Academy of Indian Philosophy

The Dharma of Character

On a Saturday morning, I once visited a temple to study saṃskṛtam. I was told that during this time, weekly classes were held with aspirations of teaching those eager to learn one of the most renowned, ancient languages of vedic (Hindu) civilization. I went with my mother, who genuinely enjoys car rides and visiting different places with me.

Upon entering, I was greeted by a culturally well-dressed, soft, calm gentlemen who allowed us to participate in the class. In the course of about an hour, I watched his demeanor while learning saṃskṛtam. One of the first things I noticed was his immense passion for not only the language itself, but also for teaching it. He was genuinely invested in the students’ learning. The second thing I noticed was his calm and gentle speech. It gave a feeling of inner confidence without a glimpse of artificial self-assertion. It was as if he had nothing to show about himself; he only wanted to teach and I could not sense ego. He was not worried about being seen in anyway. The third thing I noticed was that he was put together. He had a bright glow on this face which accompanied the softness of his words.

It was after noticing these three components that powerful feeling of comfort, my own ego, set of protective walls, was disarmed and I thought to myself…

“I would feel comfortable letting my girlfriend, or future wife be in the same room as him.”

At the time, I did not have a girlfriend, or a wife for that matter, but the main question is “What is in the nature of this thought and feeling that emerged?”

First, it indicates that there is a certain set of criteria within me about a certain person that allows me to feel comfortable allowing a significant other to interact with. In this case, the honesty, sincerity, lack of desire to assert ego, lack to desire to be seen, focus in work etc. A certain character was able to disarm my protective walls.

Second, it indicates evident fears and insecurities within me.  The idea of having a significant other around a lustful, disrespectful, flirtatious, bad intentioned individual is disgusting and disturbing to my mind. There is something disingenuous about an individual with even a glimpse of these traits, teaching a course, indicating ulterior motives. In essence, there is certainly a fear within me of being humiliated, cheated on, tricked and lied to by a significant other by another individual, certainly by an individual with this sort of character. These fears, make us directly confront our inner beliefs about ourselves, our sense identity and so on. Without going too far into belief systems, the very thought that I had, showed that certain fears within me were soothed very peacefully.

Third, he was able to disarm my fears because of certain traits of desirelessness that I found to be honest, genuine and sincere. What man or woman can humiliate you, if they do not desire what you perceive to have? If they do not desire to hurt, trick or compete with you, what can happen? The absence of “ulterior motives” that I felt at the time were immensely disarming. This brings forward an important question, “What makes us trust people?”

What does this mean? I will say with utmost certainty that this not an individual phenomenon. There are certain traits, or an absence of intentions that can disarm our inner fears and insecurities. In this way, when fears are disarmed, we feel more comfortable around others, and others feel more comfortable around us.

If the desire of sexual fulfillment exists within us, others can smell it from miles away. Flirting, seeking attention, wearing certain clothes, repeated interactions and thousands of other behaviors, can certainly indicate inner motives. These motives are immensely difficult for people to admit, let alone be aware of. It is after noticing these motives that we often sense in others what makes us feel uncomfortable. It important to ask, what desires exist within myself and how do these desires come off to others. For example, if I feel sad and I want attention from others, in a public setting, I may talk about myself the entire time. While some may wear revealing clothing, others may flirt. The point is that I am drawing attention to myself as a numbing agency to heal my sadness and loneliness.

Why is it important for us to notice these desires? Well, all I can say is that the powerful feeling that I felt around the instructor was able to soothe my fears and insecurities. In the rare times that I feel this way, I felt that if the world was like this, there would be much more peace. I want to be like him. I want to be a person who is not only sincere in his work, but also disciplined, secure and in control of his senses that I can make others around me relieved of their fears. Well, why should we care about others’ insecurities and fears? This is simple. For some reason, whatever it is, we will eventually feel the discomfort that we have caused others. Time, as it progresses, in some form, finds a way to give you back what you have given to the world. Vedic philosophy calls it karma. Whatever it is, from my experience, it happens and before it does, we should inquire into these issues.

I will certainly be faced with a counterargument “Why should we restrain ourselves when you should work on your fears?” This argument makes sense and I agree with it, to a certain extent. I agree with with substance of the statement but I do not agree with the source.

Why would a person say this counterargument, especially, if we watch carefully, they say it with emotion? We have desires within us. If someone comes to me and suggests that I should learn respectable self-restraint to prevent others’ fears from deepening, they are directly faced with the concept of self-restraint. Their desire to do whatever (seek attention, flirt, etc) is threatened and they FEAR losing the opportunity to do that. They are threatened by the fact that they have to restrain it, much like when you see chocolate cake and someone tells you not to eat it, there is immense conflict within you. With that conflict they will rationalize and respond, “Well you eat cake all the time, this type of chocolate is healthy, once in a while is alright.” Also, keep in mind, when people are faced with inner conflicts, such as renouncing a desire they are addicted to, they can abstract the conversation to a philosophical or moral argument. “What is healthy, what is wrong with being flirtatious, what is the nature of seeking attention?” This form of defense, will direct the attention away from the inner battle of the person, and to an almost endless philosophical argument. In reality, the person cannot face giving up a desire or at least controlling it, so he/she will direct the conversation to something else.

Therefore, when faced with the counterargument, “Why should we restrain ourselves when you should work on your fears,” this is why I agree with the substance but not the source. I agree that while people are learning to restrain themselves, they should ALSO be working on their and fears and insecurities. Both of these must happen simultaneously. But be aware of those who will counter argue when there is emotion. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I would say, from my intuition, beliefs,, careful observation of defense mechanisms, and self-study, that the individual is threatened by giving up something he/she identifies with for whatever reason. This requires immense clarity of mind, calmness and an openness to the Truth of the situation.

Therefore, if we can act as genuine, composed, self-restrained people, we can actually contribute to the calmness of others. If we act insincerely, uncomposed and like lustful people, we will create an uncomfortable environment for others, their families and their friends.

सर्वदा मोक्ष: सत्यं च

Hemal P. Trivedī



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