About Humility

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

When the clouds are full of water they come closer to earth. When the trees are full of fruit the branches swing low. Those people who have outstanding qualities become humble, but those people who do not have those qualities, pose as though they have them. They become egoistic and arrogant. They make a show of their qualities. This is the tendency of most people. In fact, if you analyse the whole affair psychologically, you will find that real humility comes through the understanding of one’s negative personality.

When we look within our own self impartially, when we try to judge ourselves impartially, then we see our qualities and see what we do not have. Therefore, in order to achieve humility, one has to judge one’s own self mercilessly. If one wants to succeed in this life and also in spiritual life, then one will have to see one’s own personality thoroughly. No man is perfect, and no man is united in himself.

Everybody has a double personality, not only with others, but even with oneself. Can you make a confession about yourself to yourself? No, you can’t. You cannot confess about yourself to yourself because, first of all, you don’t know about yourself. “I am a very good man,” that’s what you know. “I am a very wise man,” that’s all you know about yourself. “I am a very strong man; I am a very capable man,” that’s what you think about yourself.

When you fantasize, what do you fantasize? When you imagine or build castles in the air, what do you do? You become a great man, you become the richest man, you become the most powerful man, but do you know that is not yourself? You are just a limited human being and you have many traits of imperfection.

Even a boy who is in primary school should know his limitations. They are his intellectual limitations. He should not make fun of a professor who teaches at a university. This is precisely the reason we quarrel in the family. This is precisely the reason we quarrel in the marketplace, because you think you are right and I think I am right, but the fact is both are wrong. If one of us was right, the quarrel would not have started.

I will tell you a joke related to two drivers in Japan. The two drivers were driving in opposite directions. Suddenly, at a U-turn they collided with each other. It was not a great accident, but it happened nonetheless. Both of them came from behind the steering wheel and greeted each other. One said, “I am sorry, it was my mistake.” The other driver said, “No, not at all, it was my mistake.” He said, “No, it was my mistake.” That was their quarrel. Now both of them had to report to the police. When they went to the police, one driver reported, “I made a mistake, I was on the wrong side and I collided with this car.” The other driver also put in the same type of report. The policeman said, “What am I going to do?” Then one of the drivers said, “You please tell me what fine I should pay?”

When there is understanding of oneself, then comes humility. Humility is not a cowardly nature. A coward also looks very humble, but humility is a very dynamic nature in man. It is not the nature of the western people. A western man will say, “Sorry,” and then the other western man will say, “Sorry,” but when they go to the court, their lawyers will attack each other and each one will defend himself. That is the western way. That’s not humility. That is the diplomacy of humility.

Humility means having a nature in which you try to understand your mistake in relation to the other person. We don’t have to talk about Japanese drivers, let us talk about husband and wife, parents and children, the boss and the subordinate. It is a crisis in humility there. The wife is trying to say that the husband is wrong, and the husband is trying to prove that she is wrong. If they go to their mother-in-law and father-in-law, they are trying to press their own argument. What happens then, you know. The quarrel amplifies. If one of them would withdraw, it would be painful in the beginning, but at the end it would pay substantial rewards in the form of happiness in the family, but the ego comes in between.

Sometimes the thoughts of humility do come in the mind. At the heat of passion – nothing, but sometimes she thinks, or sometimes he thinks, “Ah, all unnecessary, I should not have done it.” They know that this is not the way to happiness, but they do not tackle the problem through humility. If one of them or both of them could search their own selves and try to find out their own contribution to the quarrel, then they would gain humility and understanding.

Therefore, humility is dead. It is dead because of your hard ego. You have your personality problems, you are suffering from inferiority, or you have the feeling of superiority, or you see a certain mistake in your husband or wife, or you become careless about each other because too much intimacy breeds contempt.

There are definite ways of developing the virtue of humility. Start with your guru, because it is before the guru that you bow your head. You have to practise humility with someone first You can practise humility with God, but with God there is no problem, because He is not there, you don’t clash with him. With guru you come into a clash because he exists and he is going to crush your ego. He says, “Sit down.” For some time, you do what he says. After some time, you begin to raise your ego a little, because the ego does not want to be subdued by anybody. It is man’s support in life. Therefore, in order to develop humility, you have to train your ego.

4 May 1984, Satyananda Ashram, Kypseli, Athens, published in History of Satyananda Yoga in Greece, Volume One with Swami Satyananda Saraswati