Strength of Character‏

“Neither money pays, nor name, nor fame, nor learning; it is CHARACTER that can cleave through the adamantine walls of difficulties”

                                                                                       — Swami Vivekananda

There is a popular saying, “If wealth is lost nothing is lost, if health is lost something is lost, but if character is lost everything is lost”. But today what we see in society is quite the contrary. Money is playing a dominant role in the present society. People are prepared to do anything for money, they can go to any extent, and they are least bothered about the means. They are busy amassing wealth even at the cost of others. Their hearts are dead. They are living corpses. They have no compassion, love or sympathy for other human beings. Adulteration, cheating, bribery, theft, scams, scandals, dowry harassment, robbery, exploitation are rampant everywhere. Surprisingly they are being perpetuated by the so-called educated people. In the modern educational system, only intellect is being developed but there is no scope for the development of the heart. It is making people more and more selfish and greedy. Swami Vivekanand observed this and said, “Bring light to the ignorant, and more light to the educated, for the vanities of the education of our time are tremendous.”

  In the midst of chaos and confusion, here and there we come across a few great characters who have left their marks through their wonderful contribution. Among such we have a most celebrated personality, Sir Mokshagundam Visweswarayya, a great engineer produced by India in the last century. He is a bright example to our youth. He lived for 102 years and was full of enthusiasm, zeal and energy, almost till the end of his life. His dedication, sincerity, hard work, skills, integration, honesty, spirit of service, patriotism, and above all his undaunted courage and disciplined life made him a unique personality. He was awarded the highest civilian award, `Bharat Ratna’, for his great contribution to our motherland. His biographer writes, “His was an unblemished pure life. No blemish could be traced in his long career. When on duty he would use Government vehicle, otherwise his own car. He never used Government paper and stationary for personal and non official correspondence. When in doubt, whether it was Government paper or not, he would examine in bright light to detect the embossed mark, `government stationary’. When he was asked about the eradication of poverty, he said, `poverty is not natural. It is unnatural. It is curable like any other disease. Ignorance, dependence, inefficiency, laziness, want of the spirit of enterprise are the real causes of poverty.

    Gandhiji’s slogan was `Industrialise and perish’, where as Sir Visweswarayya’s slogan was `Industrialise or perish. Both were right: one was emphasizing human values, other material prosperity. Swami Vivekananda came to harmonise these two apparent contradictory views. He encouraged Sir Jamshedji Tata to establish heavy industries in India, and asked Mysore Maharaja to help Jamshedji by way of providing land and infrastructure for the same. Swamiji wanted India to be great in every field, but not at the cost of long cherished values and culture. He was sure unless we combine both these there cannot be real progress. The education which provides us both these aspects was real education, according to him. He said, “What we want are Western science coupled with Vedanta as the guiding motto and also shraddha and faith in one’s own self.”

     Unfortunately, after independence, we are mostly concentrating on only one aspect, which is western science; the other one is completely neglected. In the name of secularism, we have carefully avoided long-cherished values which our ancestors lived for and practised. Due to lack of character energy, we have converted human beings into machines. Every year we are manufacturing thousands of Doctors, engineers, Lawyers, Managers, Administrators but not real human beings. Human values such as love, compassion, peace, happiness, truthfulness, honesty, sincerity, contentment, non-violence, patriotism, fearlessness, confidence, courage, self-restraint are replaced by hatred, cruelty, deceit, greed, dishonesty, lust, anger, fear, cowardice, selfishness, violence etc, which has created a vacuum in the hearts of people. We have never seen in the history such a degradation of human values.

Value of Human Life – Nice Story

A poor old man lived in a forest and eked out his living by making charcoal from scraps of wood and selling it. One time, as a reward for rescuing a king who had lost his way in the forest, the poor man was given a beautiful grove full of most fragrant type of sandalwood trees. These trees were of a special quality from which expensive and rare perfume was made. One of these trees, in its natural state and without any effort on the part of the old man, was alone was worth more than the poor man could have earned during the rest of his life by producing and selling wood as charcoal.

Of course, the poor old man was very happy over this gift, but did not realize what a great fortune was bestowed on him. So, in order to make a living, he resorted to making charcoal out of sandalwood trees and selling it in the market for a pittance.

After a long time the king happened to pass that way again and noticed that the most valuable grove had been reduced to ashes, also that the old man was in the same poor condition as before. When the king enquired as to what had happened, the old man related that he had been earning his living by making charcoal from the trees. The king then asked him if he had any sandalwood left. The old man replied that he had nothing except a small piece, perhaps, one or two feet long. The king told him to go to the same bazaar where he had been selling the charcoal and sell this piece of wood without first turning it into charcoal. There were some wealthy people in the bazaar who noticed the excellent quality and rare fragrance of this piece of sandalwood. Recognizing its value, they all wanted to buy it. The result was that the old man earned hundreds of rupees out of that small one piece of sandalwood.

He returned to the king with the money, and the king said: “You have not appreciated the value of this wood. Had you appreciated it, you could have earned millions instead of paltry sum you did by selling it as charcoal and that too after going through the unnecessary labour of first making charcoal out of it.” On realizing his mistake, the old man asked the king for another such gift that he might make proper use of it. The king replied that such gift is bestowed only once in a lifetime.

In the same way, the true value of the human body is realized at the time of death, when man regrets that he has squandered his most precious possession. The result is that he has to go to hell or lower births. Similarly, the Bible says that we are selling our birthright for a mess of pottage.

Our body may be likened to a precious sandalwood forest, which we can exchange for millions of rupees (spiritual values) but we, in our ignorance, reduce it to charcoal in the fires of the five passions.