Scriptures are often replete with long lists of names, exalted personalities who most have never heard of, but who are nevertheless immortalised in the pages of history. In the material world people are remembered for what they do – their ground-breaking achievements, their high ranking positions of responsibility, and their impactful influence on others. In spiritual circles, however, people are remembered for who they are. In some cases these outstanding spiritualists also made a visible mark on the world, but in many cases they were quiet, simple, humble souls who went about their daily life with a deep sense of devotion, sensitivity and saintliness, their consciousness merged in transcendence. Unassuming, and often unnoticed. The value system in spiritual circles, you see, is entirely different. Character over capability.
The spotless and exemplary character of these saintly personalities is an unending source of instruction and inspiration. They were never found to be duplicitous or superficial, but ever-preaching the highest ideals of human life and simultaneously walking the talk. A recent survey showed that over 70% of first-time attendants to a spiritual institution never return. Why? Because of the huge gap between the ideals of the philosophy and the behaviour of its adherents. How is that possible? Why might the practitioners of a worldview that’s all about character development, neglect to spend time to improve themselves?
Maybe we think the spiritual regime will automatically clean up our hearts, and that the deliberate effort to imbibe saintly qualities is neither genuine, effective nor sustainable.
Maybe we are so busy with the external activities (material and spiritual) that there is little time left for contemplation on the quality of our interactions and the purity of our dealings.
Maybe we tend to prioritise external achievements over internal purification – after all, that’s what gets the claps and nods from our social circle.
Maybe we’ve surrendered to our defective character, convinced that nothing can change us – “I am who I am, and everyone just has to live with it.”
Maybe we find it too depressing to deal with the internal issues, instead choosing to brush our bad qualities under the carpet and hope nobody will notice.
Maybe something is blocking us from seeing defects that are strikingly obvious to others.
Whatever it may be, the world is in desperate need of kind, generous and broadminded saints. If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Let’s value and encourage character over capability.