Qualities That Qualify Us – Part One

Qualities That Qualify Us – Part One

One day, a very poor young boy arrived at a monastery and asked the chief monk to give him some work, a place to stay and food to eat. The monk asked him what he knew and what he could do. The boy replied that he had no skills apart from things like washing plates and sweeping. The monk asked, ‘Are you sure you do not know anything else?’

The young boy suddenly replied, ‘Oh, yes, I do! I play chess very well!’

The monk said, ‘Okay, good, now let’s have you play one of the monks so that we can test you’.

He asked another monk to bring and set up a chess set, and take his seat. Before the game started, the chief monk told the boy, ‘Look, I have a sword in my hand. Whoever is defeated, his nose will be cut off.’

The boy became jittery. However, he was also hungry and homeless, so he agreed and the game started. At the start, the boy made some mistakes in his moves. His position on the board became almost hopeless. He then collected his thoughts and concentrated fully on the game and improved his position to a point when he was about to win.

Then he looked at the monk sitting opposite him. The boy thought, ‘I am useless and I have achieved nothing in my life. Nothing will change in the world if I lose the game and lose my nose. But this monk is a kind person who has dedicated his life to service’. The young boy deliberately made a wrong move, so the monk sitting opposite him could win the game.

The chief monk suddenly jumped up and said, ‘Young boy, you are in! You will be with us in the monastery from now onwards’. The boy did not understand.

The monk explained, ‘I was not looking at your chess skills! I was looking for very important qualities. One is awareness, which comes from purity and steadfastness. When you were not doing so well, you put your entire concentration and attention on the game and things improved for you. The second is sacrifice, which comes from generosity of spirit. When your opponent was about to lose, you displayed this quality so that he could win. These two qualities will make your life meaningful and beautiful.’

At the start of the 16th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna about beautiful qualities or values that allow one to live to its fullest potential, and be of benefit to oneself and to the entire world. Here are the values listed out in the first verse of the chapter, and to drive home their brilliance, a quotation by a great thinker is included for each. Use these as a checklist to assess how you are doing in your life with these qualities:



Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them. – Rabindranath Tagore

Purity of heart

Purity, patience and perseverance are the three essentials to success. – Swami Vivekananda


Have the unflinching determination to move on your path unhampered by limiting thoughts of past errors. - Paramahamsa Yogananda


Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving kindness. - Dalai Lama


If you conquer yourself, then you conquer the world. – Paulo Coelho


It is an honour to put the interests of others before our own. – Simon Sinek


You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself. – Dale Carnegie


Desires are never quenched by enjoyment. It rather inflames them, as clarified butter does to fire. – Swami Chinmayananda


Let your capital be simplicity and contentment. - Henry David Thoreau

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Chinmaya Udghosh