Being Open to Learn Through Humility: Part 2 “The Glory of Humility, and Pride Precedes a Fall”
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We continue exploring what could be called the “glory of humility” in this blog with an emphasis that pride precedes a fall. I find much to celebrate about someone who is modest in their attitude, yet competent, and—or—hardworking and sincere. Such a person shines in whatever they do, whether as a great leader, or street sweeper. Even though you won’t find humility or modesty listed on the qualities desired for a job applicant, this quality has always been appreciated, and even more so today since modesty seems extremely rare—even quaint, or archaic to some.
Part of humility is also being authentic and honest in our life—or in our conditioned identity, work, and family, etc., neither vainly proud, nor full of self-loathing. Being authentic means being a balanced human being with a good understanding of one’s nature and a feeling of dependence on God. Unfortunately with the decline of good families and spiritual values many children are raised with glaring deficiencies and poor attitudes that as adults they try to over compensate for. I speak from experience.
With television, magazines, and frenzied social media all hungry for sensational stories, coupled with a busy population awash in (mis)information and infinite entertainment distractions, a “sound bite culture” has been created without much depth, but with much money invested in promoting it. Fame, though still rare, may be easily conferred on someone for insignificant reasons, and is often pursued for its own sake, rather than given, unsought, as an acknowledgement for special skills or good qualities.
On the other hand, persons who do have the advantages of beauty, wealth, social position, or acting or athletic ability, can be full of pride, conceit, boasting, or unwarranted audaciousness. Those in the limelight have special responsibilities because, as the Gita teaches us [BG 3.21], whatever great people do, the common people follow—even when being “great” in modern culture may be very shallow compared to previous times, or merely due to false or superficial advertising. Whatever the reason for fame, the famous tend to influence others—for good or ill. We could also apply the common saying that to whom much is given, much is expected.
The values of a culture dictate what is great or laudable. Presently in our societal “religion of materialism,” informed by the educational systems and media, the imaginations of most people are mainly focused on the pursuit of “things” or external acquisition, validation, and appreciation. Such a person may be a good consumer but a poor citizen who makes little contribution for the common good. Today it is widely understood that almost everything is money driven, whether it is in health, medicine, education, religion, news media, sports, entertainment, recreation, and government, and this has dire consequences for the values and direction of society.
The building blocks of society are people, and the families that create them. When the value of the population is seen as primarily a means of production of goods and services for materialistic culture, we have a society out of balance. This fact was the beginning of the counter-culture of the sixties in America, and there remains an undercurrent of discontent in the youth, or with persons who have the time and sensitivity to think about what is valuable and true for the long term health and longevity of any community and country.
Most people have a natural attraction for Truth and feel upset with hypocrisy or falsity, yet we may find it difficult to buck the system when we’re financially invested in it for the sake of our family. Standing up for what is right is a huge commitment and not for the faint of heart. Though some should lead the charge for truth and what is good for everyone—like clean water, air, pesticide and GMO free crops, and the interest of the soul etc., lasting change requires a group effort. In any case, eventually those who live by hypocrisy and those who are falsely proud are exposed, and humbled.
We read in the Biblical New Testament that “And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” [Matt. 23:12] “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” [Isa. 40: 4] “God resisteth the proud, but gives grace upon the humble.” [Jas. 4:16] In a later part of the I Ching verse I cited in Part 1 of this series we read: “Thus the superior man reduces that which is too much, and augments that which is too little. He weighs things and makes them equal.” This is an idealistic perspective we might call socialism today which aims at sharing the prosperity of the kingdom by creating just and equitable conditions for wealth distribution. As difficult as it might be to realize this on a wide scale, we can strive for fair and equitable dealings in our own life and community, plus helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Sharing our good fortune is one of the keys to continual prosperity, while hording or over-accumulations brings our downfall, or those of our decedents.
The universal laws of God’s create balance between extremes and find the low or middle ground if a person, country, institution, or religion is too proud of their social position, influence, wealth, and power, forgetting that we are merely instruments in whatever talents we have, or good we may achieve. Lord Indra in the Shrimad Bhagavatam (or Zeus in Greek lore) comes to mind as someone who is bent on material enjoyment and personal position over what is right and moral, and then pays for his transgressions of lust or pride—karmic justice playing out to educate us all. I am grateful for the narrations of his activities as I know I have a little bit of Indra in me just waiting to come out if I am not careful. As a new devotee I used to joke about him, but no more, as he reminds me of my lower nature. While this is humbling it also helps me be more compassionate to the sensual foibles, or shortcomings, of others. We are all works in progress, and having shortcomings, “issues,” or occasionally giving in to our lower nature is to be expected, especially in the beginning of our spiritual journey.
Let me remind us that Krishna teaches in his Bhagavad Gita, that he is our ability, strength, and whatever good qualities we may have, and he also gives the results we seek—or don’t seek. As it is commonly said in religious circles, God gives and withholds in different circumstances. We are absolutely dependent in all accomplishments on the background arrangement of Krishna. The results of our work, whether favorable or not, are in some way coming from God.
It's up to us to ascertain why certain results may come, with the idea that even if we can’t understand the exact “why” of a certain result or circumstances, we can still be philosophical in a general sense, knowing that whatever happens to us is meant for our highest good. Our past karma is winding down, though a devotee considers that his suffering is minimized by Krishna’s grace, Krishna uses our circumstances to teach us important life lessons such as spiritual humility and dependence on him. No one is completely good or innocent even if they are currently pious or spiritually inclined as everyone has a material karmic history since before this universe began.
We will begin to develop humility before Krishna by marveling at his beauty, sublimity, power, activities, blissful devotees, and love for us, while also noting our smallness in comparison. Simultaneously we’ll also become confident of his guidance, protection, and maintenance. Thus it is quite interesting from the common understanding that humility and this type of confidence—spiritual confidence—go together. As an example of humility and confidence we may note that superlative devotees like our Shrila Prabhupada, his guru Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, and others, were powerful speakers and sometime harsh critics of materialistic persons and religious cheaters, and yet showed in their personal life their great humility and ideal character.
Humility is an important subject of which I have only briefly explored in these two blogs. We need to understand what it is, and isn’t. I hope and pray you will be inspired to study more about it, and understand its importance in your life and journey toward Krishna. Each stage of spiritual advancement outlined by Shri Chaitanya in his Shikshastakam prayers is a deepening of humility and faith. In fact, love of Godhead is considered synonymous with realized humility. They are inseparable attributes of the residents of spiritual world which is maintained by mutual love, spiritual emotion, and the spirit of service or giving. Everyone there lives to serve and love Krishna, and he lives to love and serve all! [ If you missed Part 1, here is the link: http://www.krishna.com/blog/2014/04/3/being-open-learn-through-humility-... ] [Background music, "Merlin's Magic," (2006) song # 11, "Qi Gong Meditation, Part 2" ]