Swami Veda Bharati was without doubt the most beautiful person I ever met. While most people thought to be beautiful exhibit only an outer beauty, a beauty of shape, color, and dimension, his was an inner beauty that radiated out and made the form irrelevant. The effect was so powerful that I had to work at noticing the form in which he lived.
No doubt this had to do with the level of his Self-realization, but it was also of the mind. More than once, Swami Veda said that the greatest artistry in the world is making something beautiful of one’s personality. According to this perspective, which is the perspective of the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition, the personality can be transformed from what we have at birth into something more beautiful. In other words, one can tweak one’s personality as one might work clay or paint a picture. This, Swamiji said, was the task of a lifetime, perhaps lifetimes. He admonished us to get started.
The reason the personality can be changed is because the Yoga tradition views personality as a bundle of habits rather than as something fixed and unchangeable. Still, habits are not easy to change, some less so than others. But with effort, they can be. Swami Veda said that changing one’s personality was like a bird holding a silk scarf in its mouth, flying back and forth across a mountain’s peak, causing the silk to rub the rock. It takes time for that scarf to change the stone! But eventually change will happen.
A good time to take on the role of personality artist is now. One can begin any time. Also, with a new year coming onto our calendar now, this is an especially good time to begin because we are accustomed to setting new resolutions at this time.
But, unlike the resolutions we usually set, there is a way to stick with this one: the key is to set a task for ourselves that is small enough and easy enough that we will actually do it. For example, rather than resolving to “become a loving person” when we are not, or “becoming generous” when we are stingy—tasks that are too hard for us to accomplish and which will set us up for failure—instead commit to a tiny sattvic (light, kind, loving, and wise) action and repeat it regularly, again and again over the next year. So, with regard to being more loving, a person might commit to doing one kind act a month that will lighten someone’s else’s burdens without any expectation of return. To become more generous, similarly, one might commit to giving a few dollars each month to a charitable organization. In this way, we begin forming the pattern of a new habit. Over time—over years—this habit starts taking form and solidifying.
Importantly, the idea is not to feel proud of our loving or generous actions, but to just do them. Try this, you might find it enjoyable.
In this way, steadily, like that bird with the silk scarf, one cultivates a more sattvic, more illumined and beautiful personality.