It is natural for a civilized society to consciously appreciate the value of humility. Unlike the colonial era when aristocracy was adorned with honorific titles like Lord and His Excellency, and the rank and file were dealt with like slaves, today’s civilization demands exemplary humility in the top leadership.
Realizing the importance of humility, government offices and corporate houses have implemented number of steps to ensure the leadership behaves as expected. There still are those in the society who think of themselves as superior to anyone else who they meet in their life, but a careful study of such people reveals that generally such people are suffering from psychological issues and need compassionate training. This brings up the need to educate the society in the art of cultivating humility.
To know how to cultivate genuine humility we first need to understand what humility actually is. What we see around in today’s artificial world including in those trained professionals and social leaders is mere politeness which is different from true humility.
For example, a business owner, a well placed manager or an influential social leader may speak politely while dealing with his juniors and earn respect for being so, but the same person when confronted by a third party or by the same juniors, may quickly lose his politeness and turn either sarcastic, cynical or even abusive. He may be able to justify his words and actions but the simple fact is. such a person does not possess genuine humility and that is why he cannot tolerate even a little challenge from his subordinates.
However, one should not mistake humility with weakness. It is not a rule that a humble person never raises voice, never argues back or never demands respect. A soldier fighting for his country may even kill his enemy and still be humble. A state minister may take stern actions against wrongdoers and still be humble. A minister of state may demand respect on behalf of his country and still be humble. And a spiritual master may even accept lofty honor from his followers and still be truly humble at heart. This is because genuine humility has more to do with one’s consciousness than one’s external actions.
Humility manifested under binding circumstances could be external and temporary. A person may act humbly out of reverence, out of fear, out of shyness, out of greed, out of selfishness and so on. It may sound contradictory but one may behave humbly even out of pride. For example, one may make a show of being humble and earn respect from others for being so. However, all such shows of humility vanish when the underlying cause ceases to exist.
Why is it so?
All types of humility described until now are based on bodily platform, which itself is temporary. Something that stands on a temporary foundation can never be permanent. While any type of humility is welcome from moral point of view, a true humility rises in one’s heart only when one identifies oneself with one’s real self, which is permanent.
The self, or the soul, according to Bhagavad Gita 15.7, is an infinitesimal part of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The size of the soul described in the Vedic literature is the 1000th part of the tip of the hair. Having such an insignificant size in the gigantic universe, one has all good reasons to be humble. When we understand that we are not the external body or worldly designations, we cultivate genuine humility. Such humility in no way hampers one’s self-esteem. In fact it boosts it as bodily designations force one to identify oneself with dull matter while by identifying with the self, one is able to firmly situate oneself in spiritual consciousness which automatically lifts one’s self-esteem above all types of mundane weaknesses.
Once it is understood that identifying with the self is the only way to cultivate genuine humility, the next question could be, how to identify with the self? The simple and sure answer is, chant Hare Krishna maha mantra. This may sound like sectarian but it is not. It is a proven method practiced by people from all faiths and all walks of life. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is God Himself and who appeared as His own devotee in order to help us learn how to realize God, has assured all success just by chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra.
The process works two-way. By chanting this mantra one purifies his consciousness and is able to identify with the self, and once this is done he develops true humility. At the same time, as mentioned by Lord Chaitanya Himself, by being genuinely humble one is able to chant the holy names of the Lord constantly thus quickly attaining the highest goal of human life. Since it is given by God Himself, this is naturally a foolproof method but one should not take it cheaply. The result will be achieved based on one’s sincerity and commitment.
One may wonder- why bother to be humble when the life anyway goes on and when the world tends to exploit those who are meek and good-hearted. Why be the victim when we can win over others and live a great life? The fact is, genuine humility is the secret key to all success in life. Remember! There is always at least one person in the world who is better than you. A humble blade of grass survives even the most powerful storm because it is willing to bend.
Humility teaches us to respect the invincible time. With humility comes tolerance and tolerance along with determination raises one to newer heights. Humility encourages honesty, gratefulness and inner bliss. It delivers lasting happiness as one rises above mundane competition and hankering. Those who have successfully cultivated it can not only appreciate its full value but can also make others experience it. This is the beauty of true humility.