The ego can misappropriate everything, even humility

The Bhagavad-gita (13.08) lists humility as the first among twenty items of knowledge. The opposite of humility, ego, is extremely dangerous because not only does it work against us, but it also uses against us that which is meant to work for us: devotional activities. These activities are meant to spiritualize our consciousness. But when we do those activities, the ego can abuse those very activities for boosting itself. It can make us feel proud: “I can fast more than others; My religion has more followers than their religion; I have memorized more scriptural verses than you.”

The ego can even misappropriate humility. It can make us speak humbly but just to show off how humble we are. We may say with closed eyes, a drooping head and a woebegone tone: “I am so fallen. I am more fallen than the most fallen person.” But then, we open our eyes and lift our head to see how many people are praising our humility.

Through such misappropriation, the ego imprisons us in material consciousness because the very pathways meant to dismantle the ego are now used to build it up.

How can we protect ourselves from the ego? By vigilance and transcendence. By vigilantly absorbing ourselves in the supreme transcendental reality, Krishna. The more we become absorbed in him, the more we get higher taste and higher intelligence. The intelligence sees through the ego’s tricks and the taste makes the ego’s promises less appealing. Wonderfully enough, devotion can do much more than protect us from the ego; it can even appropriate the ego in Krishna’s service whereby instead of delighting in our own greatness, we delight in our Lord’s greatness.

When we learn to rejoice in being the servant of the greatest being instead of rejoicing in establishing ourselves as the greatest, our ego becomes purified and spiritualized. And we become liberated to a life of eternal, ecstatic absorption in Krishna.

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