Holistic Development of Personality

Holistic Development of Personality

Sriyankar Acharyya

The personality does not exactly mean the appearance of a person, his way of speaking, mannerism or body language. It is related to how does a person behave, feel, think and react in a given environment. All these features depend on his state of mind which is built by what he has thought and performed in the past.

Whatever we think or perform leaves an impression in our subconscious mind. These impressions are stored as tendencies to motivate us to think or act in a similar way in future. Our personality is determined by the summation of all these tendencies or samskaras accumulated in our subconscious mind. Whether the personality will be perfect or imperfect depends on the quality of tendencies accumulated in mind.

The character is also defined in the same way. Sow the seeds of thoughts, reap actions. Sow the seeds of actions reap habit. Sow the seeds of habits reap character. Therefore to build a good personality or good character one should start from his thoughts. Good thoughts lead to good actions, good actions lead to good habits and good habits lead to good personality or character. The habits are stored in the mind as tendencies. This will help one pick up a good thought and the rest steps will occur automatically. But there are negative influences from environment or negative tendencies already stored in mind and that is why control over mind or power of mind plays the key role.

Now the question is who will train us on how to control the mind? Is it Education? Let us have a general look on the world scenario and a special look over the so called educated countries.

The recent situation is that an estimated 264 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Nearly 700,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every 40 seconds. Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-19 years. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide(WHO). Let us see what is happening in so called educated and developed countries. Ranks of some developed countries in committing suicide (ranks given in parenthesis) are – South Korea(4), Japan(14), France(17), Switzerland(18), United States(27), https://besttoppers.com/suicide-rate-by-country/

The above mentioned countries being educationally ahead are facing this problem. So it proves that the running education system has failed to produce perfection in personality. Where is the deficiency in the present system?

The education system is unable to set a proper goal of life. Let us see what should be the goal of life and how perfection of personality is connected to it.

Our sages were researchers and they realised that ultimate well being is caused by peace and bliss, and they do not come from outside. These are biproducts of purification or perfection of mind. They set the goal of our life: आत्यन्तिक दुःखनिवृत्ति (Complete removal of miseries) followed by परमानन्द संप्राप्ति (achieving bliss). The internal perfection is the only way to achieve this goal. When the people are at a controlled joyful state instead of getting depressed the holistic growth at personal as well as social level will occur.

Though the education system produces skilled persons, but the skill is external in nature and has nothing to do in developing perfection in personality or character. Therefore these skilled professionals easily get involved in corrupt practices, and finally the holistic development of individual or society is not attained.

Let us go for a Case Study. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 led to many banks of USA failed and the whole financial system got severely damaged. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) closed 465 failed banks during 2008 to 2012. But, in contrast, in the previous five years of 2008, only 10 banks failed. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bank_failures_in_the_United_States_(2008%E2%80%93present)]. The experts blamed the corrupted bankers. Teachers of USA analysed the case. They started publishing articles in ‘Harvard Business Review’. They found the root of this problem lies in education system. The alumni of these big universities play the key role in banking, business or finance sectors. Were there any morality or ethics (internal perfection) in their character this would not happen. They realised, “we are producing intelligent selfish giants through our education year after year. This system of education must be revised.” They concluded that both the teachers and students have a wrong philosophy of life. It is not the money but humanity and spirituality which could better guide the students towards true professionalism. One should learn to measure his level of success in terms of other parameters, like how much I am giving away to the society and to what extent the society is getting benefitted out of it. Unselfishness is more profitable than selfishness in this holistic view. This realisation of the teachers once again supports the necessity of developing internal perfection.

This achievement of internal perfection should be the core of education. Our current education system does not have this core. But ancient Indian Education System shows how to achieve both external (apara vidya) and internal perfection (para vidya) from education. Mundaka Upanishada says: द्वे विद्ये वेदितव्ये इति ह स्म यद्ब्रह्मविदो वदन्ति परा चैवापरा च । तत्रापरा ऋग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्ववेदः शिक्षा कल्पो व्याकरणं निरुक्तं छन्दो ज्योतिषमिति … [1]. “There are two sorts of knowledge to be acquired – the higher (para vidya, internal perfection) and the lower (apara vidya, external perfection)”. If the bookish knowledge and its worldly applications are concerned then it is apara vidya. It provides skills but cannot change the personality. The personality gets changed through the practice of para vidya. It is the internal practice for knowing the Self, the Atman that gradually changes the personality causing internal perfection.

This internal perfection will enhance our skills on one hand by increasing the power of mind and incorporate values in character on the other hand. That is why internal perfection or para vidya is the core of holistic education. But how can one attain this internal perfection?

Our holy scripture Upanishada has addressed us as Son of Immortality which says that our basic nature consists of internal perfection or ‘values’. Swamiji says, “Religion is the manifestation of Divinity already in Man”. The divinity is nothing but the summation of all values and we are potentially divine. So attainment of internal perfection is nothing but the manifestation of divinity already in man. The disvalues are not our nature, they are acquired from our negative thoughts and actions and stored in subconscious mind as tendencies (samskara). We have to nullify the disvalues (negative tendencies) stored in mind by values (positive tendencies) practising positive thoughts and actions.

Manifestation of divinity or internal perfection comes from practices that are based on some guidelines. In one guideline it is Yoga to achieve control over mind – योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः [2]. Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Chitta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).

उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत्। आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव रिपुरात्मनः।। [3]

Elevate yourself through the power of your mind, and not degrade yourself, for the mind can be the friend and also the enemy of the self.

बन्धुरात्मात्मनस्तस्य येनात्मैवात्मना जित:। अनात्मनस्तु शत्रुत्वे वर्ते तात्मैव शत्रुवत् ।। [4]

For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so his very mind will be the greatest enemy.

In another guideline, there are three steps: Shravana (reading or hearing), Manana (reflecting in mind) and Nididhyasana (meditation). Only shravana and manana cannot assure sustainability of values in character. Ultimately one has to go upto Nididhyasana (concentration and meditation) to change his personality. This requires rigorous and regular practice to give transcendental knowledge beyond consciousness.

A perfect personality is identified by certain characteristics. In answer to Arjuna’s question about the characteristics of a perfect man (स्थितधी or स्थितप्रज्ञ), Srikrishna says:

दुःखेष्वनुद्विग्नमनाः सुखेषु विगतस्पृहः। वीतरागभयक्रोधः स्थितधीर्मुनिरुच्यते।।[5]

One whose mind remains undisturbed amidst misery, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.

Our sages are the examples of perfect personalities. They say with confidence: शृण्वन्तु विश्वे अमृतस्य पुत्रा आ ये धामानि दिव्यानि तस्थुः। वेदाहमेतं पुरुषं महान्तमादित्यवर्णं तमसः परस्तात्‌। तमेव विदित्वातिमृत्युमेति नान्यः पन्था विद्यतेऽयनाय॥ …..[6]

“Hear, ye children of immortality, all those who reside in this plane and all those who reside in the heavens above. I have realized this Great Being who shines brightly like the sun beyond all darkness.”

In this perfect state of mind, one would see everything is connected to every other thing leading to Oneness and he himself is same as oneness. Isha Upanishada says:

यस्मिन् सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद् विजानतः। तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥ [7]

If there exists One and only One then there is no provision for illusion and sorrow as long as there will be no separation from the One.

The education system should incorporate a policy leading to manifestation of internal perfection (para vidya) along with the external perfection (apara vidya) as was practised in ancient Indian Education System. The entire world needs that to have a sustainable holistic development.


  1. Mundaka Upanishada, I.i.4

  2. Patanjali Yogasutra, ii

  3. Shrimadbhagabadgeeta, vi.5

  4. Shrimadbhagabadgeeta, vi.6

  5. Shrimadbhagabadgeeta, ii.56

  6. Shvetashvara Upanishada, II. 1.

  7. Isha Upanishada, 7