Nature is born, character is built, and personality is
developed. If nature is such, then it is not easy to change
a person's nature. Neither can a dog be made into a horse
nor can a cat be made into a cow. Sadi says, 'The kitten
in the end proves to be a kitten. Even if it were kept on
the queen's sofa, petted and kissed and loved and cared
for, when the mouse came it would show that it was a cat.'
It is very easy to talk about equality, and it is very
easy to consider all kinds of excellent points of view.
It is also easy to talk about wonderful moral principles;
but if we see the difference there is between one soul and
another, which is sometimes as wide as the distance between
earth and sky, we stand helpless before natures that cannot
be changed. If we say that horns can be turned into hooves
and that hooves can be turned into horns it may be believed,
but if we say that a person has changed his nature it will
Where does man's nature come from? What is it made of?
How does a person get his nature? Man's nature comes from
that which the soul has borrowed. It is not the being of
the soul; it is that which the soul has added to itself.
Just as innocence in someone shows an angelic nature, so
intelligence shows the nature of the jinn, and a good manner
or a sympathetic attitude shows human nature.
The nature of a person is not the same as his false ego,
but the false ego is obsessed by his nature. Everyone has
brought with him on earth a certain nature, and it is not
always easy to get rid of it. A lion may be trained by his
keeper and may work under a certain discipline for twenty
years But one day his predisposition may be awakened and
he will turn on his keeper, thus showing his nature that
had been hidden; it will show that he is a lion. With all
the training he has received and all the humility and surrender
he has displayed, he is still a lion.
Besides a man's nature is what he has inherited from
his earthly parents, either from his mother's or from his
father's side; it may not be from his parents but from his
grandparents, and if not from his grandparents then from
his great-grandparents, or perhaps five or six generations
back. There is some part of his nature that he has brought
with him and it is there. It is no use denying it.
When those who are peaceful and calm think that another
person who is active and enthusiastic should also be calm
and peaceful like them, when those who are thoughtful and
considerate think that another person who is impulsive and
adventurous should be like them, when those who have patience
and endurance think that another person who is quickly aroused
and temperamental should be like them – it is all impossible.
The modest cannot be bold nor can the bold be modest. Every
soul has its nature, and if one tries to bury it, although
it will remain covered for some time, it only needs digging.
Anyone can dig and find what is beneath. There may be a
good nature hidden, and there may be a bad nature hidden,
though for the moment one does not see it. A soul may seem
to be a saint until one has spoken with him. Another soul
may seem to be quite the contrary until one has investigated
him, and then he may prove to be totally different.
Some show their nature outwardly, others have their nature
covered, covered under what is called character. Character
is something quite different. Nature is just like the light,
and character is just like the globe. If it is a yellow
globe the light seems yellow; if it is a green globe the
light seems green. The light seems to be of the same color
as the globe; but it is the light which is the principal
thing. It is either a bright light or a dim light, and that
is according to the degree of light there is. That is its
nature; what covers it is its character.
Then one might ask where and how the character is built.
The character is built by habit, by whatever habit one forms
from childhood; and as the habit stays with one so the character
is molded. If there is a habit of answering back, of interfering,
of being curious, sarcastic, or ironical, or if there is
a habit of being respectful, gentle, humble, or modest,
if there is a habit of being proud and conceited and boastful,
of pushing oneself forward, or if there is a habit of being
thoughtful and considerate – according to this habit one's
character is made. It is the same electric light which one
sees in the most ordinary shop and in the most beautiful
palace. What is the difference? It is not the difference
of light. It maybe the degree of light, but very often it
is the difference of the globe. Sometimes the globe is so
beautiful and so costly that it changes the whole light.
And it is the same with a beautiful character: it changes
the whole person, so that he can be called noble or something
else according to the globe that covers him.
When we form a habit we never think about it. If it is
undesirable we think that it does not matter, that it is
nothing, just taking a little liberty; what is it after
all, do we not seek freedom? And so by trying to seek freedom
we develop habits which become our enemies. It is like finding
a little hole in a garment, and then thinking that it is
not necessary to mend it. It is such a small hole, nobody
notices it! But one does not realize that the hole will
expand, it will become larger and larger until everybody
will see it.
Another thing is that if someone has developed an undesirable
habit people, as a rule, do not mention it to him. They
are polite. They are kind. And so one goes on, and one believes
that everything is all right because nobody says anything.
Besides there are always many to welcome an undesirable
habit. The one who has taken to drink will find many friends
who will welcome him in their society, and the one who has
formed a habit of gambling will also find sympathetic comrades
to encourage him.
Whatever path a man takes, he will find encouragement
to go further on that path. Naturally, therefore, if a man
is not careful as to where he is going he may end up anywhere.
He may fall into any pit, any hole; and nobody comes to
pick him up once he has fallen. The deeper he falls, the
less people will look at him, for everyone, either consciously
or unconsciously, is looking for someone who is going upward.
No one is anxious to associate with someone who is going
downhill. Even his best friends will leave him some day.
Therefore, to study the mystery of character, to think about
it and to build it, is life's main purpose; that is the
There are some people who are interested in building
their character, but at the same time there is always a
conflict between their character and their nature; for the
character is made by a certain habit, but the nature says,
'You must not make this a habit. I will fight with you about
it.' For instance, a coarse person may have formed the habit
of being very polite, but we can usually find him out if
we speak with him for a little while, for then the conversation
may end in impoliteness. It begins with politeness, it ends
with impoliteness, because then the nature conquers the
character, proving thereby that there was rudeness in the
nature and that politeness was only an outer cover.
Then there is always a struggle going on between principle
and nature. Sometimes the principle subdues nature and nature
surrenders, and sometimes nature subdues the principle and
the principle surrenders; and there comes a great conflict.
A person may seem to be very modest, and he remains modest
as long as one does not know him, but when one gets to know
him he may appear to be quite the contrary. Nature will
clash with the character under certain conditions. A man
who is lazy by nature may be in a situation where he must
work. The moment he sees that nobody is looking he will
sit down in a chair and doze. He will only work as long
as he is watched, for by nature he is lazy, and only the
conditions have made him work.
There is another person who is told, 'This is the king's
palace, you may not speak.' But he is very talkative, and
when he sees that nobody is looking and that he is out of
earshot, he will begin to talk as soon as he has found someone
who will listen to him. He is only silent because he is
obliged to be silent, but it is his nature to talk; and
when he wants to change his nature it is very difficult.
There are some who have built a character just like a
cherry: outwardly soft, but inside there is hard stone.
There is another character which is like a grape: it is
outwardly soft and inwardly soft. There is also a walnut
character, which is outwardly hard and inwardly soft. And
there is a character like a pomegranate: outwardly hard
and inwardly with hard pips. These differences come from
both nature and character.
An effort made to change someone's character does not
always meet with success. People who want to develop a certain
aspect in another's character frequently produce a kind
of confusion in his soul, and very often parents and guardians
who want to change the character of their son or daughter
make a great mistake; they spoil the character instead of
making it better. One sees thousands of cases where such
mistakes have been made. There was a Maharaja in India who
was a great educator. To all classes of his subjects he
gave the most wonderful education, even to the very lowest.
One would imagine that a ruler who was so interested in
the education of every youth in his country would naturally
make a success of the education of his own children, but
every son of his died a drunkard, every single one of them.
This shows that to wish to change the character is one thing,
but to try to change it and to know how to change it is
Sometimes a person has a tendency to exaggerate, and
this develops from childhood. It is a very interesting tendency,
because it gives an opportunity for the imagination to express
itself; and if a person is poetical and wants to express
himself, he will always show a tendency to exaggerate. It
is a good tendency, but at the same time it can be carried
too far, and then the virtue can become a sin. Therefore,
guardians should not encourage a child in this tendency;
but if it is kept under control and if the child is told
that it must not exaggerate, that it may just say so much
and no more, and if the child is corrected whenever it goes
on doing it, then this will help the child very much.
It is easy to help children, but it is most difficult
to help the grown-up. One may change snow into water and
water into ice, but to try to change a character is the
most difficult thing one can ever imagine. Therefore, it
is usually vain to try. But what one can do is to build
one's own character; that is in one's own hands. Only, what
people are most occupied with is the character of someone
else; they are always thinking of the other but they never
want to change themselves.
Lastly there is personality. Personality is the finishing
of character. Personality is like a cut diamond: when the
character is cut all round, then it becomes like a cut diamond.
As long as the personality is not developed, however much
goodness and virtue a person possesses he remains an uncut
diamond. Personality is the harmony of nature and character;
that is what makes personality. When the nature harmonizes
with the character, when there remains no conflict between
these two, then a personality is born.
Personality also has an influence on the other planes,
just as character and nature have. If Farid
could change himself into a cow by concentration, there
is nothing in this world which cannot change; but only if
we want to change. The one who does not care to change will
never change. But the power constantly working from within
can no doubt change the nature to anything, right or wrong.
The life of humanity is not only nature, it is an art, and
art is an improvement on nature; through art God finishes
His creation. That is why the building of the character
and the developing of the personality is an art, an art
by which the purpose of life is fulfilled.
It is all right for a man who goes into a mountain cave
or into the forest and says that he does not care to develop
either his character or his personality. It is just as well
that he should go there and not take the trouble to develop
his nature. He need not change, he need not worry, he can
live just like the trees and plants in nature which just
grow; they do not develop themselves. But if he has to live
in the midst of the crowd in this artificial world, then
he must know the art of developing the character, and how
to produce beauty in life.
Among all the different schools of esotericism and mysticism
the Sufi school has concerned itself most with the development
of personality. As a Sufi poet says, 'If you have a diamond,
if you have a ruby, what is it? If your self is not developed
into a precious spirit, the diamond and the ruby are nothing.'
And another Sufi poet says, 'In order to worship God angels
were made. In order to eat, drink, and sleep animals were
made. Why was man created? Man was created in order to develop
into a person, that he may be an image of God.' Image in
this verse means God's spirit, God's tendency, God's outlook,
God's nature. It means that there is divine nature in man,
if only he can develop it. And when that nature is developed,
then personality becomes a phenomenon; such a personality
spreads harmony, peace, thoughtfulness, and consideration.
How did Sufis help their pupils, their mureeds, to develop
their personality? Was it by telling them that this is right
and that is wrong; or this is good and that is bad; or you
must do this or you must do that? No, it was by establishing
that current of sympathy through which the spirit of the
teacher is reflected in the pupil, and the mureed begins
to show forth his teacher in his thought, in his speech,
and in his action. This training was considered most valuable
among the Sufis of all ages, a training which is not given
in words. For if a teacher has to correct his pupil in words
it is perhaps only a scratch on the pupil, but on his own
spirit it is a cut. Putting their feeling into words is
the greatest pain for souls that live in the higher spheres.
Subtle souls never say things that they should not say.
It is not their desire to speak. The sympathetic mureed
has to grasp, to feel what the teacher wishes to convey,
what the teacher feels, how the teacher can be pleased,
and what the teacher will be displeased with. And if the
teacher has to descend to earth, so low as to have to tell
it in words, then this means that there is no current. There
is only a difference of two letters between worthiness and
Besides it is not the teacher's responsibility to make
his pupil an occultist. The Sufi teacher never wants his
pupil to be come an occultist or a great psychic or a man
with great power. This does not mean that he will not become
powerful, but the responsibility of the teacher is to develop
the personality of the mureed, that it may reflect God,
that it may show God's qualities; and when that is done
then the responsibility of the teacher is over. Then he
can only pray for the pupil, for his well-being.
If a person does not wish to develop his personality,
he may not even develop his character, he may not develop
anything; and yet he may advance, and when the time of his
progress has come he will progress just the same. But we
should always try to find the shortest way, and the shortest
way is the development of the self.
There are also many people who show a very beautiful
tendency and nature, and yet no tendency towards the spiritual
ideal. The reason is that they have not yet reached the
spiritual ideal, but they are on the way, and the proof
of this is that they show a beautiful character in their
nature. All those teachings that are given to say and repeat,
'I am God,' are the teachings of insolence. Christ did not
teach such things. Read the Beatitudes in the Bible. Has
Christ not taught the development of personality? Did he
not teach the building of the character? Did he not show
in his life the innocence which proves the angelic heritage
of man? Did he say, 'Be ye occultists,' or 'Tell people
their fortunes,' or 'Correct people of their errors?' Never.
What Christ taught was, 'Make your personality as it ought
to be, that you may no more be the slave of the nature which
you have brought with you, nor of the character which you
have made in your life; but that you may show in your life
the divine personality, that you may fulfill on this earth
the purpose for which you have come.'