Humility learns even from success; pride, not even from failure
We often learn much more from our failures than from our successes. When we succeed, we may become so full of ourselves as to think, “What is there to learn? I know – that’s why I am successful.” In contrast, when we fail, we frequently become contemplative and receptive to learn how we can improve ourselves.
Some people, however, don’t learn even from failure – such people are ungodly and demonic. The Bhagavad-gita (16.04) outlines their qualities, which begin with arrogance and end with ignorance. Though they don’t know (ignorance), they think they know (arrogance). Even when they fail, they don’t think of improving themselves – instead, they find excuses and scapegoats. Their arrogance traps them in ignorance, and their ignorance exacerbates their arrogance.
Such self-destructive self-obsession is demonstrated in the Mahabharata through the demonic Duryodhana. He was mad with greed – and blind to both Krishna’s omnipotence and the Pandavas’ virtues. Being thus deluded, he schemed against the Pandavas repeatedly. Though all his schemes ended up making them stronger, he adamantly refused to learn from anyone – from elders, sages, Krishna or even his own experience. Consequently, he courted his own destruction.
In contrast, the humble Pandavas saw even in their successes the hand of Krishna. By thus learning about his omnipotent benevolence, they became increasingly devoted to him.
When we are humble, we appreciate as gifts from God the abilities that help us to succeed (07.08). With this devotional vision, we learn to use those abilities not just to achieve success externally, but also to connect internally with Krishna. By such a learning attitude, we make worthwhile material contributions and relish spiritual absorption in Krishna.
Ultimately, that relishable inner connection empowers us to move through life’s many temporary successes and failures towards life’s supreme success: eternal ecstatic absorption in Krishna.
Think it over:
- How can success obstruct learning and failure aid learning?
- Why do the demonic fail to learn?
- How does humility deepen our vision of our ability?
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