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The Essential Forty Virtues

Gita Press pamphlet on virtues

In 1943, Sri Jayadayal Goyandka, founder (with Ghanshyam Das Jalan) of the renowned Gita Press, wrote a small pamphlet entitled What Is Dharma? in which he outlined the forty virtues which every spiritual aspirant should cultivate. All of these virtues produce spiritual powers in those who observe and eventually embody them. Therefore they are essential for the spiritual aspirant–the yogi. His list, and his definitions of them, follow.

  1. Harmlessness. Refraining from injury to anyone through mind, speech or action.
  2. Truthfulness. Representing a thing precisely as one has perceived it through the mind or the senses, in agreeable language.
  3. Non-stealing. Refraining from all forms of theft or illegal possession of others’ property.
  4. Control of the sexual impulse physically and mentally, and preservation of the sexual energy.
  5. Non-accumulation. Refraining from accumulation of material things to an unnecessary degree.
  6. Purity. Freedom from bodily and mental impurities.
  7. Contentment. Freedom from desire for unnecessary objects, situations or conditions.
  8. Austerity. Discipline, or even hardships, undergone for the discharging of one’s religious/spiritual obligations.
  9. Spiritual Study. Study of holy scriptures and books inculcating knowledge and principles of dharma, dharmic practices and disciplines.
  10. Devotion to God. This is expressed through faith in and attachment to God.
  11. Spiritual Wisdom. Discrimination between what is real and what is unreal.
  12. Dispassion. Complete absence of attachment to anything pertaining to this world or the next.
  13. Self-discipline. Exercising control over the mind.
  14. Control of the senses. There are five senses of perception and five organs of action. Their control means bringing them all under subjugation and using them according to one’s discretion.
  15. Endurance. The capacity to bear heat and cold, and to remain unaffected by pleasure and pain, etc. Not to be influenced by diverse experiences.
  16. Piety. Absolute faith in the scriptures and the teaching of the mahatmas, one’s spiritual instructors and the Lord as though they were directly perceived truths.
  17. Forgiveness. Entertaining no thought of inflicting punishment or retaliation on one who has wronged you.
  18. Courage. Absence of cowardice.
  19. Compassion. The moving of the heart at the sight of the suffering of a creature.
  20. Sublimity. That power of superior souls under whose influence even those who are attached to worldly enjoyments and are of a base nature are deterred from sinful acts and take to noble pursuits.
  21. Arjava. The straightness (rectitude, uprightness) of body, the senses and the mind.
  22. Unselfishness. Not seeking satisfaction of any selfish desire connected with this world or the next.
  23. Amanitwa. Not seeking honor, respect or homage.
  24. Freedom From Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy consists in putting up a false show of piety, and this should be scrupulously avoided by all.
  25. Absence of Backbiting. Backbiting or slandering proceeds generally from jealousy, and this should be completely eschewed.
  26. Straightforwardness. Not attempting to conceal anything from a selfish motive.
  27. Humility. Having a low estimate of oneself.
  28. Fortitude. Not being perturbed in the face of the greatest difficulty and danger.
  29. Spirit of Service. To be actively engaged in doing good to all creatures. To be constantly striving to the best of one’s ability through mind, speech and body–and in a disinterested spirit–to contribute to the happiness of all creatures according to their respective needs.
  30. Satsanga. Association with saints and holy men [and sincere and worthy devotees of God].
  31. Japa. Repeating orally or mentally a Name of God or a Mantra (sacred formula).
  32. Meditation. Concentration of the mind on inner, mental repetition/intonation of a Name of God or a Mantra.
  33. Freedom from malice. Entertaining no enmity even towards an enemy.
  34. Fearlessness. Complete absence of fear.
  35. Even-mindedness. Looking on all as equal from the point of view of the soul even though differences may be observed in dealing with them according to outward situations and circumstances.
  36. Absence of egotism.
  37. Friendliness. Extending the feeling of good will and even affection towards all creatures.
  38. Charity. Gratuitously supplying that which is needed in a particular place at a particular time and by a particular person, gladly and respectfully, without expecting any return or reward.
  39. Devotion to duty. This is too clear to require any explanation.
  40. Tranquility. This state is attained when the mind is completely free from desires, peaceful, contented, possessing discernment and clear-sighted.

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