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Being humble is not something you “do”, it is a state of consciousness, a way of seeing the world, others, and myself.
We explore how one cultivates humility as part of the process of self-realization or enlightenment.
I did quote a wonderful verse from Patanjali’s Yoga-sutra regarding our dealing with others which I will share here.
The mind(consciousness) becomes purified (calmed) by cultivating the attitude of friendship towards the happy, compassion towards the miserable, goodwill towards the virtuous and (benevolent) indifference towards the wicked. Yoga-sutra 1.33
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So last week we ended with a question that I didn’t actually answer. Not good. So we will endeavour just to address that tonight. And the question was, we just mentioned the importance of the—actively cultivating humility, the significance that it will bring to your life and your view of things, your own peacefulness and happiness. It’s really, really important.
(Just making sure I don’t get whacked in the mouth.)
So firstly, being humble is not an action. It’s not something that you do, not really. If it’s just reduced to something that you do that means you can fake it, that if you say certain things, or you physically behave in a certain way or present a certain demeanour, that means you’re humble, and that’s not the case. A person can fake humility and actually be quite aggressive and quite arrogant within. So humility is a state of consciousness. It has to do with how you see the world, how you see others and how you see yourself; and of course this is intimately tied to the whole process of enlightenment or self-realization, that as this change of vision occurs one is understood to be increasingly enlightened, and they will therefore also automatically be increasingly humble.
So, in relation to the world, it’s so unfortunate that we live in such an artificial way. We are almost totally disconnected from the earth, from the sky, from the sunrise and the sunset. You know, not—it wasn’t that long ago, before the advent of electricity, that everybody was ruled by the movement of the sun and the moon. This is what ruled people’s lives. And there was this certain awe that people developed just by being able to look out the window as the dim reflection of light appears across the horizon and step out and greet a new day. And in many cultures this was done in a really reverential mood, that some form of prayer or mantra or meditation was performed. All cultures were like this. Now we wake up to the sound of the alarm. We roll outa bed and whack something in the toaster or grab a bowl and pour some cereal in it, who knows what, and we’ve just got these little things that we do, and then jump in a vehicle and race off to work, with our earbuds in, just really disconnected entirely from the world around us.
We live in a vast, an awesome space known as our universe. It is almost incalculable. Although they can make calculations and put numbers on it, you cannot get your head around the vastness of the particular universe in which we live; and this is just one of countless universes in existence. And we’re disconnected from that in our daily life. If we were connected to that world we’d be just moving around in a state of awe.
Anybody that’s gone into space all speak about this way that they’ve been transformed by that experience of looking down at this little glowing ball, like a jewel, with tiny thin atmosphere around it, in a vastness of space, with all these heavenly bodies; and it changes people’s lives, even when they come back, they are forever changed by that experience.
If we were able to comprehend and be aware of the vastness of this thing that I am in, we would recognize I am a tiny, tiny little spark. The puffed up chest and the bravado and the acclaims of being number one and everything, that’s eye roll world. I mean, it’s not true. That’s just because you’re locked in your head space in this little tiny thing, but if your vision was a bit broader you would be deeply humbled just by looking into the sky.
This is a—we live in these vast and finely tuned systems. We’ve got solar systems. We’ve got eco systems. We’ve got a massive biosphere that we’re deeply connected with. There are these monumental weather systems now that everybody is concerned about because we’re driving it out of whack. There are these vast systems in which we are insignificant in, when we consider being connected to these.
When we look at the power of nature, you see these huge floods, massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions that affect thousands and hundreds of thousands of people, tsunamis… There are just all of these forces that just render us, like, wow we are tiny, and we are practically powerless in the face of the awesome power of nature.
And then I must consider that this world upon which I am currently living, I cannot, in reality, own a fragment of it. I may lay claim to things, but I came here into this particular life, in this body, I showed up with nothing except a cry, and I will leave with nothing, except perhaps a cry as well. And the idea that I can lay claim to it—if I was constantly conscious of this reality that I’m a transient moving through this life, whoa! that would really affect how I deal with this world and others and everything in between.
We should be—I mean, when you go and encounter amazing landscapes, I mean like monumentally amazing landscapes, and you become overcome with awe at the vastness and the great majesty of some of these things, the unimaginable complexity of how these systems work, how the land is rising from the ocean floor into these great peaks, how moisture gathers in the form of snow and ice, becomes glaciers and gradually move down the mountains and provide fresh water. I mean it’s just—it’s phenomenal how everything is working. And if I was intimately aware of this, I would be deeply humbled, just all the time, with every breath.
We find ourselves amongst a countless ocean of living beings. From the spiritual perspective any presence of life, the life is the symptom of the presence of a spiritual being, and all these spiritual beings are equal, regardless of what kind of body they’re currently stuck in. They are all totally equal. There is no higher and there is no lower. All these spirit souls are in reality my spiritual brothers and sisters. The idea of dominating others, of exploiting others, it’s not a spiritual reality. You can’t—it’s a temporary thing that you can try to do, and in doing it you will never experience peace and a sense of actual security, a sense of fulfillment and peacefulness and actual happiness. Without peace there is no possibility of happiness, as it states in the Bhagavad-gita.
So, the reality is, if I had that vision rather—I mean we live in a world where people are pitted against each other. I’m really upset with this whole massive identity crisis that the world is going through, where people are clinging to bodily identities as who we are, and the differences that are created between different kinds of bodily or sexual identities and everything. It’s such crap. And it’s so removed from real deep spiritual truth, and it brings misfortune upon all and a lack of peacefulness.
If I actually had this vision of all being my brothers and sisters, spiritual beings temporarily residing within these bodies, I could not possibly do harm. I would live being concerned about and seeking the welfare of all others.
In relation to myself, of course, the foundation of any spiritual understanding is, I am a spiritual being, an eternal spiritual being. This body is not me. This is a temporary garment that I am adorned with, and I am using. We lose the plot and completely identify the garment as being who I am. This is such—this is the foundation of all unhappiness in the world. Every single form of unhappiness comes from this misunderstanding.
I am, as I said, a temporary visitor. I’m a transient. This body is not my home. This world is not my home. I am just here for a short while, and what I do with that time, how I live, is critically important.
And if I cultivate this spiritual understanding then I will be filled with humility. Humility doesn’t mean you’re not a strong person, and you can’t do what’s right, you cannot defend the defenseless, that you cannot take strong action and speech on things. No. But the motivation is utterly changed.
There—if I recognize that all human beings suffer from four defects, the four defects as stated in the Vedas is that I am sure to commit mistakes. I can be completely mistaken with my perception, with my assumption, with my views. I can be completely mistaken.
Then, I am invariably subject to illusion. I can mistake a mirage for water. I can be tricked by a so-called magician and illusionist, because that’s the very nature—if you really study how the brain and the senses work you can learn a lot about how to create illusions. It’s part of this condition, the embodied condition.
I also have this unfortunate tendency to cheat, to cheat others and to cheat myself.
And my senses that I use for the acquisition of so-called knowledge, through sensory experience, they are all limited and imperfect.
And if I consider these four realities then, whoa! like tone it down! Don’t be so confident and arrogant. You could be completely wrong. If I really embrace this reality, it’s kind of like, okay, I need to tone it down a little bit in my—the way I’m speaking and dealing and processing things.
In relation to, then, how I should deal with others, Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutra has one verse, it’s in the first pada, the 33rd sloka or verse, where he describes how one should—the state of mind that one should cultivate in dealing with four categories of persons. He said that,
“One becomes purified, or calmed, by cultivating an attitude of friendship towards the happy.”
And, of course, by happy here he means both the fool and the highly intelligent person, because when a person is completely ignorant and a total fool they can be happy, but a person that is very spiritually intelligent will also by nature have this happiness; and towards such persons I should have an attitude of friendship.
“I should feel compassion towards the miserable,”
—those who are unhappy and suffering (which is almost everyone), my attitude and my connection, my dealing with them, should be founded on compassion. There is a beautiful definition in the Vedas of compassion. It is the inability to tolerate the suffering of others. When anyone is in a state of suffering I feel compelled and moved to actually try to do something about that I cannot just tolerate it, meaning, “That’s their problem, let them figure it out.” I feel like I must do something.
And then towards the—
“I should have good will towards the virtuous and benevolent indifference towards the wicked.”
That’s how he categorizes things. And if we adopted—you can see in that, those guidelines there is no—one is asked to use their intelligence and to discriminate. Discrimination is not bad, unless it is done out of ignorance. To be discerning and discriminating is actually a wonderful quality, viveka. It’s important that we exercise it.
If I use my intelligence to guide my relationships and my connections, and it’s very much founded on this humility, then our life, even in the midst of the greatest storms, can be an experience of peacefulness, and one can actually experience a profound type of spiritual and lasting happiness from this experience.
So that’s about as far as we’re going to go. Is that awesome or what? I think it’s awesome. I’m just amazed at the wonderful transcendental knowledge and wisdom that has come from time immemorial and passed down by great sages and saints. And if we model our life around this then we have a good chance to have a most wonderful life and a wonderful death.
That’s it folks. Any question? [Audience claps] I gotta clap for this stuff too. This stuff blows my mind. It’s like—one of the things that people were asked to do on a spiritual path is to actually listen to spiritual authority and to read these spiritual texts. The wisdom in them is just mind-boggling. You can be just every day bathing your intellect, bathing your mind, and what it does is it calms all the passions and brings about a tremendous clarity, and your life becomes deeply purposeful and wonderfully directed.
Okay. That’s enough. Any question, or no? We’re good?
So let us engage in the process that brings spiritual vision. You know, the chanting of these mantras, these transcendental sounds, when they are received in the proper way and then used as a foundation for meditation, are so deeply transformative that just by doing this, what seems to be a very simple, yet enormously powerful process, one can come to experience all kinds of ongoing realization, guidance from within your own heart: how to live, how to make decisions, what I should do in different situations. So I think I think we’ll chant the mantra Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, Aum Hari Aum.