Are we letting knowledge steal our humility?
When we get introduced to Gita wisdom, we discover a magnificent body of knowledge that answers life’s fundamental questions. As we enrich ourselves with this knowledge, we learn that along with it comes a mandate to share it with others; Krishna wants his wisdom to reach all of his children.
As most people don’t know even the basics of spirituality, we find ourselves knowing much more than others. Subtly but swiftly, the arrogance of learning, of being intellectually better than others, starts overcoming us. This takeover of our consciousness by arrogance is accelerated by our sense of moral superiority. Gita wisdom provides empowering spiritual practices that improve us morally. Becoming puffed up by our somewhat elevated moral standards, we tend to look down at others: “They are so fallen.”
Such feelings of intellectual and moral superiority rob us of a central devotional virtue: humility. When we lack humility, we behave condescendingly towards others. This alienates themnot just from us but also from Krishna, for they see us as his representative.
Worst still, our lack of humility alienates us from Krishna.We just can’t beg for his grace sincerely when we are so filled with our own greatness. Consequently, no matter how much we fill our head with spiritual knowledge, our heart remains dry and deprived, incapable of tasting the sweetness of Krishna’s merciful presence there.
No wonder the Bhagavad-gita (13.08) underscores humility as the first characteristic of knowledge. By contemplating how despite all our claims to spiritual knowledge we are still bereaved of the simple joy of devotion and by visualizinghow without Krishna’s merciful intervention in our life we might well have become more morally depraved than the people we now look down upon, we can prevent knowledge from stealing 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.”