The karmic equation is an abstract representation of the karma (causes and consequences) of an individual or group . . . since karma is an exceedingly complex energy (even for the evolved individual), the equation must necessarily be symbolic and abstract with an indeterminate series of many-dimensional terms. The reason for this is quite simple; karma is a superposition of inputs (causes) and outputs (effects or consequences) and their interactions, over a diverse continuity and fabric of time, space and consciousness.
The inputs to the karmic equation are the vast sea of causes (physical, emotional, and mental behaviors and motives) which spans past moments . . . All of the past actions have been entered as causes, and new causes are added continuously as the individual lives, thinks, feels, and otherwise experiences. The relationships of an individual to other persons are often major (potent) inputs. The output of the equation is the continuous (weighted) sum of total external forces and influences on the individual or the group . . . Since the effects are continuously responsive to the causes and relationships, the effects constitute a feedback mechanism (the response of the individual creates new causes which in turn modify somewhat the new effects). Each equation is continuously changing, though the changes may be quite small compared to the output or yield. In general, a large number of causes are superimposed (and distributed in time) and transformed to produce timely and appropriate effects.
There are two equations of karma — the direct and the complex conjugated:
where the operators have the form
A=2h^2V + i2h o/o t-9;
A’=2h^2V – i2h o/o t-9.
Here, Y denotes the probability density wave (the wave function); V, the Laplace operator; 9, the potential energy density; and h, Planck’s constant.
These equations may be solved in the form of karma waves and anti-waves with quantization of probability waves. Connected with them are perturbations of the information-energy field, i.e., wave signals. In principle, such signals may propagate faster than the speed of light.
Expanding on the application of Newton’s Third Law of Motion tokarma, in
The Mechanics of Karma:
Fundamentally, however, and from a higher viewpoint, in which space and time are spanned, cause and effect is simultaneous. For example, the perpetrator harms the victim. Did the perpetrator cause this harm? From the third-dimensional viewpoint, they apparently did, but taking into account more data we know that the victim also attracted the perpetrator. That is, each sought out the other — it is a simultaneous phenomenon.
This is an example of duality — a two-polarity system. The perpetrator pole and the victim pole are interdependent. You can’t have one without the other . . . Now this duality gives us a mechanism for the return of energy in order to learn lessons. A whole energy (quantum state) divides into two poles. One pole acts as a debt to pay back the energy. The process of paying back the energy is the same as the process of one pole or energy seeking wholeness by returning to the other to cancel it, leaving a condition of unity (higher dimensionally). That is, the energy seeks wholeness and the poles come together causing a return to self of what was inflicted on another . . .
This principle of cancellation given here has general physics applications. When we say bringing together the two poles (to cancel the debt/karma), this is the same as phase conjugation, in which two wave patterns, one reversed relative to the other (which simply means 180 degrees out of phase), come together and cancel one another.
Metaphysics, the Conservation of Energy:
Energy conservation is more than just saving fuel. It says, in effect, that in any physical process the total energy before must equal the total energy after the process is concluded. It seems to me that karma is one of these “conservation laws” . . .
In the words of H.P. Blavatsky, “Karma creates nothing, nor does it design. It is a man who plans and creates causes, and Karmic law adjusts the effects; which adjustment is not an act, but universal harmony, tending ever to resume its original position, like a bough, which, bent down too forcibly, rebounds with corresponding vigor” . . .
Wilbur is correct in his point that the mystical truths do not need the “proofs” of science. But the illumination from below oftentimes makes these truths sparkle with new brilliance.
A gentle note:This beautiful article seeks to inspire women who seek to become that amazing, One.
Proverbs = A book containing the universal truths.
Proverbs 31 provides a detailed metaphor of feminine wisdom in the context of a family and a community.
The most quoted section, verses 10–31, is a chiastic poem, that is, a poem that cycles through repeated thoughts in a particular order. The chapter speaks of the worth of a good wife to her husband, the manual labor that she does, her fulfillment of responsibilities to those who need her, her ability to provide for her family, and her wisdom in caring for herself so she can share her strength with others.
The chapter begins with King Lemuel recounting advice his mother had given him. She exhorted him to not fall to weaknesses that would compromise his position as king, but to care for the poor.
One of the weaknesses the king’s mother mentioned was the susceptibility of his strength—or “noble character” (31:10)
—to be harmed by improper relationships with women.
"An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life."
A good, supportive, trusting wife is a blessing to a man. A woman who partners with her husband, who is reliable and looks out for his interests, gives a man a security that is greatly lacking in the world. She is worth more than a substantial paycheck. To bring in the metaphor, wisdom provides the same benefits—it is worth more than money, you can always trust it to make the right decision, and it provides blessings for those who have it.
"She looks for wool and flax,
And works with her hands in delight…
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle…
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness."
The wife isn’t afraid of work. She gets up in the morning and gets things done. In the time of Solomon, this involved making fabric and sewing clothes, but verse 27 certainly applies directly to us today—taking care of our responsibilities is a characteristic of wisdom.
"She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens…
She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy."
Another characteristic of wisdom is the grace to help others. The Proverbs 31 wife ensures that those under her care receive what they need—food, clothing, protection. And she is able to serve others out of the excess of her work and the leaning of her heart. She has so internalized her role as a provider that it extends past her immediate responsibilities and into the community.
"She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar…
She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard…
She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night…
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen."
Beyond that, she’s savvy. She’s educated about the world and the world of business. She knows how to use her skills to provide for her family, and she’s not afraid to go interact with that world, whether it be as a merchant or a buyer. She knows how to use her strengths to her best advantage, and she fully realizes how valuable her efforts are.
"She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong…
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."
The Proverbs 31 woman not only knows her worth, she knows her responsibilities to herself.
She would not be able to provide for others if she neglected her needs—both physical and spiritual. She makes sure her appearance reflects her respected position as an influence in her community.
Her greatest strength is her wisdom—her accurate judgment about the world and her influence in it. And she is quick to share the wisdom she has gained to encourage others to reach their potential.
"Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land…
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
"Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all."
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates."
She knows that, as a partner in her marriage, she has a tremendous influence on her husband’s ministry. She can integrate her life—both domestic and professional—with her ministry in such a way that her husband has the freedom to serve. In fact, her reputation is so established, that it bleeds off onto him.
The wife is a fierce provider and protector for those she cares about. She is wise to the ways of the world, but lives by the wisdom of God. As in the rest of the Proverbs, these specific examples provide a metaphor for the larger truth.
How any individual woman exemplifies these characteristics will depend on her situation, gifts, and abilities. The key is in verse 30, just as it is in the beginning of Proverbs, in 1:7:
"But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised" .
I am sharing this universal Code of Conduct because I want our world to be a better place for ourselves, our children, our children's children and hopefully the great beyond. Human Beings have weaknesses - a blinding imperfection enduring life's many great experiences only for us to discover an identity we choose to call our Self.
Truth is, none of us are different.
We live only for this one common goal - Happiness.
There is only one simple way to acheive greater happiness, be good. With conscious effort and a disciplined focus on self awareness and mindfulness, any one of us can become a person of good character, the kind of person God loves. Even if you have just one day left to breathe, for your own sake, make that your best 24 hours.
Perfection is a choice, and so is imperfection.
- Diana -
A person of good character:
- enjoys a peace of mind
- is healthy
- is youthful and energetic
- is filled with passion, happiness and gratitude
- tends to be way above average looking (natural and captivating)
- baffles the weak with curiosity: "There's just something about this person..."
- possesses a beautiful and charismatic soul that magnetizes and charms
On one occasion the Exalted One was dwelling in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels' Sanctuary, near Rajagaha.
Now at that time, young Sigala, a householder's son, rising early in the morning, departing from Rajagaha, with wet clothes and wet hair, worshipped with joined hands the various quarters — the East, the South, the West, the North, the Nadir, and the Zenith.
Then the Exalted One, having robed himself in the forenoon took bowl and robe, and entered Rajagaha for alms. Now he saw young Sigala worshipping thus and spoke to him as follows:
"Wherefore do you, young householder, rising early in the morning, departing from Rajagaha, with wet clothes and wet hair, worship, with joined hands these various quarters — the East, the South, the West, the North, the Nadir, and the Zenith?"
"My father, Lord, while dying, said to me: The six quarters, dear son, you shall worship. And I, Lord, respecting, revering, reverencing and honoring my father's word, rise early in the morning, and leaving Rajagaha, with wet clothes and wet hair, worship with joined hands, these six quarters."
"It is not thus, young householder, the six quarters should be worshipped in the discipline of the noble."
"How then, Lord, should the six quarters be worshipped in the discipline of the noble? It is well, Lord, if the Exalted One would teach the doctrine to me showing how the six quarters should be worshipped in the discipline of the noble."
"Well, young householder, listen and bear it well in mind; I shall speak." — "Very good, Lord," responded young Sigala.
And the Exalted One spoke as follows:
"In as much, young householder, as the noble disciple (1) has eradicated the four vices in conduct,(2) in as much as he commits no evil action in four ways, (3) in as much as he pursues not the six channels for dissipating wealth, he thus, avoiding these fourteen evil things, covers the six quarters, and enters the path leading to victory in both worlds: he is favored in this world and in the world beyond. Upon the dissolution of the body, after death, he is born in a happy heavenly realm.
(1) "What are the four vices in conduct that he has eradicated? The destruction of life, householder, is a vice and so are stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying. These are the four vices that he has eradicated."
Thus spoke the Exalted One. And when the Master had thus spoken, he spoke yet again:
Killing, stealing, lying and adultery,
These four evils the wise never praise.
(2) "In which four ways does one commit no evil action?
Led by desire does one commit evil.
Led by anger does one commit evil.
Led by ignorance does one commit evil.
Led by fear does one commit evil.
"But in as much as the noble disciple is not led by desire, anger, ignorance, and fear, he commits no evil."
Thus spoke the Exalted One. And when the Master had thus spoken, he spoke yet again:
Whoever through desire, hate or fear,
Or ignorance should transgress the Dhamma,
All his glory fades away
Like the moon during the waning half.
Whoever through desire, hate or fear,
Or ignorance never transgresses the Dhamma,
All his glory ever increases
Like the moon during the waxing half.
(3) "What are the six channels for dissipating wealth which he does not pursue?
(a) indulgence in intoxicants which cause infatuation and heedlessness;
(b) sauntering in streets at unseemly hours;
(c) frequenting theatrical shows;
(d) indulgence in gambling which causes heedlessness;
(e) association with evil companions;
(f) the habit of idleness.
(a) "There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in indulging in intoxicants which cause infatuation and heedlessness:
(i) loss of wealth,
(ii) increase of quarrels,
(iii) susceptibility to disease,
(iv) earning an evil reputation,
(v) shameless exposure of body,
(vi) weakening of intellect.
(b) "There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in sauntering in streets at unseemly hours:
(i) he himself is unprotected and unguarded,
(ii) his wife and children are unprotected and unguarded,
(iii) his property is unprotected and unguarded,
(iv) he is suspected of evil deeds,(v) he is subject to false rumours,
(vi) he meets with many troubles.
(c) "There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in frequenting theatrical shows. He is ever thinking:
(i) where is there dancing?
(ii) where is there singing?
(iii) where is there music?
(iv) where is there recitation?
(v) where is there playing with cymbals?
(vi) where is there pot-blowing?
(d) "There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in indulging in gambling:
(i) the winner begets hate,
(ii) the loser grieves for lost wealth,
(iii) loss of wealth,
(iv) his word is not relied upon in a court of law,
(v) he is despised by his friends and associates,
(vi) he is not sought after for matrimony; for people would say he is a gambler and is not fit to look after a wife.
(e) "There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in associating with evil companions, namely:
Any gambler, any libertine, any drunkard, any swindler, any cheat, any rowdy is his friend and companion.
(f) "There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in being addicted to idleness. He does no work, saying:
(i) that it is extremely cold,
(ii) that it is extremely hot,
(iii) that it is too late in the evening,
(iv) that it is too early in the morning,
(v) that he is extremely hungry,
(vi) that he is too full.
"Living in this way, he leaves many duties undone, new wealth he does not get, and wealth he has acquired dwindles away."
Thus spoke the Exalted One. And when the Master had thus spoken, he spoke yet again:
"One is a bottle friend; one says, 'friend, friend' only to one's face; one is a friend and an associate only when it is advantageous.
"Sleeping till sunrise, adultery, irascibility, malevolence, evil companions, avarice — these six causes ruin a man.
"The man who has evil comrades and friends is given to evil ways, to ruin does he fall in both worlds — here and the next.
"Dice, women, liquor, dancing, singing, sleeping by day, sauntering at unseemly hours, evil companions, avarice — these nine causes ruin a man.
"Who plays with dice and drinks intoxicants, goes to women who are dear unto others as their own lives, associates with the mean and not with elders — he declines just as the moon during the waning half.
"Who is drunk, poor, destitute, still thirsty whilst drinking, frequents the bars, sinks in debt as a stone in water, swiftly brings disrepute to his family.
"Who by habit sleeps by day, and keeps late hours, is ever intoxicated, and is licentious, is not fit to lead a household life.
"Who says it is too hot, too cold, too late, and leaves things undone, the opportunities for good go past such men.
"But he who does not regard cold or heat any more than a blade of grass and who does his duties manfully, does not fall away from happiness."
These four, young householder, should be understood as foes in the guise of friends:
(1) he who appropriates a friend's possessions,
(2) he who renders lip-service,
(3) he who flatters,
(4) he who brings ruin.
(1) "In four ways, young householder, should one who appropriates be understood as a foe in the guise of a friend:
(i) he appropriates his friend's wealth,
(ii) he gives little and asks much,
(iii) he does his duty out of fear,
(iv) he associates for his own advantage.
(2) "In four ways, young householder, should one who renders lip-service be understood as a foe in the guise of a friend:
(i) he makes friendly profession as regards the past,
(ii) he makes friendly profession as regards the future,
(iii) he tries to gain one's favor by empty words,
(iv) when opportunity for service has arisen, he expresses his inability.
(3) "In four ways, young householder, should one who flatters be understood as a foe in the guise of a friend:
(i) he approves of his friend's evil deeds,
(ii) he disapproves his friend's good deeds,
(iii) he praises him in his presence,
(iv) he speaks ill of him in his absence.
(4) "In four ways, young householder, should one who brings ruin be understood as a foe in the guise of a friend:
(i) he is a companion in indulging in intoxicants that cause
infatuation and heedlessness,
(ii) he is a companion in sauntering in streets at unseemly hours,
(iii) he is a companion in frequenting theatrical shows,
(iv) he is a companion in indulging in gambling which causes heedlessness."
Thus spoke the Exalted One. And when the Master had thus spoken, he spoke yet again:
The friend who appropriates,
the friend who renders lip-service,
the friend that flatters,
the friend who brings ruin,
these four as enemies the wise behold,
avoid them from afar as paths of peril.
"These four, young householder, should be understood as warm-hearted friends:
(1) he who is a helpmate,
(2) he who is the same in happiness and sorrow,
(3) he who gives good counsel,
(4) he who sympathises.
(1) "In four ways, young householder, should a helpmate be understood as a warm-hearted friend:
(i) he guards the heedless,
(ii) he protects the wealth of the heedless,
(iii) he becomes a refuge when you are in danger,
(iv) when there are commitments he provides you with double the
(2) "In four ways, young householder, should one who is the same in happiness and sorrow be understood as a warm-hearted friend:
(i) he reveals his secrets,
(ii) he conceals one's own secrets,
(iii) in misfortune he does not forsake one,
(iv) his life even he sacrifices for one's sake.
(3) "In four ways, young householder, should one who gives good counsel be understood as a warm-hearted friend:
(i) he restrains one from doing evil,
(ii) he encourages one to do good,
(iii) he informs one of what is unknown to oneself,
(iv) he points out the path to heaven.
(4) "In four ways, young householder, should one who sympathises be understood as a warm-hearted friend:
(i) he does not rejoice in one's misfortune,
(ii) he rejoices in one's prosperity,
(iii) he restrains others speaking ill of oneself,
(iv) he praises those who speak well of oneself."
Thus spoke the Exalted One. And when the Master had thus spoken, he spoke yet again:
The friend who is a helpmate,
the friend in happiness and woe,
the friend who gives good counsel,
the friend who sympathises too —
these four as friends the wise behold
and cherish them devotedly
as does a mother her own child.
The wise and virtuous shine like a blazing fire.
He who acquires his wealth in harmless ways
like to a bee that honey gathers,
riches mount up for him
like ant hill's rapid growth.
With wealth acquired this way,
a layman fit for household life,
in portions four divides his wealth:
thus will he friendship win.
One portion for his wants he uses,
two portions on his business spends,
the fourth for times of need he keeps.
"And how, young householder, does a noble disciple cover the six quarters?
"The following should be looked upon as the six quarters. The parents should be looked upon as the East, teachers as the South, wife and children as the West, friends and associates as the North, servants and employees as the Nadir, ascetics and brahmans as the Zenith.
"In five ways, young householder, a child should minister to his parents as the East:
(i) Having supported me I shall support them,
(ii) I shall do their duties,
(iii) I shall keep the family tradition,
(iv) I shall make myself worthy of my inheritance,
(v) furthermore I shall offer alms in honor of my departed
"In five ways, young householder, the parents thus ministered to as the East by their children, show their compassion:
(i) they restrain them from evil,
(ii) they encourage them to do good,
(iii) they train them for a profession,
(iv) they arrange a suitable marriage,
(v) at the proper time they hand over their inheritance to them.
"In these five ways do children minister to their parents as the East and the parents show their compassion to their children. Thus is the East covered by them and made safe and secure.
"In five ways, young householder, a pupil should minister to a teacher as the South:
(i) by rising from the seat in salutation,
(ii) by attending on him,
(iii) by eagerness to learn,
(iv) by personal service,
(v) by respectful attention while receiving instructions.
"In five ways, young householder, do teachers thus ministered to as the South by their pupils, show their compassion:
(i) they train them in the best discipline,
(ii) they see that they grasp their lessons well,
(iii) they instruct them in the arts and sciences,
(iv) they introduce them to their friends and associates,
(v) they provide for their safety in every quarter.
"The teachers thus ministered to as the South by their pupils, show their compassion towards them in these five ways. Thus is the South covered by them and made safe and secure.
"In five ways, young householder, should a wife as the West be ministered to by a husband:
(i) by being courteous to her,
(ii) by not despising her,
(iii) by being faithful to her,
(iv) by handing over authority to her,
(v) by providing her with adornments.
"The wife thus ministered to as the West by her husband shows her compassion to her husband in five ways:
(i) she performs her duties well,
(ii) she is hospitable to relations and attendants(iii) she is faithful,
(iv) she protects what he brings,
(v) she is skilled and industrious in discharging her duties.
"In these five ways does the wife show her compassion to her husband who ministers to her as the West. Thus is the West covered by him and made safe and secure.
"In five ways, young householder, should a clansman minister to his friends and associates as the North:
(i) by liberality,
(ii) by courteous speech,
(iii) by being helpful,
(iv) by being impartial,
(v) by sincerity.
"The friends and associates thus ministered to as the North by a clansman show compassion to him in five ways:
(i) they protect him when he is heedless,
(ii) they protect his property when he is heedless,
(iii) they become a refuge when he is in danger,
(iv) they do not forsake him in his troubles,
(v) they show consideration for his family.
"The friends and associates thus ministered to as the North by a clansman show their compassion towards him in these five ways. Thus is the North covered by him and made safe and secure.
"In five ways should a master minister to his servants and employees as the Nadir:
(i) by assigning them work according to their ability,
(ii) by supplying them with food and with wages,
(iii) by tending them in sickness,
(iv) by sharing with them any delicacies,
(v) by granting them leave at times.
"The servants and employees thus ministered to as the Nadir by their master show their compassion to him in five ways:
(i) they rise before him,
(ii) they go to sleep after him,
(iii) they take only what is given,
(iv) they perform their duties well,
(v) they uphold his good name and fame.
"The servants and employees thus ministered to as the Nadir show their compassion towards him in these five ways. Thus is the Nadir covered by him and made safe and secure.
"In five ways, young householder, should a householder minister to ascetics and brahmans as the Zenith:
(i) by lovable deeds,
(ii) by lovable words,
(iii) by lovable thoughts,
(iv) by keeping open house to them,
(v) by supplying their material needs.
"The ascetics and brahmans thus ministered to as the Zenith by a householder show their compassion towards him in six ways:
(i) they restrain him from evil,
(ii) they persuade him to do good,
(iii) they love him with a kind heart,
(iv) they make him hear what he has not heard,
(v) they clarify what he has already heard,
(vi) they point out the path to a heavenly state.
"In these six ways do ascetics and brahmans show their compassion towards a householder who ministers to them as the Zenith. Thus is the Zenith covered by him and made safe and secure." Thus spoke the Exalted One. And when the Master had thus spoken, he spoke yet again:
The mother and father are the East,
The Teachers are the South,
Wife and Children are the West,
The friends and associates are the North.
Servants and employees are the Nadir,
The ascetics and brahmans are the Zenith;
Who is fit to lead the household life,
These six quarters he should salute.
Who is wise and virtuous,
Gentle and keen-witted,
Humble and amenable,
Such a one to honor may attain.
Who is energetic and not indolent,
In misfortune unshaken,
Flawless in manner and intelligent,
Such a one to honor may attain.
Who is hospitable, and friendly,
Liberal and unselfish,
A guide, an instructor, a leader,
Such a one to honor may attain.
Generosity, sweet speech,
Helpfulness to others,
Impartiality to all,
As the case demands.
These four winning ways make the world go round,
As the linchpin in a moving car.
If these in the world exist not,
Neither mother nor father will receive,
Respect and honor from their children.
Since these four winning ways
The wise appraise in every way,
To eminence they attain,
And praise they rightly gain.
When the Exalted One had spoken thus, Sigala, the young householder, said as follows:
"Excellent, Lord, excellent! It is as if, Lord, a man were to set upright that which was overturned, or were to reveal that which was hidden, or were to point out the way to one who had gone astray, or were to hold a lamp amidst the darkness, so that those who have eyes may see. Even so, has the doctrine been explained in various ways by the Exalted One.
"I take refuge, Lord, in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. May the Exalted One receive me as a lay follower; as one who has taken refuge from this very day to life's end."
"The symbolism is deliberately chosen: as the day in the East, so life begins with parents' care; teacher's fees and the South are the same word: dakkhina; domestic cares follow when the youth becomes man, as the West holds the later daylight; North is 'beyond' (uttara), so by help of friends, etc., he gets beyond troubles." — (Rhys Davids)
This is a sacred custom of the Aryans who never forgot the dead. This tradition is still faithfully observed by the Buddhists of Sri Lanka who make ceremonial offerings of alms to the monks on the eighth day, in the third month, and on each anniversary of the demise of the parents. Merit of these good actions is offered to the departed after such ceremony. Moreover after every punna-kamma (good action), a Buddhist never fails to think of his parents and offer merit. Such is the loyalty and the gratitude shown to parents as advised by the Buddha.
Why do two men from very similar socioeconomic and educational backgrounds sometimes take very different life paths? Is nature or nurture more important in determining a man’s success in his relationships and career? What physiological and psychological traits present in a man’s younger years predict his chances of living a long, flourishing life?
In 1938, researchers at Harvard’s medical school began a study that aimed to answer these fascinating questions and discover what factors lead to an “optimum” life. The study recruited 268 of the university’s sophomores from the all-male classes of 1939-1944, and set out to examine every aspect of their lives for at least a couple decades. The men selected were healthy in body and mind, and deemed likely to capitalize on their potential and become successful adults. While many of them came from well-off families, some were intelligent students who had been plucked from poor households and given full scholarships.
The study’s participants were signing on for extensive probing into their lives. They were given physicals and thorough psychological evaluations; researchers visited their homes to interview their parents, as well as three generations of relatives; each year the men filled out an exhaustive questionnaire that inquired about numerous aspects of their health, habits, family, political views, career, and marriage; and every 10-15 years, the men were interviewed face-to-face.
This research project, known as the Grant Study, continues today, more than 75 years after its inception. Having been extended numerous times, it has become one of the longest longitudinal studies ever conducted. When George Vaillant, who has been the study’s director for several decades, first started working on the project, he was thirty-two, and the participants were in their fifties; today, Vaillant is pushing eighty, and the men are in their nineties. The participants continue to fill out their annual questionnaires, and Vaillant continues to study their answers.
Nothing quite like the Grant Study has ever been attempted; as Vaillant puts it, this research represents “one of the first vantage points the world has ever had on which to stand and look prospectively at a man’s life from eighteen to ninety.” The mountains of data collected over more than seven decades has become a rich trove for examining what factors present in a man’s younger years best predict whether he will be successful and happy into old age. The study’s researchers have continually sifted through the results and reports in an attempt to ferret out these promising elements. As Vaillant details in The Triumphs of Experience, some of the researchers’ original hypotheses did not pan out, and the job of untangling issues of causation and correlation goes on. Yet several insights have emerged very strongly and prominently from the data, offering brightly marked guideposts to a life well lived.
Importance of Relationships
To discover what factors predicted a man’s ability to become a successful, well-adjusted adult, Vaillant created a list of ten accomplishments, which included career success and professional prominence, mental and physical health, a good marriage, supportive friendships, closeness to one’s children, the ability to enjoy work, love, and play, and a subjective level of happiness. He called this set of accomplishments the “Decathlon of Flourishing”, and measured the level to which each man in the study had achieved these “events” between the ages 65-80. Vaillant then looked back over the men’s personal histories to figure out what factors present earlier in the men’s lives most predicted their Decathlon score.
When Vaillant crunched the numbers, he discovered no significant relationship between a man’s level of flourishing and his IQ, his body type (mesomorph, ectomorph, endomorph), or the income and education level of his parents.
The factors that did loom large, and collectively predicted all ten Decathlon events, had one thing in common: relationships. This rubric included:
A warm, supportive childhood
A mature “coping style” (being able to roll with the punches, be patient with others, keep a sense of humor in the face of setbacks, delay gratification, etc.)
Overall “soundness” as evaluated during college years (resilient, warm personality, social, not overly sensitive)
Warm adult relationships between the ages of 37-47 (having close friends, maintaining contact with family, being active in social organizations)
Vaillant found that the men who had the best scores in these areas during their youth and mid-life, were the happiest, most successful, and best adjusted in their latter years. This is the finding of the Grant Study that has emerged most prominently: “It was the capacity for intimate relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.”
The powerful effect of intimate relationships can be seen in a variety of factors in a man’s life, including their income levels:
Men with at least one good relationship with a sibling growing up made $51,000 more per year than men who had poor relationships with their siblings, or no siblings at all
Men who grew up in cohesive homes made $66,000 more per year than men from unstable ones
Men with warm mothers took home $87,000 more than those men whose mothers were uncaring
The 58 men with the best scores for warm relationships made almost $150,000 more per year than the 31 men with the worst scores
Remember that these men all entered the workforce with a Harvard education. Also remember that their parents’ socioeconomic status turned out not to be a significant factor in their own future income.
In addition to finding that warm relationships in general had a positive impact on the men’s lives, Vaillant uncovered specific effects that stemmed from a man’s childhood, and from the respective influence of his mother and father.
The Impact of a Man’s Childhood
“Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love, to put its trust in life.” –Joseph Conrad
In order to gauge the effect of a man’s childhood on his future prospects in life, Vaillant scored the quality of the participants’ upbringing according to these criteria:
Was the home atmosphere warm and stable?
Was the boy’s relationship with his father warm and encouraging, conducive to autonomy, and supportive of initiative and self-esteem?
Was the boy’s relationship with his mother warm and encouraging, conducive to autonomy, and supportive of initiative and self-esteem?
Would the rater have wished to grow up in that home environment?
Was the boy close to at least one sibling?
The Cherished made 50% more money than the Loveless
The Cherished were 5X more likely to enjoy rich friendships and warm social supports at age seventy
The Loveless were 3.5X more likely to be diagnosed as mentally ill (which includes serious depression, abuse of drugs and alcohol, and need for extended psychiatric care)
The Loveless were 5X more likely to be unusually anxious
The Loveless took more prescription drugs of all kinds, and were twice as likely to seek medical attention for minor physical complaints
A Loving Childhood Develops Independence and Resilience While parenting pundits at various times in our history have worried that a household full of unwavering love and support could turn out a young man who was too coddled and dependent, the Grant Study found that abundant familial love, when coupled with an emphasis on autonomy and initiative, actually produced the most stoical (able to keep a stiff upper lip) and independent men. Such men, Vaillant explains, had learned to be comfortable with their feelings, and “that they could put their trust in life, which gave them courage to go out and face it.” In contrast, the men from the worst childhoods turned out to be the most dependent, and struggled with taking initiative.
This correlation held up even when examined in relation to the traditionally masculine pursuit of attaining military rank.
Since the Grant Study began at the outset of WWII, its researchers were naturally interested in tracking which aspects of the men’s physical and psychological make-up would best predict their likelihood of becoming officers during the war. They found that the rank the men had attained at the time of their discharge had no relation to their body type, intelligence, or their parents’ social class. Instead, higher rank was most strongly correlated with a loving childhood, and whether a man had warm relationships with his mother and siblings. “Twenty-four of the twenty-seven men with the warmest childhoods made at least first lieutenant, and four became majors. In contrast, of the thirty men with the worst childhoods, thirteen failed to make first lieutenant, and none became majors.” As Vaillant concludes, “We don’t breed good officers; we don’t even build them on the playing fields of Eton; we raise them in loving homes.”
What Goes Right Matters More Than What Goes Wrong
In studying the powerful impact a man’s childhood has on his prospects for health, happiness, and success, an important corollary was discovered: “it is not any one thing for good or ill—social advantage, abusive parents, physical weakness—that determines the way children adapt to life, but the quality of their total experience.” Basically, what the Grant Study found is that even if a lot of bad things happen during your childhood, if they’re outweighed by the good things, you’ll still turn out okay. So if, say, a man had an absent father but a warm relationship with his mother and siblings, or cold parents, but loving grandparents, his prospects for future flourishing were still good. It was not any one factor, or constellation of factors, Vaillant reports, but the quality of one’s childhood as a whole that mattered most.
This point is driven home by the findings of a study that was done in tandem with the Grant Study.
Since the participants in the Grant Study were not a terribly diverse group, in 1940 researchers began to run the Gluek Study alongside it, which included a second cohort of 456 disadvantaged non-delinquent inner-city youths from the Boston area. When the childhoods of the men in this study were examined, it was found that even if the family was poor, the father was on welfare, and the family had numerous other problems, sons who were loved by their mothers, admired their dads, and had good friendships went on to become successful and attain a higher socioeconomic status. This explains why men who grew up in impoverished households, but who go on to flourish anyway, often say things like, “Even though we were poor, we never realized it when we were children, because our parents made our home such a wonderful place.”
Vaillant further found that in both studies, “Even the death of a parent was relatively unimportant predictively by the time the men were fifty; by the time they were eighty, men who had lost parents when young were as mentally and physically healthy as men whose parents had lovingly watched them graduate from high school.”
The Influence of a Mother Not only did a man’s overall childhood experience greatly impact the rest of his life, but his mother and father each influenced it in a particular way. The Grant Study found that a warm relationship with his mother was significantly associated with a man’s:
effectiveness at work
maximum late-life income
military rank at the end of WWII
inclusion in Who’s Who
IQ in college
Verbal test scores
Class rank in college
Mental competence at age 80
On the flip side of that last point is the fact that “a poor relationship with his mother was very significantly, and very surprisingly, associated with dementia.” Men who lacked a warm relationship with their mothers were 3X more likely to get dementia in their old age.
One of the findings of the study that I personally found most interesting, was that “a mother who could enjoy her son’s initiative and autonomy was a tremendous boon to his future.” Mothers of men who scored highly on the Decathlon of Flourishing admired their sons’ assertiveness, and boasted to researchers that their boys were “fearless to the point of being reckless,” “could fight any kid on the block,” and “is a tyrant in a way that I adore.” In other words, mothers who celebrated their boys’ boyishness bolstered their chances of achieving a successful, mature manhood.
The Influence of a Father The Grant Study also found influences that were associated exclusively with dads. Loving fathers imparted to their sons:
enhanced capacity to play
more enjoyment of vacations
greater likelihood of being able to use humor as a healthy coping mechanism
better adjustment to, and contentment with, life after retirement
less anxiety and fewer physical and mental symptoms under stress in young adulthood
In the negative column, it “was not the men with poor mothering but the ones with poor fathering who were significantly more likely to have poor marriages over their lifetimes.” Men who lacked a positive relationship with their fathers were also “much more likely to call themselves pessimists and to report having trouble letting others get close.”
If there was ever any doubt, fathers matter, a lot: When all is said and done, a man’s relationship with his father very significantly predicted his overall life satisfaction at age 75 — “a variable not even suggestively associated with the maternal relationship.”
Men and Marriage
A man’s relationships in childhood were not the only ones that affected his life’s outcome. His friendships in mid-life also played a role, as did, of course, the quality of his marriage.
When several decades ago Vaillant evaluated the men according to “Adult Adjustment Outcome determinations” (a kind of earlier version of the Decathlon of Flourishing, from what I gather), he found that:
“all of the fifty-five Best Outcomes had gotten married relatively early and stayed married for most of their adult lives. (And by the time those men were eighty-five, we learned later, only one marriage had ended in divorce.) In contrast, among the seventy-eight Worst Outcomes, five had never married, and by seventy-five years of age, thirty-five (45 percent) of the marriages had ended in divorce. Proportionately three times as many of the Best Adjusted men enjoyed lifelong happy marriages as the Worst.”
The effect of marriage was even starker for the inner-city men of the Glueck Study: “two-thirds of the never-married were in the bottom fifth in overall social relations, 57 percent were in the bottom fifth in income, and 71 percent were classified by the Study raters as mentally ill.”
These results were not too surprising – marriage has been found to correlate to better life outcomes for men in other studies as well. But Vaillant did make a few other findings that were less expected:
Earlier in his career, Vaillant had supposed that divorced men would not fare any better in their second marriages – that their first marriages had failed because of psychological traits and behaviors that would similarly doom future attempts at matrimony. But when he checked in with the men at age eighty-five, 23 of the surviving 27 divorced and remarried men were in happy marriages that had lasted for an average of 30 years. The failure of a first marriage did not mean a man was incapable of succeeding the second time round.
The single most important factor in all the study participants’ divorces was alcoholism – either the men’s or their wives. 57% of the divorces could be traced to it. While the wives were usually open about their husbands’ drinking problems, the husbands were often reluctant to talk about their wives’ alcoholism, and it thus took almost 70 years for this finding to emerge.
While co-dependence is often a dirty word in our culture, spouses’ mutual dependence on each other was associated with happy and healthy marriages.
This dependence deepens with time, as does the happiness of marriages. When the men were ages 20-70 only 18% reported that their marriage had been consistently happy (as opposed to so-so or unhappy) for at least 20 years. (The lowness of this number may partially be a generational thing – the WWII generation had different criteria in choosing a spouse and expectations for the relationship.) But at age eighty-five, 76% said their marriages were happy. In old age, spouses increasingly rely on each other, and with the passing of time we tend to remember only the good and forget the bad. Husbands and wives truly grow more precious to each other as they enter the twilight of their lives.
Overall, the Grant Study showed that a happy marriage is an incredibly positive thing in a man’s life. What then makes for wedded bliss? Vaillant doesn’t delve too much into that question, but holds up what is perhaps the most successful marriage in the study as an example. This couple, who Vaillant calls “the Chipps” (a pseudonym), enjoyed doing various activities — they regularly sailed, took a yearly canoeing trip to Nova Scotia, and walked 3 miles a day together.
They always kept a sense of humor about everything. Instead of resorting to passive aggression, husband and wife talked openly talked about their issues and “even conflict was filled with laughter.” By the time this gentleman was 80, “he (and his wife) had been giving their marriage rave reviews for six decades”; “I’ve lived happily ever after,” he gushed to his interviewer. Indeed, as Vaillant looked through his notes on him, he found he had written that Mr. Chipps was “perhaps the happiest man in the study.”
Hope for Those Who Had an Inauspicious Start in Life
In looking over the association between childhood, marriage, and the trajectory of a man’s life, Vaillant concludes that “The majority of the men who flourished found love before thirty, and that was why they flourished.” Whether familial, romantic, or even platonic, men who enjoyed warm relationships in their youth went on to live the fullest, happiest, most successful lives.
Why would this be so? Men who were loved, and learned to love in their younger years, develop positive mental health, resilience, and a capacity for intimacy — qualities that “reflect the process of replacing narcissism with empathy” and lead to greater confidence, autonomy, social and emotional intelligence, and maturity. These traits in turn lead not only to more relationships, but success in other areas (like one’s career). In contrast, men who had bleak childhoods have a harder time forming intimate relationships, are more likely “to be pessimistic and self-doubting,” and are “handicapped later in mastering the assertiveness, initiative, and autonomy that are the foundation of successful adulthood.”
For those readers who enjoyed warm, loving support in their younger years, the above findings have likely been an interesting look at some of the reasons they’ve been able to find a positive path in life. For those who are currently or hope to one day be fathers, it hopefully inspires you to create a warm and nurturing household for your own children.
But for readers whose upbringing left much to be desired, these findings may seem depressing and fatalistic. Yet all hope is not lost. The Grant Study does show that a grim childhood definitely stacks the deck against you – there’s no way around that. But the study also revealed that “people really can change, and people really can grow. Childhood need be neither destiny nor doom.” Some of the participants who had an inauspicious start in life were able to turn their lives around, and go on to flourish in their later years. How did they do it? Vaillant points to “restorative marriages and maturing [psychological] defenses” as “the soil out of which new resilience and post-traumatic growth emerge.”
Marriage as a Healer
As we have seen, a warm childhood strongly predicted a man’s score in most of the events in the Decathlon of Flourishing. But not all of them. Vaillant was surprised to find that “bleak childhoods were not always associated with bleak marriages”:
“With the exception of a man’s closeness to his father, childhood environment did not predict stable marriage, and even where a warm paternal relationship was lacking, good marriages could be made—eventually. Indeed, marriage seemed to be a means for making good on a poor childhood. After almost fifty years of following disadvantaged youths, psychologist Emmy Werner noted that ‘the most salient turning points . . . for most of these troubled individuals were meeting a caring friend and marrying an accepting spouse.’”
Vaillant found that the men in the study who hadn’t learned to love, and be loved as a boy, but who went on to flourish against the odds, used marriage as a second chance to figure out the landscape of intimacy. (Having children provided a similar opportunity to open their hearts in a new way.) While Vaillant found that “The most dependent adults came from the most unhappy childhoods,” as mentioned above, mutual dependence can actually be a healthy thing. For these men, it indeed turned out to be quite healing. Ultimately, marriage, “however imperfect, is an opportunity to assuage some of the loneliness of bleak early years.”
What’s even more interesting is that while many folks think that two people with “baggage” will have a tough time making a go at a successful marriage together, Vaillant found that this was not necessarily the case: “It turned out that happy marriages after eighty were not associated either with warm childhoods or with mature defenses in early adulthood—that is, you don’t have to start out ‘all grown up’ to end up solidly married.” Instead, marriage might just be the best “classroom” for learning how to be a mature man.
Mature Defenses Beyond warm relationships, two of the factors that most strongly predicted a man’s Decathlon score were mature defenses and character traits.
Mature defenses are our “involuntary psychological coping style” – the ways we instinctively respond to and deal with setbacks, frustration, pain, etc. Immature defenses include things like passive aggression, projection, and denial. They seek to put the responsibility for what happens on other people. In contrast, men with mature defenses take ownership of what happens to them, and try to figure out a healthy way to deal with life’s challenges. These healthy coping methods include things like keeping a sense of humor, finding a gratifying alternative when you can’t get what you want, being altruistic, and facing problems with resilience and stoicism. Mature defenses are a huge factor both in rewarding relationships, and success in one’s career; the twelve men with the most mature coping styles made over $200k more a year than the sixteen men with the most immature coping styles.
Vaillant points out that these mature defenses can unfortunately not be developed through willpower alone – your upbringing, environment, and even genetics play a role. But they are at least partially under your control, and can be actively strengthened and developed throughout your life.
Character Traits There are also several character traits strongly associated with flourishing, and their cultivation is happily within our control to a greater degree.
When Vaillant looked at 26 personality traits the men in the Grant Study had been evaluated on in college, he found that a trait called “Practical, Organized” best predicted their mental health in middle-age. This trait involves, obviously, the ability to organize one’s life, as well as to delay gratification. In a related study, “prudence, forethought, willpower, and perseverance in junior high school were the best predictors of vocational success at age fifty.”
Vaillant uncovered another related trait that correlated with a whopping 8 Decathlon events: “Well Integrated.” Men who were “well integrated” were deemed to be “steady, dependable, thorough, sincere, and trustworthy,” while those who were Incompletely Integrated lacked perseverance and were seen as “erratic, unreliable, sporadic, undependable, ill directed and little organized.” Compared to the Incompletely Integrated, the Well Integrated men:
Were 4X more likely to enjoy a good marriage
Lived, on average, seven years longer
Were significantly more likely to be physically active and cognitively intact in old age
Finally, while body type turned out not to predict a man’s score on the Decathlon of Flourishing, athletic prowess was in fact strongly associated with it. That is, it seems that while the body type a man was born with didn’t affect the trajectory of his life, what he did with that body mattered (remember that Churchill was born an endomorph and fought it every step of the way!).
This association between fitness and flourishing may possibly be chalked up to the benefits that physical training provides; staying in shape, as we know, can strengthen our discipline, boost our minds, and impart metaphorical life lessons as to the importance of things like humility and consistency. It is perhaps for this reason that the participants’ performance in a physical test of endurance turned out to be a better predictor of their ability to form successful relationships than even of their health later in life. Exercise makes us better people.
Whatever Your Upbringing, You Can Become the Man You Want to Be
That qualities like organization, discipline, and dependability would so strongly predict flourishing in middle and late life should not be surprising; they are, Vaillant notes, “precisely the traits people need to find ways around failures, and make the most of successes when they come along.” So too they are fortunately qualities that we can develop in ourselves, no matter how much, or how little, training we got in them in our youth. Those who were never taught as a boy the importance of scheduling their time, persevering in the face of setbacks, and developing their trustworthiness will certainly have a tougher row to hoe, but learning these skills is possible at any age.
While it is easiest to pick up new habits before your mid-twenties, when your brain is most pliable, our brains remain plastic and moldable throughout our lives. In fact, the process of myelinization – which increases the efficiency of our neurons – continues up until age 60. During that time, our prefrontal lobes (which function as the practical, organized, CEO of our brains) can become better and better at checking the limbic parts of our brains (which cause us to be unthinkingly impulsive). Thus Vaillant found that the study participants, regardless of their upbringing, could grow over time – could become wiser, more patient, more mature. The more such traits are actively sought, and exercised, the more you can aid and accelerate that process. So start working on your character early if you can, and continue to practice the qualities of mature manhood in every decade of your life. As Vaillant notes, ultimately what the men “did with a loving or bleak childhood had as much to do with future success as the childhood itself.”
Conclusion: Love Is All You Need (Even When You’re a Dude)
The recent years of the Grant Study have shown that our lives when we are old are the sum of all of our loves.” –George Vaillant
What leads to a flourishing life has been debated and discussed for centuries. Is it your parents’ social class? It is a career with a high income? Is it the type of body you’re born with?
After decades of studying the scope of men’s lives from ages 18-90, Valliant’s answer is this: “Happiness is love. Full stop.” It’s really a conclusion all of us knew all along, but it helps to be reminded of it, and to see that it is backed up not only by intuition, but by nearly 80 years of research.
Character traits matter too, but even then their real importance is helping us replace a scattered narcissism with the steady maturity that leads to rewarding relationships. Perhaps it sounds cheesy, but we are ultimately here to love, and to be loved. Love leads to our ability to “put our trust in life” and the confidence to tackle our goals. Thus if we fill our lives with warm, rich relationships, all the other good stuff – career success, prestige, adventure – will be sure to follow.