Feb 28, 2024
Feb 28, 2024
Humility: A Spiritual Journey – 8
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In earlier Chapters we have seen the definition of humility and also talked about how humility is lost by the outward display of pride. As we discussed earlier, that pride is very self-deceiving, as we cannot see it in ourselves. However, we can always see it very clearly in others. So, in our own eyes, we perceive ourselves to be very humble. When someone reaches the pinnacle of pride, he/she gets blind sighted by it. Therefore, it becomes very difficult to judge oneself in terms of humility or pride. Additionally, there is no true measure for humility.
If humility is so subjective, then its first victim is itself. Thus, this is a tough riddle which is not easy to decipher.
In this Chapter, we will try to take it to the next level and define the pinnacle of humility. We can imagine the subject becoming a paradoxical conundrum. The interesting thing is that Guru Granth Sahib has provided the answer for this knotty riddle, and it has been provided succinctly for us in the words of Kabir Ji:
“Kabir rorraa hoe rahu baatt kaa
thaj mun kaa abhimaan.
Aisaa koee daas hoe
thaahi milai bhagavaan. 146.
Kabir rorraa hooaa th kiaa bhaeiaa
panthhee ko dhukh dhaee.
Aisaa taeraa daas hai
jio dhharanee mehi khaeh. 147.
Kabir khaeh hooee tau kiaa
bhaeiaa jo oudd laagai ang.
Har jan aisaa chaaheeai
jio paanee sarabang. 148.
Kabir paanee hooaa th kiaa bhaeiaa
seeraa thaathaa hoe.
Har jan aisaa chaaheeai
jaisaa har hee hoe. 149.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1372)
Kabir, let yourself be a pebble on the path;
abandon your egotistical pride.
Such a humble slave
shall meet the Lord God. 146.
Kabir, what good it is, to be a pebble?
It would only hurt the traveler on the path.
Your slave, O Lord, should be
like the dust of the earth. 147.
Kabir, what then, if one could become dust?
It is blown up by the wind, and sticks to the body.
The humble servant of the Lord should be
like water, which cleans everything. 148.
Kabir, what then, if one could become water?
It becomes cold, then hot.
The humble servant of the Lord
should be just like the Lord. 149.
Kabir Ji has offered an interesting paradigm of the pinnacle of humility. He starts with the metaphor of a pebble, which paves the pathway. The pebble has offered itself fully; it is serving mankind, who walk over it. It patiently endures the trampling by the travelers, without any grudge or complaint. Kabir Ji says such a humble person, who has abandoned his/her ego, will meet God. So, Kabir Ji is not just defining the pinnacle of humility, but also clarifying that it will result in a complete merger with God. Yet, after making that statement he corrects himself, and questions what good it is to be as humble as a pebble? After all, it can still cause injury from the sharp edges and rough surfaces, when someone stumbles and falls. Kabir Ji is not appreciative of that quality in pebbles. So, he feels that the pebble is not humble enough and instead he suggests dust as a more suitable example.
Dust is just powdered pebble, thus it has given up its earlier shortcoming to hurt and injure. Then he realizes that it is still not humble enough, as it can be blown away by wind and be air-borne. Once air-borne, it sticks to the bodies and clothes of the travelers, soiling them. So, Kabir Ji concludes that even dust is not humble enough and has to look for a more appropriate metaphor.
Next he suggests water. So, he offers water as the medium to get rid of the dust of irrationality that has clouded the mind. Water, is used to wash off dust from the body and clothes, but does not get polluted by it. Dust settles at the bottom of water and water is clean again. Kabir Ji feels that dust, is like ignorance which clings to the mind, clouding rationality and clarity of thought. Additionally, water has the unique quality of taking the shape of the container it is poured in. It always completely surrenders itself and adapts to the shape of the vessel, it is poured into. Thus, it is very accommodating, loving, and accepting of all. It also has a unique quality of always flowing downwards; i.e. humility.
However, after making the statement, Kabir Ji still feels that even becoming like water is not humble enough. As it is still affected by temperature, becoming hot (steamed) or cold (chilled or ice) depending on the external stimulating medium. So he discards the metaphor of water as an embodiment of humility and finally settles for God Himself. His concluding line says it all; “A devotee has to become humble like God Himself.” Kabir Ji’s conclusion is that God is the most humble and there should not be any distinction left between the devotee and God. The conclusion Kabir Ji makes is that God is the pinnacle of humility, and our aspiration should be to become humble like Him. Now if this is the benchmark, as defined by Kabir Ji, the question arises, has he achieved that pinnacle himself? The answer is yes! Kabir Ji has declared:
“Kabir Thoon Thoon Karathaa Thoo Hooaa Mujh Mehi Rehaa N Hoon. Jab Aapaa Par Kaa Mitt Gaeiaa Jath Dhaekho Thath Thoo.204.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1375)
Meaning: Kabir, repeating, ""You, You"", I have become like You. Nothing of me remains in myself. When the difference between the self and others is removed, then wherever I look, I see only You.
Kabir Ji provides another declaration of his achievement in these words:
“Mereh graeh aae raajaa raam bhataaraa.1.Rahaau.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 482)
Meaning: The Lord, my King, has come to my house as my Husband.1.Pause.
These words are not just empty boasting, but honest declaration of the experienced reality. Let us ask Kabir Ji to clarify how he accomplished this state. Kabir Ji’s answer is:
“Kabir meraa mujh mahi kichh nahee
jo kichh hai so teraa.
Teraa tujh ku saupate
kiaa laagai meraa.203.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1375)
Kabir, nothing is mine within myself.
Whatever there is; is all Yours,
O Lord. If I surrender to You what is already Yours,
what does it cost me?
Kabir Ji is talking about the change of thought process he had and the result obtained because of the change. He declares that he was saying “You” continuously, non-stop, even to the self. In the process, the thought of “I, me, and mine” were completely purged. Now wherever I look, I see You alone. This change in outlook has given birth to a new experience, which Kabir Ji describes as:
“Ab tho jaae chadtae singhaasan
milae hai saarangapaanee.
Raam Kabiraa eaek bheae hai
koe n sakai pashhaanee.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 969)
Meaning: Now, (with the blessing of my Guru) I have mounted to the throne (achieved the highest stage) of the Lord; I have met the Lord, the Sustainer of the World. The Lord and Kabir have become one. No one can tell them apart.
Thus, we find that the benchmark set by Kabir Ji for humility is very lofty. Yet he has made it very clear that it can be achieved and he unequivocally declares that he has achieved it and he did not hide the fact. Now, let us review and summarize the metaphors employed by Kabir Ji.
Become humble like:
Its property and use
Serves others by becoming humble, at their feet to serve.
Becoming useful by giving up the self to serve.
Can hurt walkers who stumble or fall down.
Patiently bears fair or unfair treatment/ criticism from others without a complaint.
Is fine and soft, and provides cushioning to those walking over it.
Pebbles have given up their capacity to hurt others by becoming dust.
Gets carried by the wind and sticks to the body and clothes thus soiling them.
Dust makes walkers dirty by clinging to their bodies and clothes. Seeker needs to be so humble that he/she does not speak ill of others, which is likened to dust clinging to bodies. That dust is like ignorance of the mind, clouding rationality and clarity of thought.
Excellent cleansing quality and very yielding property.
Willingly accepts and adapts to the shape of the vessel it is poured into. Additionally, it always flow downwards, a sure sign of humility.
Affected by temperature, thus, influenced by external factors.
Seeker should be very accommodating like water, to all situations and to all people. However, water is affected by external heat or cold; but the seeker should become immune to all external circumstances.
Compassionate; Nurtures and nourishes everyone, including the atheists who do not believe in Him.
No discrimination at all – between a devotee and an atheist. No discrimination based on caste, color, race, creed etc. God is always providing to all without any discrimination.
Becomes one with everything, fully and completely integrated in all.
Kabir Ji thinks of God as the ultimate portrayal of humility. Kabir Ji says that a devotee should become as humble as God. He is suggesting that the devotee purge all the animalistic tendencies to develop the divine qualities of God. It should be so fully developed so that there are no distinctions, marks or boundaries between the two. One should merge with the Creator God the same way a flowing river becomes part of the ocean. The bodies may be different, but qualities should not be.
Here is another legendary anecdote from ancient Indian history. Sukhdev Muni was the son of Ved-Vyasa (a great Rishi and, author of the Mahabharata) and who had acquired all the knowledge while still in the womb of his mother. So when he was thrown out from Vishnu Puri, he came to Ved-Vyasa and asked him, "They won't allow me to enter the heaven. Do I also need some Master or Guru?" When Ved-Vyasa said yes, then Sukhdev asked Ved-Vyasa whom he should accept as his Master. Ved-Vyasa replied, "At the present time, only King Janak is a perfect Saint; only he has been given permission from God to give out the knowledge of Naam - the practice for the realization of God." Ved-Vyasa added, "Yes! The law is the same for everybody, whether he is the son of a Rishi or Muni or a layman. This law is applicable to everybody because it is made by God Himself. No man has made this law; God Himself has put the Guru in between Him and the soul." While Sukhdev Muni was a renunciate and King Janak was a worldly person. He thought that I'm a renunciate! How, can I take a worldly person as my Master or Guru? He was proud that he was born as an avatar, with spiritual powers. Reluctantly he went Raja Janak, who created many scenarios to test Sukhdev’s convictions. But as Sukhdev was found wanting he did not get initiated. He went back to his father Ved-Vyasa disappointed and said to him, “Father, He won't give me an initiation.”
Ved-Vyasa replied, "My son, there is no substitute for it, because he is the only perfect Saint and you need to get initiation from him alone." Then he advised him by saying, "Just as you were criticizing and thinking ill of King Janak, now you will have to repent that, and you will have to develop complete humility." Sukhdev Muni learned that hard lesson. It is said that he waited patiently for twelve years in a garbage dump outside King Janak's palace. He stood there daily, allowing garbage to fall on his head, and in that way he developed humility. This historical evidence has been captured in Sri Guru Granth Sahib in these words:
“Jaath najaath dhaekh math bharamahu suk janak pagee(n) lag dhhiaavaigo. Joot(h)an joot(h) pee sir oopar khin manooaa thil n ddulaavaigo.7.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1309)
Do not be fooled by appearances of high and low social class. Sukh Dev bowed at the feet of Janak, and meditated. Even though Janak threw his left-overs and garbage on Sukh Dev's head, his mind did not waver, even for an instant.
This pinnacle of humility is only achieved when one becomes humble like God Himself. This peak is scaled only by very few. Such an individual, who is deeply steeped in humility, is known as a true Sant/Saadh or saint.
“Saadhh kee sobhaa ath masakeenee.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 676)
Meaning: The Glory of the Holy Saints comes from their total humility.
This achievement was made possible because the seeker was thinking less of self and more about the greatness, magnificence, and magnanimous nature of God. Because God provides, sustains, nourishes and supports everyone. Therefore in all humility the seeker should only ask for His mercy and grace:
“Mohae maskeen prabh naam adhhaar.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 676)
Meaning: I am meek and poor; the Naam of God is my only Support.
So, how can one achieve that status? Guru Ji has provided the answer by saying that it is by God’s grace alone:
“Jaa aapae nadhar karae prabh sachaa thaa hovai dhaasan dhaas.”; — (SGGS, Pg. No. 949)
Meaning: When God Himself bestows His Glance of Grace, then one becomes the slave of His slaves.
It is not surprising that prayer for the boon of humility is an integral part of the Sikh collective prayer. In the beginning of Ardas, or prayer, first the blessings of Almighty and Gurus are invoked, followed by a recount of heritage, a refresher on significant history, and then by remembrance of the five highest religious seats of the Sikhs. This brief refresher is to prime the mind for supplication. The first supplication is on behalf of the Khalsa and for the wellbeing of mankind. Then we have a supplication for humility in these words:
“Sikkhaan daa mun neevaan, mut oucchee, mut daa raakhaa aap Waaheguroo.”
Meaning: May the consciousness’s of the Sikhs remain humble and their wisdom be profound; You be the Protector of wisdom, O Enlightening God (Waheguru)!
So, we can see that along with deep humility, the supplication is for wisdom and its preservation. Thus, deep humility and higher wisdom will become the wheels which propel one forward on the spiritual journey. It is the ego in the mind, which becomes the stumbling block on the path as we saw above in case of Sukhdev. The person with ego has no room for learning, as the conviction of “I know it all!” is quite strong. Thus, the person will only follow his own mind and therefore there is no transformation or change possible. It is humility alone that opens the person to learning and transformation. Guru Nanak Dev Ji used to site the example of water to describe this state, that it seeps deepest into the earth rising out as the highest geyser. The deep humility will initiate spiritual development and higher understanding, which will allow for right discernment and assessments in life. The lower understanding chases the materialistic world and possessions, while higher understanding paves paths of spiritual growth. The mind is the only mechanism through which we establish contact with the outside world and spiritual world. So in order to get grace, the only tool available to mankind is prayer. We will discuss this in the subsequent Chapter X. However, one lesson to take with us to scale the pinnacle humility is that we will have to become dust of all:
“Sarab kee raynn hoveejai. aaap mittaai mileejai.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 896)
Meaning: Be the dust of all men's feet. Eradicate self-conceit, and merge in the Lord.
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More by : Bhupinder Singh