauty,
trusting that the beauty in the depth of one's soul, and its
expression, in whatever form, is the sign of the soul's unfoldment.
A friendly attitude, expressed in sympathetic thought, speech,
and deed, is the principal thing in the art of personality.
There is limitless scope to show this attitude, and however
much the personality is developed in this direction, it is never
too much. Spontaneity and the tendency to give, giving that
which is dear to one's heart, is what shows the friendly attitude.
Life in the world has its numberless obligations, towards friend
and foe, towards acquaintance and stranger. One can never do
too much to be conscientious in one's obligations in life and
to do everything in one's power to fulfill them. To do more
than one's due is perhaps beyond the power of every man, but
in doing what one ought to do one does accomplish one's life
Life is an intoxication, and the effect of this intoxication
is negligence. The Hindu words Dharma and Adharma,
religiousness and irreligiousness, signify that one's duty in
life is Dharma, and the neglect of the same is Adharma. The
one who is not conscientious in his obligations in life toward
every thing he comes in contact with, is indeed irreligious.
Many will say, 'We tried to do our best, but we didn't know
how', or, 'We don't know what is expected of us', or, 'How are
we to find out what is really our due and what is not?' No one
in this world can teach what is anyone's due and what is not.
It is for every soul to know for himself by being conscientious
in his obligations. And the more conscientious he is, the more
obligations he will find to fulfill, and there will be no end
Nevertheless, in this continual strife what might seem a
loss to him in the beginning, in the end is gain; for he will
come face to face with his Lord, who is wide awake. The eyes
of the man who neglects his duty to his fellow men, absorbed
in life's intoxication, will certainly become dazzled and his
mind exhausted before the presence of God. It does not mean
that any soul will be deprived of the divine vision, it only
means that the soul who has not learned to open his eyes wide
enough will have his eyes closed before the vision of God. All
virtues come from a wide outlook on life, all understanding
comes from the keen observation of life. Nobility of soul, therefore,
is signified in the broad attitude that man takes in life.