Spirituality without the base of character, is like the journey of a blind man. Morality, virtue, character – these are vital. We must look to Character and Integrity and understand why management of our mind is necessary for spiritual effort that brings spiritual advance. We can all be great managers – of our minds!
No other living being has been endowed with intelligence and discriminative faculty, heightened to this degree, in order to enable it to visualise the Atma (soul). This is the reason why man is acclaimed as the crown of creation, and why the scriptures proclaim that the chance of being born as man is a very rare piece of good fortune. Man has the qualifications needed to seek the cause of Creation; he has in him the urge and the capacity. He is utilising the created Universe for promoting his peace, prosperity and safety; he is using the forces and things in Nature for promoting his happiness and pleasure. This is approved by the Vedas themselves.
What is Character?
Other people adduce character to us from what they know we think, what we say, and what our actions reveal about ourselves. Actions are based on choices, and our choices are based on our values, our guides to action. Character is made up from our values; values reflect the inner person. When other people observe us and come to conclusions about us saying we are good or bad, motivated or lazy, cheerful or miserable, generous or stingy, these are attributions of character that are given to us. It is important that we give expression to integrity, for without integrity, we do not have good character.
Why do we need integrity?
Integrity is the connection between what we think, what we say and what we do. If our thoughts, words and actions are all in alignment, then we are giving expression to integrity; we project due diligence and capacity in our actions. We are socially and emotionally skilled adepts. We show that we are respectful and responsible moral agents committed to consistent moral action. When we break the truthful connection between thoughts and words, when we break the truthful connection between words and actions: we are failing to give expression to integrity.
Observers – other people in our life – spot the failures of integrity immediately. When people don’t stand up to their words, when people say one thing and do another, we feel a discomfort, we feel something is awry, we feel misled. When words don’t express thoughts, when words don’t express a flow with commitment to action, when words mislead us, we know we have been duped, we know we have not been told the truth. Truth is the basis of the Universe and truth resides in our hearts.
So how do we become people of good character, how do we become people of integrity, giving expression to true humanness? We need to become the manager of our minds. What does Manager mean? Let us take each letter in Manager, M-A-N-A-G-E-R and see how we can apply this to mind management. Without mind management, without integrity, without character, our spiritual efforts are of no avail.
Mind of Man: What is meant by man? Man means mind. What is meant by mind? Mind is man. We should say mind of man. What is the mind made of? The mind is a conglomeration of thoughts. All our actions are induced by thoughts. The results of these actions are our joys and sorrows. This bundle of thoughts has come to our body with the Soul, the Atma. What is Atma?
Awareness of Atma: Awareness is Atma (soul) and the Atma is awareness. All awareness is awareness of the Atma (soul). In awareness there are various levels. When one says there is a snake, that means he has said it with full awareness. If you think whether it is a snake or rope, it is not full awareness. Awareness is full knowledge. Awareness is knowing fully. We have to be aware of our soul and seek the path of the soul with full awareness. Following this path is shaped and formed by the nature of nations, the culture.
Nature of Nations: Nature is nation and nation is nature. We call it nature of nations because the culture (nation) shapes mind. We should think about this clearly. America is a nation. England is a nation. Russia is a nation. India is a nation. Japan is a nation and so on. All are very different cultures. So the nature of the mind and the character depends on each nation. An American has an American nature, the English have their own nature, the Russians have their nature and similarly each country has its own nature. We should not have another country’s nature like that of America and Russia. When we copy and emulate culture from another nation, we are making a mistake. Imitation is a form of weakness, we should not go to our grave weakly copying others. We should stick to our own environment.
Aspects of Environment: What is the environment? This relates to the conditions we live and work in. It can be of various kinds. This can be our physical environment – where we live, in the city, suburbs, regional or outback residence. It can be the spiritual environment we create – our prayer place, our sacred space in the home, the commitment to spiritual practice by ourselves and our family. It can be the environment at work, the atmosphere, the working conditions, the people we work with, the nature of the building, availability of fresh air, a place to have a meal, and good company. Aspects of environment means the environment which is suited to man and which fosters human nature – that is, good company. Next, we should have our interior guidelines. What are these guidelines?
Guidelines of Goodness: We have common sense, and we have spiritual common sense which is built by our spiritual practice, our spiritual reading, our personal spiritual discipline. These form the foundation of our spiritual common sense, which is spiritual intelligence that emerges from our hearts, the seat of divinity. We have to make the pure feelings come from our heart as guidelines and that is called conscience. We should learn to follow the dictates of our conscience. We should also look to history as a guide.
Enquiry of Ethos: What is meant by ethos? That which has come from history is ethos. It is history of those noble men and women who have walked the path before us, leading ideal lives. What is meant by ideal? It means following morality and truth without giving up integrity. The people who have led such great lives are called selfless exemplars, role models. Where there is selfishness, there is no place for truth and morality. Either it is reduced or overruled. If you take such selfless people as ideal, then our lives also become ideal. Finally, we should look to the applicable role of rules in the situation we are confronted with:
Role of Rules: What role do these rules play in the present situation? Without violating, changing, manipulating or creating any conflict in conscience, rules should be followed. We should not behave with scrupulosity: that uneasiness about the fitness of an action without reference to our guides to action, our values. Values are human values of Truth, Peace, Love, Right Conduct and Non-violence. We should not act with violence towards anyone nor should we break with our conscience by any violent action. We should pause, calmly examine the situation, remember God and discriminate right and wrong. This is the Role of Rules.
Spirituality without the base of character, is like the journey of a blind man. A person acting without good character and integrity cannot live a life of satisfaction nor can he or her promote peace, prosperity and safety. He or she cannot give peace and security for themselves and others – their partner, their children, their family, the neighbourhood.
We need integrity, unity of thoughts, words and actions to be people of good character. Mind is man, when we manage our minds – when we become MANAGERS – we can master the mind and live with character and integrity. This raises the quality of life for ourselves and those around us. We progress spiritually, with a life of peace and satisfaction and journey toward the goal of life.
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