What does virtue mean


Virtue is a morally outstanding, irreproachable attitude that serves as a positive moral example for society and promotes individual and collective greatness. It is the opposite of vice. People who exemplify valuable virtues are admired and are role models.

Virtue as a source of joy and happiness

Here in the Yoga Wiki you will find over 3000 virtues and personality traits described. You will find the etymological origin of the term virtue in question, synonyms, antonyms, a video lecture, exercises, tips, affirmations. Every virtue has philosophical, psychological, psychotherapeutic, spiritual, cultural, literary, ethical and religious aspects. You can find all of this here on the wiki. Enter the name of virtue, personality trait, vice, in the search field above - this way you can find out a lot of inspiring things.

What is a virtue anyway?

From a lecture by Sukadev Bretz

Virtue is a somewhat ancient expression and today rarely anyone talks about virtues. Virtues are important terms and contain a lot of value. Virtues are positive qualities that are inherent in people. Virtues are also qualities that can be further developed. There are various virtues. There are active virtues like energy, like courage, like assertiveness, like willpower.

And there are more calming virtues, such as calm, peacefulness and equanimity, serenity. There are virtues that are important when things get difficult, for example when there are great challenges. Then you can use calm and serenity, but also steadfastness and constancy. But there are also virtues, such as speed, which can also be a virtue or attention, alertness.

So, there are many virtues, and I would like to talk about them in detail. Each virtue has a specific task, a specific focus, and each of the virtues makes sense in a specific situation. It can also be said that virtues are the right measure of a quality or ability. If we look at rest, for example: Too much rest is indolence, rest needs speed as the opposite pole. But if you are too fast, then you are nervous and reckless. If you are too calm, then you can be sluggish and stubborn.

Or if we look at courage: Sufficient courage is good, too much courage means daring and maybe boldness, maybe also frivolity. Too little courage is fear and shyness. There is also caution. So, it takes courage and it takes caution. Too much caution leads to fear, too little caution then means willfulness. And that is the interesting thing about virtues, every virtue has an opposite pole and you need both poles; both have to be developed within.

Now there are also certain skills that some people have more. I come from the field of yoga, there is also Ayurveda, for example, and in Ayurveda each of the so-called doshas has certain characteristics and these can have positive or negative effects - depending on their characteristics. Take Pitta, for example: Pitta is the fiery temperament. Pitta has as positive characteristics courage, energy, assertiveness, decision-making power and perseverance.

These are properties of the Pitta element, these are positive properties and virtues. But there are also the negative properties of the Pitta element. This can be intolerance, irritability, anger, anger, or frustration. This can also include being overwhelmed by oneself and others, or hot-headed.

And there is the Vata element. Vata is the airy type. There are the positive qualities of the Vata-type: versatile interest, the ability to approach others openly; the ability to quickly tune in: adaptability, flexibility. These are positive qualities of the Vata element. Negative properties of the Vata element are: unpunctuality, unreliability, inconsistency, volatility.

And there is the element of kapha. Positive characteristics of the Kapha element are: reliability, persistence, perseverance, comfort, reliability, also friendliness. The Kapha element also has negative qualities such as stubbornness, laziness, indolence, melancholy, sadness.

So you see, every person has different characteristics and some of them are stronger, some a little weaker. And it is important to develop your most important properties - these are then the primary properties. Then it is important not to let the properties overturn so that they do not turn negative. And it is important to develop auxiliary traits that help the main traits to develop.

You will notice this in the course of these lectures on the subject of "virtues". And maybe you can use that as an opportunity to reflect a little about each individual virtue. You can always see what that one quality means to you and how you can cultivate it and how you can use it positively. It is also something important that you also think about the individual virtues that work particularly in you. And so I would like to close this first lecture, you can now think for yourself, which virtue determines you in particular?

Which virtue do you see as particularly positive in yourself? Is it courage, patience, empathy, comfort, calm, mindfulness, assertiveness or persistence? Or which of these virtues describes you particularly well? And when you have considered that, you can also look, for the tasks that are at hand, how you can perhaps make this virtue usable in a particular measure.

Third, you could also consider, there is one quality that you would need to cultivate more so that your basic virtue can be exercised better.

So, three tasks. The first, you can consider which virtues, character or personality traits best describe you. What are your strengths that you already have? Second, can you consider using these strengths for your tasks? Or - if you don't (yet) use it: How could you use it (even more)? Third: Are there any additional virtues or qualities that you could still develop? That would be nice so that your skills can be used even better and you can do even more good in the world.


On the etymology of the word

The German word virtue is derived from the Old High German "Tugund" -Kraft, Tähigkeit (from: taugen) - from. In Middle High German it mainly referred to characteristics with male connotations. With regard to virtues with feminine connotations, the Church later gave the word the meaning of sexual restraint, chastity.

Virtue includes positive traits, ethical behaviors that are aligned with high ideals. Virtue itself is already a virtue: a virtuous person is a person who expresses the principles of ethics in his behavior, in his lifestyle, in his words. Virtues are ethical ideals that are put into practice. The original meaning of virtue is fitness.

Suitability originally meant excellence. Nowadays, virtue is usually understood to be an important or desirable quality which enables a person to live the morally good. Those who have virtues are held in high esteem.

Virtues and values

A virtue is a way of thinking and behaving at a high moral level. Virtues can be based on values ​​in a broader context. Every individual has a core of underlying values ​​that contribute to their system of beliefs, ideas and / or opinions.

Integrity in applying a value provides continuity, and this continuity separates a value from beliefs, opinions and ideas. In this context, a value (e.g. truth or equality or creed) is the core from which we act or react.

Societies have values ​​that are shared by many of the members of that culture. The individual values ​​are usually largely, but not always entirely, in line with the values ​​of the culture.

Meditation on the Twelve Virtues according to Swami Sivananda

Swami Sivananda recommends in his works to meditate on virtues in order to develop them. Here are the 12 virtues one can develop through meditation. Swami Sivananda writes on the subject of meditation on the virtues:

Meditate on these 12 virtues for ten minutes a day:

Humility in january,
Boldness (arjava) in February,
Courage in march,
Patience in april,
Mercy (karuna) in May,
Generosity in June,
Integrity in July,
Pure love in August
Generosity in september,
Forgiveness in October
Equanimity in november,
Satisfaction in December.

Also meditate on the virtues of purity, perseverance, diligence, attention (sahasa), happiness (utsaha). The student has to imagine that he has these virtues and say to himself: I am patient. From now on I will not let myself be disturbed anymore.

I will prove this virtue in daily life and I am already making progress. He must think of the advantages of this virtue of patience and the disadvantages of irritability. The spiritual path is hard, thorny and steep. The foot may get tired and sore. The heart may beat painfully.

But the reward is wonderful: it is immortality. That is why one must persevere and go on courageously. But always be on your guard, skillful and fast like a squirrel. There are places to rest along the way. Quietly listen to the inner voice. She will guide you when you are pure and steadfast.

Kinds of virtues

Moral virtues

The moral virtues are the values ​​that encourage people to do well. These include:

Cardinal virtues

Cardinal virtues are basically understood to mean the following 4 properties:

Virtues in Buddhism

Buddhism establishes 5 silas (basic rules) on how to behave morally:

  • 1. Do not injure or harm a living creature,
  • 2. Don't steal, don't take anything that hasn't been given to us,
  • 3. no irresponsible sexual acts,
  • 4. no lying, no wrong or hurtful speech, no gossip, no defamation,
  • 5. Do not consume mind-altering substances such as alcohol or drugs.

Knight virtues

Knight virtues are characteristics like

Christian virtues

In Christianity are the three theological virtues

Love is considered the greatest of the three. Love is defined as: "patient, kind, not jealous, boastful, arrogant, or rude."

Bourgeois virtues

Civil virtues include, in particular, qualities such as

More examples of virtues

Virtues of self-control

  • Temperance - self-control over enjoyment
  • Mind - self-control over anger
  • Ambition - self-control in relation to one's goals
  • Curiosity - self-control over knowledge
  • Frugality - self-control in relation to the material lifestyle
  • Zeal - Self-control over play, recreation, and entertainment
  • Contentment - self-control over the possessions and possessions of others
  • Sexual temperance - self-control over sexual relationships

Virtues of self-efficacy

  • Courage - a willingness to do the right thing in the face of danger and experience pain, significant danger, or risk in the process
  • Patience - ability to wait for what is desired
  • Perseverance - courageous patience

Virtues of intuition

More thoughts on 'virtues'

Individual virtues can be classified into one of four categories:

  • ethical: good - bad, moral - immoral, just - unjust, sincere - insincere
  • aesthetic: asymmetrical, pleasing
  • doctrinal: political, ideological, religious or social beliefs and values
  • innate: female - male, Prussian, military

Trust as a helpful virtue

- An article from the Yoga Vidya Journal No. 41, II / 2020 by Sukadev Bretz -

Trust is a word that is important and has many different meanings. I regularly give weekend seminars on trust, and I've also given a whole series of podcasts on the subject.

What is trust, how can you develop trust? There are different forms of trust. I think trust in God, the deep trust that there is a higher divine power behind everything, is particularly important.

Of course, this type of trust also means that you can learn behind everything that is coming, even if you cannot understand everything, to feel a higher force that you can trust.

Do you trust God or do you trust fate?

Trust in fate

What is to be understood by trust in fate? Trusting fate means that what happens is something you can grow from. Things go wrong, no doubt. What you've built up will eventually break down. Your healthy body can at some point get sick, accidents happen, people cheat on you, all of this happens. A kind of fateful trust would mean that you can grow with anything. When things are difficult or when challenges come, when you are disappointed, somehow you will grow from it. That kind of fateful trust is something very helpful. It is a dynamic trust, not a trust that things will turn out the way you would like, but that things will turn out the way that is helpful for your personal and spiritual development.

Trust in other people

Trust in other people is the next type of trust. You need a certain trust to be able to deal with other people at all. For example, you have trust in your partner, you have a certain trust in your boss, in your colleagues, in your customers. Without trust, hardly anything would work, but first of all that is, one can say, practical trust. They also say: “Trust, look who!” So ​​if you practice trust, not everyone will live up to the trust. This type of trust is often disappointed. Still, you can assume that ninety percent of the time people will live up to your trust, maybe ninety-five or ninety-eight percent of the time. One must not let the one, two or five percent of the abuse of trust become general mistrust.

But I want to take this trust in other people to a deeper level. Trust in other people also means the deep trust that you are deeply connected to other people. In yoga we say we are all one: “The depth of my soul is one with the soul of others. And we are all one with the world soul, we are not as different as one might think. ”And even when the other does strange things, we trust that we are deeply connected. Everything is ultimately cosmic purple, cosmic game. We also trust that the other somehow means well. The other may be misled. The other may act out of hurt or hurt, the other may have gotten on the wrong track, but we still have a deep trust that the person is good deep down inside.


Then there is one final type of trust, which is trust in yourself, self-confidence. “Whatever happens on the outside, I am the immortal self. The body may get sick, the psyche may go through crises, but I myself am pure consciousness, I myself am the immortal soul. "

If you pursue this question, you come from: “Who am I?” To trust: “I am the immortal self”. And then there is another kind of self-confidence: "I have all the strength and abilities that are necessary to tackle the tasks that life gives me." That would be the highest kind of self-confidence. Maybe you can have that kind of confidence, maybe you can't, but maybe you like to think about it. Self-confidence also means: “Whatever comes, I have the right strength for it. Even when things go wrong, I grow with them. ”These are many forms of trust, and there are many more. It has been shown empirically that people who get burned out have different things in common. Anyone who has a tendency to burnout or gets into burnout is often someone who has a high sense of responsibility, a high level of willingness to perform and high standards, often with a strong inner drive and demand for perfection, he wants to do good. He challenges himself to the limit. And then there could be an experience that is interpreted as a breach of trust. If there is a breach of trust, the painstakingly held combination of high standards and intensive commitment can lead to excessive demands.

Sometimes it helps to think, “When did it happen? When did such a breach of trust happen? ”Perhaps you can transform this external type of breach of trust into a deep trust. Even if someone has abused your trust in some external way, you can still be deeply connected to him or her.You can see it as a learning task, fate has also worked in this, and God has worked in this too.

Hatha yoga, pranayama and deep relaxation can be a path to deep trust.

Hatha Yoga and Trust - bodywork for self-confidence and courage

Hatha yoga is the yoga of physical exercise. In Hatha Yoga it is said that the state of mind, prana (life energy) and the body are connected. Thinking and feeling manifests itself in the body - as relaxation / tension, as posture, as a form of breathing ecetera. Through changes in the body you can influence your prana, the life energy, and thus also the mind. If your trust is shaken, your prana is restless, your breath is restless, your body is tense, your posture is sunk. You can work on this very well in Hatha Yoga

Confidence through asanas, yoga postures

Through asanas, yoga postures, you can get a good, trusting posture: You straighten up, you release tension. Some asanas (postures) especially develop trust:

  • Through positions of devotion such as the position of the child (Garbhasana) or forward bend (Paschimottanasana) you come into contact with your basic trust
  • By bending back like cobra (Bhujangasana), crescent moon (Anjaneyasana), fish (Matsyasana), you open your heart - joy, love, trust in your fellow human beings, in fate, in God can come back
  • Through balance exercises such as the tree (Vrikshasana), crow (Kakasana), headstand (Shirshasana) you gain confidence in your own abilities - and in your ability to keep your balance even in the storms of life.

Developing trust through pranayama, breathing exercises

Breath and state of mind are closely related. When current fears, disappointments, and accumulating everyday anger affect the mood, then the breath is also affected. Fears make the breath restless, cramp up the stomach, and the breath becomes shallow. When there is anger, the breath becomes restless, pressed. Often times, people who are upset breathe with the chest. Frustrated people often breathe shallowly and tightly. With your breath you can change your state of mind - and gain new confidence. You can absorb new energy through breathing exercises (pranayama). When you have more energy, the confidence comes back - the confidence that you can change something, the confidence that everything will turn out well - and the confidence that you can deal with the situation even if it goes wrong. The world looks calmer with more energy. Breathing Exercises To Gain And Regain Confidence:

  • Deep Abdominal Breathing: Exhale for 4 seconds, then inhale for 4 seconds. Exhale completely, inhale gently. When you breathe out, the belly goes in, when you breathe in, the belly curves gently forward. This breathing helps to harmonize Prana and thus balance the energies. Deep abdominal breathing helps you to center yourself. If you feel in your center and feel harmony, you will quickly regain confidence.
  • Murccha, extended exhalation: If you are annoyed about something, Murccha can give you inner peace again. Murccha is considered to be Pitta-harmonizing breathing, i.e. anger-reducing breathing. Anger often leads to dwindling trust. Instructions: Breathe in gently. Then exhale slowly, at least twice as slowly as when inhaling. Inhale gently over and over and exhale as slowly as possible. After about 5-10 breaths you will become calmer and you will regain confidence in what is good in people and in your ability to do good.
  • Kapalabhati is the quick breath. Kapalabhati activates the energies - you blow away the disturbing. When you have such new energy and have "blown away" the disturbing things from mind and energy body, trust comes of itself.
  • Alternate breathing (Anuloma Viloma and Nadi Shodhana): Alternate breathing balances the energies, develops the ability to concentrate and inner calm in the midst of the ups and downs of everyday life - in other words: alternate breathing creates a good basis for constant trust.
  • Agni Sara, the fire purification, actually belongs to the Kriyas. Kriyas are the purification exercises in Hatha Yoga. Agni Sara massages all abdominal organs, relieves tension in the abdominal area. Agni Sara enables access to the inner center, also called solar energy, self-awareness. Agni Sara kindles the inner fire, i.e. enthusiasm, assertiveness and courage. Brief instructions for Agni Sara for trust: Stand upright and relaxed. Take a deep breath all the way. Then exhale quickly through your mouth, bend your knees slightly and prop yourself up on your knees or thighs. Hold your breath with empty lungs. Without breathing, give your stomach back and forth, over and over again. When the inhalation impulse comes, move your stomach forward, inhale again, and straighten up. Practice about 3 rounds of Agni Sara. Agni Sara is also suitable in the morning to wake up well. Agni Sara is also suitable in between to resolve stuck emotions.
  • Yoga eye exercises for confidence: The eyes are also connected to the state of mind. If you raise your eyes to the sky, look at the sky, while arching your chest, you can feel a connection to heavenly energy, maybe also to God. Or look at a tree for a while and feel it. You will gain inner strength and new trust: A tree has already experienced so much - when you connect with it, you feel trust.

Deep relaxation as a means of developing confidence

Everyday stress as well as intense negative experiences can manifest as tensions in the body and mind that remain even after the event (s) have long passed. Thinking and feeling interpret the presence of tension that something is wrong. This creates a feeling of mistrust out of tension - which is the opposite of the feeling of trust. So it is important to release the tension in the body. Then the psyche interprets the perceived state of relaxation of the body, that everything is in order - this creates a feeling of trust.

How can you relieve tension in order to gain confidence? Yoga deep relaxation is particularly suitable for this: Yoga deep relaxation uses various relaxation techniques for body, psyche and spirit - so you can relax thoroughly. This creates a positive feedback loop, an angelic cycle: You feel relaxation in your body and psyche - and you feel trust. You feel trust - and you can relax.

Viveka Chudamani - virtues as a manifestation of sattva

The choice is yours: Live a sattvic ethical life

- Commentary on Viveka Chudamani verse 118 by Sukadev Bretz -

The qualities of the mixed sattva are humility, yamas and niyamas, belief, devotion, longing for liberation, divine virtues and turning away from the unreal.

What can you do to have more sattva?

When sattva is prevalent, the self shines within you. When you have cultivated sattva within yourself, you can perceive the divine everywhere. What can you do to have more sattva?

Last time I talked about it, make your life sattvig:

Be humble

All of this helps you to experience God sooner. There are some virtues that you can cultivate. Develop humility. There are always people who get arrogant on the yoga path. And say: you are not ready yet. Only I am ready. It is then a kind of arrogance. Don't be haughty. Be humble.

Develop Yamas and Niyamas

Then he says Yamas and Niyamas. You probably know the yamas and niyamas of Patanjali. The five yamas:

The five niyamas are then:

Faith and trust are important

Then he speaks especially of faith and trust. When you keep having doubts on the spiritual path. Then this is often a sign that your sattva has decreased. Instead of saying: I have to think and think again now. You have to live sattviger. It also means that if you are dissatisfied with your teacher, then you have gone astray somewhere. Of course, you have to check everything first. There is no such thing as blind faith in yoga. First weigh carefully. Trying to find out what life is about Trying to find out what's the goal of my life? Is the teaching I follow a good one? Is the teacher I follow a Sattviger, a Reiner? If you have checked all of this and keep having new doubts, then it is a sign that you are coming out of the sattva. Develop sattva.

Practice bhakti - devotion to God

Then he speaks of bhakti, surrender to God. Among the paths that lead to enlightenment quickly, bhakti is one of the most outstanding. So Shankaracharya recommends cultivating bhakti, love of God and devotion.

A sattvic life leads to great mumukshutva

Then he talks about liberation, Mumukshutva. The longing for liberation grows stronger as you become more satiated. I also experience that in the ashram in which I live. There are many spiritual aspirants here. Those who live in the Ashram live a very sattvik life. Then they have a greater desire for liberation. Sometimes they think the Ashram is not enough for them. They want more meditation, more asanas, more pranayama, more time to study spiritual scriptures. Because the ashram life with Yoga Vidya is also Seva-oriented, altruistic service. We take the standpoint in the classical tradition that one can overcome the ego through unselfish service.

Then there are always people who then say it is not enough, there are also people here who are not quite so spiritual. They leave the ashram thinking they are going to practice a lot now. Usually this lasts for one to four weeks, sometimes three months. After that, the practice becomes considerably less. If there is less external sattva in life, so will mumukshutva. Conversely, if you notice in yourself that the spiritual motivation, the spiritual interest has decreased, then go back to the ashram for a while. Do a weekend seminar, an intensive week, or a week or month of Karma Yoga. In this way your spiritual pursuit will be strengthened again. Sattva leads to Mumukshutva. Mumukshutva to more sattva.

Shat Sampat - Cultivating Divine Virtues

Then he talks about divine virtues, Sampatti. Often interpreted as the Shat Sampat. These are then what he previously called Shamadi shatkam.

Krishna has also described in a chapter what the daivi sampatti, divine attributes of a disciple are. You can cultivate all of this and develop the ability to reach the highest. That is perhaps what is special about Viveka Chudamani compared to other writings of Shankaracharya. That is how much he values ​​holistic yoga. He says this much: make your mind sattvig. Anchor yourself in Yamas and Niyamas. Make sure you are in control of your mind. Make sure you can control your prana. That you get the prana subtle. All of this enables the mind to Viveka.

The four vivekas

Here Shankaracharya also follows what Patanjali says. To liberate Kaivalya you come through Viveka. Viveka Khyati, constant discernment. Then he defines:

These are the four vivekas. After that, he says, in order to attain Viveka Khyati, practice the Ashtangas. The Astangas are Yamas and Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. One way to liberation is Viveka and the realization of the self. In order to be able to practice Viveka it is important to make one's life sattvig. In order to make your life full of life, you need to pay attention to your diet, your words, how you interact with other people, your home furnishings, your clothes.

Live an ethical life

It is important to develop divine virtues and lead an ethical life. All of this makes it easier to experience God. This is also the rationale for ethics, in both the Viveka Chudamani and the Yoga Sutra there are many reasons why one should lead an ethical life.

Aristotle had said: Live an ethical life and you will be happy. Patanjali says something similar: Unethical life leads to endless suffering and ignorance. Aristotle also says: He who should come to wisdom must lead an ethical life, otherwise he will not come to wisdom.

Therefore, in order to get to knowledge and be happy, practice an ethical life for it. There are also biological justifications nowadays, logical justifications that evolutionary biologists say: Man is polarized on ethics. Man will be satisfied if he is ethical. A person who does unethical things will feel guilty, will not feel comfortable. Then he also says: One of the basic characteristics of humans, of homosapiens, is the ability to cooperate and that is done on the basis of ethics. Therefore, the human being is polarized from the ground up to ethics. One way to see that.

Religion say again: God wants it that way. Therefore lead an ethical life. Also an interesting rationale for ethics. Then there are various philosophical justifications for ethics. Immanuel Kant set up the categorical imperative he said: Act as it is, so that the maxim of your actions can become the basis of general legislation. In popular parlance: always act in such a way that anyone who would act with a motivation similar to yours would do well. Or Montesquieu spoke of the social contract. So that everything goes together, an agreement is needed. Hobbes once said: Man needs punishment. Threat of punishment. Man is the other person's wolf, Homo homini lupus to the other person. Therefore you have to protect people from their negative qualities by threatening them with punishments and giving them if necessary.

You see different justifications for ethics and I've only mentioned a few. For me the most beautiful justification of ethics is Shankaracharya, Patanjali and Aristotle. To be happy and to gain wisdom, to come to knowledge, you need an ethical life. Therefore live ethically. You may succeed faster if you cheat, lie, hurt others, push others aside. You will not be happy. You will not gain knowledge. That is why it is also said: Honesty lasts the longest. Live an ethical life, a sattvic life.

Now think about it for a moment. How ethical is my life right now? What could I do to have a more ethical life? How could I develop a sattvic life? Today, pay special attention when your mind gets into rajas - greed, driven, or tamas - indolence and therefore does not implement the sattvic reasons. Then ignore rajas and tamas and practice sattva.

See also


Web links



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