Folly of Pride

Humility: A Spiritual Journey – 6

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What is pride? Pride is having an unrealistically high opinion of oneself. It manifests itself as ego. An interesting aspect of human nature is that, we all are often plagued by the arrogant hubris. Pride and arrogance manifest not only amongst the rich, powerful and highly successful people such as celebrities and leaders, but also among the ordinary people. Pride, even though being the ugliest manifestation, does not find a placement as an ailment in the medical world. As there are no symptoms in the medical world so there is no cure for it. However, Guru Ji has made it very clear that pride is universal and plagues everyone:

"Houmai rog maanukh kau deenaa."
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 1140)

Meaning: (Entire) Mankind is afflicted with the disease of egotism.

Pride, egotism, or arrogance is the deadliest vice. It is no wonder that this pride or “Haumai” has been declared as a chronic disease by Guru Granth Sahib in these words:

"Haumai dheeragh rog hai…."
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 466)

Meaning: Egotism is a chronic disease.

Why is Guru Ji calling it a chronic disease? Because it is so self-deceiving; everyone else can see it clearly, yet the person himself is always totally blind to it. It is the malady that affects all the mortals. Pride influences minds into believing in an exaggerated sense of self to a point that people start behaving like lunatics. The mind under the influence of pride is always wanting and asking for more and more:

“Ghanno ghanno ghanno sadh loRai bin lahannay kaittai paaio ray.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 715)

Meaning: More and more, he continually yearns for more (gripped by pride and attachment); but unless he is destined to receive, how can he obtain it?

In Guru Ji words the one gripped by pride, is a walking testament of a lunatic:

“Jab eih mun mahi karat gumaanaa. Tab eih baavar firat bigaanaa.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 235)

Meaning: When this mind is filled with pride, then it wanders around like a madman and a lunatic.

When a person is intoxicated by pride his/her demeanor reflects it as arrogant behavior. So, the person with such a massive ego declares to the world that:

“Hau maaru hau bandhu chhoddu mukh te ev babaaRe.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 380)

Meaning: I have power to kill anyone, power to keep in captivity, and power to release anyone.

So, Guru Ji says that man filled pride does not hesitate to diminish or eliminate others. Guru Ji says such a person is kind of insane, but he/she thinks of self as the most powerful and the wisest person. When one is under its influence, one only thinks of self and always attempts to plant self at the top. Such a person does not hesitate to diminish, cut in size or eliminate others. In his/her mind he/she is the doer. Guru Ji has painted that picture in these words:

Keethae Ko Maerai Sanmaanai Karanehaar Thrin Jaanai.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 613)

Meaning: He looks upon the creation like a mountain of gold, and sees the Creator as a blade of grass.

So a corrective action cannot be initiated by self or by seeking medical help. Additionally, its consequences are that person keeps coming over and over again in the cycles of birth and death. This fact has been clarified by Guru Ji in the earlier line of this shabad —— (hymn) used as quoted above:

“Haumai eaeee ba (n)dhhanaa fir fir jonee paahi” 
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 466)

Meaning: This is the bondage of ego; that time and time again, they are reborn.

This pride is so pervasive that none can escape from its clutches. Guru Ji has shared this fact with us in these words:

“Houmai mamata mohanee sabh muthee ahankaar.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 19)

Meaning: Egotism and possessiveness are very enticing; egotistical pride has plundered everyone.

We blow our own horn, and sing our own praise under its influence. When the ego takes hold of the mind, humility departs and pride takes its place. Thus pride is like a cancerous cell in the mind that eats on good cells of humility. Pride makes us artificial whereas humility makes us authentic. This fact has been aptly captured in a classic joke: “He won a badge of humility, but they took it away because he wore it.” Thus the moment pride is displayed, it bids goodbye. The truth is that while pride infects us all easily, humility is something that has to be cultivated with great effort. We often hear these words, “This is my right.” or “This is mine.” or “I can do what I want.” Most of the time this is nothing but ego talk. Guru Ji shares that when one is caught in web of “me,” one cannot accomplish anything:

“Jab lag meree meree karai. Tab lag kaaj ek nahee sarai.”  
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 1160)

Meaning: As long as he cries out, mine! Mine! None of his tasks is accomplished.

It is no wonder that the popular Punjabi saying as under sums up the consequences of pride:

Hunkaariya so maa-ree-ya.”

Meaning: Pride will bring you down.

Humility does not imply that one should give up his/her rights, instead humility teaches us to treat everyone fairly. Humility does not imply letting others have a cake-walk, and does not accept unfair treatment lying down. Humility is about fair and equal treatment. Humility is not despising one’s superiors or running down on inferiors. Humility is against exploitation, manipulation, or taking advantage of others or of their situation. The actions under the influence of ego are fruitless as clarified by Guru Ji:

“Joe joe karam keeeae hau haumai thae thae bhae ajaaeae.”   
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 999)

Meaning: The deeds I did in egotism and pride have all been done in vain.

How it has gone in vain? Because, it did not let me to come out of the cycles of incarnations. Thus, the life has been dissipated in vain. Guru Arjan Dev Ji has shared with us that the folly of pride is that it grips us in cycles of birth and death:

“Hae janam maran moolan ahankaara paapaathamaa.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 1358)

Meaning: O egotism, you are the root cause of birth and death and the cycles of reincarnation;
—— (in fact) you are the very soul of sin.

Even the desire to accumulate wealth arises from ego. The byproduct of ego is attachment. Attachment is associated with the thought that it belongs to me. Attachment with its strong and ever tightening grip becomes a hindrance for both mental and spiritual growth. We can see that with each passing day its grip is ever-increasing and man is becoming more egoistical. Thus ego makes one live a life of self-deception. The egoistic person will always try to frighten those under him/her and will be frightened of his/her superiors. The polar opposite is humility, it makes one never wish to frighten others and also makes one free from the fear of the powerful. The consequence of its influence is depicted by Guru Ji in these words:

“Jaethaa mohu pareeth suaadh. Sabhaa kaalakh dhaagaa dhaag. Dhaag dhos muhi chaliaa laae. Dharageh baisan naahee jaae.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 662)

Meaning: These worldly attachments, loves and pleasurable tastes, all are just black stains. One who departs, with these black stains of sin on his face shall find no place to sit in the Court of the Lord.

Thus if pride is abdicated, attachment or “Moh” will also disappear. In fact, if we compare pride to tree then attachments are its roots. Guru Ji observed that we are under the influence of pride; Guru Ji questioned us in these words:

Kahaa nar garabas thhoree baat. Mun das naaj takaa chaar gaa (n)t(h)ee ai  (n)adda ttaedta jaath.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No.1251)

Meaning: O mortal, why are you so proud of small achievements? With a few pounds of grain and a few coins in your pocket, you are totally puffed up with pride.

Here is another quote:

Kiaa thhorrarree baath gumaan.” 
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 50)

Meaning: Why do you take pride in trivial matters?

Here we can see that Guru Ji is asking us, what is making you feel so puffed up in pride, just because you have some grains stored and wealth acquired, that even your walk has become crooked. In these lines, there is a warning regarding the transient nature of things that make us all puffed up. Power, position, wealth, etc. are seasonal and will end one day like the end of a season. When our time comes to depart, we have to leave these possessions behind. Guru Ji’s advice is to stay away from:

·  Attachments
·  Distractions
·  Temptations
·  Superiority Complex

Interestingly, if we observe our education system, there is a very strong emphasis on building “self-esteem” in the children, which is a kind of pride. In his seminal work, “The Psychology of Self-Esteem” which was published in 1969, Nathaniel Branden brought this aspect to focus. The book was a best-seller and in it he said self-esteem “has profound effect on man’s thinking processes, emotions, desires, values and goals.” The impact of this work was significantly revolutionary and raising self-esteem became a magic mantra all over the world. This viewpoint was later challenged by Roy Baumeister in 1996 when he co-authored a review in Psychological Review published under title “Relation of Threatened Egotism to Violence and Aggression” where he said, “People who regard themselves as superior beings might feel entitled to help themselves to the resources of other, seemingly lesser beings, and indeed they might even aggress against these lesser beings, without compunction, just as people kill insects or mice without remorse.” He and his co-authors proposed, that “the major cause of violence is high self-esteem combined with an ego threat.” When an interviewer asked Kristin Neff, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, as to what's wrong with telling people to have better self-esteem? His response was, “When you take it too seriously, you become a narcissist. And we know narcissists tend to have problems with relationships, they push people away, so there are definitely maladaptive consequences to narcissism.”

So, while the debate in the academic and scientific world may continue to rage, let us just seek Guru Ji’s advice. Guru Ji’s advice is to shed pride and imbibe humility:

“Bholiaa Houmai Surath Visaar.” 
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 1168)

Meaning: O ignorant one! Forget your egotistical intellect.

Guru Ji declares that even the vigor of youth that is making you so puffed up is transitory:

“Autangee paioharee gahiree ganbheeree.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 1410)

Meaning: O young lady bursting with the vigor of youth, shun your pride and imbibe humility.

As the youth will not last forever Guru Ji advises:

“Say bhee ddahadhay dditt mai mu (n)dh n garab thhannee.1.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 1410)

Meaning: I have seen them (rock like mansions) come crumbling down. O bride, do not be so proud of your youth.

Again, pride makes us adopt double standards in life - being truthful and untruthful, kind and unkind, helpful and unhelpful, loving and hateful etc. Even the debate on sins and virtues is under its spell. The result of this entanglement is that one experiences hell and heaven in this life. Even the cries and laughter in life are because of this ego. There is always laughter or celebration when one succeeds and tears, cries of anguish when one fails. These are like the swings of a pendulum which will go from one side to the other side depending on our particular situation at the time.

So, if we try to analyze what the cause of pride is, we will find that it is because of feeling of:

  • Achievements/Accomplishments
  • Entitlement
  • Power of position/authority
  • Beauty
  • Virtuousness
  • Acquisition of property and wealth

    And it shows up in a lot of different ways in our behaviors as:
  • Criticism
  • Jealousy
  • Competition
  • Putting down
  • Outburst
  • Stubbornness
  • Superficiality
  • Evil

Guru Arjan Dev Ji has succinctly described the causes and the consequences of pride in these words:

“Jis kai antar raaj abhimaan. So narakapaathee hovath suaan. Jo jaanai mai jobanavant. So hovath bisattaa kaa janth. Aapas ko karamavant kahaavai. Janam marai bahu jon bhramaavai.Dhhan bhoom kaa jo karai gumaan. So moorakh andhhaa agiaan.” —— (SGGS, Pg. No. 278)

Meaning: One; who has the pride of power within, shall dwell in hell, and become a dog. One who deems himself to have the beauty of youth, shall become a maggot in manure. One, who claims to act virtuously, shall live and die, wandering through countless reincarnations. One who takes pride in wealth and lands is a fool, blind and ignorant.

Cause of Pride Result Consequences Remarks
Power Authority runs
over others
Person is like a dog
who falls into hell
Life becomes painful
Beauty and
Vigor of Youth
Others are
Becomes a worm of
excreta as the
beauty is only
Falls from lofty pedestal to
the lowest rungs within a
very short life span
Virtuousness Superiority
Wanders in
many lives
The observance of religious
symbols and ritiualistic
practices makes one believe
that he/she is a better person
that others, but in realty he/she
is getting robbed of virtues
Property and
and success
in life
Makes on blind
and ignorant
Blind as achievements makes
one arrogant and forget that
these don't go with the
person after death.

Guru Ji then concludes the shabad with these profound words:

“Kar kirapaa jis kai hiradhai gareebee basaavai. Nanak eehaa mukath aagai sukh paavai.”
—— (SGGS, Pg. No. 278)

Meaning: One whose heart is mercifully blessed with abiding humility, O Nanak, is liberated here, and obtains peace hereafter.

Now, Guru Ji tells us how the magic of humility works as an antidote for pride and ego. If the person not under the influence of these above four —— (listed in Table above) maladies, it makes one light and truly beautiful. If pride is shunned and one imbibes humility, then one becomes useful is depicted in the example of cottonseed:

“Hoye varraevaan jag vich beejae tann khaeh naal ralaaeiaa. Boottee hoye kapaah dee teenaddae hass hass aap khirraaeiaa. Duhu mil vaelan vaeliaa loo(n) loo(n) karr karr tumb tumbaaeiaa. Pi(n)n(j)an pi(n)n(j) ouddaaeiaa kar kar gorhee soot kataaeiaa. Tann vunn khumb charraaeikai dhae dhae dhukh dhhuaae rangaaeiaa. Kaichee kattan kattiaa sooyee dhhaagae jorr seevaaeiaa. Lajan kajan hoe kajaaeiaa. 10.”  —— (Bhai Gurdaas, Vaar 4.10)

Meaning: The cotton seed got itself mixed with dust. From that very seed the plant of cotton emerged on which the balls smiled unobstructed. The cotton got ginned by the ginning machine and after it was carded hair by hair. Making rolls and spinning, the thread was made from it. Then through its warp and waft it was woven and made to suffer getting dyed in a boiling cauldron. The scissors cut it and it was stitched with the help of needle and thread. Thus it became cloth, the means for the covering up of others nudity.

In this Vaar Bhai Gurdaas has taken the example of cottonseed to describe how pride is to be given up. The cottonseed completely blended itself with dirt giving up its pride and by becoming root. Out of this humility, the cotton plant blossomed and the cotton balls on it were smiling away, spreading joy. But it got plucked, ginned, carded, thrashed and made into rolls —— (balls). The women then spun it on the spinning wheel making cotton yarn. The yarn then got weaved into cloth and was tortured in boiling water, as it was dyed to add color. Finally it was cut to several pieces, with needle and thread piercing them together. Then that garment had the privilege of covering the nudity of others and protecting them from heat and cold. This example from Bhai Gurdaas has portrayed the picture of giving up pride and becoming useful to others at a great cost to oneself. In other words, this is a portrayal of the journey from pride to complete humility. We can see that humility offers its owner complete freedom from desire to impress, to be right, or to get ahead. Instead there is only one urge left: how to serve others. It is also because of this pride alone, that we form misplaced notions of our own strength and capabilities. Because of these flawed views, we take on challenges without properly assessing the logistics needed to face them. The results and consequences are obvious - disastrous. It is no wonder that Guru Ji has a different definition for the intelligent and wise:

“Chathur siaanaa sugharr soe jin thajiaa abhimaan.”    —— (SGGS, Pg. No. 297)

Meaning: One who renounces egotistical pride is intelligent, wise and refined —— (sophisticated).

So, Guru Ji’s advice is to renounce pride. When pride or ego is renounced one ascends to lofty pedestals. Guru Ji has explained about that achievement in these words:

“Houmai jaae param padh paaeeai.” —— (SGGS, Pg. No. 226)

Meaning: When egotism departs, then the state of supreme dignity is obtained.

This is a short, crisp description of an unassailable universal law, which we fail to internalize because of our ego. Ego is the antithesis of humility, and it will prevent us from merger with Truth. God is Truth, and a merger with Truth is the highest achievement. So, the Guru Ji’s advice is:

“Thaj maan sakhee thaj maan sakhee math aapanae preetham bhaaveh.” —— (SGGS, Pg. No. 847)

Meaning: Renounce your pride, O my companions, renounce your egotistical pride, O my sisters, so that you may become pleasing to your Beloved.

Kabir Ji has described those who think that others are better than them, they have given up their pride and they are his true friends in these words:

“Kabir sabh te ham bure ham taj bhalo sabh koe. Jin aaisaa kar boojhiaa meet hamaaraa soe.7.”  —— (SGGS, Pg. No. 1364)

Meaning: Kabir, I am the worst of all. Everyone else is good. Whoever understands this is a friend of mine.

When pride leaves and humility comes it brings with it:
— Contentment
— Patience
— Forgiveness
— Compassion

Thus, giving up on pride is giving up on the desire of self-aggrandizing thought patterns, reflexes and behaviors. In conclusion, let us ask Guru Ji to advise us what we need to do? Guru Ji says:

“Budhh gareebee kharach laihu houmai bikh jaarahu.” —— (SGGS, Pg. No. 278)

Meaning: Take wisdom and humility as your supplies and burn away the poison of pride.

To those who have surrendered their pride, Guru Ji says he is ready to sacrifice himself for them:

“Jinee Houmai Maar Pashhaaniaa Hau Tin Balihaarai Jaao.” —— (SGGS, Pg. No. 69)

Meaning: I am a sacrifice to those who conquer their ego and recognize the Lord.

In conclusion we should ask Guru Ji to tell us what happens when pride is given up? Guru Ji says:

“Jub eih hooaa sagal kee reenaa. Taa te rame'eeaa ghaT ghaT cheenaa.1.” —— (SGGS, Pg. No. 235)

Meaning: But when it becomes the dust (is under the feet therefore symbolizes being humble) of all, then it recognizes the Lord in each and every heart.

When one rids pride, then that person has truly embarked on the spiritual journey. It is because pride produces discontentment, and mental disturbance resulting in unending cravings that make life hell. As humility and pride are opposite ends of same spectrum, both cannot reside together. Any attempts to be both simultaneously will only result in inner struggle. So, Guru Ji’s advice is to shun pride and imbibe humility with these words.

“Mun toon muth maan kareh j ho kishh jaanadhaa guramukh nimaanaa hohu.”   —— (SGGS, Pg. No. 440)

Meaning: O mind, don't be so proud of yourself, as if you know it all; the Gurmukh is humble and modest.

The pride is root of all sins. All spiritual readers of all faiths are unanimous in their condemnation of pride. Pride produces an attitude of contempt and indifference. This result in taking us further away from God, therefore Gurus have advised to shun pride and imbibe humility and bridge our gap with God.

Continued to Next Page 



More by :  Bhupinder Singh

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