Think of someone you truly admire. Now ask yourself – “What is it that I appreciate in this person? Why are they so attractive?” When we do this, one simple fact is highlighted again and again. We are drawn to people because of their qualities and personality. More impressive than their achievements and activities, is the character that such success is founded upon. People may acknowledge us for what we do, but they invariably remember us for who we are.
In an endlessly busy world, our focus is often on getting things done – having a ‘to do’ list. After all, that’s what the world sees and that’s what people applaud us for. Yet there is something more to consider. What character have we cultivated? What qualities have we imbibed? What goodness do we exude? When we die, people won’t highlight the percentage we got in an exam, the position we were in the rankings or the number of people who followed us on Facebook. They definitely won’t eulogise the price of our home, car, or clothes. The things that can be counted, don’t always count; and the things that really count, can’t always be counted.
Having shown the entirety of the cosmos to Arjuna, in the Gita’s next instalment, Chapter Twelve, Krishna sheds some light on the inner world. He describes the charming character of an outstanding spiritualist which endears them to everyone. In our dealings with the Divine, the external offerings will never be that impressive... what unique gifts can infinitesimal beings really offer to the Supreme Creator? Yet, the purity of character and depth of devotion that a devotee exudes immediately attracts Divine attention, for Krishna is ever-interested in loving exchange based on pure selflessness.
Martin Luther King longed for the day when people “Would not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.” In spiritual circles this is promoted. Alongside our ‘to-do’ lists which make us productive and efficient, we’d do well to create a ‘to-be’ list, reminding ourselves of the inner quality of our life and character. Thus, throughout the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna re-emphasises the qualities of highly successful spiritualists. He mentions tolerance, peacefulness, compassion, fearlessness, and forgiveness to name but a few.
It can be a struggle to imbibe such qualities in the practicality of daily life when situations seem to demand other responses. Don’t the peaceful have to be passionate at times? Don’t the tolerant have to assert authority to resolve certain issues? Don’t we all have to sometimes be fearful for the sake of survival?
Such spiritual qualities are offered as a framework to guide our decisions, responses and wanderings in this complicated world. When deciding any course of action, the spiritualist remembers the cardinal principles they live by. However, one must have the wisdom to intelligently and appropriately apply such principles in any given situation. We may have a stereotyped image of how humble, tolerant and peaceful spiritualists conduct themselves, but these qualities go much deeper than the surface. The immediate acts we see with our eyes may not always reveal the true nature of someone’s character; we have to appreciate the motivation and consciousness behind those acts.
“He by whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anyone, who is equipoised in happiness and distress, fear and anxiety, is very dear to Me.” (Bhagavad-Gita 12.15)
12.13-20 – Qualities which endear one to Krishna and upgrade one’s quality of life.