Humility is the hallmark of a great human being. It is the highest virtue. From the respect and consideration for others that arose through our effort to adapt, adjust and accommodate to the various situations, we have become more humble.
When we say, “Oh, you can do that much better than I,” although, we are feeling that we could do a better job, we put on a show of humility. Pretence, self-demeaning and belittling oneself are aspects of false humility. False humility can also be expressed by looking humble with the head bowed, the shoulders a little stooped and a humble expression, but there is no true humility inside.
True humility develops inner strength and stamina. It also develops a feeling of gratitude for what we have been given. If ever we stop to think how fortunate we are, we feel grateful for everything that is coming our way, we lose our arrogance and realize everything has its place in the scheme of things.
Real humility combines consideration and respect for others by recognizing their value and importance. Ultimately, this attitude develops the feeling or desire to be of service. The feeling of service comes with humility, which is shown clearly in an anecdote from the life of Swami Sivananda.
One day, he went to give satsang at a devotee’s home. The hostess had spent a lot of time preparing the food and the house to make sure that everything was ready to receive the guru and guests. The satsang went on a little longer than usual and Swami Sivananda had a train to catch. The disciples around him were saying, “Swamiji, you have to finish the satsang now, you have to go. We will miss the train if you continue any longer.” So Swami Sivananda got up, got in the car and went towards the train station.
On the way, he remembered that he hadn't thanked the hostess for the effort she had made. He said, “Stop the car. I am going back. I haven't thanked the hostess.” The organizers and disciples in the car said, “Swamiji, you can't go back for you will miss the train and if you miss the train, you will miss the next program.” Swami Sivananda was adamant and said, “No, I must go back. I must thank the hostess. It is not right that she made so much effort and I left the house without saying a word to her.”
He went back and asked her forgiveness. He bowed down, touched her feet and said, “Forgive me for not thanking you for the beautiful hospitality and everything that you had arranged for me. It was amiss of me to have left the house without thanking you properly.”
This is a beautiful example of humility. Swami Sivananda's high principles did not allow him to leave without behaving correctly and appropriately.
Published in Swami Sivananda’s 18 ITIES & the Practice of Pratyahara