Humiliation is false ego frustrated, humility is false ego rejected

The Bhagavad-gita (13.08) lists humility as the first of the twenty qualities that comprise wisdom. Significantly, the Gita mentions humility in a negative way to convey its subtlety: amaanitvam, absence of the craving for respect.

The craving for respect from others is the force that drives most people. This craving originates from their false ego, which misleads them foundationally into believing that their self-identity is their material body. Additionally, the false ego also makes them imagine that their self-worth is the net worth of their talents and treasures, their positions and connections. It impels them to overtly and covertly display their assets before the world in the desperate hope of earning respect. When they don’t get the respect that they think is their right, they feel humiliated. Humiliation, then, is nothing but false ego frustrated.

On the other hand, humility is an entirely different ball game, one that those shackled to false ego can scarcely comprehend. That’s because the driving force of the lives of the humble is not the craving for respect, but the longing to serve: serve Krishna and serve all living beings as his children. The humble are confident about their self-identity as indestructible souls. They are secure in their self-worth as the beloved children of Krishna. That’s why they have no need for the pleasures that the false ego dangles before everyone. So, whenever the false ego tempts them, they are able to reject it determinedly and consistently. Having thus rejected the shackles of the false ego, they are free to act in the best interests of one and all. Therefore, they can always act honorably in ways that behoove their human dignity and spiritual sanctity, without being bothered about whether people honor them or not.  

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13 Text 08

“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.”

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Author: Chaitanya Charan Das

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