The Hardest Virtue
The Hardest Virtue

The incomparable screen actor who would slip a cash envelope under the door of a needy friend and disappear quietly, the great thinker who said he had achieved what he had, seen what he had seen, only by “standing on the shoulders of giants”, the near-legendary classical pianist who was practising long and hard in his hotel suite for his fast approaching concert and hence stubbornly refused a close friend’s pressing invitation for dinner as he felt that his programme was “very difficult”, the intensely and deeply spiritual religious leader whose booming laugh and radiant smile were mirror to his true inner greatness, and the self-effacing genius music composer with that massive forehead who glowed with a gentle yet furiously ebullient creativity never met each other.

Yet such people all shared the hardest virtue, stemming from an un-self-conscious and fundamentally true self-vision of what they really were — creatures of God, each in his chosen field, devoted to realising a sector of the whole Truth, each according to, and following his own unique path. Their tasks were cut out for them, and they outstandingly excelled in each, with surpassing industry, dedication and zeal, leaving the world a shade more enriched by the works of their lifetimes.

These human beings, in a sense, were never aware of their greatness; they plodded on and on, and were in constant communion with the Divine at all times, in ways that are not necessarily describable in the stiflingly narrow and formal terms of organised God-worship. Their offerings to the Divine through their life’s work were through constant, unwavering and unremitting toil in order to achieve transcendent perfection and profundity of significance in their respective projects.

The Divine was ever their judge — their sole arbiter, and the excellence of their respective labours was their only homage. Not from other men did they seek praise, and nor purely for adulation or money did they toil and sweat. For them, each day was just another day. And whatever they did was all in a day’s work. Glorious creativity seamlessly joined with mundane activity.

You would have seen them going about their work, and while they may have been happy with what they achieved, they were, at the same time, continually awed at the ever-increasing immensity of the task ahead, overwhelmingly aware that their current success was — hopefully — but a small stepping-stone, and nothing more, in the uncertain and difficult future of their quest. Praise and recognition, however lavish, fulsome and public, bounced lightly off their psyches, and left them somewhat perplexed as to what the hub-hub was all about. Such stupendous adulation as would deservedly come their way left them untouched and with an even more awesome responsibility on their shoulders — just that of having to go on quietly and steadily along the infinitely winding and tortuous path. They were truly doing the Divine’s work on earth and would not be swayed.

They did not react. Rather, they responded. Almost nothing upset such people, for how could they be upset when they had managed their innermost selves as only they knew how? They were born with, or had attained, the hardest virtue, and an important part of this attainment was the total obliviousness to the fact that they possessed it. That part of their being inside them that had helped them to realise their distinct human identity had been moderated so as not to turn against them, and hence not to be a future barrier to their potential elevation to more enlightened states of being.

Of all their thoroughly admirable attributes, the hardest virtue was the one that was the most solid, the most enduring, the most subtle and, to the truly discerning — but only to them — the most distinctive and adorable. One wonders as to whether they were born with it, or, if not, what travels and travails in their lives had made them what they became.

For them, all conference tables and dinner tables were perfectly round, their diverse geometric shapes notwithstanding. They may have led from the front, but they were ever one of the others, and so they led from a position of mutual equality. Any credit given to them was effortlessly and naturally deflected onto the team, in sincere praise of collective efforts, and an explicit recognition of how indispensable these were to bring success.

Above all, such men cherished the natural feeling. Could we ordinary people, and also those like them who are yet not quite like them, try and emulate them a little?

Do such men and women of whom I speak really exist? Admittedly only a few, but the fact that I write about them is my proof that they do. There are enough of them, however, to set an example for us to follow if we so desire. So now, we have to choose.

And incidentally, what is this hardest virtue?

Hoshang Dastoor

Hoshang Dastoor was born in Mumbai into a family of doctors. His early education was at St. Mary’s High School (Senior Cambridge Section) and St. Xavier’s College. He has a B.Sc. degree in Chemistry, is a Master of Management Studies from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, and an Associate Member of the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India.

During his career, he worked mostly for three leading Tata Group companies, where he was mainly involved in the design and development of computerised business data processing application systems, improvement of business processes and in financial, cost and management accounting. Later and till 2016, he was Director – Management Services with one of the firms in the well-known Sharp and Tannan group of auditors and management consultants.

He has also written and circulated among friends and relatives numerous well-received stories and essays largely inspired by incidents from his own life. These pieces deal with several varied themes, such as humour, work, life, reflections, the Divine, etc.

He nurtures a lifelong passion for European classical instrumental music, and used to present weekly programmes of recorded selections at the Sri Aurobindo Society and similar monthly programmes at the National Centre for the Performing Arts of which he is a member. He enjoys unintentional and spontaneous humour.



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