Humility is the absence of ego. By cultivating it, we no longer crave for others to respect us. In that sense, it gives us a sense of freedom. Some people think of humility as a weakness. But this is not true. Through humility we realize our true identity – that whatever we have is given to us by the Supreme. We become grateful and more accepting. In spiritual life, one of the most important things is to curb the ego as it acts as a hindrance in our growth and progress.
In Bhagavad Gita verse 13.8 Lord Krishna describes a person who is in knowledge. There are 20 moral values/items listed. These help us to develop wisdom and knowledge. Humility is listed first of all. The word amānitvam is used in the verse for humbleness. This means that we should not look towards getting respect from others. One may wish to be honored for one’s abilities, beauty, wealth and talent. But these have been gifted to us by God. When we develop an ego and attribute this merely to our own efforts, we are unable to progress spiritually. Only when we connect ourselves to God and realize that all we have comes from Him alone, can we develop proper humility.
One example of humility that I can think of is Mother Teresa. I had the privilege to see her when I was a boarder studying at Loreto House, Kolkata. She visited the college which was attached to our school. I still remember her utter humility and beautiful smile. She was unassuming and yet at the same time she radiated so much peace and joy. She used to live at a Loreto convent (Entally, Kolkata). After taking permission to leave the school she went outside to serve the poor. She started her order, ‘Missionaries of Charity.’ They selflessly served the sick, the dying and the destitute. She remains one of my favorite personalities.
Another wonderful example of humility is Mahatma Gandhi. He lived frugally, wore simple khadi and put others first. He worked tirelessly for the upliftment of others. According to him, “The spirit of nonviolence necessarily leads to humility.” (Young India, January 12, 1921). Non-violence helps us see the others point of view instead of demanding our way forcefully. This is true humility. It respects others and in turn forces them to acknowledge our point of view.
In conclusion, cultivating humility and destroying our ego is very much needed to progress spiritually. Personally, I find that this is a reminder that I need to give myself from time from time. After all, we come to the world empty handed and will go the same way. Our material possessions, name and fame are not going to go with us. So, are these really worth bragging about?