“By serving wise and ignorant sadhus, I am learning the greatest of virtues, pleasing to God above all others…humility.” These are the words of the great master, Babaji, in the Autobiography of a Yogi. Endlessly enlightening truths fill the pages of this book but this passage seems one of the most important.
What is humility? How do we achieve it? And why is it so important? These are questions that every great guru has sought to address, for humility is indeed, the most God-pleasing quality we can develop.
When I began practicing yoga and meditation at the age of 22, I noticed right away that becoming centered in my spine made life a lot easier. The growing ability to remain peaceful amidst trying circumstances and the ability to focus my mind on the daily tasks of life made me rejoice in gratitude. However, the amount of light now present in my life also exposed quite a bit of darkness that I had been unaware of.
Living in a busy city, I was surrounded by restlessness and anxiety. Most people seemed almost like children whose fussiness bound them to a narrow vision of reality that severely limited their potential. “Out of a thousand, one, perhaps, seeks me.” Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita. I realized that I was proud to be that one in a thousand…and we all know the sobering saying, “Pride comes before a fall.”
I thank God deeply that He made me aware of this through much pain and relationship tumult. Pride is not attractive, and is often the cause of a host of other delusions that complicate our lives.
It wasn’t until I met Swami Kriyananda that I began to understand what humility is, and why it is so vital to our spiritual search. Swamiji has been through perhaps the most brutal trials one could imagine. It is extraordinary to read of the persecution he has faced and the sacrifices he has made. Yet, always he has remained neutral and affirmed, “I am not here to protect my ego. I am here to become free from it.” It wasn’t until I saw his example of true humility that it began to make sense.
If we see ourselves as the shining source of our greatness, we cut ourselves off from the greatness of God and strengthen that which, in truth, is our only real boundary! If we recognize God as the sole power acting in all creation, how can we feel that the ego is the cause for anything? He is the doer!
Alas, the awareness of this flaw in myself did not dissolve it. In fact, pride seemed to cling to me no matter how many times I felt I’d left it behind. I decided to write a letter to the wonderful “Ask The Experts” section on Ananda.org.
Nayaswami Gyandev responded with these words: “If you cultivate the attitude that God is the Doer, working through you, then when good things happen, your response can hardly be anything other than to feel gratitude and humility. No room for pride there. Instead it will feel like you’re “going along for the ride” rather than “making it all happen”. Doing your part, to be sure, but not responsible for very much in the final analysis. It’s a big difference — and a big relief!”
His words helped me to see a solution. All Goodness comes from attunement with God. If I could remember this, surely I could work my way through this dark cloud.
It was at this time that I began to seek spiritual company. After exploring different options, I landed, by God’s grace, at Ananda Village. Slowly I began to realize that the souls here were so deeply sincere, and so magnetic, that all I wanted to do was become like them. This was a great blessing because it helped me to recognize my own state of spiritual infancy. I was now the child whose temper tantrums and selfish whims stood out like a wolf in a sheep’s pen. But I was crying for help.
By serving both wise and ignorant sadhus, Babaji had been demonstrating humility. Surely it is Ananda’s spirit of service that keeps them safe from delusions such as pride. They serve both the wise and the ignorant. When I arrived, I had “ignorant sadhu” written all over my face. But they never judged me, they always blessed me, and by their constant guidance and example I feel that spirit of humility awakening within myself.
God is not just extremely humble. He is humility itself! He hides within the vast and beautiful universe He has made, not seeking our appraisal, but only our love. If we wish to become truly humble, then we should in turn, seek only God’s love — expressing it by our service to Him in everything and recognizing that we are but a tiny spark of His Infinite Light.