Behavior, Character, Personality

karmayogi<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

December, 1977

Behavior, character and personality are distinct levels in the evolution of the human being. When people display nice behavior, we say they are presentable. At the next level, when they have character, they can accomplish something. At a further level, being endowed with ‘personality', they can create something original.

Let us first examine behavior. Behavior is superficial and comes through training. It is a channel through which a man expresses himself. The energies for behavior come from the vital emotions, whereas the energies for character come from the mind. The vital energies are short-lived responses to a situation. The ordinary man who is popular with everyone behaves well, has polite manners and does not criticize anyone. He is very presentable in society. But if this is where his growth has stopped, he cannot accomplish anything in the ordinary sense of the word. He cannot found an institution or make a mark in his profession. One dare not sign over a power of attorney to him or entrust him with any valuables for safe-keeping while one travels. In a question of something involving a material commitment, he will not be reliable. Behavior can be good and presentable, but beyond that behavior does not go. A mere behavior, a mere education, a mere age or experience will not accomplish something on its own.

The vital impulses are short-lived. They know what they see. They can be trained and this training is used in situations where there is no stress on the person. The habits which are formed in the vital become its behavior. All habits that are received in the vital and organized at that level are only at the level of behavior, because the vital has no direction. It cannot remember how it behaved three days ago. If it needs to be polite in good company, it can be so, but the behavior is short-lived. If someone behaves like a friend today, he may be an enemy tomorrow.

When a person has developed character, he can accomplish something by himself. Character is organized in the mind. It has a memory and never forgets. When the essence of the vital experience which is behavior is received in the mind and organized well so that the mind accepts that as its central direction, then it becomes character.

A man with character fits into that level of society to which his character has risen. If he has a noble character or a weighty character, he may be a philanthropist or a CEO. If he has a character but his nature is small, he can organize and raise a family successfully. A person with character can establish his own business, raise a family, and accomplish a substantial work in the society. These are all things that many people have done. There are already a thousand businesses; one more will be established. A person with character can accomplish and do what has already been done before.

When the mind comes into play, it generally acts on an opinion or bases itself on an idea. It tries to understand and begins to think and organize itself. The vital does not think, it responds to the situation, but the mind listens to an idea. On the basis of this idea, the mind organizes its values. The mind gives its sanction to certain behaviors which it has accepted as right. This behavior then becomes a pattern. The essence of that pattern is based on respectability, on social values. The mental understanding is based on the idea that what is valuable must be respected. Once the mind accepts this, every behavior will be directed by that characteristic. If a mother teaches her child to be polite to his grandfather, the child does not know it should also be polite to his uncle. If the child's mind, which is capable of understanding, receives the essence of this pattern of politeness towards elder relatives, the pattern becomes continuous and his mind accepts it as a general direction. Children should be polite to their elderly relatives. This one idea becomes a guide for all of his behavior, which becomes character. That is called self-direction. In other words, the behavior of the child, the emotional impulses, are guided by the mental understanding which has accepted the value of polite behaviour towards elder relatives.

A person with a mere behavior can follow instructions, but he cannot think on his own, whereas character comes from the mind and enables the person to carry out a task with self-direction. Without mind coming into the picture, character cannot be formed. The center of character is mind, while the center of behavior is the transient vital emotions. Character has greater energy than behavior because it is backed by thought and issues from a more central part of the being. Behavior shows itself in a short-lived individual situation, whereas character shows itself in all situations which the society has accepted and evolved. Character guides every behavior. If a man with character is ambitious, his ambition will be shown in everything he does.

What is personality? Character is necessary to achieve something in society, but when something has to be created anew, personality is needed. Where character may hesitate to attempt something completely new, personality will not. Personality can accomplish something original, whatever the field is.

Personality is deeper than character. It does not confine itself to an organized expression as character does. Character needs the support of the social and psychological milieu. Because mind is a narrow organism which functions on thought, it draws its values from the general level of thought in the society. Something in the person feels safe in that climate and then the mind understands, the heart is able to be enthused about that understanding and the body is able to work. Usually when mind has to think of something original, it begins to shake. Personality cannot be centered in the mind. It does not care whether anyone else has attempted a certain work before. It has the initiative to start a fresh work in a new field.

Personality does not require the extraneous support of the social sanction. After it has understood and the mind has consented, it has the imagination to give a mental emotion to that consent. Once the mind is able to visualize something in its own imagination, the heart does not hesitate to release its enthusiasm for the accomplishment of the work. The support for the work comes from the Being which is above the mind. If the mind is clear and the Being supports, it doesn't need the support of the society. That is the difference between character and personality. Character is an efficient mental organism functioning within the social fabric of accomplished levels. Personality is an energy which comes from the Being, able to understand on its own, be enthusiastic on its own and be a trail blazer for the society. Whether the field is in literature, or scientific discovery or in industry or in founding a college, this is the basic difference between character and personality.

What are the requirements of character and personality? Character cannot include personality, but personality must include the capacities of character and not be limited by them. Character requires understanding, strength of will, perseverance, and energy. Ideas are potential, powerful and supported by the society. The capacity for the mind to act on an idea gives you character. All men of high character will have strong, good opinions. But the understanding of character is limited because it understands only what everyone else has understood.

Mind acts according to fixed habits and preferences. There are great men of very high character. Their preference is always for refined living and their habits are good habits. Their mental constructions are of a high level of accomplishment. But they are bound by their opinions.

What personality requires is pure understanding, independent of a second person. The general endowments of personality are: pure intelligence in the mind, warmth and expansiveness in the heart, dynamism in the vital, endurance and perseverance in the physical. If these things are there on their own, they will include all the capacities of character. For personality, the capacity of the mind to take an idea to an idealistic level, for the achievement of the ideal is where it differs from character. A man with personality will be open-minded. He won't be bound by his opinions or have rigid preferences. He will prefer what is best at that moment and be willing to change his habits if necessary.

To sum up, the pure components of personality are:

  1. In the mind -- presence of mind, clarity, understanding;
  2. In the will -- steadiness and equality;
  3. In the heart -- conservation, warmth, expansiveness and magnetism;
  4. In the vital -- energy;
  5. In the physical -- perseverance and endurance for work.

Sometimes personality degenerates into character, or character matures into personality in the same person. A person may have personality in administration, but not in politics. People who have founded banks, or colleges, or small institutions, or people who have decided to move away from their country to another country are people who have personality at that level. All people who are responsible to their families, to their children, to their parents, who live up to certain levels of accomplishment materially, who are just, fair, and ethical, have ethical characters, social characters, physical characters.

Generally character is understood to be something good. But it can be negative also. A smuggler has a character as well as a member of the Mafia. But his character does not express itself in a positive way. He knows how to organize people and how to be loyal to his group. He definitely has character. A person who has character will have people around him. A person of mere behavior will not attract followers.

People who say, "Tell me what I should do and I will do it" are at the level of behavior. They can run errands, they can obey people, they can eat what is served, but they cannot take care of others. People who say, "Give me this work and I will accomplish it and report back to you," have character at that level. Other people who say, "Let me examine this proposal and if my mind understands and approves, my emotions will be enthused and I can act on my own," have personality.

Behavior is the external appearance without being confirmed or supported by the mind and feelings. Character is what is supported by the mind and feelings. It is a behavior which is endorsed and directed by the mind. Personality is on its own. It is self-directed.

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