Saturday, January 13, 2018

Water In The Vessel

We all desire to have comfortable days, day after day. No one likes to have difficult days, one after the other. Not only a bad day one after the other, but not even a bad day amidst many good days. The want is to always have happy days and thereby enjoy life. Comfortable days with good health, lot of money and all other things that we want. We do not want even the streaks of anything that we perceive as bad amidst plentiful good tidings.

Desire is one thing but the reality is something else. If everything turns out to be the way we want, there would be no problems in life. It never happens that way because we are unable to control many things. If we contemplate further, we are unable to control even things that are apparently under our control.

Sufferings may be of different types. Financial sufferings can be one of them. There are times when all the hard work done does not result in financial benefits. There are instances when hard earned money is lost due to unforeseen happenings. Trusted friends and relatives borrow and fail to return when needed by us. Friendship is lost with money lent. Previously made out plans are now upside down. Many times new beginnings have to be made at later stages in life. These turn out to be painful and frustrating times indeed.

Loss of social status can be another cause of suffering. Loss may occur due to one's own failings or due to mechanisation of trusted ones. Many times retrieval of the lost status may not be possible. Some are able to get on with life in changed circumstances; others suffer in the very thought of having lost in the race.

Physical health is another important issue in life. One may ignore financial loss or social status being taken away. But setbacks in health is something which is very difficult to ignore. The problem continues to haunt during days and nights. It comes with us wherever we go. If the loss of health is coupled with pain, then it is even more miserable. Pain killers are temporary relievers of pain; they have their side effects too. Fighting pain and still carrying on daily activities is indeed very testing and demanding.

We see many people around us who suffer setbacks in health. There are some who cannot come out of the setback and succumb to the difficulties. We also see many others who are brave and fight their way out of trouble. These are the people who show remarkable tenacity amidst very adverse conditions. They do not give up even when others around give up hope. They are the examples of exemplary bravery and astonishing resilience. Watching them fight it out and come out successful inspires others.

An young man entered his office in the morning as usual. "Are you not feeling well?", The first colleague he met near the door asked him. "No. I am fine", he said and started his work. Another colleague came and asked him why he did not take the day off as he looked sick. The young man ignored and went on with his work. Another three or four colleagues had the same question and now he started getting doubt about his own health. He went to the rest room and checked his face in the mirror. He felt he looked tired and not normal. By afternoon he developed high temperature and felt very sick. The prank played by his colleagues had indeed taken its toll.

Psychologists say that there is a direct relation between physical health and mental health. State of mind plays an important role during sickness and recovery to good health. Pain and physical suffering have their impact on mental status of a person. Similarly, a disturbed mind acts on physical health.

Though physical health and mental health are inter dependent and affect each other, the effect of mental status on physical wellbeing appears to be even more significant. One important attribute that can be seen in those who fight physical adversity is their healthy mindset. They remain to be cheerful even amidst physical pain and suffering. They do not resign to their fate and believe in combating the troubled days and emerge victorious. This could even be seen the way they interact with those around them. It is this mental strength that sees them through the physical pain and suffering. 

On the contrary, we have many examples of mental weakness amplifying the physical troubles. People attending to the sick know this better than others. Brooding over the difficult things mentally directly impacts physical wellbeing. Mental troubles increase physical pain and suffering. A healthy mind is indeed a strong tool to restore physical health.

All this discussion is well summed up in this verse from Aranya Parva of Mahabharata:

मानसेन हि दुःखेन शरीरमुपतप्यते |
अयःपिण्डेन तप्तेन कुम्भसम्स्थमिवोदकम् ||

Maanasena hi dukhena shareeramupatapyate |
Ayahpindena Taptena Kumbhasamstahamivodakam ||

Physical body suffers due to mental disturbances. Just as the water kept in a vessel gets hot when the vessel is heated. 

The relation between the mind and body is like the vessel and the water in it. Even if the water is not heated directly, the heat of the vessel results in the water becoming hot. Therefore, all efforts should be made to keep the mind cool even in times of adversity. This ensures that the body remains healthy at all times. This is all the more important when the body suffers pain. A calm mind reduces the effects of such pain whereas a disturbed mind would only increase the pain and suffering. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Tools, Preparation and Process

Beans is a popular vegetable in various parts of the world. It has uses in preparation of a variety of dishes. It grows well in areas with average temperatures ranging between 18 to 30 degrees centigrade. Lower temperatures result in night frosting. Higher temperatures make the flowers fall and reduce yields. It is also considered to be a profitable crop for the farmer with yields of 100 to 120 quintals per hectare. The entire crop cycle is a maximum of three months. Peak yield is received in about two months.

When can the farmer expect maximum yield? Quality of seeds is an important element in raising a good crop. Even with good quality seeds, yield is not high when sowed in hard soil. The seeds may not even germinate if the soil is not ready to support germination and growth. Preparation of the soil for growing the crop is very essential. The land is to be tilled and prepared for receiving the seeds and support germination. Addition of good quality manure would support the growth of plants by providing nutrients. Proper watering from time to time either by seasonal rains or irrigational facilities is required. Sunshine further supports proper growth of leaves and enhances yield. Weeds also grow well in these conditions as all the ingredients are supportive of their growth too! De-weeding is another important activity in the growth process. Any laxity in this process will result in good yield of weeds instead of beans.

Beans cultivation is one of the simplest example for raising a crop. There are many other complex crops like long term crops and plantation crops. Even here, the principles are the same. Land is to be prepared well, good quality manure and adequate water is to be provided and healthy environment is to be created for harvesting a bountiful crop. Any compromise in preparation and process would hurt the basic objectives of raising the crops for getting a good yield and making the venture profitable.

Curd Rice is a very popular dish in the Indian subcontinent. It is also prepared and consumed in other parts of the world. Many in South India consider a sumptuous lunch or dinner incomplete without curd rice. On an average day in such a household, cooked rice is consumed with curd or butter milk. But on a festival day or special occasion, a special curd dish is prepared and served at the end of the lunch or dinner. In some hotels, preparation of curd rice is more for giving an outlet to use left over cooked rice. It is made very watery and often its very sight repulses the eater. 

What is the best method to prepare Curd Rice? The following method can be used as it is tried and tested. 

Two parts of thick solid curd is to be mixed with one part of milk in a vessel. Mustard seeds, Bengal gram dal, Urad dal with curry leaves (kari patta) are to be seasoned (oggarane) in ghee and added to this mixture of curd and milk. Cashew nut pieces enhance the taste. Grated coconut is to be added liberally to this liquid and mixed well. This process itself will give out the aroma of curd rice even before rice is added to the mixture. Freshly cooked rice is to be added in small quantities to this liquid mixture till a right consistency is reached. Any dilution should be done only by using curd and milk mixture and not water. Adding curd to rice will never give the real taste of curd rice. Many people add other ingredients like onion pieces, coriander leaves, cucumber, grapes or pomegranate etc. It is a matter of opinion, but the real taste of curd rice is obtained without any of these items. All these items retain their own smell and taste and do not integrate themselves with the mixture.

Curd rice, or any other item for that matter, is at its best when three conditions are satisfied. All the ingredients used are to be of good quality. Even if one of the items is of inferior quality, it drags down the overall quality of the item. The utensils or tools used should also be of the ideal size and shape. Working with odd sized utensils or implements/tools is a big pain and those working in kitchen know this quite well. The process of preparation should also be faithfully followed. Compromising with the process will diminish the quality of the items. A few minutes of less heating results in undercooking. A few minutes of over heating will also spoil the items. Thus the right quality of the items prepared is the culmination of three things: quality of the ingredients, using the right tools and ensuring the diligent following of the proper process.

Principles of growing a beans crop or reparation of curd rice is equally applicable to learning and teaching. The objectives of learning are achieved when the following three conditions are fulfilled:

  • The first requirement is the availability of proper learning tools. The learning content should be ideal for the objectives and prepared to suit the learner's profile. The tools (teaching or training aids) used in the learning process are also to be matched with the objectives and pace of expected learning. 

  • Pre-learning is similar to the preparation made for raising a crop or cooking a dish. Pre-class study or pre-course study provides the proper background for receiving the enhanced learning inputs in face-to-face learning or further learning through other methods.

  • Following the prescribed learning process ensures that the learning takes place on the desired lines and full benefit of the learning aids and preparation made for the course is achieved. Compromise in learning process has the same effect of under cooking or over cooking of a dish. 

Just as a good yield is obtained in raising a crop or proper satisfaction is achieved in consuming a well-prepared dish, desired learning outcomes are achieved by following the above three; Proper learning tools or aids, vigorous preparatory learning and faithfully following the prescribed learning process.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

What is "Important"?

The little girl was standing near the front door of her house for quite sometime. Her mother found this somewhat intriguing. Only two-years old, she was a chatterbox and would be continuously asking questions on all and sundry things around her. When not asking questions, she would be explaining things in her own way. But today it was different. She had fallen silent and standing at the door. The mother thought some enquiry would be in order.

"What are you looking for?" 
"It is time for dad to come home"
"Your dad knows the house. He will come. You need not wait there"
"I know that. I am waiting for him and something else"

The mother was not aware of the discussion that took place between the dad and his daughter that morning. 

"Dad, do you return from the office by the same road every day?"
"No. There are three or four different routes from my office. I take one of them."
"Are there any shops on the way in any of the routes?"
"Of course there are. There are many shops on the way."
"Do any of those shops sell chocolates?"
"Yes, some of them do."
"Can you bring some chocolates if you find a shop on the way, today evening?"
"Yes, I will."
"You do not go in search of a shop. If you find a shop on the way and they sell chocolates, you can bring some."

It was this "something" that dad was likely to bring that had excited her and made her wait near the door expectantly.

Dad arrived a little late than usual. The girl waited for sometime. There was no sign of chocolates. "Were there no shops on the way today?", she asked mildly. Dad remembered about the chocolates only then. "Sorry dear, I was busy in the review meeting with the General Manager today. I will get it tomorrow", he said. The child hid her disappointment admirably and kept quiet.

She waited on the next evening as well. Dad came late and was visibly tired. No sign of chocolates. "Were there no shops on the way today as well?", she asked after sometime. Dad remembered the chocolates only then. "Sorry dear, today I was busy with preparation for Executive Director's visit. I will remember tomorrow", he said. The little one did not understand General Manager's review or preparation for Executive Director's visit. She did not get her chocolates. That was important for her, but dad had other important things.

Dad was now aware that what was small for him was important to the little one. He picked the chocolates and put in his briefcase on the onward commute to the office next morning. He did not wait for the return journey. The little one will today surely get what was important for her! 

Lakshmi finished all her normal duties on the festival day. Working as a domestic help, she had to finish work in the regular houses before returning to her own house and start preparation for festival that day. She finished additional work assigned to her as well as it was an important festival day.

"Everything is done. Can I go now?", she asked.

The lady of the house was preoccupied with the visit of her sister and brother-in-law on the festival day. They were living in a far away country and were coming here after twenty years. She was in her own world when Lakshmi asked the above question. She looked up at Lakshmi and wondered why she was asking this question. "I am finished and leaving. Please lock the door", were her usual words. Today she sounded differently.

"Yes, you can go. Do not forget to come early tomorrow", said the lady of the house. She felt that Lakshmi appeared disappointed when she left. The excitement of arrival of her sister flooded in and cut off any more thoughts about Lakshmi.

Lakshmi asked the same question on the next day. Lady of the house thought for a moment. She realised that she had forgotten to bring the new saree for her for the festival. The practice of several years was broken this year due to her preoccupation with sister's visit. Sister's visit was important to her, but the annual new saree was important for Lakshmi. That was something she looked forward eagerly as the festival approached.

Lady of the house realised this now. Lakshmi got her new saree on the next day. 


We all have many important things to do every day. We are preoccupied with those important things. In the bargain, we forget what is important for someone else around us, but delayed and denied by us due to something more important to us!

Now, what is "Important"?  Both. Aren't they?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Five Levels of Respect

The word "Respect" is used by us many times, each day. Everyone wants to be respected. No human being wants to be disrespected or humiliated. What is "Respect"? "Give respect and take respect" is a saying that is often quoted. Does respect come your way automatically when you give respect to another? Are there any preconditions for earning respect? What are the reasons behind someone being respected? Are all people to be respected equally? Are there some gradings in the levels of respect that is to be given and received? These questions are worth pondering and beg for an answer.

There are many definitions of the word "Respect". One of the definitions is "esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability". It also means "deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgement to be held in respect etc". How does this privileged position come? There can be many theories and explanations as to why someone should be respected and the extent of respect to be given.

One commonly and widely accepted belief in our society is that age and knowledge are to be respected. The community holds the aged and knowledgeable people in deference and courtesy. There is also a latent feeling that some wisdom automatically comes with age, though this may not always be true. Ancient Indian literature provides many dimensions of giving and receiving respect. It mandates that respect should be given to some. It also directs that some are to be respected irrespective of their apparent or perceived deficiencies. It also gives five clear cut levels of respect to be given and also calibrates their relative inter se levels. There are possibilities that some people may be worthy of being respected for more than one of these reasons.

What are these five levels and what is their inter se relativity? The five levels are due to Money or Wealth possessed, One's relatives, Age, Achievements made, and Knowledge gained by the person. How is this classification justified? What is the logic for such a calibration? 

It is common knowledge that people with lot of money or wealth (वित्तं) are respected in society. As already mentioned above, such wealthy people might deserve respect due to other four parameters as well. Even if they are not entitled to any respect due to other parameters, mere possession of wealth alone makes them entitled to some respect. Such money or wealth might have come to them from some other source and not due to their own efforts. This is the lowest of the five levels of respect given by the society. If the wealth has been accumulated by their own hard earning efforts, then they would be respected due to the fourth level as well. Respect for such people stays as long as the wealth remains with them. Once wealth is gone, the respect given by the society also goes away. As ancient literature mentions in various places, wealth makes people find many virtues in them!

The second level of respect comes from one's relatives (बन्धुः). This type of respect is due to a position held in relativity. It is not uncommon to see people respecting someone because he is someone's son or son-in-law. If the relation between the two were not there, the respect would also not be there. A minister's PA is respected as long as he stays as a PA. Why only the PA, it is true of the ministers as well. If he loses that job, the respect also gets extinguished. If the person has done some sincere service while enjoying the position, or discharged his duties sincerely, he may still be given some respect even after losing the position. That would be the respect earned due to one's achievement.

The third level of respect comes from one's age (वयः). Mere age is respected often as we can see from the growing awareness and deference shown to senior citizen nowadays. the assumption is that these people have contributed to the general welfare of the society. This level of respect remains till the end of one's life and is expected to grow each day, unless the person squanders the same due to some bad deeds. 

The fourth level of respect is due to one's own achievements (कर्म or साधन). This is solely due to one's own achievements in the chosen field or fields. This comes due to lot of efforts and is accumulated over time. It stays with the person and does not go away for any reason. The ones who have achieved distinctions in diverse fields are respected irrespective of age and wealth. Some of the achievements may be at a young age itself whereas some others may be fructifying at ripe old age. This is indeed a higher level of respect.

The fifth and highest level of respect is earned due to knowledge and wisdom (विद्या). Here the word Vidya does no denote the mere bookish knowledge or the number of degrees one earns by studies. It is much more than bookish knowledge and expectation is that it is blended with practical applications. Knowledge and wisdom that is selfish and does not benefit the society is not acceptable here for respect. This is the highest form of respect and a learned and wise man will be respected wherever he goes. The adage विद्वान् सर्वत्र पूज्यते is indeed applicable to such people. 

The five levels of respect and their grading has been beautifully summed up in this ancient verse:
वित्तं बन्धुः वयः कर्म विद्याचैवतु पञ्चमी |
एतानि मान्य स्थानानि गरॆयोयद्यदुत्तरम् ||

Vittam Banhduhu Vayah Karma Vidyachaivatu Panchami,
Etani manya sthaanaani gareeyoyadyaduttaram.


While the grading of the five levels of respect are indeed codified above, present day tendency of giving highest respect to wealth is sometimes disturbing. The pressures and pleasures of modren day life is driving the younger generation primarily towards accumulation of wealth. The opinions on this issue may be divided as well. Whatever may be one's opinion, even today we can see that achievements and wisdom have their own pride of place and always attract respect.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Four Equal Shareholders

The village was adjoining the big forest near the boundary of the state. Many villagers depended on the forest for their livelihood. Collecting and selling firewood, honey, and other forest produce gave them income to supplement earning from raising crops in their lands. One of the tigers in the forest started venturing into the village and lifting animals. In time, it started lifting children and became a menace to the population. Villagers decided to approach the King for sending a hunting party to the forest to kill the tiger to enable them to live in peace.

The delegation of villagers reached the capital under the leadership of the village headman. When they reached the capital the King was away on official duties. They were now constrained to wait in the capital till the King returned. They were standing in front of the palace and discussing the future course of action.

The Queen was observing the the surroundings from the terrace of the palace. She saw the group of villagers standing near the palace. A servant was sent to find out the purpose of their arrival in the capital and waiting there. The servant made enquiries and reported the matter to her. The Queen knew that the King would be back only after three days. She instructed the palace officials to provide accommodation to the villagers in the royal guest rooms till the King returned. She instructed the Royal kitchen head to ensure that food was supplied to them three times a day. Her orders were duly carried out and the villagers waited for the King to return.

Food was being carried from the palace kitchen to the royal guest rooms on the morning of third day. An eagle had caught a poisonous snake and flying in the air above the palace area. The snake was struggling in the eagle's hold and drops of poison came out of its mouth. One of the vessels carrying the food was not covered and the poison fell in the food in it. Unaware of this happening, the servants distributed the food to the villagers. The villagers fell ill and two of them died in the evening.

The King returned and the matter was reported to him. The issue of tiger had now taken back seat and death of villagers came to the forefront. The King held a detailed enquiry to find the reasons for the event and punished the guilty. The queen was also sentenced to prison along with the cook and the servants.

The Queen protested and submitted that she had only helped the villagers by providing them lodging and boarding facilities in the King's absence. The King held that while her actions were indeed laudable, she cannot escape the consequences of wrong implementation of her orders. When giving the orders she also had the responsibility for their proper implementation. Mere good intention is not enough. Giving orders is not the end. The responsibility for proper compliance of the order also rests with the authority giving the orders. Otherwise, there is no accountability at all and all superiors are scot-free. The King stuck to his judgement and it was implemented strictly.

The above story offers a good example of the principle of "Vicarious Liability". Vicarious liability is the strict and often secondary liability arising out of the responsibility of the superior authority or the master. It is different from contributory infringement. In contributory infringement, the superior or the master has some knowledge of the actions of the servant or the subordinate. Vicarious liability is different from contributory infringement as knowledge is not an element of vicarious liability. The master or the superior authority is held responsible even if he did not have knowledge of the action or wrongful implementation of the order by the subordinate.

Who are the responsible parties for any action? What are their characteristics? Who is responsible for the results of the actions, whether good or bad? What is the role of a person who does the act and others who are directly or indirectly connected with it? What is the ratio or proportion in which they share the consequences? These are interesting questions and jurisprudence deals with them in various dimensions.

Ancient Indian jurisprudence identifies four persons as responsible for any act. The first is the person who actually does something or indulges in an action. He is the Karta (कर्ता) or the Doer. The second is the one who gets it done, advises or counsels in the action. He is the Kaarayita (कारयिता) or the Advisor. The third is the Proposer who motivates or inspires the action. He is the Preraka (प्रेरक) or the Proposer. Then there is the fourth one who is supports the proposer. He is the Anumodaka (अनुमोदक) or Seconder/supporter.

What is the share of responsibility of these four people in the actions? The considered view that the four are equal shareholders in all actions. There is no distinguishing between the one who does and others who take indirect part in it like the motivator and supporter. Is it only for the bad things that they have their shares? What about good deeds and actions that benefit the mankind? Ancient Indian jurisprudence does not differentiate between the good deeds or bad deeds. It stipulates that these four shall be equal shareholders in good as well as bad deeds. This holds good even if the action is done by one who is incapable of judgement like a child or idiot. 

All this is beautifully summed up in the following verse:

कर्ता कारयिता चैव प्रेरकस्चनुमोदकः |
सुकृते दुष्क्रुतेचैव चत्वारः समभागिनः ||

Karta karayitaashchaiva prerakascha anumodakah |
sukrute dushkrutechaiva chatvarah samabhaginah ||

The Doer, The Advisor, The Proposer (Motivator) and the Seconder, these four are equal shareholders in all good as well as bad deeds.

Indian Penal Code also follows the same line of thinking while prescribing punishment for those abetting or instigating by either action or inaction. Section 107 of the IPC defines abetment of a crime. Section 120-B of the IPC prescribes the same punishment for criminal conspirators as the ones prescribed for those committing the crime.

What is the lesson to be drawn from this discussion? One simple action point for raising our share value is to motivate, propose or second all good actions. Thus the share value goes up even if one does not participate in the actual work of implementation. Similarly, refraining from motivating or seconding any action that is harmful to the community prevents from the share value going down!

Can we build a good portfolio of shares using these two golden rules?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Wise Man and The Fool

Three brothers were bestowed with the capacity of walking in the air, by the Lord, after performing a lot of good deeds. The boon was received by them with glee and they enjoyed their new power for sometime. Now they did not need the support of earth below their feet for moving around. They could go wherever they desired by just walking in the air. Days were wonderful for them.

They were walking in the sky and enjoying the sight on the ground on a sunny morning. The greenery on the earth was enchanting. Freshly bloomed colourful flowers added to the beautiful sight. They suddenly saw an eagle flying fast below their feet. They also saw a snake moving on the ground. The eagle flew down and lifted the snake. The eldest brother felt he should save the life of the snake as otherwise the eagle would eat it. "Leave the snake", he shouted at the eagle. The eagle was startled and left the snake. He got the benefaction of saving the snake's life, but also got the curse of snatching eagle's food. He immediately lost his capacity to walk in the air and fell down on the ground.

The middle brother realised the folly of his elder brother. He did the wrong of snatching the eagle's food, the middle brother reasoned. To correct that mistake he shouted at the eagle. "Don't leave the snake. Catch it", he said. Eagle was pleased to catch the snake and soared into the sky with the snake now firmly clasped in its feet. The middle brother got the benefaction of giving food to the eagle, but also got the curse of taking the snake's life! He too immediately lost his capacity to walk in the air and fell down on the ground.

The youngest brother saw the plight of his two elder brothers. He decided not to interfere with things not connected with him. He continued to walk in the air and moved away.

The concept of "Reasonable or Prudent Man" is often used in tort and criminal law. Tort itself is defined as a wrongful act, other than breach of trust or contract, that results in injury (legal injury included) to another's person, property or reputation etc. A reasonable or prudent man is a hypothetical person used as a legal standard in deciding issues, as to whether someone's actions are proper or with negligence. 

People living in civilised societies are expected to interact with other people in community in various capacities. While dealing with others and their properties, any person is expected to display a certain level of care and standard of behaviour. A "Reasonable or Prudent Man (or man of ordinary prudence)" exercises average care, skill and conduct that the society expects from its members. The conduct of such a person in the given circumstances serves as a standard for deciding the actions of an accused before a court of law.

This concept of "Man of Ordinary Prudence" is especially used frequently in teaching as well as examining the conduct and actions of Bankers, while dealing with their customers and their properties entrusted to bankers during the course of business.

In this background, all people in the society can be classified into three groups:

  • The first group comprises persons who fall short of the standards expected of a "Man of ordinary prudence". They are "Fools". A Fool is a silly or stupid person who lacks judgement or sense. His level of behaviour always falls well short of the level exhibited by a man of ordinary prudence. Hence he is much less than a reasonable man. 
  • The second group comprises persons who display behaviour matching with the hypothetical "Man of ordinary prudence". They are the common people with average level of judgement and behaviour.
  • The third group consists of "Wise People". A wise man has the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is just or right. He always displays a level of behaviour that is much above the level exhibited by a man of ordinary prudence. His wisdom is evident in the type of decisions he takes and in his actions.

Learning levels are directly linked to the above classification:

  • A fool does not learn even from his own mistakes. He keeps repeating the same mistakes and suffers their consequences.
  • A man of ordinary prudence learns from his mistakes. He does not repeat his mistakes.
  • A wise man learns from the mistakes of others. He observes his environment and avoids committing mistakes done by others, thereby benefiting from the experiences of others around him.

The youngest brother in the story above belonged to the third category. He was indeed wise. He learnt from the mistakes of his brothers and avoided the effects of their follies!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Three Dimensions of Personality

What is "Personality?". Dictionary gives different meanings to this word. "The visible aspects of one's character as it impresses others", is one of them. "A person as an embodiment of a collection of qualities", is another. In psychology, it is defined as "the sum total of the physical, mental, emotional and social characteristics of an individual" or "the organized pattern of behavioural characteristics of an individual". Thus the various components that are common in defining personality can be collectively summarised in a single word "Character". There is a oft quoted proverb in English. "When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, everything is lost". This sums up the importance of character in a person's life. 

Ancient Indian texts and literature have extensively dealt with the various dimensions of "Personality". They provide a three layered or three dimensional view of personality. A person may not be as he or she appears at first sight. First sight does indeed make an impact on others. It is often said that first impression is the best impression. Though this is true to a certain extent, we know by experience that this is not always the case. We hear people exclaim that a person is far deeper than what he appeared at first sight. This impression at first sight is known as "Roopa" (रूप). The nearest English word for Roopa is "Form". This is the first level of a person's personality. It takes time to realise the deeper impact of a personality. This understanding of finer aspects of a person's behavioural traits is called "Sheela" (शील). This "Sheela" is close to the word "Character" in English. Long periods of close association with a person opens up further layers of personality. This very finer and inner behavioural aspects is called "Maadhurya" (माधुर्य). We do not reach this level of understanding with most of the people we interact with. Nearest English word for Maadhurya is "Melody".

This combination of Roopa, Sheela and Maadhurya (or Form, Character and Melody) is what embodies "Personality" of any given person. Roopa can be changed temporarily by various aids. Sheela is more sterner stuff and change is very difficult to bring about. Maadhurya forms the inner core of the personality of a person. 

Prahlada was anointed as the King of the Daityas after his father Hiranyakashipu was killed by Lord Vishnu by taking the incarnation of Narasimha. Prahlada ruled his kingdom with fairness and justice to all subjects. His was a wonderful period and there was peace and prosperity everywhere. Lord Indra who ruled over the upper worlds knew that he would not be able to hold on to his throne any longer. He voluntarily surrendered his throne to Prahlada. Prahlada now became the undisputed ruler of all the worlds. This status continued for a considerably long time.

Lord Indra was now keen on getting back his throne. He was aware that the usual methods he used earlier in similar situations would be ineffective against Prahlada. There was no way of defeating him now. He went to his Guru Brihaspati and sought his advice. Brihaspati told Indra that he should better approach the Guru of the Daityas, Shukracharya, as he may know some secret of Prahlada that would help defeat him. Shukracharya knew the reason for which Indra approached him. But he was helpless due the humble path chosen by Indra while approaching him. Time spent with Shukracharya as his disciple was no doubt useful, but it did not throw any light on the methods to be used to defeat Prahlada. On a day when Shukracharya was very pleased with the devotion of Indra, Indra sought the secret of Prahlada's success. Shukracharya told Indra that he had taught him everything he knew. If he desired something more, he should approach Prahlada himself, he advised.

Indra had no alternative but to approach Prahlada. He took the form of a Rishi and went to Prahlada. Prahlada received the Rishi form of Indra and treated him with full respect. When Indra told Prahlada that he has come to learn from him, Prahlada advised him that he may not be able to teach him as he was busy with the management of the worlds under his control as a King. Indra persuaded him to teach him at his leisure and he was ready to spend any amount of time needed for learning. Prahlada taught many things to Indra in due course.

Prahlada was very happy with the devotion showed by Indra. On a convenient day, Indra asked Prahlada what was the secret of his success and invincibility. Prahlada told thus: "My success comes from my character. I have full control over my senses and body at all times. This ensures good behaviour with all at all times. Good character is the source of all strength and means for all success." 

Pleased with Indra's dedication, Prahlada gave a boon to Indra and asked him to seek anything he had with him. Indra asked Prahlada to give him the character that was his strong point. Having agreed to give anything he had, Prahlada was now bound to part with his character. Prahlada felt a bout of weakness as a bright form of light deserted and went behind Indra. His character had deserted him. Following the character many other virtues left him as well; good conduct, piousness, truth etc. Godess Lakshmi also left him. When asked by Prahlada as to why she was also leaving him, Lakshmi said that she and all others who left him were bound by good character. When he has given away his character, it was as good as giving away all other virtues including his prosperity.

Prahlada was now very weak and without his character he was like an empty shell. It was time for him to leave the body. He left the physical body and moved to the heavenly abode.

This story of Prahlada, from the Mahabharata, sums up the importance of character as an important dimension of Personality. Roopa, Sheela and Maadhurya or Form, Character and Melody are the three dimensions of a person's personality.

Nowadays, the word Sheela (शील) is used in a limited sense, to mean "Chastity". Sheela or Character is required for everybody. Anything done by a person in the comity of other respected persons that makes them to feel ashamed is devoid of Sheela. A behaviour that befits upholding of dignity in public and private life is Sheela or Character. Many actions may bring temporary appreciation or applause in gatherings. But if the action does not befit a person of good character, it deserves to be condemned.

Now the saying makes perfect sense; When character is lost, everything is lost.