HomeSeptember 2023Character builds personality



In September 2022, DAAJI released his latest bestseller, The Wisdom Bridge, and throughout 2023 we are sharing highlights from the various chapters to give you a taste of the wisdom the book offers. This month the excerpt is from chapter 14 on Principle 6: Character Builds Personality.

Character Is the Foundation of Life: The Role of Parents in Laying the Foundation

In 1998, Warren Buffett, the acclaimed investor, gave a lecture to MBA students in the University of Florida. 
“Think for a moment that I granted you the right to buy 10 percent of one of your classmates for the rest of his or her lifetime,” he said. “You cannot pick one with a rich father, that does not count. You have to pick somebody who is going to do it on their own merit. I give you an hour to think about it. Which one are you going to pick?”

Buffett raised the stakes by adding another condition: “To buy the 10 percent, you would have to short 10 percent of another classmate.”

“If you think about it the correct way,” he said, “the person selected would be someone who is generous and honest. Someone who gave credit to other people even for one’s own ideas. Also, the person picked to short would not be one with the lowest IQ. It would be someone who turned you off for some reason. The person who is egotistic, the person who is greedy, who is dishonest and cuts corners and all such qualities.”

Character matters above everything else. Ambition and IQ are no doubt important, but to get to the top and stay there takes character.

Through his thought experiment, Warren Buffett helped future corporate leaders in the room to understand that character matters above everything else. Ambition, creativity, and intellect are all important, but to get to the top and stay there takes character.

Character matters above everything else.
Ambition and IQ are no doubt important,
but to get to the top and
stay there takes character.

You may wonder why I began our conversation about character development with an anecdote from Buffett, an investor, and not with the examples of the Buddha, Mother Sita or Jesus Christ. Here’s the thing, when we think of the holy ones, the skeptic in us tends to box their teachings and label them “good but not practical.” The popular idea is that real-world Gordon Geckos (Wall Street) and Ricky Romas (Glengarry Glen Ross) need smarts and aggression. To succeed in life and business, one needs killer instinct and not kindness. Charismatic personality matters more than character integrity. And that’s where Warren Buffett comes in. He is at the pinnacle of wealth creation. After cutting his teeth on Wall Street, overcoming one financial crisis after another, he and his firm have only grown in stature and net worth. When Warren Buffett looks to buy 10 percent, he looks for character over IQ, energy, or initiative. The other traits are important but without character, as Buffett would say, it’s not a value investment. 

Whether it’s worldly affairs or one’s spiritual development, character is the bedrock of life. Parents’ efforts in instilling a good character are vital for the child’s future. The moral habits, etiquette, and life lessons all help in strengthening the child’s character. Sometimes parents get confused between personality and character. Here is a simple way to understand the two.

Character and Personality: The Tree and Its Fruit

A gardener knows that to enjoy the fruit, you must take care of the tree. Nourishing the soil, watering the roots, preventing pestilence, and doing this year after year will ensure that the tree is healthy, one with deep roots and strong branches. And then, on a fateful spring, the blossoms turn into fruits, and we enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Character and personality share a similar relationship. Character is the tree and personality is the fruit. Character is the inner core and personality is the outer shell. Character is the cause and personality is the effect. Someone with a good character will have an authentic personality. Someone with a flawed character will let you down. If the character is not attended to, then life becomes a struggle to establish one’s true personality. One may end up donning many avatars as they go through life without ever realizing who they are and what their true potential is.

The word “personality” has its origins in the Latin word persona, which means “mask.” During theatrical performances in the Roman period, performers wore masks that personified either the type (mother, noble, old man) or nature or psychological trait (angry, happy, worried) of the character. If the character was a warrior, the mask represented the features of a warrior archetype. If the character was jealous, the mask depicted jealousy.1 In the same manner, our personality, or persona, blossoms from and depicts our character. It makes sense then for parents to focus on building the character of their child. The personality will develop on its own. In other words, it will take care of itself.

For parents, the important thing to remember is that character formation is a conscious effort. It takes as much deliberate effort and attention as developing other life skills like STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and communication.

Personality traits such as public speaking skills, networking ease, general aptitude and so on are important, but in the long term, authenticity, integrity, and good moral values play a more important role.

Character will help children make wise choices. Choosing the right company, setting the right priorities, pursuing the right goals and making correct decisions – all are guided by character. The important takeaway here is that character formation takes a conscious effort on the part of the parents. It takes as much deliberate effort and attention from parents as developing other life skills such as STEAM, leadership, and communication. Character formation also has immense significance in shaping the spiritual destiny of your child.

The Spiritual Significance of Character

A house is supported by the ground. The ground is supported by layers of Earth. The Earth is supported by the planetary forces of the solar system. The solar system, in turn, is supported by other galactic forces in the Milky Way. Tracing this thread of what supports what, we reach a point where we realize that there must be a common foundation that supports everything. A common substratum that acts as the absolute base for all existence. Science refers to this absolute base as singularity.

In the Heartfulness tradition, the elders have referred to the absolute base as Bhuma or the Center. Before creation, existence was in seed form within the Center and there was perfect balance. When the time came, a stir in the Center triggered an impulse of creation (science calls it the Big Bang). That impulse continues on and on, and as we speak the universe continues to expand.

In yoga, the goal of meditative practices is to create within us the perfect balance that existed before creation came into being. In a human being, the condition of perfect balance is reached when character attains perfection.

A perfect character is when everything 
in a person is in a state of balance. 
The senses, the tendencies, the thoughts, 
the actions are all in a state of harmony 
with the inner guidance.

A perfect character is when everything in a person is in a state of balance. The senses, the tendencies, the thoughts, and the actions are all in harmony with the soul. In such a person, the personality is one with character. There is no duality. Think of it this way. There is space outside a room and there is space inside a room. How would you describe the space if the walls were removed? The outside and inside are no longer separate. With the walls removed, oneness is pervading all around. When the character is perfect, there is oneness of being.

Such a person’s behavior and etiquette are exemplary. There is total naturalness in their way of being. Wherever they go, they radiate love and spread their light. They exude lightness and all those around them benefit from it.

As duty-bound trustees of the soul that chose us, nurturing the child’s character is our primary duty as parents. When we work to ennoble the character of our children, we are guiding them on the path of achieving oneness and balance.

Giving Children the Right Perspective

When we interact with our children, our biases, our attitudes, and our habits all play a role in shaping them. For example, we often ask our children: “How much did you score on the test? Who scored the highest?” “Does your teacher appreciate your work?” or, the question all children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Now consider this. How often do we ask our children, “Whom did you help in school today?” “What act of kindness did you do?” “Did you give others the chance to speak before you?” I don’t think we discuss such questions as often as we should. We tend to focus more on the muscles of intellect and ambition. The same rigor is not applied to building the muscles of kindness, empathy, and humility. Perhaps we assume that these qualities will develop naturally. But it helps to emphasize the importance of character. And there is a reason for this.

When we work to ennoble the
character of our children, we are
guiding them on the path of achieving
oneness and balance.

Deep inside their hearts, children understand what their parents truly care about. When parents celebrate good grades, winning awards in school, and similar achievements more than their child’s acts of compassion and kindness, then the child gets a subliminal message of what parents truly care about. This is how a child becomes conditioned.

I want to share an incident from the 1990s when I was running my pharmacy business in New York City. My business was bootstrapped, and whatever I earned, I reinvested into the business. In a short span of time, the business grew in terms of size and reputation. Our employees stayed with us for years. The few who left us did so to start their own businesses.

On the days when there was bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Verrazano Bridge, which I took to get to work, my customers waited for me. Large chain pharmacies were around the corner, and yet they chose to give us their business. I no longer play an operational role in the business, and it’s been around fifteen years since I last filled a prescription. And to this day, some of the customers still ask about my welfare.

Back then, when I was busy growing the business, I was working on a deal to open a new pharmacy in the city. My business associate had negotiated favorable terms with a prospective seller. Both parties were ready to ink the deal, and I invited the sellers to my home for brunch on the weekend.

That morning, my associate told me that the contract had a clause that stretched the truth from our side. He told me that it wouldn’t be an issue because the clause would be inconsequential in a few weeks after the deal closed. My associate was convinced that there would be no damage to the seller or to us. But as it stood, the clause was a stretch. There were other buyers competing with us for this deal, and I was coached that if a question about the clause came up, I should say, “It’s all good.”

Soon the sellers arrived. We were having a great conversation and a feeling of camaraderie was in the air giving the feeling that the paperwork was a mere formality. As we headed to eat, the seller asked if we were compliant with the contract. From his tone, I knew it was a routine checklist question. And I politely answered no, and also mentioned the clause where we had a problem.

No one was expecting this turn of events and what followed was a stoic brunch. No papers were signed that day. After the sellers left, my associate, who was upset, asked for an explanation. He was like my younger brother and his anger was understandable. Here’s what happened that afternoon.

As we were having our conversation, I saw my son playing in the living room. He was a young boy, six years old at that time. For a moment our eyes met, he smiled at me and continued playing. But my heart became heavy. I asked myself, “Why are you doing this?” “What are you teaching him?” “Is this what I want to break bread over?” I was already hesitant, and when I saw my boy’s face, it gave me the nudge needed to act on my heart’s guidance.

After a few months, I met the sellers at a social event. After some small talk, the seller told me that they made a deal with someone else. He also confided in me that the new buyer had stretched the truth and did not disclose it at the time of the deal. Even though we didn’t have a deal, our mutual respect increased. I shared this story to point out that even if parents don’t tell their children what is truly important to them, the children pick it up. Your moral dilemmas today can become theirs in the future. Children subliminally absorb our thinking patterns even when we are not in the same room with them. Children are like sponges, soaking up everything. And children want to achieve whatever their parents value. 

Parents and close family members sometimes play the role of potters, shaping the children’s character. At other times, they are the gardeners, grooming and nourishing the child. At all times they are the guardians of the child’s moral compass.

Children are like sponges, soaking up everything. A child’s character is a result of the environment and the suggestions their elders make. It’s up to the parents to truly value compassion, kindness, love, courage, empathy, and other qualities. Only then do we pass on the right message to our children.

From Chapter 14 of The Wisdom Bridge.2 

To be continued.

1‘The Mask of Tragedy,’ Memento, 17 July 2018,

2 Patel, K.D., 2022. The Wisdom Bridge: Nine Principles to a Life that Echoes in the Hearts of Your Loved Ones. Penguin, India.

Illustrations by ARATI SHEDDE



Kamlesh Patel is known to many as Daaji. He is the Heartfulness Guide in a tradition of Yoga meditation that is over 100 years old, overseeing 14,000 certified Heartfulness trainers and many volunteers in over 160 countries. He is an innova... Read More