H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

AKRITA DROHA (not generating hostility)

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

From the book: the 26 Qualities of the Spiritual Researcher

Other meanings:

not insolent, not provoking


not making any enemy

not quarrelling with anyone

not hurting anyone (with thoughts, words or actions)

Akrita droha is the virtue of one who does not create hostility. It is a great quality: it means that an individual, while performing his task and accomplishing his role, including the social role, does not create hostility in others, and not because he is a passive personality, he abstains from action and is uninterested in what happens around him, but because he acts in a positive and constructive way, developing good relationships and contributing to the creation of a healthy and productive environment around himself.

Some persons create tensions, conflicts and agitation wherever they are, even inducing generally pacific persons to quarrel and fight.

Among the meanings of the term droha we find "damage, evil, perfidy, cheating, offense", while akrita means "not doing". Sometimes in Sanskrit language a virtue is described as the absence of a defect, and this has an interesting psychological value, because it contains an indication on how to proceed in order to develop one's personality: first of all abstain from this, and later you will be able to operate according to the objective you want to attain. Akrita droha is a person who is delicate, sensitive, and therefore has a healthy and strong intelligence properly performing its main function of discernment, something that distinguishes us from the animals and also from less evolved humans.

One who possesses this virtue tries not to cause damage or commit offenses, or to start destructive dynamics, that will later have a heavy effect on the prospects of future life.

We can also consider the importance of good example: our personal behavior influences other people and can induce them to do the same things. Action carries within itself a principle of repetition and emulation. This psychological law has a universal value, both on the individual and on the collective mind. Once we have performed an action, once we have activated an event, this keeps reproducing itself in the unconscious memory, where it lies in the form of latent recording, or samskara, to bubble up in the moments when the ego becomes weaker due to sleepiness, hunger, tiredness, or some trauma. Thus we should not delude ourselves about getting rid of an evil action simply by pretending we have forgotten it.

In Bhagavad-gita, akrita droha corresponds to ahimsa, generally translated as "non-violence". However, the non-violence indicated as ahimsa is something very deep and includes not only the field of action, but also the fields of word and even thoughts.

To be ahimsa or akrita droha also means, for example, not generating fear and sense of insecurity, because in fear and insecurity people become restless or aggressive.

In the beginning the neophyte is completely concentrated on the application of a virtue at the time, but with practice behavior becomes modified and simultaneously includes more of them. Of course this cannot be improvised, but it must be attained through a constant spiritual practice (abhyasa), emotional detachment (variagya) and the careful, merciful and loving care of a good spiritual guide. In fact very rarely a person will be able to overcome his own limitations exclusively with his own devices; if that were possible, we could legitimately ask why he has not done so yet.

Akrita droha is also a tolerant person; there is in fact a very close connection between tolerance and absence of conflicts. It is necessary to make a clear distinction between tolerance and endurance. At some point, tolerance must lead us to the solution of the problem; at the time when time, place and circumstance are favorable, a tolerant person who has kept his silence or pretended not to see, finally solves the problem or takes the opportunity to educate and correct. Endurance is not negligence or indifference, but is a part of tolerance; however when it is not supported by planning, it does not consider a positive alternative that leads to a solution, it consumes the component of virtue and changes into something corrupt, in a passive, tamasic attitude1. Such passivity can even generate addiction and tie the victim to his torturer, therefore it is doubly repulsive and there is a moral duty to react according to one's possibilities.

There are many shameful situations, one of the most obvious is constituted by the slaughterhouses, towards which a passive acceptance is simply guilty. Mankind needs a different level of culture, a range of values that enables us to understand the priority of life, otherwise passive endurance becomes indifference and creates degradation.

Human beings have a tendency to commit mistakes; if we do not tolerate the mistakes of others, and we take hard action against every little fault, conflicts are generated. Being tolerant is the best way to teach someone not to commit the same mistakes again. If someone makes mistakes but does not disrupt our way of life, does not cause us damage, we can avoid taking note of them, but this is not tolerance: real tolerance comes into play when the behavior of others is hurting our interest.

There can be two reasons why an individual does not become agitated then suffering damage due to the actions of others: one is because he has not realized he is being hurt, and thus in this case he is not tolerant but rather foolish. The other reason is because he is trying to understand the causes that originate that destructive behavior, to help those who have triggered it. Only when the causes have been pinpointed, we can neutralize the action that causes disturbance, aggression or damage.

A characteristic of tolerance is the understanding of the causes that create conflicts, thus, sooner or later, one who is tolerant will find the way to respond adequately. The person who is akrita droha will find the way to give satisfaction to his interlocutor, not by blocking him but trying to help him attain what he wants without causing damage to anyone; this requires a high level of intelligence.

Not generating conflicts does not mean becoming an accomplice of someone who aims at attaining an adharmic purpose, that leads to a wrong direction, but it often means taking one's distance. This offers two possibilities: neglecting the badly oriented person, allowing him to sink away, or competently show the danger, the uselessness or the destructiveness of the path he has chosen. This is a difficult task because it is not difficult not to create conflicts with those who share our same goals, but it takes a lot of ability and balance to avoid conflicts with those who are walking in the direction that is opposite to ours. We need to act "surgically" at the suitable time.

Very often conflicts with others are just a projection of one's own inner conflicts, of one's own dissatisfaction.

Qualities such as kripalu, akrita droha, and others that we will study later need an inner state of satisfaction and contentment, in Sanskrit santosha. A discontented person is often agitated and anxious, therefore he is unable to be kind to others, and sometimes can even become unpleasant. Individuals who are suffering from inner conflicts, dissatisfied and imbalanced cannot avoid creating hostility. The seed creating the many selfish activities is precisely dissatisfaction, and therefore it is necessary to work organically on all the twenty-six qualities, because each one of them needs the others in order to be developed and integrated, just like the treatment of an organ of the body needs the other organs to be healthy.

Egotic impulses are the most elementary and animalistic instincts, that in the modern cultural tendency towards "natural life" risk becoming destructive. We do not aspire to become animals, that are entirely natural: we want a combination of culture and nature.

We have already mentioned the indolent person, one who turns his back to a problem, who does not want to expose himself and does not take a stand because he does not want to be involved. Superficially we could say that such a person does not create conflicts, while actually he becomes the accomplice of conflicts because unreasonable disengagement towards the evils of society causes the aggravation of such evils; if those who perform bad actions find some obstacles their bad actions become less prominent, while if they are surrounded by a crowd of uncommitted people, their unhealthy actions prosper.

In Bhagavad-gita, Krishna remarks that every person must perform his duty: a father must take action when his children behave in a bad way, and teachers must educate their pupils.

A child, a younger brother, a subordinate, can be corrected by someone who has the authority to do so, and if this is accompanied by authoritativeness, generally the correction is successful. For such correction to be effective, the person who corrects needs to be free from anger and from personal resentments, and to be solely acting for the benefit of his ward. In this way, the subordinate will not only correct his behavior, but will also develop a strong sense of gratitude towards the person who has facilitated his change.

1 From tamas: ignorance, inertia, dullness.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

KRIPALU (merciful)

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

From the book: the 26 Qualities of the Spiritual Researcher

Other meanings:

kind to everybody

unable to tolerate others' sufferings

Compassion (kripa) is the first virtue mentioned by Shri Caitanya to Sanatana Gosvami, and meaningfully so, because it is probably the most important. In fact the genuine spiritual researcher, the sadhu, is by definition kripalu, merciful.

From the psychological point of view, what does it mean being merciful? It means being benevolently disposed towards all living entities, willing to give everyone a benefit of a higher nature. Due to his merciful attitude, the sage is always willing to solve the problems of other people, to relieve the sufferings of others, if possible by offering not just a temporary "cure" but a remedy that can cut sufferings from the root. For this reason traditionally the most merciful person is one who offers others instruments to regain the awareness of their own spiritual nature, so that they can become free from the mire of conditionings.

The sadhu who carries such quality does not manifest it only towards those who are of his own kind, the human beings, but also towards all sentient beings, including animals and plant. If this was not the case, we would not be able to speak of true compassion. One who does not show benevolence and empathy towards other creatures cannot perceive the happiness of others like his own, and consequently cannot be merciful.

In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad1, we read that one who does good becomes good, while one who does bad becomes evil. If we reflect on these statements and try to understand them deeply, also getting help from our personal experience, it will not be difficult to come to the conclusion that there is a connection between the actions we perform and the character we develop. Thus one who acts in a bad way becomes bad, insensitive, degraded, while one who does good becomes good, sensitive and virtuous.

The merciful person, kripalu, is undoubtedly one who did good for a long time, until the action shaped by compassion became a habit that structured his character and destiny, giving him a new birth with that particular tendency. In other words, compassion is not something that can be improvised on the spot, but it is structured by performing the corresponding actions. This explains why individuals are born with specific tendencies or vasanas, why they are born with natural disposition - for example to music, dancing, singing, painting, and even to compassion.

There is a famous anecdote regarding a child who was asked to draw a circle, and he designed a perfect circle. Why? Because obviously geometric knowledge was already part of his luggage. Similarly who is born a kripalu, compassionate, is inclined to be merciful and cannot conceive life without helping other creatures, getting into empathy with them, and feeling that their good corresponds to one's own.

Kripa means feeling, even before understanding, that others need us, it is informing our interlocutors about the reality of things. One who "sees" can understand if those who are around are blind, victims of illusion. Illusion and confusion are caused by the anarthas2 that, as we have explained in the introduction, are the direct opposite of the virtues, and seriously compromise the development of virtues.

Nobody should think they do not belong to the category of the good people; even if this were true, such truth would have a relative and temporary value. There is a scientific method to develop any virtue, and any individual can apply it.

To increase kripa, the proper strategy is to look at others as we look at ourselves, to think of other people's good as we think of our own.

"One who judges pleasure or suffering, that manifest in all beings, with the same consideration he would use for himself, o Arjuna, that yogi is known as perfect3.

There is still a difference between ourselves and the others: while we can impose something to ourselves, but we cannot impose anything to others, we can only propose, and the best proposal is our personal example, that is often the most effective communication.

As also for other virtues, kripa can be confused with a false compassion; a typical example is the exclusive compassion of a parent towards the child, and more generally a sort of benevolence that is only directed towards relatives or persons that one is strongly attached to. But the virtue we are discussing here is aimed at everybody, to our near and dear as well as to the people we do not even know; these will become dear to us precisely in the moment when we will act towards them through the kripalu mode.

When we are ready to be benevolent and merciful only with ourselves, that is a worrisome level of super-concentrated selfishness, and there is not much difference when such selfishness expands to the members of our family, our group, our community or motherland.

1 B.Up. IV.4.5

2 Traditionally considered as the greatest enemies of man, the six anarthas, (obstacles to the realization of the goal) are: kama (lust, desire), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (illusion, confusion), mada (arrogance) and matsara (envy, jealousy).

3 Bg. VI.31.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Anarthas: the Anti-Virtues

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

From the book: the 26 Qualities of the Spiritual Researcher

It is important to know the noble qualities we need to develop in order to successfully perform the journey of self-realization, but it is also important to know what are the obstacles along this path, those defects of the personality that, if not cured and healed, could not only make our journey a terrible experience, but also prevent us from attaining our destination. In fact artha means objective, purpose, and anartha is whatever prevents its attainment.

Kama is the first anartha of the list and coincides with passion, ardent desire and lust. When a person is victim to kama he is searching for pleasure, a pleasure that is disconnected from reality and comes as a form of hallucination that allures the individual. This so-called pleasure cannot be obtained without great efforts and tribulations, and in any case it cannot be maintained. Often, to attain it one needs to dilapidate time and energies, burning resources and substances; sometimes kama causes one to step over the rights of others, betray one's rules of ethical behavior and one's values, and as such it will eventually bring acute sufferings.

Krodha is anger that is almost always manifested after the frustration of kama. As well explained by Krishna in Bhagavad-gita1, when the desire for egoic gratification is not fulfilled for a reason or another, then anger originates in its various hues.

In order to put anger to the service of dharma, the cosmic order, it must be different from a pathological impulse. It should rather be originated from elevated motivations, for example defending persons or situations from violence or injustice, or strongly opposing the endangerment of spiritual principles or values. Even a saintly person can become angry, but such anger will not explode in unwarranted circumstances and will not have the destructive and negative results of the pathological type.

Lobha means greed: to be mistakenly convinced of needing something, while on the contrary it is a false need induced by one's conditionings or by the surrounding environment. Thus a person who already possesses a car thinks he needs another one, one who already has two coats believes he needs to buy a third one, and so on. For example modern literature, especially the Freudian books, have introduced a very dangerous principle in society, inducing the masses to believe that sexual activity is a necessity to be put on the same level of eating or sleeping. Even in so-called cultural milieus many believe that without satisfying such appetites one becomes neurotic, and that one should cater to them without making distinctions between artificial or real causes.

Moha is illusion, the confusion of the mind. Generally it is not perceived by the individual who, on the contrary, believes he is very clear-headed, while in fact he is confused and a victim of the frequent psychic phenomenon caused by a deep conditioning that resides in the subconscious and distorts vision and understanding of reality.

Mada means conceit and arrogance. This anartha is characteristic of persons who have a big ego, who do not possess humility and kindness, and who believe they can find pleasure in oppressing others. In fact, the knowledge of psychology shows us that authoritarianism is the exact contrary of authoritativeness and that violent behaviors (whether violence is subtle or not) hide deep frailties and insecurities, and will obviously bring sufferings and guilt.

Matsara is the anti-virtue that is known with the name of envy, but is often present also in its hue of jealousy. It is a typical disease of those who do not know the law of the remuneration of actions (karma) and only search for happiness externally: envy includes negative sentiments such as jealousy, hatred, resentment, and general hostility towards those who possess something that the envious person does not have and would like to have. The envious' tendency is to minimize and demean those he feels are better than him; this destructive attitude is often manifested also on the objective platform, when a person who is sick with matsara tries to create obstacles to the "better person" in his projects or initiatives.

The cancer of envy can also affect evolved beings such as the devas - just think of the story of the Govardhana Hill, where Indra becomes angry because the cowherds of Vrindavana are offering sacrifices to Krishna rather than to him. One who is afflicted by anarthas suffers, and a suffering person is always a cause of suffering for others, too, exactly like a joyful and harmonious person spreads his beneficial mood also in the environment around him.

Generally we like to be near people who are not envious, subject to anger, fault-finding or other similar personality defects. However, while cultivating the company of elevated person, the sage also makes himself available to the needy people, although he keeps his distance from those who do not wish to improve themselves.

Hell is not a physical place but a particularly dark and painful state of existence; all spiritual traditions state that those who cause pain, suffering, unease, and discomfort will be subjected to the same pain, the same suffering, the same discomfort with mathematical symmetry. It's not about someone's wickedness, it is the Nature of the things that dictates this universally valid law. The example of the mirror can help us: make a grimace and the mirror will respond with the same grimace, smile and the mirror will smile back, beg and the mirror will give you back the same begging face.

Each anartha that has become a second nature to us, that has become congenital, must be understood like some inheritance from the previous lifetime - a problem that we had not solved, a debt still to be paid. The therapy consists in obtaining the knowledge and practicing the required virtue under the guidance of a Master who engages us in a sacred service, giving us the opportunity to apply his teachings by following a method and a concrete project for our life.

1 Bg. II.62.

Monday, 8 June 2009


By Matsya Avatara Dasa

From the Introduction of the book:


When starting any type of journey we need to get the adequate equipment so that the journey will be as comfortable as possible and we will also have some basic guarantee that we will eventually be able to attain our desired goal. This also applies to the journey towards self-realization, but in this case the equipment is very special. In fact the spiritual researcher does not venture into the exploration of the external world but into the inner universe, and in order to proceed safely and successfully, he needs to develop all the noblest and most elevated qualities of his personality, many of which lie in a dormant state.

Thus the principles we will explain are not simply to be considered on the theoretical platform, but they need to be demonstrated in practical everyday life. What we are going to discuss is not a scholarly and academic elaboration but a concrete and real search, because only consistency between theoretical assumptions and practical application can bring a quick evolutionary process. This process offers innumerable benefits: on the metaphysical level it facilitates the understanding of truths that would otherwise remain dogmatic or only accessible from the nominal point of view; on the intellectual platform it creates the manifestation of discernment between what is good and what is bad. This discernment enables us to avoid many obstacles and sufferings that are often generated also in circumstances that appear very ordinary. On the mental platform one attains that serenity that, as explained by Krishna in Bhagavad-gita1, cannot be separated from the journey of self-realization, and finally on the physical platform, the body gets the benefits of health and well-being.

If the dangers we will have to face were indicated by a clearly visible luminous sign it would be easy to avoid them, but the great dangers of life are not advertised in this way. However, these signals appear on other channels to those who possess the qualities we are going to study. Such virtues should be therefore studied and developed not in order to increase our ego but to become mature, solid and consistent persons that can offer help and a good example to themselves and to many others.

We should be able to measure someone's maturity or immaturity according to objective parameters; thus the evaluation of a particular individual should not be determined by personal liking or disliking, but by the presence or absence of specific qualities.

The virtues that we are going to consider are twenty-six in number, and they are mentioned and explained in several parts of Vedic literature; in this context I will utilize mainly two extremely prestigious texts: one, universally recognized for its authoritativeness, is Bhagavad-gita2, the other, equally authoritative within the Gaudiya Vaishnava3 tradition, is Caitanya-Caritamrita4.

Because of their greatness and majesty these two texts have been able, in the course of the centuries, to shape the life of a great number of individuals and they place the teaching of the twenty-six qualities within a wider elaboration on the subject of perfection, so that perfection will be not considered as something abstract, theoretical and utopistic, but will be substantiated so that it can be concretely perceived through such virtues. As true mind scientists, veritable psychologists and sociologists, the special authors of such works did not stop at beautiful but abstract philosophical speculation, they have connected these qualities, veritable jewels of a character, to precise behaviors, because values that are not practiced cannot be worth much, they do not produce effects and they evaporate like snow in the sunshine.

Gita and Caitanya Caritamrita, the texts examining the virtues we are going to study, are known as religious scriptures that support and canonize a system of values contained in a particular tradition; this however does not mean that their value is merely religious, because their psychological and sociological value, too, is undoubtedly great.

Those who want to keep a clear-cut separation between science and religion are victims of a prejudiced vision that has taken roots in the western tradition, but unexpectedly help has come from quantum physics itself, a very pragmatic branch of knowledge that confirmed that a scientist's vision of the world is not different from a mystic's.

The value of texts such as the Puranas, Vedas, Upanishads, and Brahamanas is extraordinary, not simply from the merely theological-ritualistic point of view, but also because they offer a system of values that enables us to organize our lives in a happy, healthy, consistent and harmonious way.

What do the great texts of Tradition tell us? That we are happy, vigorous, intelligent, creative and willing to live when the microcosm of our body is in harmony with the macrocosm. There is no difference between systems of different size because there are laws of a supreme order, a system of values that relate and connect everything that exists. The same laws that govern the orbits of planets and galaxies also apply to the growth of a blade of grass or a cell, to the communication between synapses, to the development of neurons, to the division of the cell by which the fetus gradually develops. Inspired, constant research, determined to get into harmony with these laws, shapes intelligence that takes us to self-healing, capable of solving problems that otherwise would be delegated to pharmaceutical industry with scarce success.

It has now been scientifically proven that serene and inspired persons, who are dedicated to things they believe in, remarkably improve the level of their immune system. On the other hand when we are depressed, sad, filled with resentment, jealousy and envy, we cause a drop in our immune system.

We need to realize the importance of living happily in the company of persons who practice virtues and believe in them. We must be interested in values that have universal scope, accepted by Catholicism, Buddhism or any other system that contemplates a rise in consciousness and self-realization. Of course we will also include the secular systems because there are no more barricades between religion and social life. It is absurd to think that values can only be contained within so-called religious currents: even if it is clear that the priority of religious life is precisely the application of such values, many non-religious persons also welcome and practice them. Cleanliness, truthfulness, compassion, generosity, sobriety and ecology are not just religious but rather universal values.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Federation of the Indian Republics at the University of Milan, I have stated that it was the Vedas themselves that supported India's independence from the British Administration. It was a special feeling to speak about Vedic civilization in those places that, in 1968, witnessed hot, vehement, and sometimes violent protest affirming values that society did not accept.

Specifically, the values mentioned and explained in the Vedas have enabled the constitution of States within a society with so many languages, races, ethnic groups and religions.

A student-professor was commenting how people are in the grip of prejudice in relation to whatever is different, and I said that such prejudice is generated by fear, because one who carries prejudice is weak and fragile by definition; an authoritarian person is weak, and this is why he needs to use force to impose himself, while one who controls his senses and has inner strength is not authoritarian but authoritative, he is not angry but serene. No matter what comes before him, he finds the correct key for its interpretation and answers adequately to the stimulation that derives from it.

What is different scares us because it jeopardizes our certainties and some clich├ęs we have grown accustomed to. Fear generates hostility. This is why "different" people such as Jesus, Socrates, or in more recent times Martin Luther King, have been murdered. This makes us understand that the intention of affirming a universal system of values must be based on a commonly known language that should not be too exotic, exoteric or mysterious, because this would create suspicions, fears and persecution mania. We need to relate to others as if in a pleasurable game, so that prejudice will automatically fall away.

Everyone needs a model for their own development; without a model we cannot achieve anything. As long as he had Seneca to look up to, Nero was not the madman described by history. He became crazy when he changed his model, taking his inspiration from Tigellinus.

For a spiritual researcher, an excellent model is one who has complete control over passions and impulses, or vegam. Vegam means "impulse", or a discharge of energy. In a person who is afflicted by manic syndromes, the "discharges" he feels contain a great energy, but immediately afterwards he falls into a state of depression. This is typical of the dystics, those who have a two-phase behavior: in the first stage there is courage, strength, brilliance, wit, humor and a typically manic frenzy, but because this manifestation of energy is not based on reality, it is followed by a vertical fall into depression, the good mood disappears and euphoria gives way to disappointment. Then melancholy steps in, and in the most serious phases it contains even suicidal ideas, or a dark vision that affects the surrounding people, too.

Speaking of virtue implies referring to very precise and real models that are certainly not utopistic. Today like in ancient times, these qualities can be developed by the modern sages. These values are beyond time and space, they are eternal... do you want evidence? The fact they have been experienced by traditions that did not know each other, and by persons who lived at the opposite ends of the planet, who have expressed the very same realizations.

First of all, the twenty-six qualities or virtues must been explained and shown not as abstractions, but as the fruit of a series of coordinated and conscientious efforts. They are real wealth, much more valuable than any material asset that attract thieves, tax officers, false friends, and feed pernicious desires aggravating the attachment to mundane life, that makes leaving the body even more painful. The assets constituted by virtues, on the contrary, are not lost with the body. Even recent discoveries on DNA confirm this reality and determine the environment, including the psychological environment that a being finds in his next birth.

Thus we can reveal the mystery, the enigma of why there are so many other species besides the humans; it is really conceivable that chicken only exist to be roasted and eaten? Or that lambs exist to be slaughtered at Easter? This kind of idea is pure folly. Actually all these life forms search for perfection, but their nervous system is not completely developed to harmonize with the universe. This is a fascinating subject that should deserve adequate exploration. Man is racing madly after super-technology, artificial intelligence, and certainly he deserves the credit for extraordinary discoveries, but during this search he has often forgotten the inner world, becoming alienated and confused, losing the awareness of ourselves, of the world and of life.

Attaining our goal requires a constant attention, but if we begin this journey with the proper attitude it will be enthusing and give us such satisfaction and benefits that we will feel their effects for the rest of our life. Spiritual teachings that are luminous and potentially accessible to everyone will be understood and applied by each person as much as the evolutionary level of each individual will allow. In any case, no matter from which level he starts, if the spiritual researcher is sincere and dedicated, he will be able to gradually attain perfection with patience and determination, under the guidance of a genuine Master, an acarya. Acarya is a significant term in the Tradition we are talking about: it comes from the Sanskrit acara, ‘proper behavior’, and indicates a person whose behavior is immaculate and consistent with what he teaches in words. In fact teachings become effective as much as the person that transmits them is the first to apply them in his own life. In the long run, mere theoretical teachings become boring, sometimes impossible to understand, and incapable of producing fruits. On the other hand, one who respects some principles and applies them in his own life he will be able to transmit them effectively even without enunciating them verbally, because example is much more powerful than precept.

Shri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu5 summarized this concept as follows: “Some behave well but do not teach, others teach but do not behave well. Perfection consists in both teaching and behaving well”.

In any environment such knowledge is constantly and practically useful: when we acquire the proper know-how we can become conscious of the atmosphere we find in an office, in a family, in a factory, in a church. We can immediately understand which psychological type our interlocutor is, but above all, these twenty-six qualities we are going to study are an exceptionally effective parameter to measure and evaluate ourselves.

This evaluation is meant to understand our shortcomings, because only by understanding them we can add what we lack, in the language of modern psychology, we can integrate our personality.

Only by understanding which qualities we should develop most we can prepare a serious work on ourselves: this is why the acquisition of knowledge is a primary factor. By analyzing these virtues everyone will be able to examine himself and discover where the deepest shortcomings lie and also where the picture looks encouraging. We will understand why in the course of the millennia the great Vedic sages, the great Masters, have explained that such qualities are characteristic of the people of a divine nature, while those who are devoid of them are characterized as darkened, dull people who generate sufferings for themselves and for all those who stay around them; sometimes even for entire communities or nations.

Behind each virtue we can get a glimpse of a world, a dimension where we need to enter to acquire that particular quality. Mere remembrance is not sufficient, what we need to do is to practice that quality, live it and integrate it in our behavior, in our intra-psychic and inter-psychic dynamics.

We can compare an individual to a tree: a burning tree risks propagating the fire to an entire forest, and similarly a burning individual risks spreading the fire to a family, a community, a project. Luckily, also the contrary is true: a strong and sweetly scented tree can expand its fragrance in all the forest, and a healthy, stable and virtuous individual can do the same thing.

The virtues of which we will discuss are the basis of all types of relationships in society as in spiritual life, in economics, in family and sentiments; they enrich life for anyone, in any circumstance. Maybe they cannot be applied simultaneously, all the twenty-six of them, but the more the awareness grows, the wider the application field becomes. Practice is very helpful: we start maybe by applying one quality only, then by a chain reaction the others will gradually manifest, too, and we can joyfully experience that they come one by one, sometimes in couples, of by the threes... and sometimes, in moments of confusion, all the twenty-six disappear.

Practice is perfected by constantly living in the company of these twenty-six qualities that can become a garland of sweet scented flowers we can always carry with us.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu indicated these virtues to one of his important disciples, Sanatana Gosvami, and also in Bhagavad-gita, at the beginning of the sixteenth chapter, we find a list of twenty-six virtues that is very similar. By comparing the two lists we find that any difference is only a variation of rasa6, or taste, emotion, sentiment.

We will introduce the subject with a description of the twenty-six qualities by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura7: “Like twenty-six pearls or sweet-scented flowers, they constitute a necklace representing the character of a practically perfect person. The state of perfection is characterized by the presence of these twenty-six qualities”.

In the Scriptures the perfect, evolved, liberated beings such as great sages and saints are sometimes described with some of such virtues and sometimes with others, but when we make a careful analysis of their character we find that all twenty-six are present. Such virtues are certainly an attainment, not a starting point. By knowing them we become able to make an assessment of our life, to understand who we are, where we are, and in which direction we are walking.

It is rare for an individual to be able to make a deep and honest analysis of oneself, and this is why the spiritual Master is necessary. TModern men are more and more inclined towards psycho-therapists and analysts that often are not even aware of the spiritual reality of the soul, and therefore they only analyze on the basis of temporary characteristics. Within Tradition such analysis is made by the guru, who is able to see the shortcomings in a personality and proposes a therapy by engaging the disciple in devotional service, which leads to catharsis and purification8.

We cannot heal by ourselves alone; today we live in the "do it yourself" age and the figure of the Master has become obsolete, rejected by the majority of people. Individuals are left to themselves, everyone is master of himself and the effects are under our eyes: violence spreads, phobias and panic attacks are more and more frequent, and depression is now the fourth more common disease in the world. The "do it yourself" mentality is therefore an illusion, but when we have understood this fact it is not sufficient for us to passively cling to a Master. One who wants to have the guidance of a spiritual Master must activate himself and serve in his mission; this has been true for millennia and the sacred Texts offer dozens of examples.

We need a dynamic approach, the deliberation of submitting ourselves to the cure, a therapeutic pact in which Master and disciple take a role and respect it.

Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita: “Go to a Master who possesses this knowledge, be humble, ask him questions and serve him”9.

Service and humility psychologically prepare us to understanding, in fact if our state of mind is not appropriate we will not be able to perceive the answers, no matter how deeply wise they can be.

The Masters can offer knowledge because they have realized it; one can only give what he has. Thus, by following the teachings of an enlightened person, gradually the anarthas crumble away and give way to virtues. In this way trust turns into faith and becomes deeply structured in the heart, because theoretical knowledge is united with practice that confirms the teachings. By seeing persons who have become healed,our faith in the therapy grows and we understand that the method is working. However, the cure must be administered adequately and the two parts, Master and disciple, must interact harmoniously.

In the West there is a widespread prejudice in regard to spiritual masters, because people still suffer from the dichotomy of religion-secularism. In the Vedas this does not exist because the rishis10

were at the same time secular and religious, they did not deny the central position of the spirit or the peripheral importance of material creation. The stimulation to approach the world of the spirit should not be accompanied by a denial or denigration of the world.

Virtue, ethics, is a spiritual factor that can be manifested in the world through morals, through a series of behaviors that are based on ethical principles. The most genuine part of each religion in fact manifests as a concrete behavior in the world.

The Illuminists' protest was against an abstract religiosity only showing a practical result in privileges and a monopoly of power; it did not oppose spirit in itself, but the way it was expressed in daily life. The determination of the liberal state to express values different from the confessional states was a legitimate freedom of expressing one's own spirituality that was called in a different way only as a reaction. Some anarchists have shown great virtues in their lives; they were just protesting against a corrupt religious world, but they opposed an evil by generating a situation that later degenerated into evil itself.

Often the West moves between these extreme opposites, as it was brilliantly explained by Heraclitus with the principle of enantiodromy11;

even Plato speaks about it when he states that after a period of anarchy a tyrant comes, then after a while he is felled and anarchy returns. The Puranas state that such contrasts keep increasing in Kali-yuga12. However, the sun is neither western nor eastern and virtues are of a spiritual nature, whether they are lived by Mazzini or St. Anthony. Nobody should think he is the sole repository of these virtues; fundamentalism originates from a monotheism that cultivates the idea of being the chosen people, the sole repository of the truth, but the truth that pervades the entire universe is inscribed into the hearts of all men.

1 Bg. II.66.

2 Literally, ‘Bhagavan's song’. It is a text belonging to the VI book of the Mahabharata epic, considered the Gospel of the Hindus, the most famous Sanskrit work in the world, and its authoritativeness is recognized by all the Schools of thought belonging to the vast Indo-Vedic tradition. In his commentary to Bhagavad-gita, Shankara Acarya calls it "a collection of the quintessence of the meaning of the entire Veda". It highlights the figure of Krishna, the hero God, who reveals the science of spiritual realization to prince Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

3 School founded by Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, based on the doctrine known as acintya bheda-abheda tattva, that explains how God and the souls or jivas are non-different from the qualitative point of view but different on the level ot shaktis or powers. The word Gaudiya comes from the Sanskrit Gauda, indicating the district of Gaur, the central area of Bengal, from where Caitanyadeva started to spread His teachings.

4 The most famous and important biography of Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534), compiled by Krishnadas Kaviraja Gosvami, who could hear the earthly lilas of the Lord from the mouth of his own Master, Raghunatha Gosvami, one of the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana, direct disciple of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

5 (1486-1534). Founder of the Gaudiya-vaishnava School, He was considered a manifestation of Vishnu-Krishna and venerated as such. His preaching gave Hinduism a new orientation and the culture of Bengal an impulse that would never fade away. In line with the Bhagavata literature and with the previous vaishnava acaryas, Caitanya offered a faith pervaded by the personalist vision of the Absolute, to whom the devotee offers service and devotion, thus becoming free from the cycle of the samsara and attaining the highest goal of existence, love for God (prema bhakti). His teachings were the foundation of the thought system known as Acintya-bhedabheda-tattva.

6Literally, 'taste, aroma, flavor, sentiment, emotion'. Spiritual sentiments that constantly and reciprocally flow between God and His devotee. Rupa Gosvami's Bhaktirasamrtasindhu (II.32-33) explains in details twelve main rasas, of which the following five are the most famous: contemplation (shanta-rasa), service (dasya-rasa), friendship (sakhya-rasa), parental relationship (vatsalya-rasa) and romantic relationship (madhurya-rasa).

7 (1838-1914): acarya of the Gaudiya-vaishnava tradition, magistrate, theologian, poet and prolific author of works on bhakti.

8 Those who are interested in a deep study on the relationship Guru-disciple can avail the text on this subject, or the text on Traditional Indian Pedagogy, both published by CSB; please contact the Secretary.

9 Bg. IV.34.

10 Great sages, poets who compiled the Vedic literature. There are three different categories of 'seers': rajarishis, saintly kings, brahmarishis, wise brahmans and devarishis, devas that are distinguished due their saintliness and wisdom.

11 A psychological law enunciated by Heraclitus, according to which everything is transformed into its opposite.

12 The last of the four cosmic ages that cyclically follow each other and characterize the transformation. Traditionally it began in 3102 B.C., with the disappearance of Bhagavan Shri Krishna from Earth, where it is compared to the winter season for its aspects of dullness and degradation. In fact this period is characterized by the prevalence of hatred and quarrel (the world kali literally means ‘quarrel’), the increasing denial of the dharmic principles and the decreasing psycho-physical and intellectual resources of the human beings, that become less and less capable of conceptualizing, memorizing, understanding and especially living the teachings on the metaphysical realities. The total duration of the Kali yuga is of 1.200 heavenly years, equivalent to 432.000 earthly years.