Cultivating Humility

Humility: A Spiritual Journey – 12

Continued from Previous Page

Most of the books and treatises on the subject of humility would be incomplete without a section devoted to developing humility. However in this book, instead we will talk about cultivating humility. The rationale for this treatment is that humility is not completely absent in human beings waiting to be developed. Instead, it is already present within us along with its antithesis ego. So that seed of humility has to be cultivated, and nurtured to grow. However along with it, its antithesis of ego and pride are there too. Thus humility is not something external requiring import, but it is something that has to be nurtured and cultivated to grow; simultaneously the ego has to be subdued and its hold weakened. Just as a wild rose has thorns along with flowers, we all possess humility – a rose like quality along with ego – a thorn like quality. But when the wild rose is nurtured, through the breeding process, we see that the size of flower, beauty and fragrance are enhanced and the stems become longer, while thorns are subdued making them less prickly. Guru Ji has painted this portrait in these words:

“AvaguNee bharapoor hai guN bhee vasahi naal.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 926)

Meaning: He (man) is overflowing with faults and demerits, but virtue dwells within him as well.

Guru Ji is sharing with us that we humans are packed with both virtues and imperfections. Virtues are there because the Creator Himself dwells within each of us as the soul. Additionally, imperfections or faults are also present in each of us, as the Creator has packed those too within human body. Interestingly, both these have been packed together in everyone, since the time of creation. Thus it is the part of the great design of the Creator as the opposites reside together. Guru describes that phenomenon in these words:

“Jin rach rachiaa purakh bidhaatai naale haumai paae'ee.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 999)

Meaning: The Primal Lord, the Architect of Destiny, formed the human form; He has also burdened it with egotism.

So, with both aspects being present within, whichever aspect is nurtured by us will become our predominant nature. The results, outcome and consequences in our lives will be transmuted accordingly as well. Before talking about cultivating humility, it is important that we get a clear picture of our present state of mind. What is the mind? Mind comprises of our conscious thinking, feelings, understanding, perceptions, and behaviors. Guru Ji paints the picture of our present mind in these words:

“Andhee kanmee andh mun mun andhai tan andh.”             — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1287)

Meaning: Acting blindly, the mind becomes blind. The blind mind makes the body blind.

Guru Ji is making a bold declaration that the mind is blind. With the blind mind leading the sense organs, they binge blindly under its influence. No one else in the society shares with us this aspect of our mind. We have never been exposed to this picture by our education system or society. We feel that it is quite normal, as we are productive, successful in life, and become the valued members of society. Our self-esteem has been built up by our schools, parents, and society as discussed previously. According to Guru Ji, the net result of that false perception is:  

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

Meaning: My only virtue is that I carry the load talking on my head.

Here, Guru Ji has explained that the only trait that we have acquired is boasting about ourselves. We talk for the sake of talking, blowing our own horn or critiquing others. Actually, the talk that we engage in has no real significance in life. We have even coined words to describe that useless talk – we call it gibberish, gossip, chit-chat, catchup, socializing, chatter, trash talk, etc.  Even though we engage ourselves in these conversations, we engage ourselves simultaneously in judging others by endorsing, applauding, or criticizing. By indulging in these irrelevant conversations, day and night we keep building and carrying a load in our heads our entire lives. In this process we forget the Creator. When God is forgotten then one gets trapped, as Guru Ji has shared with us:

“Jaalee rain jaal dhin hooaa jetee ghaRee faahee tetee.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 990)

Meaning: The night is a net, and the day is a net; there are as many traps as there are moments of time.

This is how our sense organs keep us trapped or completely engaged mentally. Guru Ji says the result will be forgetting the Creator resulting in:

“Har bisarat tere guN galiaa.1. Rahaau.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 12)

Meaning: As you start forgetting the Lord, your virtues shall wither away. 1. Pause.

If by forgetting God the virtues start depleting, then there should be a way to augment and nurture virtues. Guru Ji shares that method as:

“Chit chaytas kee nahee baavariaa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 990)

Meaning: Why do you not keep Him in your consciousness, you mad man?

The mind is so engrossed in the material world that it has forgotten the Creator. That is where the Guru’s role comes in. The remembrance will take place when something admirable is brought to our attention. Guru Ji has defined the crucial role of the facilitator whose insight makes us see the divine virtues in these words:

“ViN satagur guN na jaapanee jichar sabadh na karae beechaar.44. — (SGGS, Pg. No. 936)

Meaning: Without the True Guru, one does not see God's Virtues; until the Holy word is pondered over with Guru’s thought process. 44.

So, we now can clearly see the role and significance of Guru in life. Without the Guru’s guidance mind will always be in negativity. Simply put, human mind indulges in negativity, and it gets a kick out of judging others – a feeling of superiority. In other words, our minds are always looking for excitements and cheap thrills. Thus, when we are in the company of others, the conversation always veers towards the subject that provides us with fulfillment of these venal desires. Therefore, as we indulge in the talk about others, praise and slander provide the necessary fodder. In fact, now our smartphones have our new emotional crutches for instant gratifications. Prof. Jim Roberts has coined a term phubbing (which is compound word for phone plus snubbing) to describe the fact that we are paying attention to phone instead of the other person during our interactions.  However, by cultivating humility, we essentially derail the train of thought from the path seeking constant excitement. If we continue craving for clues to excitement and make it our emotional crutches, then our life will become tasteless and insipid. Guru Ji describes it as:

“Mut alooNee fikaa saadh.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 25)

Meaning: The flavor of the intellect is bland and insipid (without the Salt).

Here Guru Ji is telling us that the mind is not wise, so all its actions will be tasteless making life joyless. But in reality, there is another aspect to life; it can be very tasty, beautiful and blissful. However, we have not tasted those flavors, because of our egoistic mind. The attributes that make life beautiful and tasteful are joyfulness, happiness, contentment, bliss, freedom, and no cravings. We can taste those flavors of life, when ego is purged out and humility is nurtured within. That happens, when we have created room for these attributes to dwell in our lives.

Cultivating humility is essential for spiritual growth. In fact, the human form is already the peak development of mind and body. Although, we have ascended to humans in form, we still carry leftover baggage of animalistic tendencies, as we have evolved from those body forms. We still carry over the traits which helped us survive in those forms. In those incarnations we have experienced thirst, hunger, starvation, pain, disease, and becoming a prey and getting killed. So as a matter of self-defense and survival, we have acquired a mind-set that operates on fight or flight mode. Those survival skills helped us survive, thrive, evolve, and progress on the evolutionary ladder, climbing to the top, where we are today in the human form. Living through our instincts helped us survive and thrive - moving up on an intellectual scale.

But now in the human form, we have been bestowed with logic and a unique ability to rationalize. Further evolution will not be at the biological or intellectual level, but at the spiritual level. We must learn new set of skills, further enhancing our capability to be logical and rational. Guru Ji’s advice is that now is the time to grow in a totally different dimension and scale.

So, how can the cultivating take place? The cultivating takes place when we meet Real Master or Guru is met, who speaks the Holy Word and we ponder over and incorporate them in our lives. Guru Ji encourages us to embark on that journey in these words:

“Aagaahaa koo thraagh pishhaa faer n muhaddarraa. Nanak sijh eivaehaa vaar bahurr n hovee janamarraa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No.1096)

Meaning: Look ahead; don't turn your face backwards. O Nanak, be successful this time, and you shall not be reincarnated again.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji has very clearly defined those growth areas for human form as:

“Thithhai gharreeai surath math man budhh.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 7)

Meaning: The intuitive consciousness, intellect and understanding of the mind are shaped there.

Guru Ji is talking about development at an intellectual and spiritual level. Guru Ji has defined the four faculties where development needs to take place:

1. Thorough development of awareness
2. Acquiring higher understanding
3. Complete evolution of perception
4. Thorough development of logic and rationality

Guru Ji calls those who embark on this journey as “Spiritual Warriors”. Our current dilemma is that at present we are leading a life devoid of complete awareness, and without the higher thought processes and understanding. So, how can these four faculties be developed? These areas can only be developed if humility is cultivated. Guru Nanak Dev Ji has advised us about it in these words:

“Suniaa munniaa mun keethaa bhaao. Antharagath teerath mul naao.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 4)

Meaning: By listening and believing in reverence with humility in mind, one cleanses the sacred shrine (soul) within.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji has suggested:

“Mun kee muth thiaageeai suneeai upadaesh.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 814)

Meaning: So renounce the intellectual cleverness of your mind, and listen to the (divine) Teachings (from Guru).

Guru Ji wants us to be convinced without a doubt that whatever Guru Ji’s teachings are, they are for our good and to have complete faith in them:

“Joe gur kahai soe'ee bhal maanahu har har kathaa niraalee.1. Rahaau.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 667)

Meaning: Whatever the Guru says, accept that as good; the sermon of the Lord, Har, Har, is unique and wonderful. 1. Pause.

It is unique and wonderful, as it can transform us. So, the first step is to go to Guru, having complete faith and just surrendering. There, the process of transformation takes place by listening and believing; and both these activities are associated with the mind alone. When one listens attentively and believes in the preaching, then a sacred shrine develops within the self. The cultivation process takes place only when it is done in complete humility. By incorporating these processes with reverence, progress is made, humility is cultivated, and one experiences cleansing of the mind. When one is reminded that one is lacking virtues inside, it produces an immediate humbling feeling. As the malignant growth of ego is curtailed, humility blossoms from within, and a prayer is born. This is a humble prayer to the Almighty to bless with virtues. Because without virtues, the progress on the path of spiritual evolution cannot not take place, as Guru Nanak Dev Ji has advised:

Vinh gun keethae bhagat n hoe.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 4)

Meaning: Without virtue, there is no devotional worship possible.

Guru Ji has shared the fact that the Creator is the reservoir of virtues, and these can only be acquired when one is blessed by Him, in grace. So, this becomes a starting point of realization of need of God. It is the relationship with the Almighty, which is the start of the journey on the road to humility.

Kabir Ji has taken this approach to his heart and prays to Almighty in these words:

“Raameeaa hau baarik taeraa. Kaahae n khanddas avagan maeraa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 478)

Meaning: Oh beautiful all-pervading Lord! I am Your child. (So) why don’t you erase my imperfections?

These words truly capture the very essence of humility. Kabir Ji’s use of the word “Raameeaa” and his childlike pleadings can make one feel his true affection. In the subsequent lines, Kabir Ji gives the example of a mother, to further reinforce his pleadings. He says that even if a son commits sins, the mother still ignores those. Subsequently, he adds that even if the son runs away from his mother in frustration or anger, the mother still does not take it to heart, but pardons her son’s egregious behavior. A mother’s love for her son is unconditional and does not diminish despite her son’s sins. So, Kabir Ji is asking for such an unconditional love from the Almighty, like that of a mother. Pleading for grace of Almighty shows humility of the heart and a deep desire to develop and evolve spiritually. In other words, when we realize our own insignificance, relative to the vast universe created by Almighty, we get a feeling of awe for the creative power of Almighty. Then nothing else is left to ask for, except for beneficence from the Creator only. Only then can the heart be emptied of imperfections and room made for virtues. When there is room and space in the heart, only then new growth will take place. That growth will be spiritual growth.

Sheikh Fareed Ji has taken the example of a floor mat made of grass to describe how humble one has to become. He says:

“Fareedhaa Thheeo Pavaahee Dhabh. Jae Saanee Lorrehi Sabh. Eik Shhijehi Biaa Lathaarreeahi. Thaan Saaee Dhai Dhar Vaarreeahi.16.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1378)

Meaning: Fareed, become the grass on the path, if you long for the Lord of all. One will cut you down, and another will trample you underfoot; then, you shall enter the Court of the Lord.

To paint a complete picture of humility, Farid Ji uses the metaphor of a variety of grass that grows on river banks which is used to make floor mat. In this example, first the grass is cut that symbolizes giving up or total surrender. Then the cut grass gets trampled upon to flatten it, finally woven into a floor mat. Only then does it qualify to become the mat that graces the door of the house of Lord. When it becomes the floor mat at the place of worship, then worshippers in reverence pick up dust from it and apply it on their foreheads out of reverence. Thus the grass because of its humility became an object of reverence. In fact, Guru Arjan Dev Ji has recommended a two pronged attack on the ego from his own personal experience. He says:

“Prathhamae tyagee houmai preet. Dhutheeaa tyagee logaa reeth.”     — (SGGS, Pg. No. 370)

Meaning: First, I renounced my egoistical love of the self. Second, I renounced the ways of the world.

Here, Guru Ji is talking about abandoning self-hood, which is the ego that is afflicting everyone. It is the thinking of the mind in terms of “I, me, mine” alone. The ego likes to rule over everyone, but does not relish the thought of becoming subservient to anyone else. That is how slavery, caste systems and feudal systems made inroads and established firmly. These were later scorned upon as perverse, and are now slowly working their way out of the society.

We all want to be successful in life. Unfortunately, the gauge of our success in life comes from the acknowledgment and endorsement of others. In order to declare our success to the world, we paint our poster with a brush of lavish life-style. That life-style is a demonstration to the world, that we have made it big on the world stage; that we are somebody. We are trying to get endorsement from society that we have joined the celebrities club. The influence of celebrities in our lives can be gauged from the way we try to imitate their life styles, dresses, their sense of fashion, mannerisms, hair styles, etc. In fact, if we go to the magazine section in book stores, we can see that celebrity magazines are doing roaring business, but mind-stimulating magazines have their sales plummeting. We even try to emulate their wardrobes complete with designer label accessories as well. Our only objective from all these senseless imitations is to declare to the world that we have joined the elites club. Now we are the glitterati ourselves. These lavish life-styles are food and nourishment to the ego. The ego desires respect and recognition from others. In one short sentence, Guru Ji provided a strategy to tame ego with a double attack. Guru Ji’s prescription is to give up your ego and cease conforming to the norms of the society which only result in ego enhancements. According to Guru Ji, by adopting this double-pronged strategy, a big transformation will take place. Faith and humility are garnered as the ego is tamed. Then the race to do what everybody else is doing recedes into the background.  

So, how to prepare ourselves to rid the filth of ego? Guru Ji declares that the ego is only washed away when the love for God wells up inside.

“Prabh kee preeth houmai mul khoe.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 391)

Meaning: In the Love of God, the filth of ego is washed away.

When the filth of ego is washed away, then through the teachings of Guru an understanding and realization that the divine light is in each being is kindled within:

“Gur saakhee jot paragaT hoe.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 13)

Meaning: Through Guru's Teachings, the Light shines forth.

That realization is a humbling experience. How do we develop love for God? How can the love for God well up inside us when He cannot be seen with the worldly eyes? That is where the role of Guru comes in. Guru Ji has clarified that as:

Bin gur preet n oopajai houmai mail n jaae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 60)

Meaning: Without the Guru, love does not well up, and the filth of egotism does not depart.

It is through the words of Guru that this transformation takes place, as the filth of ego is washed away. Then the love for God wells up within, with Guru’s grace:

“Nanak jan gur pooraa paaeiaa. Antar baahar ek dhikhaaeiaa.4.3.54.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 384)

Meaning: Servant Nanak has found the Perfect Guru. Inwardly and outwardly, He has shown me the One Lord.

It is through the words of the Guru, the ego got completely eradicated:

Gur shabadhee vichahu houmai khoe.” — (SGGS, Pg. No.1173)

Meaning: Through the Word of the Guru's Shabad, egotism is eradicated from within.

Guru Ji’s words or teachings share with us the greatness, benevolence, infinite capability, art and intelligence of God, which made the creation and sustaining it continuously. It is again Guru Ji’s teachings that make us realize that our own strength, capability, faculties and intelligence are quite limited. Guru Ji’s words perform the work of a life coach and it molds us into new life. Yes, again it is Guru Ji’s words, that make us beg for support and strength, while acknowledging our own limits and weaknesses. Our prayer will be echoing of Kabir Ji’s words as discussed above or Guru Ji words as under:

Naa hao jatee satee nahee parriaa moorakh mugadhhaa janam bhaeiaa. Pranavath naanak tin kee saranaa jin too naahee veesariaa. — (SGGS, Pg. No. 12)

Meaning: I am not celibate, nor truthful, nor scholarly. I was born foolish and ignorant into this world.
Prays Nanak, I seek the Sanctuary of those who have not forgotten You, O Lord!

As we get closer to Guru and God, we naturally start seeing how small and insignificant we truly are. We realize that we are mere candles in front of the shining Sun. Just as the candle can only light up the darkness in absence of Sun, but when it gets closer to the sun, its light appears quite dim as the light of the Sun overwhelms the candle light. The same is true of us. As we grow spiritually and develop a closer connection to the Light of the Creator, humility will come naturally to us, along with the realization of our own insignificance. We will become acutely aware of the faintness of our own light in comparison to His. The person no longer has to work on it; it comes in as naturally as breathing. If humility is not coming to us naturally, it is an indication that we still need to work on cultivating this ability. And since humility opens the door for blessings, this is the question we have to ask ourselves: Is humility coming to me naturally? If not, then I still have to work on it and beg for it with folded hands in prayer:

“Nanak mangai daan prabh raen pag saadhhaa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 678)

Meaning: Nanak begs God for the gift of the dust of the feet of the Saints.

Here, Guru Arjan Dev Ji is showing us how to beg for humility; it is to become dust of the feet of saints. Why is it necessary to take such a drastic step? Guru Ji has clarified the objective in the preceding line by saying:

Saa mut dhaehu daeiaal prabh jith thumehi araadhhaa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 678)

Meaning: Bless me with such understanding, O Merciful Lord God, that I might engage in Your adoration.

Thus, Guru Ji has clarified that for getting rid of the ego is a pre-requisite for cultivating humility and developing adoration and a closer relationship with God. The outcome is clarified by Guru Ji as follows:

“Hoae sagal kee raenukaa har sang samaavo.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 322)

Meaning: Become the dust of all men's feet, and so merge with the Lord.

Therefore, the ultimate achievement in cultivating humility is merger with God. By cultivating humility, we develop strength of character, conviction, and fearlessness. Our spiritual journey only takes place on the road paved with humility. When the humility is fully nurtured and divine grace is experienced then a realization dawns that our essence is same as that of God:  

“Kahau kabir eih raam kee ans(h).” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 871)

Meaning: Says Kabir, (I have gained this understanding) this (body) is formed of the same essence as the Lord.

  When one has become one with God, then nothing else remains to be accomplished in life. This is the ultimate achievement, which was made possible by cultivating humility. Guru Ji has confirmed that the person becomes God like while alive, in human form as:

“Nanak haumai maareeaai sachay jayhaRaa soi.8.2.10.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1015)

Meaning: O Nanak, one who conquers and subdues his ego, becomes just like the True Lord. 8.2.10.

Now this is the apex of human achievement which was made possible by cultivating humility.

Continued to Next Page 


More by :  Bhupinder Singh

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Views: 3579      Comments: 2

Comment This is a deeply thought of piece of writing. Bhupinder this makes one think deep, within, around and very high! God bless you!!!

vvb ramarao
11-Oct-2020 19:07 PM

Comment A good and clear write-up. Humility is essence of character and must be cultivated if not natural.

Varanasi Ramabrahmam
03-Oct-2020 21:04 PM

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