In February 1995, when our Spiritual Master graced our home at Calcutta, he spoke on the subject of “Spiritual Dimension of Personality”. In the gathering, there were people from different walks of life. Due to his clarity of thought and skill of expression, the talk was of great help and significance and all of us listened to him with rapt attention. Swamiji built up the talk gradually, making the message more interesting and effective. Here is a summary of his talk, as I interpreted it in my own way. ‘Personality’ is a commonly talked about term and we all want to develop our own personalities. We must, therefore, first understand the term itself. Often we talk of a total or integrated personality, and this shows that personality has more than one component. Only when all the components are adequately developed, does the personality become total or integrated. What are these components and what are the characteristics attached to them? We shall use the word 'dimension' in place of ‘component’ in order to give it a larger scope.
The first dimension of our personality is ‘physical’. It relates to our body, state of health, appearance, etc. Though this dimension is very important, we have little control over it. By and large the shape, size and the colour of our body is determined by our genes. The only thing in our hands is to maintain it well in order to remain healthy. For this, certain discipline is required in our habits. If we cultivate good habits, the body becomes an asset and the development of other dimensions of the personality becomes easier. For example, early rising and early to bed, simple food, regular exercises and cleanliness are habits which keep our bodies healthy. A healthy body generally also means a healthy mind. If the body gives trouble, it becomes difficult to concentrate on other things. Therefore, the development of other dimensions of the personality is also dependent on this dimension which may become less important once the other dimensions develop.
The second dimension of our personality is 'mental'. It relates to the mind which is superior to the body. Thus, this dimension of the personality is superior to the first one. It is the mind which works behind our sense organs. The eye cannot see if the mind refuses to accept the signals and so is the case with other sense organs. Similarly, the mind is capable of making our sense organs indulge in right or wrong activities. Thus, proper development of the ‘Mental Dimension’ is very important for using the powers of the physical body. It is the mind which makes us educated, skilled in our jobs and enthusiastic about our progress.
Those who apply their minds in the right direction, achieve success in their goals. Some of us become doctors, engineers, businessmen or administrators according to our mental makeup. It is mainly the mental dimension which gives us the capacity to take care of our physical needs. But to say that personality development stops here is not correct. We have to add something more to our personality in order to make it integrated and this takes us to the third dimension. Before we come to the third dimension, some elaboration is necessary. We all know that certain doctors are very kind, sympathetic and helpful while others are not so. It may be that someone in the latter category is more competent professionally but in terms of personality, the compassionate doctor is always considered to be better. The same goes for other professions also. We always prefer a person who is good, kind, helpful and courteous even if those who are not so, are mentally or professionally more competent. This establishes the fact that there is a superior dimension of personality over the mental one.
This dimension is known as ‘Intellectual’. As said earlier, the mind, though superior to the sense organs, is capable of playing mischief if not controlled by a superior faculty. This faculty is called the ‘Intellect’. It is the intellect which gives us the wisdom to discriminate between good and bad. Obviously a person with such wisdom has a better personality compared to a person which makes us capable of better judgment and, therefore, useful, also for the society at large. In the process we earnrespect and are considered to be good.
To add perfection to our personality, some finer qualities have to be acquired, even by good persons who may also suffer if they do not strive for them. This dimension of the personality is the ‘Spiritual’ one, the highest dimension. It is a fact that the world we live in is transitory. Even our good deeds are forgotten with time. Therefore, there is a need to transcend them too. If we do not do so, the same goodness may become a cause of misery. Also, goodness is only a relative term and its perception varies with persons and time. We do not get the same response from all persons, even for our good behaviour or virtues. Therefore, a sense of detachment has to be developed towards our good qualities too. It has been seen that many good and successful persons suffer just because they lack this aspect of the personality. One has to accept that all our actions are only a means to an end and the end is self-realisation. Those who understand this reality, develop the spiritual dimension at the right time and are fully prepared for all the eventualities of life. This dimension is thus superior to the earlier three dimensions and is necessary for the complete integration of the personality.
The idea, without going into more details, is to convey that for an integrated personality, all dimensions are necessary. They, of course, generally follow the order in which they have been described. I consider those four aspects like the four legs of a table which give it stability. Though a table with three or less number of legs may appear to be stable, any push or pressure will destabilize it. Similarly, a person with any of the dimensions missing may appear to be stable but is vulnerable to any accident in life which may disturb his equilibrium.