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Volume XIII - The Gathas

Part V
Saluk: Morals


1.   The Development of Personality:
Sense of Beauty and Sincerity

Personality is the secret of the whole life, and in the development of personality it is not necessary that the psychic or occult sides should develop first, the beginning of development is natural.

There are two things needful in the development of personality: the sense of beauty and the preservation of sincerity.

The sense of beauty can be defined as the adoption of all that appears beautiful in thought, speech or action. For generally man appreciates all that is beautiful in another person, but he overlooks the lack of beauty in his own thought, speech and action. For instance a person would appreciate the respectful, humble gentle attitude of another towards himself, but he often overlooks his own lack of this attitude towards another.

There are two reasons for this. One reason is that man always looks outward, not inward, and he sees another person before he sees himself. The other reason is that man is selfish by nature; he wants all that is good for himself, and he hardly gives a thought to giving these things to another. Man is ignorant of the fact that life is naturally a re-echo: what one gives he must take back sooner or later, and it is ignorance of this fact that makes man inconsiderate. Therefore to a sensitive person life all around seems nothing but thorns. But he does not expect thorns, he expects roses. That shows that his soul is longing for what is good and beautiful. And man pities himself, but instead of pitying others, he blames them. If he only knew that others are just as much to be pitied as he! But not everyone thinks of the pain and suffering of another. As soon as man in his life begins trying to forget his troubles and think of the troubles of others, he has taken his first step in saintliness.

Rose and thorn are the outcome of the same plant and come from the same root. Saint and sinner both come from one source, God, the Father of the whole humanity. It is only that the beauty, fragrance and color in the root have expressed themselves in the rose, and have not expressed themselves in the thorn. The difference between the plant and the human being is free will. A human being cannot make the excuse, I was born a thorn, how can I become a rose? As a human being has his free will, he is responsible if he is a thorn, and it is to his credit if he is a rose. Man must know that as the color, fragrance and beauty are hidden in the root, so goodness and beauty both spring from the same source. The quality which shone in the life of the Master shines still and will ever shine. What attracts friends is not necessarily power, property, and beauty; what really can attract man is personality.

Now, the other question of personality – sincerity – that is necessary to be considered in the development of personality. There are many people who, in order to behave nicely, polish their manner and speech. But polish is not necessarily effective, or the effective thing in a person. Beauty is that which penetrates through and through; and the greater the beauty, the greater the penetration. What is called manner – which is only manner – is not a deep thing, it is almost a play. Every thought, speech, or action has in it a psychic power which makes an impression on another, and the psychic power comes from the true divine essence in man.

No doubt, in the name of sincerity, people often express their lack of the sense of beauty, saying, 'I am a frank person, I tell the truth and I don't mind how you take it.' This shows that sincerity void of the sense of beauty is lack of balance, and beauty void of sincerity is lack of balance also. As music depends upon rhythm and tone, so personality depends on the sense of beauty and sincerity.

2.   The Development of Personality:
The Jarring Effect of the Ego of Another

By a keen outlook on life we find that what disturbs us most in life is the ego of another person; it is the ego that has a jarring effect upon life. Those who know the right manner of developing personality know that the first lesson in life is to efface that ego as much as possible. Christ says, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit.' That poorness in spirit is the softening of the ego. When the ego is softened in a person then in the thought, speech, and action of that person there is a charm. Sometimes a person, after going through disillusionment, suffering, torture, shows in his personality some charm, and that charm has come from the softening of the ego. But any virtue that develops naturally, forced by life or circumstances, is not a virtue in the same sense as that which has been developed through one's own effort. Every beautiful action, thought or speech is derived from the effacing of self, or ego. For instance, every manner of courtesy comes from holding the reins of the ego. Beauty of speech always depends on the same effacement of the self, and so it is with thought. As soon as the ego expresses itself without control it hurts the ego of another person. The tendency in the lower creatures to fight is caused only by the ego, and man has this tendency no less than they, but rather more. It is this tendency which brings about disturbances in the life of individuals and in the multitude. The family feuds in ancient times, and now wars, all come from the same source, the ego. The idea of self-denial in Christianity, if rightly considered, expressed the idea of effacement rather than that of renunciation. Those whose contact brings us comfort, ease, peace, always have a softened ego. The greater the person the finer the ego. No example can be better than that of Christ washing the feet of his disciples.

What builds man's ego is every kind of gratification of the ego, and what breaks the ego is patience and renunciation. The question whether it would be advisable to so destroy the ego that others might take advantage of a refined person is answered by saying that is not necessary that one should work against the ego, but one must control it. It would not be exaggerated if I said that man's worst enemy is his ego, his own ego. And when it is not under his control man's thought, speech and action are bent towards the gratification of his ego, and the more he satisfies his ego the more his ego desires, and it is never satisfied. Nobody else has such power in life of enslaving a man as his own ego. Man is, in fact, from the divine essence, and being so, he has the right to be king of his own life, which is his own kingdom. By the gratification of the ego man falls from kingship into slavery, and in the end his own life becomes a burden to himself. And in order to gain his own kingdom he must destroy the illusion that in satisfying his ego he shows his power; he satisfies his enemy in satisfying his ego. A Persian poet says, 'Each time that I make peace with my enemy he has the opportunity of preparing again for the struggle.' The great battle that the Sufis and sages and yogis fight is the battle with the ego, but the sage battles with his own ego, the ordinary man with other people's egos. And the difference in the result of these two battles is that the victory and the failure of the ordinary man are momentary, but the victory of the sage is eternal. The former, when they have finished one battle, must begin another, but the latter, once he has succeeded, is victorious. All that the former gains, after all, is not his own, because his kingdom is not his own; all he gains does not belong to him, but the sage is king in his own kingdom.

3.   The Development of Personality
What Is the Ego?

'Know thyself and thou wilt know God', said the great Sufi philosopher Ali. To know the self is the most difficult thing in the world, because what man can perceive first is a part only of the self, a limited part. When man asks himself, 'What is it in me that is I?' he finds his body and his mind, and in both he finds himself limited and apart from others. And it is this conception of his being that makes man realize himself as an individual. If man dived deep enough within himself he would reach a point of his ego where it lives an unlimited life. It is that realization which brings man to the real understanding of life, and as long as he has not realized his unlimited self he lives a life of limitation, a life of illusion. When man in this illusion, says 'I', in reality it is a false claim. Therefore everyone has a false claim of 'I' except some who have arrived at a real understanding of the truth. This false claim is called in Sufic terms Nafs, and the annihilation of this false self is the aim of the sage. But no doubt to annihilate this false ego is more difficult than anything else in the world, and it is this path of annihilation that is the path of the saints and the sages. One may ask, 'Why should one take the trouble to annihilate the ego? Since life is full of pain and suffering why add to this suffering?' The answer is that even if an operation will cause one suffering, it is better to endure it in order to be cured.

The inborn nature of the ego is intolerance, that is its nature because there are other egos that jar it. It is therefore that when two cocks meet they want to fight. The reason is that the ego of one jars upon the other. Even a silent life, such as that of a rock, can jar upon another ego, for instance that of a bull, who wants to hurl himself upon it and break it with his horns. It is the nature of the ego to exist alone, and it cannot allow another to exist. No doubt the reason is still deeper, it belongs to the deep side of metaphysics, but the moral aspect can be understood.

The finer an ego becomes the less it jars upon others. In the different degrees of evolution of man one sees this gradual development of the ego. There are people who seem to have no thorns; and yet they have a thorn which makes itself felt in the presence of another – it is their ego. Others are like the rose with its softness, beauty and fragrance. No doubt not everyone is a rose, but everyone desires the rose and not the thorn. The best training is to try to turn this thorny ego into a rose. It is very hard. And the finer and the more evolved the ego the harder life becomes for man. The higher and the more refined you are the greater trials you will have to go through in life; the more sensitive you become the more you will have to suffer. The thorn cannot hurt another thorn, but the slightest thing can hurt a rose. It is not surprising if an ego that has become a flower does not wish to live among thorns, but that is its destiny, and in spite of all sufferings it is preferable to be a rose rather than a thorn.

To return to the question why one ego jars another, the answer is that one must understand the nature of the other egos. When one dog barks at another and the other wags his tail, it is to let the other understand him and not fight with him. It is this moral that Christ taught from beginning to end. If you wish to experience fully the beauty of life you must make your ego as fine as possible. This allows the grosser egos to come into contact. It is from that that good and evil have come. It is always from the grosser ego that what we call evil comes, and it is from the finer ego that that comes which we call good.

4.   The Training of the Ego:
What the Ego Needs and What It Does Not Need

In order to train the ego it is necessary that one should distinguish what is the right of the ego and what is not its right. The ego has a tendency to want what it needs and also what it does not need. The first is its natural appetite and the second is greed. This is like the nature of the dog, that after eating the flesh off a bone still guards the bone against another dog. Besides this the ego has a tendency to want more and more of what it likes, regardless of right and justice, also regardless of the after-effect. For instance a person may eat and drink more and more until this makes him ill. Every kind of gratification of desires or appetite gives a tendency to want more and more. Then there is the desire for change of experience, and when a person gives in to it, it never ends. Excess of desire in appetites or passions always produces an intoxication in man. It increases to such an extent that the limited means that man has become insufficient to gratify his desires. Therefore, naturally, to satisfy his desires he wants more than what is his own, and he wants what belongs to other people. When this begins, naturally injustice begins. Then he cannot get what he wants, then there is pain and disappointment. When one person gratifies his desires more than other people, the others who see this want to take away the gratification he has. One naturally expects a thinker to understand this and to relieve his ego of all that is unnecessary.

The training of the ego is this, to eat to live and not to live to eat, and so with all things one desires. The nature of desire is such that nothing will satisfy it forever, and sometimes the pleasure of a moment costs more than it is worth. And when one's eyes are closed to this one takes the momentary pleasure regardless of what will come after. The training of the ego is not necessarily a sad life of renunciation, nor is it necessarily the life of a hermit. The training is to be wise in life, and to understand what we desire and why we desire it and what effect will follow, what we can afford and what we cannot afford. It is also to understand desire from the point of view of justice, to know whether it is right and just. If the ego is given way to in the very least in the excess of its desires, it becomes master of one's self. Therefore in training the ego even the slightest thing must be avoided which may in time master us. The ideal life is the life of balance, not necessarily the life of renunciation. Renunciation must not be practiced for the sake of renunciation, but it must be practiced if it is necessary for balance. Verily, balance is the ideal life.

5.   The Training of the Ego:
Constant Battle With the Ego

For the person who walks in the path of God the only struggle is a constant battle with the ego. It is the ego which forms the cover on the light of the soul, and the light hidden under the ego is the 'Light hidden under a bushel.' Man's sense of justice, his logic, his reason, his intelligence, his affection, all is covered by the ego. If he judges anyone it is from the point of view of his own interest, if he reasons his selfish mind produces the result, in his affections he puts self first, his intelligence is darkened by self; and this is the condition of the average man. In proportion as man takes away the covering from the soul, so much more just, truer, more sincere, more loving does he become. Selfishness develops the sense of self-interest, and very often a person may gain earthly prosperity because of it. But as all things in the world are subject to change, death and decay, he remains in the end empty-handed; while the unselfish man, who has perhaps been debarred from earthly good by his lack of self-interest, at least remains possessed of his sense of reason and is rich in the qualities of love, justice, and intelligence.

The whole tragedy of life is in losing sight of one's natural self, and the greatest gain in life is coming into touch with one's real self. The real self is covered by many layers of ego; those which preponderate above all others are hunger and passion, beneath these are pride and vanity. One must learn to discriminate between what is natural and what is unnatural, what is necessary and what is not necessary, what brings happiness and what brings sorrow. No doubt it is difficult for many to discriminate between right and wrong; but by standing face to face with one's ego and recognizing it as someone who is ready to make war against us, and by keeping one's strength of will as an unsheathed sword, one protects oneself from one's greatest enemy, which is one's own ego. And a time comes in life when one can say, 'My worst enemy has been within myself.'

6.   The Training of the Ego:
The Animal Side of Man's Ego

There is a side of man's ego which may be called the animal side; and yet it is worse than an animal side, for there are tame animals which have a tendency to love and to respond to love, and which are harmless. But there is a part of man's nature which may be likened to a thorn, or the horn of a rhinoceros, and this ego takes pleasure in hurting others and gets joy from giving pain. From a scientific point of view this is called mania or disease, but psychologically speaking all that is below the human ideal is a defect in man which he could overcome if he knew how.

Often a man is seen taking pleasure in whipping a horse or a dog, and the same thing may be seen in a more pronounced form when a man gets pleasure from hurting or paining another person. This defect is shown in its mental aspect when a person shows contempt or antipathy to another, even when he shows disrespect where respect or reverence is due. Man gives pain by irony, sarcasm, or harshness of expression; there are looks that wound and many slight changes of manner by which it is possible to hurt another and get joy from it. When this tendency is developed a man is naturally disliked by those around him; some show their dislike outwardly and others do not, and the man resents it only where it is expressed. Man often puts on others the blame for his own fault.

This kind of ego may develop into a monster; and the soul can see this process from within and admits it to itself, though the individual may be too proud to admit it openly. The soul, from within, is often frightened at this monster and dreads the sight of it; and when this monster-ego is so developed that it has created a world of pain and torture the soul finds itself in hell. This is the only hell that exists, either here or in the hereafter, in external conditions. Even after creating the ego man can be happy, if he can break it until it becomes his friend and servant.

7.   The Training of the Ego:

There is a tendency in man to think a great deal about what others think of him, and in some natures this tendency develops quickly. This develops in him self-consciousness, which is the root of several defects in man. It enfeebles man physically and mentally, and makes him dependent upon the opinion of others; so to speak, he lives on the good opinion of others, and he is as dead when they have a bad opinion about him.

This tendency makes a person sensitive, often hypersensitive. It often reaches such a point that at every word he speaks he looks around for approval and every movement he makes, in the same way, is calculated to produce an effect. This makes his body and his mind both heavy and burdensome to his soul. It develops in nature that weakness which, in ordinary words, is called touchiness, taking offense at every little thing. And the nature of many people is such that they enjoy bringing out any weakness that may be in a person. It becomes a pastime or pleasure to such people, and the life of the one who is sensitive is made so difficult that he has no rest at home or abroad. Everyone seems to him to be wicked, everyone's presence seems to have a jarring effect upon him, and he seeks to be exclusive and to find a seclusion which life does not permit of his finding. If he happens to be in a position where he has to speak or sing or perform in any way, he fails to do his best, and when he meets people he cannot stand a criticism or reply to a jest. The presence of others has the effect of a weight upon the soul. The desire of the sensitive person is always to be hiding, keeping away from people, looking at others with nervousness, dislike, or fear. Such a person, however great his virtues or merits, is always incapable of free expression of his gift.

Stiffness in walking, also crookedness, is caused by self-consciousness, and sitting in a rigid position, without any flexibility, is cause by the same thing. Self-consciousness gives hardness to the expression of the lips, and it stiffens the tongue and makes the voice toneless, preventing a man from saying what he wishes to say. Self-consciousness is like a chain upon every feature and limb of the body, and in the self-conscious person there is nothing of the smoothness that should flow like a fluid through every expression of life. Its only remedy is forgetting self and putting the whole mind into work and each occupation undertaken.

8.   The Training of the Ego:

Man has the desire to do good and to refrain from doing evil because to do so feeds his vanity. Among one thousand good and virtuous people there is scarcely one who does good and refrains from evil because that is his natural inclination. The majority of those engaged in art, science, religion or politics are conscious all the time of the opinion of others and they can only work upon the lines they are following if appreciation comes from some quarter; the least antagonism or opposition discourages them and often kills their desire. Among thousands it is one great soul that can keep firm and strong in his purpose through life, unshaken and unweakened by opposition from any side. It is that person who wins in the end and accomplishes things that are worthwhile.

In the lives of all the great souls who have accomplished wonderful deeds in life you will surely find this mystery hidden. Those souls have not learned it, it happens to be their nature, and the thinker will see in this a philosophy which teaches that it is the ego that chains man's feet, keeping him from progress in all paths in life. The ego not only makes man self-conscious, but it makes of him a coward and renders him helpless. He is timid because he sees his own limitations and he is helpless because everything stronger overpowers him as he confines his being within a certain limit. Besides all the other disadvantages that self-consciousness brings with it, there is above all else one thing it does, it prevents man from realizing that the thought of self keeps him away from God. In the heart of man there is room for one only, either for himself or for God.

9.   The Training of the Ego:
The Three Parts of the Ego

The ego is divided into three parts, the physical ego, the mental ego, and the spiritual ego. The mental ego covers the spiritual ego, and the physical ego is a cover over the mental ego. The ego indeed is one, but these are the three different aspects of the ego.

The physical ego is nourished by the gratification of the bodily appetites. One sees that after a meal or some refreshing drink a sort of feeling of stimulation arises, and no doubt it covers with an additional cover the 'I' within. And therefore, there is a difference between sleep and meditation. Although both produce rest, yet one rest is caused by stimulation of the body and the other rest comes without it. There have been cases of meditative people sleeping only two or three hours out of the twenty-four without becoming ill. A person who can sleep well shows the sign of health, and yet is subject to any illness. The gratification of every appetite is a momentary stimulation and rest to the body, but this momentary satisfaction creates a further appetite, and every experience in the satisfaction of the appetites gives a desire for more satisfaction. Thus the ego, the cover over one's mental and spiritual being, becomes thicker and thicker, until it closes all light from within. There are some who eat in order to live, but there are many who live in order to eat. The body is an instrument for the soul to experience the external world, but if the whole life be devoted to the instrument, then the person for whom the instrument exists is deprived of his experience in life.

The blindness that the physical ego causes can be clearly seen among the lower creatures – how the lion is inclined to fight with another lion, how the dog is inclined to watch the bone off which it has already eaten the flesh, yet it does not want another dog to touch it. This same physical ego gives man pride in his strength, in his beauty, in his power, in his possessions. If there is a spark of light in time it must expand to a shining star, and when there is the slightest darkness, that darkness must expand and put the whole life in a mist. In the intoxication of the physical ego man becomes so interested in the satisfaction of his appetites only that he can readily harm or injure or hurt, not only his enemy, but his dearest friend. As a drunken man does not know what he says or does, so a person blinded with his physical ego is intoxicated and can easily say or do things, regardless of the pleasure, comfort, happiness, harmony or peace of others.

10.   The Training of the Ego:
Three Stages Through Which the Ego Develops

There are three different stages through which the ego develops and reaches the ideal state.

The first stage is called Ammara by Sufis, and in this the ego is satisfied by the satisfaction of the passions and the appetites.

From this animal stage the ego may rise to a higher stage, which is man's ego, and that stage is the gratification of vanity. This ego is termed by the Sufi Lawwama, and this stage in the beginning causes a person to act in every way that is likely to cause harm and to be hurtful and unjust to others. This continues until he learns to understand the true nature of vanity, since all good as well as all evil is born of vanity. When vanity ceases to cause man to do evil he has reached the human stage, Mutmainna.

But when vanity causes man to do good the ego becomes humane, using this word in the oriental sense, in which it means more than human, as it is derived from the two words, Hu, divine, and Manas, mind.

The first lesson that the ego must learn in order to develop into the humane state is that of pride in the form of self-respect. As man has the inclination to have good clothes and good ornaments in order to appear in the eyes of others as what he considers beautiful, so he must feel the same inclination towards the building of personality by the ornamentation of every action and manner in the way that he considers good and beautiful.

checked 18-Oct-2005