A quote by Osho intriguingly refers to character as a tomb, and to righteousness as a form of ego.
“A man of character means that he has created this armour around himself,” goes the quote, “He wants to speak lies but he cannot because of the character, the ego involved in it. He suppresses. He can never be authentic and true, he can never be flowing and open... A man of character carries his tomb around himself... The dead layer of character never allows him to meet life — to meet life here now.”
Is character a dead layer round the live pulsating human being? Or is it the quintessence of human values that allows us to see beyond the selfish and move beyond the desire-centric approach? Is it not something that allows us to not just be centered round the self but to see a reflection of the self in every living being of the universe?
To speak of character as an instrument of suppression is to view it merely at a superficial level. But first, let us examine what it means to be authentic and true to oneself. Does it mean being true to one’s most bestial desires? Does it imply an unrestrained freedom to indulge oneself in whatever one wishes, at whatever cost to another human being?
Is it not an irony that to be true to yourself you must be free to lie? Only the truth is free. Lies can never be spoken of as freedom. In fact, the only time you would want to lie would be when you have done something wrong and need to cover it up. Does freedom include the right to covering up every wrongdoing? Does it also include the right to obscure someone else’s truth for the sake of your desire to lie?
The need for character arises precisely because one person’s freedom cannot be endless and all encompassing, to the point of encroaching on another person’s rights. The legitimate fulfillment of every individual’s needs depends heavily on everyone foregoing their illegitimate ones.
For instance, does the phrase go with the flow of life indicate a license to take whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like? That would have extremely grave implications — not the least for a country’s crime rate, but also horrifically for the quality of life of its citizens. Frauds, robberies, scams and at the worst level murders and rapes — all of these occur not because of the presence of character but precisely on account of a lack of it. The lack of human values and lack of restraint on one’s own bestial desires is what leads to heinous crimes becoming a regularity in society. The conscience is dead.
Contrary to the Osho view of it being a form of ego, righteousness is the highest form of humility. It is an acknowledgment of other people’s rights, their feelings and their freedoms. It is an acceptance of the fact that my own needs are not the greatest, and that I possess the judgement to respect another person’s true and legitimate claim rather than the hedonistic flow of whatever I desire, rather than my freedom to lie.
Being true to one’s own self, in fact, is to acknowledge that I am a rational being, that I acknowledge my desires but I also acknowledge if and when I have the right to pursue them. To be open and flowing with life is not to hide under the cover of falsehood but to possess the courage to emerge into the light of truth. Character is indeed an armour, then, but one that protects the humanity inside you.