Humility: A Spiritual Journey – 10
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In our society, we are trained by our parents and teachers to become somebody worthwhile in life. We have coined many terms to describe those enabler qualities as confident, competent, disciplined, self-motivated, high self-esteem, go-getter, etc. Those, who are not showered with these epithets, are not perceived as successful or valued in today’s society. Although, our society and the education system promotes self-esteem, when this quality grows beyond a certain threshold, then the same quality is labelled as pride, narcissism, vanity, chutzpah, etc.
What are we trying to achieve with the epithets of being successful in life? We are trying to make our desires, expectations and our aspirations a reality. But we forget that, where there are expectations and desires, there will also be frustrations and disappointments – these are both sides of the same coin. First the desire was created by the mind, then efforts were made to fulfill the desire, and the resulting success generated pride. Pride by its presence, drives out humility. Humility means the person has put a break on his/her unfettered desires. The prayer for humility will only spring out of the heart that has realized one's own shortcomings and limitations and has realized that everything will be done as per God’s will. When one realizes that there is nothing that one can be truly proud of, one laments in these words:
“Hum ddolat beRee paap bharee hai pavan lagai mat jaae'ee.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 878)
Meaning: My boat is wobbly and unsteady; it is filled with sins. The wind (of lust) is rising - what if it tips over (my boat)?
The realization, that I am full of sins and the wind of lust can sink my lifeboat is humbling. Then one starts wondering about the One, who is beyond the effects of sins and lust. Just a realization that there sure is someone, opens the hearts and words of prayer flow out:
“Hum moorakh kishhooa n jaanahaa kiv paaveh paaro.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 450)
Meaning: I am a fool, and I know nothing. How can I find Your limits?
Thus, becoming the dust of the feet or insignificant is sign of higher development. It is a declaration of need of handholding of the father figure. This prayer is born out of introspection and realization, that there is a lack of humility. Guru Arjan Dev Ji holds our hands and shows us how to pray for humility:
“Raakh pitaa Prabh mere. Mohi niragun sabh gun terai.1. Rahaau.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 205)
Meaning: Save me, O My Father God. I am worthless and without virtue; all virtues are Yours. 1. Pause.
Guru Ji is trying to elevate us into becoming a person of eminence. Because with the pride hubris within us, we try to become the doer and forget that we are not really in control. Many who develop such a high opinion of the self, that they start feeling the imminence of God in themselves? In Chapter IX, We saw the story of Sukhdev; how his pride was the obstacle, and how he humbled himself. Guru Ji has provided us with the prescription on how to pray for and seek humility.
In fact, from the words of all the Gurus, we find that they have prayed with utmost humility; also shown us how to ask for grace. Guru Nanak Dev Ji has not left us wondering or searching for words of prayer but has shared his words with us which cannot be altered. These words are not just a beautiful prayer; the words display ornate, poetic, and artistic penmanship. Guru Ji says:
"Jeta samund sagar neer bhariaa thaethae aougun humaarae. Dayaa karahu kichh mehar oupaavahu dubadhae pathhar taarae." — (SGGS, Pg. No. 156)
Meaning: (Just) as seas and oceans are brimming with water, so am I filled with shortcomings. Please, shower me with Your Mercy, and take pity upon me. I am a sinking stone - please carry me across.
These words paint for us a true picture of humility. There is no external display of power, position, ego, or pride in the achievements, but rather a prayer for humility despite those accomplishments. What we see here is a realization that the self as an ocean full of sins, while God is the true savior. His grace is such that it can even make a sinking stone afloat. The pleading for Almighty’s mercy is humbling as it removes the coating of ego. Guru Ram Das Ji has expressed similar views by showing us how to pray with these words:
"Hum gareeb maskeen parbh taerae har raakh raakh vad vaddaa hae." — (SGGS, Pg. No. 13)
Meaning: Oh God! I am poor and meek, but I am yours! Save me, please save me, O Greatest of the Great.
These words of prayers clearly come from the heart and demonstrate a keen desire to be accepted and blessed with grace. In contrast the pride of achievement makes one a closed shell, who thinks highly of self. This can be compared to a closed house that starts smelling with a stale stench, as doors and windows are closed. But, when doors and windows are opened, fresh air ventilates the house cleaning the stale air. In the same way, a person with a high opinion of oneself has closed the possibility to learn new ideas or perspectives, evoking a stale smell. The learner or the Sikh does not do so; instead he/she has opened all the doors of possibilities. He/she is willing to ask, pray, experiment, and learn to improve, thus becoming better. This is the attitude that keeps the seeker firmly planted on the ground, while the mind keeps shooting skywards.
The prayer stems from a feeling of emptiness of the heart and yearning for an experience of bliss. According to Guru Ji the human life is very beautiful. Life is full of joy, happiness, bliss, and freedom, yet what we experience is the totally opposite. As we fail to see the Creator in the creation, we experience suffering. When the Creator is experienced in every aspect of life, then life becomes beautiful. In order to experience that beauty, Guru Ji says we must change our mindset. The prayer for humility is born from this mindset alone. Where there is an admission of the limits of the self, there is prayer in humility to Almighty for handholding. That prayer is:
“Haar pariou suaamee kai dhuaarai dheejai budhh bibaekaa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 641)
Meaning: I have collapsed, exhausted, at the Door of my Lord Master; I pray that He may grant me a discerning intellect.
This is a complete surrender of the intellect, which is the mother of most our own problems and mind-wandering. It is this intellect alone that made humans ascend to the top of the pyramid of the entire creation; but it also becomes the cause of humans undoing in life. This realization makes one open his/her self in a sincere prayer. It can reach God and His grace brings forth a new discerning intellect. This attitude blossoms into flowers of beauty, yielding a sweet delicious fruit that is beneficial to mankind. This state of mind has been depicted in Gurbani in these words:
“Sukhee basai masakeeneeaa aap nivaar thalae. Baddae baddae aha(n)kaareeaa naanak garab galae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 278)
Meaning: The humble beings abide in peace; subduing egotism, they become meek. The very proud and arrogant persons, O Nanak, are consumed by their own pride.
The history books are littered with the accounts of rulers, who dreamt of conquering the world but failed and left this world dejected, lost, and in ignominy. In contrast, the humble person will be completely free from such fettered thoughts. All his/her thoughts will be steeped in gratitude and his/her interactions will be unpretentious; as Guru Ji tells us
"Muth hodhee hoe eiaanaa. Taan hodhae hoe nithaanaa. Anehodhae aap va(n)ddaaeae. Ko aisaa bhagath sadhaaeae." — (SGGS, Pg. No.1384)
Meaning: If you are wise, be unpretentious; if you are powerful, be humble; and when there is nothing to share, then share your share with others. Only a very rare one, who lives like this is known as a devotee.
With such a frame of mind, the seeker prays and counsels the mind with these words:
"Mun jio apunae prabh bhaavo. neechahu neech neech ath naanhaa hoe gareeb bulaavo." — (SGGS, Pg. No. 529)
Meaning: O my mind, act (in a manner) that it pleases God. Become the lowest of the low, the very least of the tiny, and pray in utmost humility.
Thus, we can see that Guru Ji is telling us to become the most humble and pray for God's grace. At present we are running our lives on an autopilot and that is the cause of getting caught in cycles of birth and death
“Eiaahoo jugat bihaane ke'ee janam. Nanak raakh leh aapan kar karam.7.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 267)
Meaning: So many lifetimes are being wasted in these ways. Nanak: uplift this soul, and redeem it, O Lord - show Your Mercy!
In fact, the bard Bhatt Keerat's prayer for humility to Guru Ram Das Ji is another great example of a true prayer for humility. He prays:
"Hum avagun bharae aek gun naahee amrit shhaadd bikhai bikh khaaee. Maya moh bharam pai bhoolae suth dhaaraa sio preet lagaaee. Ik uttam panth suniou gur sangat thih milanth jam taraas mittaaee. Ik aradhaas bhaatt keerath kee gur raamadaas raakhahu saranaaee." — (SGGS, Pg. No.1406)
Meaning: I am overflowing with sins and demerits; I have no merits or virtues at all. I abandoned the Ambrosial Nectar, and I drank poison instead. I am attached to Maya and deluded by doubt; I have fallen in love with my children and spouse. I have heard that the most exalted Path of all is the Sangat, the Guru's Congregation. Joining it, the fear of death is taken away. Keerat the poet offers this one prayer: O Guru Raam Daas! Save me! Take me into Your Sanctuary!
Bhatt Keerat opens his heart in full humility, admitting to his lack of virtues, and his attachment to the perishable world, his family, his doubts, and his wavering mind. He says that we forsake the exalted path and instead opt for the path of inevitable doom. Therefore, Bhatt prays to Guru Ram Das and seeks the sanctuary of the Guru Ji, freeing the self from a fear of death. It is not surprising that the prescribed Sikh prayer has similar words of pleading for humility as:
"Sikhaa da mun neevaa, mut uchee, mut pat daa rakhaa aap Waheguru."
Meaning: May the minds of all Sikhs remain humble, and their wisdom exalted. O God! You are the protector of wisdom.
The beauty of these words is really beyond description. One can only reflect on this prayer and admire it. The seeker can get drenched in the admiration process and feel the surge of humility within. This short sentence besides being a prayer for humility is also a prayer for higher understanding. Additionally, there is an acknowledgement that God is the protector of wisdom or higher understanding. Why? Because the feeling of acquisition higher understanding; also creates a subtle pride within. So in one short sentence, the prayer is sandwiched between a prayer for humility and the acknowledgement that higher understanding is acquired only with God’s grace and protection. Without it, humility can get lost in the flood of pride that swells when acquiring higher understanding.
Now, let us try to get a better understanding of “higher understanding”. Life, property, wealth, position, and fame are all perishable as they do not accompany the soul after death. In contrast, love, reverence, remembrance of God does accompany one in death – this is also known as Naam. That is higher understanding – it is the thing that does not perish and accompanies one after death. Reaching a higher understanding empowers our minds, while the lower understanding produces a wavering, doubtful mind. Acquiring higher understanding is the prime function of the human form, as it is only then that transformation can take place. It is precisely for this reason that Guru Arjan Dev Ji has declared those who consider themselves humble are as truly exalted:
"Aapas ko jo jaanai neechaa. So-ou ganeeai sabh thae oochaa." — (SGGS, Pg. No. 266)
Meaning: One who sees himself as lowly, shall be accounted as the highest of all.
Guru Ji advises us to accumulate the wealth of humility in these words:
"Budhh gareebee kharach laihu houmai bikh jaarahu." — (SGGS, Pg. No. 399)
Meaning: Take wisdom and humility as your spending money and burn away the poison of pride.
So, Guru Ji is asking us to acquire the capital of humility in this life, which is the valid currency in the world of after death. Guru Ji also asks us to purge egoistic tendencies by burning them. Guru Arjan Dev Ji shares with us what to pray for, in these words:
"Misatt bachan baenathee karo deen kee niaaee. Thaj abhimaan saranee paro har gun nidhh paaee." — (SGGS, Pg. No. 745)
Meaning: I offer my prayer with sweet words, in sincere humility. Renouncing egotism, I enter His Sanctuary. I have found the Lord, the treasure of virtue.
It is only upon realization of the virtues of humility and follies of pride, that one can develop a yearning to cultivate humility. Then one can clearly see the direct relationship between acquiring virtues and becoming humble. In fact, Guru Ji has spelled the relationship between these two in these words:
"Tau kich paaeeae jau hoeeai raenaa." — (SGGS, Pg. No. 739)
Meaning: One alone obtains something when one becomes the dust under the feet of all.
With these words on our lips, let us pray and hope that we may also experience the God within ourselves. Because, You are the All-powerful, who can bless us with the gift of humility:
“Thum samarath purakh vaddae prabh suaamee mo ko keejai daan har nimaghaa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 731)
Meaning: You are the All-powerful, Great, Primal God, my Lord and Master. O Lord, please bless me with the gift of humility.
Therefore, I am doing this supplication to You; willingly giving up the pride:
“Karo binantee maan tyagao.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 99)
Meaning: I offer my prayers-I have forsaken my pride.
The feeling, I do not have any strength of my own and have nowhere else to look for support is expressed in these words:
“Mai taaN dheebaaN toohai mere suaamee mai tudh aagai aradhaas. Mai hor thaau naahee jis pahi karu benatee meraa dhukh sukh tujh hee paas.2.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 735)
Meaning: You alone are my strength, and my Court (ultimate authority), O my Lord and Master; only to You alone I pray. There is no other place where I can make my supplication as my comforts and pains-here and hereafter are in Your hands alone.
When the prayer to Almighty for humility is answered, then the state of mind of the person undergoes a dramatic transformation. The mind now sees things differently. Guru Ji has shared with us the new perspective of that mind as expressed below:
“Bandhan kaaT bisaare aaugan apanaa biradh samaariaa. hoe kipaal maat pit niaae'ee baarik jiu pratipaariaa.1.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 382)
Meaning: He has cut away all my bonds, and overlooked my shortcomings, and so He has confirmed His nature. Becoming merciful to me, like a mother or a father, he has come to cherish me as His own child.
Here, we see a development of the new bond and intimate relationship, like that between a child and the parents. This development took place only because of prayer for humility. When the ego was effaced, then a profound transformation takes place within. Now wherever one looks one sees Lord everywhere:
“Jab eihu hooaa sagal kee reenaa. Taa thae rameeaa ghatt ghatt cheenaa.1.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 235)
Meaning: But when it becomes the dust of all, then it recognizes the Lord is in each and every heart.
When the Lord is experienced by one in everyone, then the following developments take place:
- Serenity develops within
- Surrendering to the Divine will takes place
- Reverence is born
- Devotion blossoms
- Parent like protection from Lord is experienced
- Bliss is nurtured
When the state of mind is full of humility, the salvation is experienced while still alive. That experience is not something one experiences after departure from this world, in heaven. That experience is now, while still alive. It is because of this achievement in life they are honored in Lord’s court as well:
“Kar kirapaa jis kai hiradhai gareebee basaavai. Nanak ieehaa mukat aaagai 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 this is the ultimate achievement which is the result of prayer for humility and the blessings of the Divine Grace. Therefore, prayer for humility will be born in the heart, where there is a realization of insignificance of self and that God is the master, protector, nurturer, and the closest relative - spouse. The prayer will be a request that as per Your kind nature ignore all our faults and just save us. When the prayer is granted then bliss in life is experienced. This experience of bliss is an innate human desire of all. However, without a clear understanding, we will be seeking it in all the places, except where it actually is. The prayer for humility is putting on the right tract to experience bliss while still alive.
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