Improvement of Character
How dismal to hear a cynic’s exclamation: A man cannot change himself. But how hopeful to hear Socrates’ own experience that he had come into the world with many vices yet had rid himself of them with the help of reason…
The unity between our character and our destiny is inseparable; the connection between our way of thinking and the course of events is unerring.
This grand section of the quest deals with the right conduct of life. It seeks both the moral re-education of the individual’s character for his own benefit and the altruistic transformation of it for society’s benefit.
… The improvement of character and the elevation of moral condition are the foundation of all spiritual work.
… The sooner he attributes his troubles to some fault in his own character, the sooner are they likely to come to an end.
His first effort is to find the obstacles which retard the enlightenment; his second, to remove them. This constitutes the Long Path.
If he accepts this tenet of karma coupled with rebirth, then his awakening to a sense of responsibility for his life and the course it takes should lead in turn to a feeling of the need for self-discipline.
… On this Quest it is needful to cultivate strength of will. The aspirant needs it to practise self-control, to overcome harmful desires, and to reject negative thoughts. He needs it to gain control of his actions which result from those desires and thoughts…
Until the time his karma brings him the indwelling Master, the seeker must continue to prepare for what will then happen. He must seek to uncover and uproot all faults and characteristic weaknesses. He must resolve to achieve the best life–that is, one that exemplifies truth, goodness, and beauty. He must understand well the proper values to be attached to worldly matters and to spiritual ones. He must face the difficulties of everyday life with courage and with the knowledge gleaned from his study.
To obtain a balanced result it is necessary to make a balanced approach and not to rely on a single kind of effort only. The moral character must become involved in the quest of upliftment; the intellectual faculty must work at the study, as well as reflect upon the lessons of, life itself; the intuition must be unfolded by persistent daily practice of meditation; and the everyday practical life must try to express the ideals learned.
The Quest is not to be followed by studying metaphysically alone or by sitting meditatively alone. Both are needful yet still not enough. Experience must be reflectively observed and intuition must be carefully looked for. Above all, the aspirant must be determined to strive faithfully for the ethical ideals of philosophy and to practise sincerely its moral teachings.
… All through this quest, but especially at certain critical periods, events will so happen and situations will so arrange themselves that the aspirant’s weaknesses of character will be brought out into the open. The experience may be painful and its results may be saddening, but only by thus learning to know and discriminate against his bad qualities can he set out to submit them to the formative discipline of philosophy…
Out of suffering may come the transmutation of values, even the transfiguration of character. But these developments are possible only if the man co-operates. If he does not, then the suffering is in vain, fruitless.
Many aspirants wrongly believe the quest to be a movement from one psychic experience to another or from one mystical ecstasy to another. But in fact it is a movement in character from animality to purity, from egoism to impersonality.
There are many who are earnest in thought and steadfast in aspiration but who, despite this, have never had any mystical experience, never known any psychical phenomena, and never felt any ecstatic uprush. They may be consoled to learn that, philosophically, these happenings are not at all the most significant indicators of spiritual advancement. The ennoblement of character, the development of intuition, and the cultivation of inner equilibrium are more important.
When we thoroughly imbibe this great truth, when we humbly acknowledge that all human life is under the sway of the law of consequences, we begin to make a necessity of virtue.
The duty of the aspirant to cultivate his moral character and to accept personal responsibility for his inner life cannot be evaded by giving allegiance to any spiritual authority.
…Use the last few minutes in the twilight state of consciousness before falling asleep at night for constructive self-improvement. The best form this can take during your present phase of development is to relax in bed, empty the mind of the day’s cares, and make definite, concrete suggestions about the good qualities desired and imaginatively visualize yourself demonstrating these desired qualities. Furthermore, you should go even farther and visualize yourself in possession of the Higher Consciousness, attuned to the Higher Will and expressing the Higher Poise. All this will be like seeds planted in the inner being and growing during sleep.
He who has sufficiently purified his character, controlled his senses, developed his reason, and unfolded his intuition is always ready to meet what comes and to meet it aright. He need not fear the future. Time is on his side. For he has stopped adding bad karma to his account and every fresh year adds good karma instead…
Slowly, as he strives onward with this inner work, his faults and frailties will fall away and this ever-shining better self hidden behind them will begin to be revealed.
He must work harder than ever on his character and, by crushing his ego, sensitize his mind for the reception of the spiritual Grace that is to come during initiation.
The forming of a good character is the beginning, the middle, and the end of this work.
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