Some Thoughts on Character and Youth
Due to tremendous technological advancements, we at present are enjoying the most comfortable life ever in human history. We have almost managed to produce an abundance of whatever we need to survive externally. We should be the happiest living beings is this world, with all the comfort we have. However, unfortunately we are not. We are experiencing enormous issues caused by our selfish and inhumane actions, including the snatching away of the rights of others, harming others physically and mentally, and what not. Recently the UN published a report, where it has been mentioned that within the next few years about one million species are at risk of extinction because of deforestation, overfishing, development and other human activities.
We should now ask ourselves what has driven us to this awful situation. Without hesitation I would say it’s our selfish actions. We became so self centered, individualistic and shortsighted. We seek own interest in every work we do. And at it’s gross level, it’s a symptom of the weakness of our character.
What do we mean by character? Swami Vivekananda defines character as the “stream of tendencies”. So good tendencies form a good character and selfish tendencies form a selfish character. But how to grow good tendencies? Again the answer is by performing selfless actions. Our actions have direct relationship with our character because each of our actions leaves a mark as an impression in our mind. Swami Vivekananda writes: “Karma in its effect on character is the most tremendous power that man has to deal with. Man is, as it were, a centre, and is attracting all the powers of the universe towards himself, and in this centre is fusing them all and again sending them off in a big current. Such a centre is the real man — the almighty, the omniscient — and he draws the whole universe towards him. Good and bad,
misery and happiness, all are running towards him and clinging round him; and out of them he fashions the mighty stream of tendency called character and throws it outwards. As he has the power of drawing in anything, so has he the power of throwing it out. All the actions that we see in the world, all the movements in human society, all the works that we have around us, are simply the display of thought, the manifestation of the will of man. Machines or instruments, cities, ships, or men-of-war, all these are simply the manifestation of the will of man; and this will is caused by character, and character is manufactured by Karma. As is Karma, so is the manifestation of the will. The men of mighty will the world has produced have all been tremendous workers — gigantic souls, with wills powerful enough to overturn worlds, wills they got by persistent work, through ages, and ages.”
So Swamiji emphasised on actions/karma for building character and that actions/karma should be persistent. But why it should be persistent? Swamiji writes: “If you really want to judge of the character of a man, look not at his great performances. Every fool may become a hero at one time or another. Watch a man do his most common actions; those are indeed the things which will tell you the real character of a great man. Great occasions rouse even the lowest of human beings to some kind of greatness, but he alone is the really great man whose character is great always, the same wherever he be.”
युवा स्यात् साधु युवाध्यायकः आशिष्ठो बलिष्ठो दृढिष्ठः [yuvā syāt sādhu yuvā adhyāyakaḥ āşişhtho dŗdhiştho balişthaḥ]. The ideal example of humanity is a youth, a pious youth, who is learned and studious, who is quick and fast, who is strong and powerful, and who is steady and firm. [Taittiriya, Yajurveda].
The youth are the best representations of the human race. Suppose we wish to present ourselves before some other race, if they are somewhere out there, we present our strong and steady youth. Swami Vivekananda said: “My faith is in the younger generation, the modern generation, out of them will come my workers. They will work out the whole problem like lions.” What do the young have to say? Every month, Mrs Satarupa Bose Roy will present to you diverse expressions and opinions of the youth.
Mrs Satarupa Bose Roy
is the Contributing Editor of this Section.