The process of Character-building is so delightfully simple that its importance is apt to be overlooked by the majority of persons who are made acquainted with it. It is only by actual practice and the experiencing of results that its wonderful possibilities are borne home to one.
The Yogi student is early taught the lesson of the power and importance of character building by some strong practical example. For instance, the student is found to have certain tastes of appetite, such as a like for certain things, and a corresponding dislike for others. The Yogi teacher instructs the student in the direction of cultivating a desire and taste for the disliked thing, and a dislike for the liked thing. He teaches the student to fix his mind on the two things, but in the direction of imagining that he likes the one thing and dislikes the other. The student is taught to make a mental picture of the desired conditions, and to say, for instance, “I loathe candy–I dislike even the sight of it,” and, on the other hand, “I crave tart things–I revel in the taste of them,” etc., etc., at the same time trying to reproduce the taste of sweet things accompanied with a loathing, and a taste of tart things, accompanied with a feeling of delight. After a bit the student finds that his tastes are actually changing in accordance with his thoughts, and in the end they have completely changed places. The truth of the theory is then borne home to the student, and he never forgets the lesson.
In order to reassure readers who might object to having the student left in this condition of reversed tastes, we may add that the Yogi teachers then teach him to get rid of the idea of the disliked thing, and teach him to cultivate a liking for all wholesome things, their theory being that the dislike of certain wholesome eatables has been caused by some suggestion in childhood, or by some prenatal impression, as wholesome eatables are made attractive to the taste by Nature. The idea of all this training, however, is not the cultivation of taste, but practice in mental training, and the bringing home to the student the truth of the fact that his nature is plastic to his Ego, and that it may be moulded at will, by concentration and intelligent practice. The reader of this lesson may experiment upon himself along the lines of the elementary Yogi practice as above mentioned, if he so desires. He will find it possible to entirely change his dislike for certain food, etc., by the methods mentioned above. He may likewise acquire a liking for heretofore distasteful tasks and duties, which he finds it necessary to perform.
The principle underlying the whole Yogi theory of Character Building by the sub-conscious Intellect, is that the Ego is Master of the mind, and that the mind is plastic to the commands of the Ego. The Ego or “I” of the individual is the one real, permanent, changeless principle of the individual, and the mind, like the body, is constantly changing, moving, growing, and dying. Just as the body may be developed and moulded by intelligent exercises, so may the mind be developed and shaped by the Ego if intelligent methods are followed.
The majority of people consider that Character is a fixed something, belonging to a man, that cannot be altered or changed. And yet they show by their everyday actions that at heart they do not believe this to be a fact, for they endeavor to change and mould the characters of those around them, by word of advice, counsel, praising or condemnation, etc.
It is not necessary to go into the matter of the consideration of the causes of character in this lesson. We will content ourselves by saying that these causes may be summed up, roughly, as follows: (1) Result of experiences in past lives; (2) Heredity; (3) Environment; (4) Suggestion from others; and (5) Auto-suggestion. But no matter how one’s character has been formed, it may be modified, moulded, changed, and improved by the methods set forth in this lesson, which methods are similar to what is called by Western writers, “Auto-suggestion.”
The underlying idea of Auto-suggestion is the “willing” of the individual that the changes take place in his mind, the willing being aided by intelligent and tried methods of creating the new ideal or thought-form. The first requisite for the changed condition must be “desire” for the change. Unless one really desires that the change take place, he is unable to bring his Will to bear on the task. There is a very close connection between Desire and Will. Will is not usually brought to bear upon anything unless it is inspired by Desire. Some people connect the word Desire with the lower inclinations, but it is equally applicable to the higher. If one fights off a low inclination or Desire, it is because he is possessed of a higher inclination or Desire. Many Desires are really compromises between two or more conflicting Desires–a sort of average Desire, as it were.
Unless one desires to change his character he will not make any move toward it. And in proportion to the strength of the desire, so will be the amount of will-power that is put in the task. The first thing for one to do in character building is to “want to do it.” And if he finds that the “want” is not sufficiently strong to enable him to manifest the perseverance and effort necessary to bring it to a successful conclusion, then he should deliberately proceed to “build up the desire.”
Desire may be built up by allowing the mind to dwell upon the subject until a desire is created. This rule works both ways, as many people have found out to their sorrow and misery. Not only may one build up a commendable desire in this way, but he may also build up a reprehensible one. A little thought will show you the truth of this statement. A young man has no desire to indulge in the excesses of a “fast” life. But after a while he hears, or reads something about others leading that sort of life, and he begins to allow his mind to dwell upon the subject, turning it around and examining it mentally, and going over it in his imagination. After a time he begins to find a desire gradually sending forth roots and branches, and if he continues to water the thing in his imagination, before long he will find within himself a blossoming inclination, which will try to insist upon expression in action. There is a great truth behind the words of the poet:
“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, That to be hated needs but to be seen. Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, and then embrace.”
And the follies and crimes of many a man have been due to the growing of desire within his mind, through this plan of planting the seed, and then carefully watering and tending to it–this cultivation of the growing desire. We have thought it well to give this word of warning because it will throw light upon many things that may have perplexed you, and because it may serve to call your attention to certain growing weeds of the mind that you have been nourishing.
But remember, always, that the force that leads downward may be transmuted and made to lead upward. It is just as easy to plant and grow wholesome desires as the other kind. If you are conscious of certain defects and deficiencies in your character (and who is not?) and yet find yourself not possessed of a strong enough desire to make the changes necessary, then you should commence by planting the desire seed and allowing it to grow by giving it constant care and attention. You should picture to yourself the advantages of acquiring the desirable traits of character of which you have thought. You should frequently go over and over them in your mind, imaging yourself in imagination as possessing them. You will then find that the growing desire will make headway and that you will gradually begin to “want to” possess that trait of character more and more. And when you begin to “want to” hard enough, you will find arising in your consciousness a feeling of the possession of sufficient Will-power to carry it through. Will follows the Desire. Cultivate a Desire and you will find back of it the Will to carry it through. Under the pressure of a very strong Desire men have accomplished feats akin to miracles.
If you find yourself in possession of desires that you feel are hurtful to you, you may rid yourself of them by deliberately starving them to death, and at the same time growing opposite desires. By refusing to think of the objectionable desires you refuse them the mental food upon which alone they can thrive. Just as you starve a plant by refusing it nourishing soil and water, so may you starve out an objectionable desire by refusing to give it mental food. Remember this, for it is most important. Refuse to allow the mind to dwell upon such desires, and resolutely turn aside the attention, and, particularly, the imagination, from the subject. This may call for the manifestation of a little will-power in the beginning, but it will become easier as you progress, and each victory will give you renewed strength for the next fight. But do not temporize with the desire–do not compromise with it–refuse to entertain the idea. In a fight of this kind each victory gives one added strength, and each defeat weakens one.
And while you are refusing to entertain the objectionable guest you must be sure to grow a desire of an entirely opposite nature–a desire directly opposed to the one you are starving to death. Picture the opposite desire, and think of it often. Let your mind dwell upon it lovingly and let the imagination help to build it up into form. Think of the advantages that will arise to you when you fully possess it, and let the imagination picture you as in full possession of it, and acting out your new part in life strong and vigorous in your new found power.
All this will gradually lead you to the point where you will “want to” possess this power. Then you must be ready for the next step which is “Faith” or “Confident Expectation.”
Now, faith or confident expectation is not made to order in most persons, and in such cases one must acquire it gradually. Many of you who read these lines will have an understanding of the subject that will give you this faith. But to those who lack it, we suggest that they practice on some trivial phases of the mental make-up, some petty trait of character, in which the victory will be easy and simple. From this stage they should work up to more difficult tasks, until at last they gain that faith or confident expectation that comes from persevering practice.