‘Character is Destiny’ is an essay written by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, one of the former presidents of India. The essay deals with the importance of building up one’s character in the right way. The author draws examples from other countries and compares those with incidents from India. He reminds us of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, and the Political Revolution. He says that if we are to follow up the Political Revolution in India, the universities of India must send out batches of scientists, technicians, engineers, agriculturalists etc.
The author believes that these changes are necessary to change the economic character of our country. However, he too believes that science and technology alone are not enough. He cites the example of some advanced countries which have achieved marvellous progress on the scientific and technological side, but are torn by strife, thereby struggling to bring peace, safety, and security of their own people. He does not want India to become likewise.
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan mentions the Tatwa masi, which means ‘you’ or ‘thou’ from the teaching of the Upanishads. He recalls the Buddhist teaching that talks about every individual possessing the spark of the Divine to become a Bodhisattva. But the author is also pragmatic, as he says that mere proclamations are not enough, but a change in the minds and hearts of the people. The sense of being democratic must not only be in the political sense but also in the social and economic sense.
The poison tree of samsara, otherwise called ‘worldliness’ has two fruits of incomparable value. They are the enjoyment of great books and company of good souls. One must read great literature with concentration. He bemoans the generation’s waning habit of reading and thus having lost the opportunity of being influenced by the great classics of our country. The author proclaims that the principles of democracy in our Constitution should become habits of mind and patterns of behaviour of our citizens. If that happens, the very character of the individual and the nature of the society will change. These things can be done only by the study of great literature, of philosophy and religion.
Science is regarded as a branch of philosophy. The function of the universities is not only to teach and send out technically skilled and professionally competent people, but also to develop in them qualities of compassion that enables the individuals to treat everyone in a truly democratic spirit. While science and technology are given top priorities, one must remember that they alone are not sufficient. Universities must take heed to send out people who are educated and filled with compassion for the suffering humanity. If not, that education would be incomplete.
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan stresses that ‘character is destiny.’ It is on character that a nation is built. If we want to build a great nation, the nation must first have people with great character. People with small character build petty nations. We cannot climb atop a mountain when the very ground at our feet is crumbling. We must have humility. The great history of our nation has been reflected on the entire Eastern World. Therefore, let the young men and women of India be clean, noble, and dedicated to selfless work. That would make India great, and Mother India satisfied.