Prekshadhyan - An Introduction ► [01] The Making of Personality

Posted: 05.04.2007

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The Making of Personality

There is a profound relationship between an individual and society, like that between a drop and a ocean. The drop and the ocean like the individual and the world cannot be separated and therefore they cannot be viewed in isolation. Two Sanskrit words Pind and Brahmand are very well known. Whatever is in the embryo is in the universe and whatever is in the universe is in the embryo. According to the philosophy of Anekant, the relation between the individual (the embryo) and the collectivity or society is so close that it cannot be severed. There is a saying that shaking a finger results in shaking the whole world. The commentators have put the whole concept instructively thus: whenever a sage or anyone tears a cloth, some particles of the atoms thus released may travel thousands of miles and may cause ripples in a sheet of water if they strike it. This encapsulates the entire theory of the environment. Everyone and everything is so closely related to one another that it is undesirable to harm, obstruct or oppress anyone or anything. We should experience this all pervasive universal interrelatedness. It applies to the individual and society as well.


The Method of Anekant.

As stated earlier, society inheres in the individual and the individual inheres in the society. The sociologists' assertion that man is a social being cannot be gainsaid. It is equally true that it is a combination of individuals which constitutes society. For the sake of convenience, it is the one or the other that is brought into focus. Here is the methodology of Anekant. While talking of one, the other cannot be disregarded. It is our viewpoint which lends primacy to one or the other. The true understanding of and reflection on the individual as society is possible only by a proper understanding and application of the language and methodology of anent.

The Meaning of Individuality.

There are a few special characteristics of the individual. They do not belong to society and are altogether individual or personal. Thus, it is the individual and society who has a body. Similarly, thinking, feeling and action all belong to the individual. Again, qualities like tolerance, modesty etc. are also entirely personal. Thus a person's individuality or personality means a harmonious combination of his characteristic traits. That is what personality is.

A Second Face of Individuality.

Individuality also shows itself in the form of behavior. Both peculiarities and expression of an individual are reflected in his behaviour. In fact behaviour is the external manifestation of inner special qualities. So far as behaviour is concerned, it acts as a binding agent of society. If society is a portrait, human behaviour is its canvas. An individual is assessed on the basis of the quality of his behaviour, his speech, thoughts and feelings. What else is society except the final outcome of individual behaviour? It is interpersonal behaviour which shapes society. The latter cannot exist if each individual were an island unto himself, non-interactive and non-reactive.

Behaviour Speaks for Itself.

Tolerance as such cannot be seen but it becomes manifest in behaviour. If a man stays calm and unruffled, and does not retaliate even in the face of abuse and ill-treatment, it is not difficult to infer that he is well-bred and cultured. Someone once punched Acharya Bikhsu and then used abusive language against him. The inner quality of tolerance became vocal in his behavior, making it obvious how well-bred and cultured he was. Lord Buddha kept laughing in the face if invective. Someone asked him if he did not accept it, invective not accepted belongs where it came from. The behaviour got modified as a result.

The Question of Personality Building.

How to build personality is a very complex question - how to build it so as to avoid irrational insistence and cultivate flexibility, for there are people who go on insisting without relenting in the slightest. Some people have a strong sense of self-conceit, who fancy themselves to be the best and advertise themselves as such. Jain Acharyas entered into a controversy. Should ascetics (munis) wear clothes or not? Those favouring no clothes made out they represented the acme of virtue. One of the Acharyas following Anekant said that practice differed - some people using one, some two, some three dresses and some others no dress at all. Using dress was no vice, not using any also meant a certain spiritual effort. Neither was to be looked down upon. It is good if someone fasts, but those who do not, should not be regarded inferior. Self-conceit should not be publicized.

The Course of Disintegration

There is something remarkable in having neither disdain nor conceit, neither self-glorification nor decrying others, neither one-sided insistence nor false belief, but an integrated anent methodology. Perhaps it is the best principle of building personality.

Internalizing and adopting Anekant automatically ensures building a personality. There is no room for worrying at all. Disintegration of personality is the direct consequence of one-sided or biased view-point.

Psychologists have done a lot in this field. From Jung to countless modern psychologists all have shed light on the subject of personality-building and they have come out with a variety of methods for achieving the purpose.

Human Body and Personality.

It is very necessary to take care of the body in order to build personality. Not all bodies are alike - some are tall others short; some are fat, others lean - these are personal peculiarities which are not of much consequence. But two systems of the body - the endocrine and the nervous - have a far-reaching influence on our personality. In fact, they play the main role in building the personality.

The Endocrine System and Personality.

The endocrine system cannot be viewed apart from one's personality. A person whose thyroid is dysfunctional leading to a shortage of thyroxine becomes irritable and his ratiocinative and memory power suffer. On the other hand excess of thyroxine results in a high-strung and hyper-sensitive personality. These qualities obstruct personality-building and the causative factor behind them is the endocrine system. If it is neglected, a refined personality cannot built. Whenever faced with such an obstructive situation, our attention should be directed towards some distortion in the endocrine system, in the secretion of the endocrine gland concerned. One should try to find out if harmful hormones are not distorting the personality. We use a thermometer as soon as we experience fever. Thus, we do not investigate external symptoms, but we never think it necessary to get our endocrine system examined, the system which affects our mind, memory and thinking. It is this system which is responsible for the building and refinement of personality.

The Nervous System and Personality.

The second system which affects the personality is the nervous system. Our life force has three streams called ida, pingla and sushumna in the ancient texts. In terms of modern science they are sympathetic, the para-sympathetic and the central nervous system respectively. We should try to find out whether a particular type of disposition or behaviour is due to some trouble in the nervous system. The excess of aggressiveness both in adults and children can be result of the malfunctioning of the sympathetic nervous system. Likewise, a general feeling of inferiority, apprehension and suspiciousness may be traced to the malfunctioning of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Physical Beauty.

The beauty and good features of the body also affects human personality. There was a vaidya (Ayurveda practitioner) in Jaipur, named Nand Kishorji. He was the disciple of the famous Dadupanthi Swami Lachchhiramji. It was the time when Gurudeva was camping at Melusar village near Sardarshahr. The vaidya met him and as he was looking at Gurudeva reverentially, his eyes got fixed on the latter's ears and he said, ''Acharyaji,s eeing you, I am reminded of Lord Buddha.Your ears are very much like his". Thus the external features also influence the onlooker considerably. They are also a constituent of personality. However, we should not stop but go beyond them to acquaint ourselves with the inner personality. We should see how healthy the nervous and the endocrine systems are.

The Problem of the Teacher.

Many methods and techniques of preksha dhyan aim at making the nervous and the endocrine systems healthy. Some of the pranayam exercises balance the nervous system. A big problem the teacher faces is that he encounters two types of students - those who are rudely rebellious and those who are timid and outwardly, always staging a retreat. A competent teacher will try to locate the problem, direct attention to the nervous system and come up with a solution. But an ignorant teacher will complaint against the students to their parents or guardians, who will remonstrate with their wards, which will in no way solve the problem. Complaints may bring temporary relief, but cannot bring about any great reform. They do not solve the problem of building the students personality.

The Formula of Solution.

The solution lies in being aware of the fact that we are inattentive to the process of transformation.We rarely deliberate on the way which can bring about a change and build personality. No need was ever felt to include things these in formal education.

In the past, students were subjected to corporal punishment, but it did not at all help in personality-building. Nowadays, teachers refrain from it, they either register complaints against the erring students or grow indifferent to them, neither of which again leads to the development of personality. Those determined to bring it about have to have a comprehensive view of things and locate the cause of the aberration. That is why the teacher too has been regarded as a physician, for he also diagnoses and treats to cure.

Balancing Exercises.

As has been noted earlier, there are two constituents of personality building - the endocrine system and the nervous system. Preksha Dhyan exercises balance the endocrine system. A number of students who were extremely cowardly got rid of their fear by meditating on the 'taijas kendra' or center of bioelectricity. The son of a millionaire had a constant fear of people and things and even in his business dealings shivered with fear and hesitation in talking to other people. He too by following the same practice, completely overcame his fear and began talking and negotiating deals with utmost confidence and self -assurance.

Fear automatically vanishes with the activation of the taijas kendra (at the navel), which is the product of bio-energy. The exercise relating to the balance of the endocrine system is meditation on the chaitanya kendras or psychic centres. It is extremely helpful in building personality. Similarly, exercises in the perception of breathing through alternate nostrils and the perception of slow and deep breathing also play an important role in balancing the nervous system. The clear direction towards personality - building requires that the body be made one of its means and the body be put to use.

An Aspect of Personality.

Thinking constitutes one aspect of human personality. We should develop mental competence, for it is an important means of personality-building. In fact one who is possessed of mental capability ensures automatic development of personality. Morale makes even an ordinary person great. Conversely, however big a person may be, he becomes small in the absence of morale. We know many people in spite of a strong body could not attain anything in life for want of morale. On the other hand, we also know people who, though skeletal, had high morale. Gandhi was a living example of the above truth. A frail body and high morale can only be imagined. He shook the greatest empire of the world. What was after all the source of his strength? What made him such a powerful and great personality? Sheer morale and strong resolution.

The Source of Strength.

It is purity of thoughts which strengthens morale or will-power. Morale will be strengthened if a man resolutely decides not to entertain any ill-will against others. He should tell himself, 'I will never think ill of others.' The converse is also true; thinking ill of others weakens morale. The first resolution made while practicing preksha-dhyan is 'I am practising preksha-dhyan for the purity of my mind'. It helps in cleansing thoughts. It is doubtful whether the person of whom we think ill is harmed, but it is certain that in process we harm ourselves.

Eighteen demerits have been enumerated in all. Out of them, a few are included in the list specifying demerits which weaken morale. Pugnacity, slandering and back-biting together constitute the best recipe for lowering morale. One has to eschew them for keeping one's morale high. By doing so the much sought after personality can be built. Developing morale is the source of all energy.

Modern education has no provision whereby a student may learn the process of strengthening morale. Worse still, it has created the delusion that intellectual development is the same as mental development. The two are fundamental different. Mental development means development of morale. Intellect and mind are two distinct things. Confusing the development of the former with that of the latter is delusive.

Purifying Emotions.

The third component of personality-development is purifying emotions. It is a more important factor than even the development of mental capacity. In fact, it has a bearing on the mind too. The world of emotions is our inner world. Man is what his emotions are. Everything depends on the emotions. So purification of emotions is an important element in the building of personality. Anger, pride, greed and deceit are derivative passions and balancing and purifying them is necessary. It can be done through preksha-dhyan. Of course, it is not true that a practitioner of preksha-dhyan at once becomes free quick results. When even an ordinary ailment takes quite some time to cure, how can we expect mental ailments to heal promptly? Practice in freeing oneself completely from passions is the most difficult of all spiritual practices. One should, from time to time, see how much emotional purification has occurred and through introspection, try to find out the reason of slow or no achievement. Thus, it is a matter of stage by stage development.

Key to Fearlessness.

Purification of emotions substantially contributes to personality-building, and in that process the crucial role is played by meditation on the center of intuition, enlightenment and peace (pituitary, pineal and hypothalamus). Utarradhyan Sutra says the key to fearlessness is purification of the emotions. While practicing it Acharya Bikshu encountered the fear of death a number of times, but he did not allow any fear to strike him. Jayacharya has rightly said the way to purity lies in the purification of emotions. I often intone the following lines - 'I am not afraid of death, death has been afraid of me. Death cannot kill me, death has been killed by me.'

Behaviour Should be Exceptional.

The above state leads to emotional purification. However, other factors also play a role in the building of personality. Any individual interested in building his personality should practise the prescribed exercises. Mere discussion will achieve nothing, but practice is bound to result in exceptional behaviour. Other people too will notice that there is something exceptional about him, which casts its influence on everyone. Our exceptional qualities should be so internalized that social behavior may reflect them. By doing so, our personality will acquire a new refinement and shine. It is this shining refinement which enables us to touch the peaks of excellence.

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