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Clear Thinking - CAN VIRTUE LIVE IN A VICIOUS WORLD?

We are all essentially made of virtue. Even the most bad person in the world will find time to do something good…at least once a year! If you conducted a straw poll on people's preferences between peace and conflict the result would be predictable. The most meaningful of human relationships are not a condition of hate but a creation of love. And love is the source of all virtue. We are all essentially (in essence) made of love with the potential to be good and do good.

But virtue is not so popular in these days of growing cynicism and disrespect. Lying, stealing, cheating, killing and manipulating are now easily found in most cultures. They seem to thrive where modernity invades, and their growth frequently correlates with the growth of material wealth. Why? What has made virtue fall out of fashion? How did we lose our value for virtues such as kindness, fairness, honesty, trust and respect? How did we collectively decide to surrender ourselves to animosity, jealousy and greed? Could it be down to one simple belief that life is survival of the fittest? Could it be we started to think that we might not get what we wanted, or that we may lose what we have? Could it be that we found others acting towards us in ways which were far from compassionate and caring, and we are merely returning like for like? Probably yes to all of the above.

But what is virtue exactly? And how can we be virtuous when the world around us appears to applaud and reward vice? Is it worth acting virtuously when many may scoff, somewhat judgmentally, at what they may perceive as our naivety?

Virtue is love (not Hollywood love!) in action. Love's natural intention is to 'do good' and bring benefit to the other before oneself. Virtue is an intention first, and then an attitude and then a behaviour. Virtue comes from the inner core of our consciousness where the beauty and truth of our spirit, which is love, is the birthplace of thoughts and actions that are good and right.

This 'inner space' is prior to all that we have learned. It is our nature. To be good and to do good is the alignment of a true heart and therefore a loving heart, with right action. When our actions emerge from this inner alignment there is the 'feeling' of integrity (integratedness) and everything flows. When we lose our inner connection (awareness) to our heart we begin to act 'out of alignment' and then things begin to jar, get stuck, and our conscience will inform us that we are acting against the grain of what is true, what is good.

Simplicity is a virtue. Not the simplicity which is naïve or without intelligence. A life lived with applied simplicity is based on

  1. the understanding that we need to acquire very little at a material level in order to live a fulfilled, contented and connected life.
  2. the awareness that we need nothing at a spiritual level as we already have all we seek within us, though we may need some assistance to find it within, and then translate it into action.

Simplicity is without desire. It is not a question of making personal sacrifices, more a way of living that is based on giving, more a way of life that has mastered the economic use of all energies i.e. physical, mental and spiritual. In simplicity there is no surplus, and no waste, at any level.

Forgiveness is also virtuous action. Not the forgiveness of others when they appear to hurt us, but the forgiveness of oneself when one realises no one has hurt us and no one can hurt us. We only hurt ourselves. This 'good' inner action is based in the truth that we are responsible for our thoughts and feelings and any 'hurt' feelings are caused by oneself in response to another. However, in order to carry out this virtuous act of forgiveness we do need to know ourselves as spirit and not the form that greets us each morning in our bathroom mirror!

A large part of forgiveness is to correct the false perception that 'I am a victim'! Not easy in a world where victim hood has its own language and is accepted as an inevitable consequence of living.

Generosity is another virtue that can appear to have gone the way of the dinosaur. It is impossible to acquire this virtue just by 'making' oneself generous just because it seems to be the right thing to do. Virtue cannot be forced. Authentic generosity emerges from a heart that holds on to nothing, is open to everyone and can no longer be threatened by anything. Easy words, but not so easy practice! Seen occasionally in those who have nothing, yet still seem to give everything!

As we come to see and recognise the potential depth of 'virtue in action' we can see what has been missing from our education. You may begin to see that the challenge of living a 'virtuous life' means swimming against the tide of a world invaded and pervaded by selfishness and greediness. 'Vice' is a good word to describe the negative habits that are in contradiction to virtue. It perfectly describes how our consciousness is held so tightly trapped by ideas such as 'greed is good' and 'might is right' and 'its dog eat dog out there'.
Gripped in the vice of these kinds of beliefs our intellect is not able to turn inwards and see our innate goodness, our virtue, and our virtuousness. Hence the wisdom that lies in the practice of meditation. Meditation helps you to see and cut through the jingle of vicious (vice full) beliefs and perceptions, and reach back into the light of your pure heart that still beats at the core of your consciousness. Vice is viciousness and therefore violence and therefore it is disorder. Virtue is order. To restore a natural order to our consciousness it is necessary to see understand the learned and unnatural tendencies of disorder.

Question: What are the three most virtuous things you have ever done?
Reflection: How might each of the three virtues in the text above change your life if you introduced them more often.
Action: Pick three people you interact with daily and apply one of these virtues to each relationship this week.

'Clear thinking - Pressure OF Power ON - 5/8/07 - BK Mike George - www.relax7.com

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