Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part I: The Vision of God and Man and other Lectures
THE DEVELOPMENT OF PERSONALITY
IT IS as important to think about the development of personality as it is to think about spirituality. A poet from Delhi says, 'If God had created man to offer Him prayers there are many angels to do this. Man was created to become human.'
Many think that nature is greater than art. I say: art perfects nature. Someone proudly told me, ' I was brought up by my parents just like a plant.' And I said, 'It is a great pity.' When people say one should let children alone, let them go their own way, this means that although they live in the world which is itself a work of art they do not give their children any education in that art, which is needed for living in this world. By this I do not mean that one should not be natural. One should develop naturally, for if one remains undeveloped one loses a great deal. Even if one were a spiritual person and the personality was not developed one would be missing a great deal in life. The personality must be developed. Parents think very little about this nowadays; they think that these are old-fashioned ideas; to be new-fashioned is to overlook all these things. But I say that it is not so at all; it is just the fashion to think about it in this way.
Individuality is one thing and personality is another. A soul is born an individual, but without a personality. Personality is built after one is born. What the soul has brought along is hands and legs and face, but not personality; this is made here on earth.
Very often people have taken the ascetic path and have gone where they could keep away from the world. Because they did not care for the personality, for the self, they kept themselves aloof from the crowd. In this way they are free to be as they wish to be; if they want to be like a tree or a plant or a rock they may. But at the same time, when it comes to personality it is a different thing. You can either have a manner or not have it; you can either have an ideal or not have one; you can either have principles or be without them; you can either be conventional or not. All these things have their place; manner, conventionally, principle, ideal, all have their value in life. And the person who goes about without considering any of these things is just like a wild horse let loose in the city, running here and there, frightening everybody and causing a lot of harm. That is what an untrained personality is. Real culture is a matter of personality, not mathematics or history or grammar. All these different studies are practical studies, but the real study is how to develop personality. If you are a businessman, a lawyer, a professional man, an industrialist, a politician, whatever you occupation in life, you are forced, expected, to have a personality in every walk of life. It is the personality of the salesman, which sells not always the goods. In the case of a doctor it is his personality which can heal and cure a person much sooner than medicine can.
There are four different grades of evolution, and these differ according to the four different kinds of personality. A person is either born in it or a person evolves through it. The first grade is called Ammara in Sufi terms, and it denotes a person who is coarse and crude, thoughtless and ill mannered. And ill manner is connected with ill luck, and so whenever there is thoughtlessness there is failure connected with it; whenever there is blindness there is always a disaster. This is the first kind of person.
When a man is a little more evolved then there comes a certain consideration, a civilized manner, a refinement, and a choice of action. This is called Lawwama. A person who has advanced to the third stage, Mutmainna, is still further developed. It is not only that he is thoughtful but he is sympathetic, it is not only that he is considerate but he is kind, it is not only that he has a civilized manner but he has a natural politeness, it is not only that he is refined but he is tender-hearted. And when a person goes still further then he has even greater charm and personality, then there is calm, quietness, gentleness, mildness, tolerance, forgiveness, and understanding of all beings.
It is when this fourth personality, or Alima, is developed that a person is entitled to embark on the spiritual path. Until then he is not entitled to go on it. The modern way of recognizing the wrong kind of equality has taken away the idea of better personality. That respect and appreciation which were due to a higher personality is taken away by this madness of equality. If a person has no ideal before him to reach up to then he has no way in which to progress. People who think, 'I am satisfied as I am. I earn so much money every day, is this not sufficient?' have nothing to reach up to. In spite of all the faults and errors of the ancient peoples they at any rate always kept this thought alive.
There is a story of a dervish, who was standing in the middle of the street when the procession of the king came along. First the pages who ran before the procession pushed him and said, 'Don't you see the king is coming? Away!' The dervish smiled and said, 'That is why.' Then he went forward again and stood in the same place. When the horsemen, the bodyguard, arrived they said, 'Get out of the way, the procession is coming!' The dervish smiled and said, 'That is why.' Then the courtiers came and saw the dervish standing there. And instead of telling the dervish to get out of the way they moved their horses a little to one side. And again the dervish said, 'That is why.' Finally came the king. When the king saw the dervish he greeted him first and the dervish in answer said, 'That is why.' An intelligent young man who had seen and heard this asked, 'What do you mean by saying this? And the dervish said, 'You can see, that is why they are what they are!
We have wiped this ideal from our minds. Where is the real democracy? The kingliness of greeting the dervish first, that is democracy. But when a man who is not evolved is pulling the most evolved down to his level, that is the wrong democracy; it is going downward instead of going upward. If mannerlessness and thoughtlessness can be democracy it takes away its real ideal and true spirit. Democracy is the result of Aristocracy; when the spirit of aristocracy has evolved enough then it becomes democracy. Then a person thinks, 'I am the equal of any person in the world; there is no person lower than me; ' but if a person says, There is no one higher than me,' that is not democracy.
I will give an example of true democratic religious feeling. The people of Burma are Buddhists, and they are of a wonderful type. Here you will find the one race who for centuries has believed that there is no religion inferior to theirs. Just think of it today, when the followers of a particular religion look down upon the followers of any other religion! But these people say, 'Whatever be the religion, Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, it is not worse than ours. Perhaps it is even better.' This is something wonderful, but when a person says, 'No one is better than I,' that is not democracy; it is going down, for it means closing our eyes to that which is greater, higher, and better. And if we cannot appreciate cannot see, then we cannot rise to it. We can only rise towards that which we value and to which we aspire.
If, instead of telling people simple things like this, I were to speak about occult power, psychic power, spirit communication, breathing practices, they would be glad to hear me. But suppose one did not develop personality, what about spirituality? A man should first of all be a person; then only should he be spiritual. If he is not a person then what is the use of being spiritual? Man is born to fulfill the purpose of his life; he is made to be a man, a human being, a man who can be relied upon, a man whose word can be accepted, who uses thought and consideration, to whom we can entrust our secret; a man who under all conditions will never humiliate himself, who will never go back on his word, who will not deceive or cheat anybody; a man who will carry out what he has once undertaken. All these qualities make a man a human being. Today our condition is such that we cannot believe each other's word. We have to have a stamp on a contract. Why are we in such a state? Because we are not evolving toward that great ideal which the ancient people had, that is why we cannot trust each other individually, that is why nations cannot trust each other. Human beings live only in order to exist from day to day, to strive and work for a loaf of bread. That is all. But is it all? If it is only to earn a loaf of bread we do no better than dogs and cats.
Rich and poor, all are wretched in every walk of life, because there is nothing but competition between individuals, nations, parties, and communities. We have made our life wretched. What are we here for? If we were only born to meditate and to be spiritual then we had better go into the forest or to the mountain caves; then it would not be necessary to remain in the world. And if we only had to live as animals do then we could do as worldly people are generally doing today, and accomplish nothing. Therefore the first necessity for those who are seeking after truth is to develop the spirit of personality. I remember a quotation: 'If one has gold and jewels it means nothing; if one has no personality they are valueless; then nothing is valuable.' Personality can be more valuable than wealth. How strange it is that there is such a large population in this world, and that there are so few personalities. It is as the Greek philosopher said, who was going about with a lantern in daylight, and when people asked him what he was looking for he answered, 'For a human being.'
This subject has only been overlooked; it is not that man is not capable of understanding it. Man is capable of it more than ever before, because he has so much to suffer. This life as we live it is a most painful life. It crunches and grinds him to make him a better man. If he gave his thought to it he would profit by it and would become a better person. In ancient times people underwent different ordeals, trials and tests. We today do not need to do this. We have other trials today; we do not need to seek for them. If we only knew how to profit by them! At this time, when every little bone and piece of skin of every animal is used for something, we yet do not make use of our own life's experience, which is more precious than anything else. If there is news of an oil-well or a gold and silver mine everyone is interested, but people are not interested in this gold and silver mine, this mine of jewels and gems, the cultivation of which will produce all that can be produced! They do not think about the most valuable thing of all. Nevertheless, the great gurus and teachers of all times have put much emphasis on this one point, that those who wish to seek after truth must above all give their thought and mind to the development of personality.