Relevance of Humility

Humility: A Spiritual Journey – 2

Continued from Previous Page

The relevance of Humility to one lays in the fact that it transforms that persons of animalistic tendencies to a person of angelic tendencies. It is the quality of humility that allows a person, to be open to ideas and be receptive to opinions to change the self. On the other hand pride fills the person with arrogance, hubris; and does not let one imbibe humility.  The net result is like stumbling in darkness, and being clueless in life. Guru Ji says:

Houmai vaddaa gubaar hai
houmai vich bujh n sakai koae
— (SGGS, Pg. No. 560)

Meaning: Egotism is total darkness (that clouds the human vision); in egotism, no one can understand anything (to find a way out of it).

Egotism then desires stuff to fulfill the feeling of me and mine. It further transforms the desire to consummate the object of desire. Egotism at times becomes greed, and at times produces an emotional attachment with existence, creation and achievements. When the object of desire is achieved, then pride at the achievement wells up. Egotism is like a virus that always multiplies and continuously spreads. But when the object of desire is not attained or is somehow lost, then the pride transforms into anger. When the anger intensifies it gets transformed into jealousy. The state of mind produced by ego has been aptly summed up by Guru Ji in these words:

“Hau maaru hau bandhau chhoddau mukh te ev babaaRae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 380)

Meaning: He may proclaim, “I can kill anyone, I can capture anyone, and I can release anyone.”

Thus ego makes one start believing that I am in total control. This is how ego takes charge and which the psychologists call narcissistic personality. When ego takes charge, there is no forgetting or forgiving. It is the ego or pride that shows up in different ways as criticism, rivalry, jealousy, anger, and stubbornness. It is because of ego alone that many a relationships become frayed. The special characteristic of ego is that it is not visible to oneself. One starts living in make believe world, far stretched from reality. Also, what cannot be seen or observed cannot be corrected. In fact, in the words of Bhagat Kabir from Guru Granth Sahib, there is a complete lack of this quality of humility all around; everyone is puffed up in ego:

Kahaa nar garabas thhoree baath. Mun dus naaj takaa chaar gaanthee ainaddau ttaedtau jaath. — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1410)

Meaning: O mortal, why are you so proud of small things? With a few tons of grain and some money in your pocket, you are totally puffed up with pride.

Kabir says that slight success in life puffs us up in ego. This is a true portrayal of the state of the mortals -the human beings. Although there is no guarantee of life, health, position, power, family, or wealth, - still a little material possession is enough to puff us up.

Let us ask Guru Ji to tell us about the consequences of ego. He says:

“Houmai sabh sareer hai hoamai upath hoae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 560)

Meaning: Egotism is reason for human birth; and egotism is the cause of rebirth.

With rebirths, what we experience in life is shared by Guru Ji in these words:

“Hau vich narak surag avatar.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 466)

Meaning: In ego, they experience heaven or hell (in life).

Once this realization dawns, one reaches an understanding that consequential rebirths and deaths are because of ego. One also gets an understanding of pain at birth, disease, stress and suffering in life; agony of old age, and the pain associated with death. The clear understanding of the cycles of rebirths and associated suffering makes one search for ways to get out of it. This was yearning alone, that led Prince Siddhartha Gautam to abandon his kingdom and family, including the new-born baby - seeking the way out. When he found the answers, he became truly enlightened and thereafter was known as Gautam Buddha. This inquisitiveness of the mind makes the person a true seeker, a student, and a learner. He/she then seeks to transcend the suffering in life and search for an experience of everlasting bliss.

In order to learn more about its existence, we need to turn to someone who has gotten rid their ego. In Chapter I, we discussed what humility is, and now we are going to discuss its relationship to ego, and pride. We will also explore how the ego works and the consequences of its working. The ego is an inner state of mind of a person, produced by his/her accomplishments and successes in life. The achievements are measured with a yardstick of wealth accumulated and the litany of material possessions. The person feels that others not even close to him/her. However, the parallel result of this is insecurity, which can be termed as the other side of the coin of ego. Ego or pride is associated with achievements, while insecurity stems from a concern of losing them. Thus, ego and insecurity always go hand in hand. On the outside there is display of pride; while simultaneously dwelling on the inside is constant insecurity. Ego fills one with separation from the source. The ego becomes the stumbling block in the search of everlasting bliss. Guru Amar Das Ji has expressed this relationship in these words:

Haumai vich prabh koae na paaeae. Moolahu bhulaa janam gavaaeae.”

— (SGGS, Pg. No. 664)

Meaning: No one finds God through egotism. Wandering away from the Primal Lord, the root of all, one wastes his life in vain.

Another quote on the same subject:

“Haumai vaddaa rog hai mar ja(n)mai aavai jaae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 592)

Meaning: Egotism is such a terrible disease; he dies, to be reincarnated - he continues coming and going.

So, ego results in life being dissipated and it also becomes the cause of rebirths. Therefore, Guru Ji advises us to shun ego in these words:

“Mun rae houmai shhodd gumaan.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 21)

Meaning: O mind, renounce your egotistical pride.

With humility alone, we accept our place as one amongst many others. When we recognize that we are no more important than others, we take no more than our due share of resources. It is only in humility that we see and experience the feeling that something is bigger than us. As the focus on self takes a back seat, the need for the service of humanity and nature moves forward and finally takes the front seat. We will approach even the most menial tasks joyfully. We accept that we are only here to be of service to God's great creation.

As the ego starts disappearing, the awareness grows within, and one begins to think in terms of beyond the self. The others also start appearing as God’s creation and His children. As the progress continues one begins to think like an angel, and the actions also start reflecting that. That is how the spirituality starts developing within. Spirituality is the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. Earlier we saw the definition of Humility and now we know what spirituality is and we can see how these two coalesce together. As one begins to see the spirituality in others, his/her sense of superiority starts receding from within. When ego vanishes, a new sense of comradery develops within. Now there is a realization of spirituality in each and every one, so the feeling of entitlement and superiority also vanishes. Guru Nanak Dev Ji has clarified this by saying that once ego completely disappears the mind becomes immaculate:

“Eih mun nirmal haumai maaree.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1049)

Meaning: When Egotism has been conquered, then this mind has become immaculate.

When it becomes immaculate then it merges with the Creator God:

“Haumai jaaee ta kanth samaee.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 750)

Meaning: If one gets rid of ego, then one merges with Husband Lord.

When one merges with the Lord then one becomes liberated. This has been made clear by Guru Ji in these words:

“Jihi praanee houmai thajee karathaa raam pashhaan. Kahu nanak vahu mukath nar eih man saachee maan.19.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1427)

Meaning: That mortal, who forsakes egotism, and realizes the Creator Lord- says Nanak, that person is liberated; O mind, know this as truth.

So, getting rid of ego is a prerequisite for becoming humble. As ego and humility are polar opposites they cannot coexist. When ego takes charge humility vanishes. However, when humility takes charge, ego does not vanish; it simply takes a back seat. From that back seat it is always attempting to stage a comeback. One, who has humbled self completely, and is blessed with grace, merges with God, thus becoming liberated while alive. Therefore, humility is the noblest trait, as Guru Nanak Dev Ji says:

Mithath neevee naanakaa gun changiaaeeaa tat.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 560)

Meaning: In humility there is sweetness, O Nanak, (humility is) the essence of virtue and goodness.

And here is another quote advising to give up ego:

Bholiaa haumai surat visaar. Haumai maar beechaar mun gun vich gun lai saar.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1168)

Meaning: O ignorant person! Forget your egotistical intellect. Make up your mind to subdue your ego; make all efforts to gather this great virtue (of getting rid of ego).

Guru Ji advises us not to think highly of self or to glorify the shortcomings of others, but instead make efforts to cut down self’s own ego. Like the heavier pan of a weighing scale is always lower than the other, so also is the person loaded with the qualities of humility. The virtue that Guru Ji considers the supreme is humility. This humility is not just a façade to garner a favorable image for the sake of creating an impression alone; rather it should become truly inherent nature. Even the tongue of the person with humility will be as sweet as real sugar, not just coated with sugar, and it will be reflected in his/her speech and deeds. Our ego prevents us from being humble with others, as that makes us feel vulnerable.

Thus, one who understands the importance of humility becomes a seeker in life, as the pain of ego is immensely clear to them. It is because of this clarity, a prayer comes out of their mouth; asking Lord please take me out of the cycle of reincarnations:

Eik dhukh raam raae kaattahu maeraa. Agan dhehai ar garabh basaeraa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 329)

Meaning: O Lord, my King, please rid me of this one affliction. May I not be burned in fire, or cast into the womb again.

The egoists have this characteristic of blowing our own horn has been shared by Guru Ji as:

“Mai gun galaa kae sir bhaar.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 351)

Meaning: My (so called) virtue is that I carry the load of my words upon my head.

Here Guru Ji is telling us that we have a high opinion of ourselves, which we carry in our head. In the subsequent lines of this shabad Guru Ji has shared with us that the mind is like an intoxicated elephant. The intoxicated elephant wreaks havoc by rampaging and causing destruction, in the same way the egoistic mind can wreak severe harm on others by words and or actions. Because with our own bloated egos, we hold an exhibition of ourselves by starting arguments or confrontations, and by trying to impose our viewpoints onto others. Many times these arguments do escalate into brawls or fights, resulting in injuries and deaths. In fact, violence most commonly appears as a result of perceived threatened egotism. On the other hand, a humble person will even take a searing criticism with grace, without creating a scene. So it is important to keep our egos in check. Guru Ji advises us that one with humility is truly the highest in these words:

“Aapas ko jo jaanai neechaa. So-oo ganeeai sabh tae oochaa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 266)

Meaning: One who sees himself as lowly, shall be accounted as the highest of all.

This one couplet aptly sums up the importance of humility. In fact, those who acquire complete humility not only have amicable relations with all, but they also establish a direct communication with God. Even at the human relationships levels, humility becomes the cementing force thus enhancing relations. They have amicable relationship even with those who oppose them. Guru Arjan Dev Ji faced hostilities of his older brother all his life, but still he shares with us:

“Naa ko bairee nahee bigaanaa sagal sang ham ku ban aae'ee.1.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1299)

Meaning: No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along well with everyone.

When the relationship with self is fixed then relation with others gets fixed automatically. With that relationship in place, they do not talk about God, but they talk to God. Humility allows them to rise and grow within. They share their struggles and their achievements in life with Him. They seek guidance from Him, acting and living their lives according to His directions. Their motto in life becomes:

“Sabh thae neech aatham kar maano man mehi eihu sukh dhhaaro.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 531)

Meaning: I judge myself to be the lowest of all; in this way, I instill peace within my mind.

Here the importance of humility is succinctly conveyed that when one considers oneself as the lowest of all, then there are no hostilities left; instead peace of mind is born. When the mind is at peace, anger, jealousy, and lust will decrease. Thus the upward trajectory of mind takes place. Where that upward trajectory of mind leads us to, is shared by Guru Ji in these words:

“Nanak haumai maareeaai sache jehaRaa soe.8.2.10.” — (SGGS, Pg. No.1015)

Meaning: O Nanak, one who conquers and subdues his ego, becomes just like the True Lord.

Guru Amar Das Ji has declared in these words that one who eradicates ego obtains everything from within:

“Nanak tis dhaa sabh kishh hovai j vichahu aap gavaaeae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 754)

Meaning: O Nanak, one who eradicates self-conceit from within, obtains everything.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji has captured this essence in Sukhmani Sahib in the following words:

Sagal purakh maih purakh pradhhaan. Saadh sang jaa kaa mittai abhimaan. Aapas ko jo jaanai neechaa. Sou ganeeai sabh tae oochaa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 266)

Meaning: Among all persons, the supreme person is the one who gives up his egotistical pride in the Company of the Holy. One, who sees himself as lowly, shall be counted as the most exalted of all.

We can see that Guru Ji has not only placed a very strong emphasis on humility, but also exhibited it through words and actions. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the epitome of humility in his life, and when he appointed Bhai Lehna as his successor Guru, he thoroughly tested this quality before appointing him as his successor Guru. We will explore this aspect in subsequent chapters.

As we discussed, ego is like a virus which keeps multiplying inside; it can really grow so big that it makes the person believe that he/she is center of the universe. The entire universe revolves around them; in extreme cases, it makes them believe that they are greater than God. In contrast humility makes us size ourselves realistically and makes us understand our position in the grand scheme of things. It is humility again that makes us realize the need for God, as it makes us see our own strength as very limited and our vulnerability. The journey from I, me, mine to You (God) is the journey of humility. Thus the relevance of humility lies in the fact that it not only takes us on a spiritual journey, but also elevates us to be like True Lord. Nothing else can ace this achievement in life, and in it lays its true significance and relevance. Guru Ji has captured that achievement in these words:

“Aaap giaa taa aaapeh bhae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 202)

Meaning: When selfishness is gone, then one becomes the Lord Himself.


More by :  Bhupinder Singh

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