May 28, 2023
May 28, 2023
Humility is defined in a multitude of ways throughout the world. Scriptures and philosophical literature of the world related to this subject has provided their own definitions. But one thing is agreed by all is that humility is absence of ego. So, if the pinnacle of humility is to be defined, it is quite challenging. The interesting thing is that Kabir ji has made the daunting task really simple; by the way he addressed it. In this article we will see how Kabir ji defines the pinnacle of humility. Before going into the details let us first ask Kabir ji to share his definition of Humility. Kabir ji Says:
“Kabir sabh thae ham burae ham thaj bhalo sabh koe.
jin aisaa kar boojhiaa meeth hamaaraa soe.” – (SGGS, Pg. No. 1364)
Kabir, I am the worst of all. Everyone else is better person than me.
Whoever understands this is a dear friend of mine.
Here Kabir ji has put himself at the bottom of the ladder and everyone over him. This disposition he has acquired after a deep contemplation on the divine, when the feeling of I me mine evaporated in him. But for an average person he is always better than the other. So, it becomes really very deceptive to judge humility by oneself, as one always carries a prejudice of being humbler and better. Then, if we have to describe the pinnacle of humility it will be really totally biased and subjective. Additionally, as there is no scale, gage or a judge for it the true measure of humility, the perception will always be biased. When the humility is so subjective, then its claim makes it the first victim as it departs. Thus this tough riddle is not easy to decipher. So, then how humble is humble enough? Interestingly in Guru Granth Sahib Kabir ji’s answers for this knotty riddle, has been provided very succinctly for us as:
“Kabir rorraa hoe rahu baatt kaa thaj mun kaa abhimaan.
Aisaa koee daas hoe thaahi milai bhagavaan.
Kabir rorraa hooaa th kiaa bhaeiaa panthhee ko dhukh dhaee.
Aisaa taeraa daas hai jio dhharanee mehi khaeh.
Kabir khaeh hooee tau kiaa bhaeiaa jo oudd laagai ang.
Har jan aisaa chaaheeai jio paanee sarabang.
Kabir paanee hooaa th kiaa bhaeiaa seeraa thaathaa hoe.
Har jan aisaa chaaheeai jaisaa har hee hoe.” – (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.
Kabir, what good would it be, to be a pebble?
It would only hurt the traveller on the path.
Your slave, O Lord, is like the dust of the earth.
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.
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.
This is an interesting model of pinnacle of humility as offered by Kabir ji. He starts with the metaphor of a pebble, which paves the pathway. The pebble has offered itself fully; it is serving the mankind, which walks over it. It patiently endures the trampling of the travellers, without any complaint. Kabir ji says such a humble person, who has abandoned ego will meet God. But, after making that statement he corrects himself. He questions what good it is to be humble as a pebble? After all, it can still cause bruises, cuts and injuries, when someone stumbles and falls because of the sharp edges and uneven surface. Kabir ji is not appreciative of that quality in pebbles to hurt the travellers, who walk over it. So, he feels that pebble is not humble enough and instead suggests dust.
Dust is just the powdered pebble, and by becoming dust it has given up its earlier capacity to hurt and injure. Then he realizes that it is still not humble enough, as it can be blown up by the stamping of the feet or by the wind. When air borne, it sticks to the bodies and clothes of the travellers soiling them. So, Kabir ji feels that it is not yet humble enough. Now, he suggests water. Water as it is used to wash off the dust on the body and clothes, but it does not get polluted by it. In addition, water has the unique quality of taking the shape of the container it is poured in. It always completely surrenders itself and takes up the shape of the vessel. It is thus loving and accepting of all without judging anyone.
Now, Kabir ji feels that even water is not humble enough, as it affected by temperature, becoming hot (puffed up) or cold (shrunk) depending on it being subjected to heat (praise) or freeze/chill (criticism). So, he even discards the metaphor of water as an object of embodiment of humility and finally settles for God Himself. His concluding line says it all, that a devotee has to become humble like God Himself. So, Kabir ji’s conclusion is that God is the humblest, and there should not be any distinction left between the devotee and God. The merger of devotee in God should be total and complete.
Kabir ji has deployed a brilliant metaphor to conclude that God is the pinnacle of humility, and our hope, aspiration and inclination should be to become humble like Him. Now if this the benchmark as defined by Kabir ji, a question arises here, has he achieved that pinnacle himself? Yes! Kabir ji has provided the answer himself as he has declared:
“Ab tho jaae chadtae singhaasan
milae hai saarangapaanee.
Raam kabiraa eaek bheae hai
koe n sakai pashhaanee.” – (SGGS, Pg. No. 969)
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 also made it clear that it can be achieved and he himself declares that he has achieved it.
In the metaphor above we have seen pebbles surrendered themselves fully, by becoming useful as the pathway. Yet their sharp corners and edges present tripping hazard and are capable of injuring the walkers. Kabir ji talks about overcoming those shortcomings by becoming dust. But dust gets blown away by dust storms and clings to the bodies and clothes. Kabir ji likens that dust to ignorance which clings to the mind, clouding rationality and clarity of thought. So, he offers water as the medium to get rid of the dust of irrationality that has fogged the mind. Kabir ji is impressed by its cleansing power and its ready adaptability, and quality of always flowing downwards i.e. humility. Also, water is always under the land which is inhibited by pebbles and dust. So, he considers water as epitome of humility. However, he is perturbed by its other quality of being impressed by heat or cold which affect it. Then, Kabir ji starts looking for something more humble than the water. He finally settles with God Himself as nothing else can ace that quality of humility. He thinks that as the ultimate in humility, the pinnacle. Now Kabir ji says that a devotee should become as humble as God. Thus he is suggesting that the devotee has to develop the divine qualities and purge all the animalistic tendencies to completely merge into God. The merger is so complete that there should not be any distinction, mark or boundary that should separate the two. Just as water flowing into the ocean becomes a part of ocean, and it is river no more. Same way the devotee should completely merge with the Creator God and become inseparable. Although, his/her human body the person is separate but the qualities will be inseparable.