Art of Personality
Every impulse has its influence upon the word and upon the action. Therefore naturally every impulse exerts its full power through words and deeds unless it is checked. There are two types of persons: those who have learnt to check their word and action when they exert their full power, and express themselves abruptly; the other kind of persons are those who mechanically allow this natural impulse to show itself in their word and deed without giving any thought to it. The former, therefore, is gentle, and the latter is man. Gentleness is the principal thing in the art of personality; one can see how gentleness works as the principal thing in every art. In painting, in drawing, in line and color it is gentleness which appeals most to the soul. The same we see in music. A musician may be qualified enough to play rapidly and may know all the technique, but what produces beauty is his gentle touch. It is mainly gentleness which is the basis of all refinement. But where does it come from? It comes from consideration, and it is practiced by self-control. There is a saying in Hindustani: 'The weaker the person, the more ready to be angry.' The reason is that he has no control over his nerves; it is often lack of control over oneself which is the cause of lack of gentleness. No doubt one learns gentleness by consideration. One must learn to think before saying or doing. Besides one must not forget the idea of beauty. One must know that it is not enough simply to say or do, but that it is necessary to say or do everything beautifully. It is the development of the nations and races which is expressed in gentleness. Also it is the advancement of the soul's evolution which expresses itself in gentleness. Nations and races, as well as individuals, will show backwardness in their evolution if they show lack of gentleness. At this time the world's condition is such that it seems that the art of personality has been much neglected. Man, intoxicated with the life of cupidity and the competitive spirit, is held by the commercialism of the day, is kept busy in the acquirement of the needs of his everyday life, and the beauty which is the need of the soul is lost to view. Man's interest in all aspects of life, science, art, philosophy, remains incomplete in the absence of the art of personality. How rightly the distinction has been made in the English language between man and gentleman! There is a tendency hidden behind human impulse which may be called the persuasive tendency. It may manifest itself in a crude form, or it may be expressed in a free form. In the former aspect it is a fault, and in the latter aspect it is a mistake. When crudely expressed, someone urges another to agree with him, or to listen to him, or to do as he wishes by fighting, by quarrelling, by being disagreeable. Often such a person, by the strength of his will-power or by virtue of his better position in life, gets his wishes fulfilled. This encourages him to continue in the same way until he gets a disappointing result by his method, if he ever does. The other way of persuading is a gentle way, by putting pressure upon someone's kindness, goodness, and politeness, exhausting thereby his patience and testing his sympathy to the utmost. By this, people achieve for the moment what they wish to achieve, but in the end it results in the annoyance of all those who are tried by this persuasive tendency. Does it not show that to get something done is not so hard as to be considerate of the feelings of others? It is so rare that one finds a person in the world who is considerate of another person's feelings even at the sacrifice of his own desires. Everyone seeks freedom, but for himself. If he sought the same for another he would be a real freemason. The persuasive tendency no doubt shows great will-power, and it preys upon the weakness of others who yield and give in to it owing to love, sympathy, goodness, kindness, politeness. But there is a limit to everything. There comes a time when the thread breaks. A thread is a thread; it is not a steel wire. And even a wire breaks if it is pulled too hard. The delicacy of the human heart is not comprehended by everyone. Human feeling is too fine for common perception. A soul who develops his personality, what is he like? He is not like the root or the stem of the plant, nor like the branches or leaves, he is like the flower, the flower with its fragrance, color, and delicacy. The whole of manifestation is the expression of that spirit of the Logos which in Sufi terms is called Kibria. Through every being this spirit is manifested in the form of vanity, pride or conceit. Vanity expressed crudely is called pride. Had it not been for this spirit working in every being as the central theme of life, no good or bad would have existed in the world, nor would there have been great or small. All virtues and every evil are the offspring of this spirit. The art of personality is to cut off the rough edges of this spirit of vanity, which hurts and disturbs those one meets in life. The person who says 'I,' the more he does so, the more he disturbs the minds of his listeners. Many times people are trained in politeness and are taught a polished language and manner; yet if this spirit of vanity is pronounced, it will creep up in spite of all good manners and beautiful language, and express itself in a person's thought, speech, or action, calling aloud, 'I am, I am!' If a person be speechless, his vanity will leap out in the expression of his glance. It is something which is the hardest thing to suppress and to control. For adepts the struggle in life is not so great with the passions and emotions, which sooner or later by more or less effort can be controlled; but vanity, it is always growing. If one cuts down its stem then one cannot live, for it is the very self, it is the I, the ego, the soul, or God within; it cannot be denied its existence. But struggling with it beautifies it more and more, and makes more and more tolerable that which in its crude form is intolerable. Vanity may be likened to a magic plant. If one sees it in the garden growing as a thorny plant, and one cuts it down, it will grow in another place in the same garden as a fruit-tree; and when one cuts it down again, in another place in the same garden it will spring up as a bush of fragrant roses. It exists just the same, but in a more beautiful form which gives happiness to those who touch it. The art of personality, therefore, does not teach the rooting out of the seed of vanity, which cannot be rooted out as long as man lives; but its crude outer garb may be destroyed in order that, after dying several deaths, it may be manifested as the plant of desires. vi Dignity, which in other words may be called self-respect, is not something which can be left out when considering the art of personality. When one asks what it is, and how this principle can be practiced, the answer is that all manner of light-heartedness and all tendency to frivolity must be rooted out from the nature in order to hold that dignity which is precious to one. The one who does not care for it, does not need to take trouble about it; it is only for the one who sees something in self-respect. A person with self-respect will be respected by others, even regardless of his power, possessions, position, or rank; in every position or situation in life that person will command respect. There arises a question: has light-heartedness then any place in life, or is it not necessary in life at all? All is necessary, but everything has its time. Dignity does not consist in making a long face, neither is respect evoked by a stern expression; by frowning or by stiffening the body one does not show honor; dignity does not mean being sad or depressed. It is apportioning one's activities to their proper time. There are times for laughter; there are times for seriousness. The laughter of the person who is laughing all the time loses its power; the person who is always light-hearted does not carry that weight in society which he should. Besides light-heartedness often makes a man offend others without meaning to do so. The one who has no respect for himself, has no respect for others. He may think for the moment that he is regardless of conventionalities and free in his expression and feeling, but he does not know that it makes him as light as a scrap of paper moving hither and thither in space, blown by the wind. Life is a sea, and the further one travels on the sea the heavier the ship one needs. So for a wise man, a certain amount of weight is required in order to live, which gives balance to his personality. Wisdom gives that weight;its absence is the mark of foolishness. The pitcher full of water is heavy;it is the absence of water in the pitcher which makes it light, like a man without wisdom who is light-hearted. The more one studies and understands the art of personality, the more one finds that it is the ennobling of the character which is going forward towards the purpose of creation. All the different virtues, refined manners, and beautiful qualities, are the outcome of nobleness of character. But what is nobleness of character? It is the wide outlook.