Humility, this word reminds of an old song, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” Though very few actually believe they’re perfect in every way, yet it can be pretty hard to be humble, especially when you live in a society that encourages competition and individuality. Even in such a culture, however, humility is an essential virtue.
Humility is the most essential quality for progress in spiritual life. A humble person is like a child, whose natural spontaneity and acceptance of life is simple as opposed to the complicated personality of an adult with many masks, hidden resentments and prejudices. Any self-conceit, whether nurtured by superior intelligence, wealth, a high position or the praise of others, is an obstacle on spiritual path. Indeed, it is those who are most favoured with talent, intelligence and worldly success, most often succumb to pride and thus lose their way. The key to humility is – subdue pride by modesty, overcome hypocrisy by simplicity and dissolve greed by contentment.
Humility brings divine grace to the seeker. This secret is revealed in a legendary tale from Mahabharata. On the eve of the battle, both Arjuna Duryodhana came to Krishna while he was asleep. Duryodhana, who was full of pride, stood beside Krishna’s head. Arjuna, who was humble, sat at Krishna’s feet waiting for Krishna to wake up. As soon as Krishna woke up his eyes fell on Arjuna. Then he turned around and saw Duryodhana. As he asked them the purpose of their visit they explained that they had both come to ask for his help in the battle.
Duryodhana said, “Krishna, I came before Arjuna so you have to fulfill my wish first.” Krishna replied, “True, you came first, Duryodhana, but I saw Arjuna first. I have to fulfill his wish first. Duryodhana was sad but Krishna said, “Both of you are dear to me, so I shall fulfill the wishes of both of you.” Arjuna bowed and said, “Krishna, you know that the battle is imminent. I want you to be by my side.” Duryodhana was furious. He said, ‘Stop, Arjuna! I want Krishna on my side!” Krishna said, “I want to satisfy both of you. Here is my offer: I shall be on one side and my vast army will be on the other. Now, you may choose and Arjuna has the first choice.” Arjuna spoke instantly, “Krishna, I want you! I don’t need your army. I want only YOU!”
Humility is only possible when one has subdued his ego. When one’s ego is predominant one feels that he is the doer. But, if one transcends the dominance of ego, he learns true humility. This state of consciousness does not give a sense of superiority but oneness with all beings.
Master says a humble person knows and senses that he is not the doer but just is a mere instrument in the hands of his Master. This awareness enables him to be a channel for the divine will of the Master.
I recall an incident how Master taught humility to an abhyasi. Once a brother came up to Master at a gathering and asked him a few questions. Master answered everyone’s but none of this man’s questions. Besides he snubbed him and asked him to be silent. A few were even surprised by this and this abhyasi went home very sad. But that night in his dream, our Master answered his questions with greatest affection. The next day this man told everyone why Master had not answered his question in front of others. All the others had asked their questions with utmost sincerity and humility but he had had tremendous pride in him when he had asked the question. That is why Master had snubbed him but by night Master had forgiven him and thus answered his question in his dream. He was not only very satisfied with the answer but was very grateful that his Master taught him humility. It is not below the dignity of the Master to deal with the pride of a person but Master knows that the abhyasi will not and cannot receive anything from Him if he is proud. Humility is receptivity in the purest sense of the term.
Being humble has numerous benefits. Humility brings contentment in life and improves relations with all. It also makes one an effective learner. If one thinks he knows all, he won’t be open to seek new knowledge. If one feels superior he has no incentive to improve. Most of all, being humble allows one to be honest with oneself. Genuine humility is not pretentiousness. It requires a constant willingness to deny oneself, to be critical of self and to be open to the Guru’s guidance even when it differs from one’s own preconceived concepts.
Master once gave an example of a tree to explain Humility. When a tree has no fruit, it stands erect and may look proud and haughty. But when the tree is laden with fruit, it bows down. So a person who is always full of inner fruits is humble and modest and thankful to his Master for everything. Humility, makes us realize that the success of all our endeavours entirely depend only on God’s grace, therefore the expression “Inshah Allah!” (God willing). A humble man does not regard his possessions or accomplishments as his own, but as a gift of his Master.