Humility means to accept but not expect respect
We may sometimes wonder, “How can I stay humble amidst the devotional culture of respectfulness? If nobody would notice me, it would be easier to be humble. But when others address me with respectful honorifics like ‘Prabhu’ or ‘Mataji’, offer obesiances and sometimes even glorify me, how can I possibly stay humble?”
By accepting, but not expecting, respect, answers Gita wisdom. This attitude is indicated in the precise word for humility used by the Bhagavad-gita (13.08: amaanitvam), which Srila Prabhupada insightfully explains as to “not be anxious to have the satisfaction of being honored by others.”
To free us from anxiety for respect, bhakti wisdom helps us see all living beings as the beloved children of Krishna. We see all devotees as his especially beloved children, for they have voluntarily chosen to live according to his will. This vision underlies the devotional culture of respectfulness.
With this vision in mind, when others offer us respect, we can accept it with the understanding that they are seeing us as connected with Krishna and so are offering respects to us and through us to him. This understanding will reinforce our internal Krishna consciousness, thereby increasing our humility; the more we become aware of Krishna and his greatness, the more we become aware of our own smallness.
Moreover, just as others see our connection with Krishna, we can see their connection with him, and offer them our respects, good wishes and prayers, as appropriate. This too will boost our devotional consciousness and consequently our humility. However, if we expect respect from others, we will stay respect-conscious and won’t be able to become Krishna conscious.
Thus by seeing the devotional culture of respectfulness as a facility to share Krishna consciousness, we can not only safeguard but even strengthen our humility.
“Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona ﬁde spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratiﬁcation; absence of false ego; the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; detachment; freedom from entanglement with children, wife, home and the rest; even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me; aspiring to live in a solitary place; detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization; and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth – all these I declare to be knowledge, and besides this whatever there may be is ignorance.”