The purpose of humility is to foster neediness, not helplessness

Some people think of humility as undesirable because it supposedly makes people feel bad about themselves by making them obsess over their defects and deficiencies. Such obsession makes people feel unworthy and helpless, thereby leading to inferiority complex and a host of mental problems.

But the purpose of humility is to foster not helplessness, but neediness – not helplessness about our flaws, but neediness for Krishna’s redeeming grace. In fact, the whole point of humility is to free us from self-absorption and empower us for Krishna-absorption.

This double dynamic of humility is evident in the list of the items of knowledge mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita (13.08-12). There both humility and undeviating devotion are stated in the same vein as constituents of knowledge.

Arrogance, the opposite of humility, breeds an unhealthy overconfidence in our own abilities, thereby depriving us of any realization of our need for Krishna in our life-journey. Humility doesn’t mean denying our God-given abilities or magnifying our inabilities – rather it means recognizing that lasting happiness centers on learning to love Krishna, no matter what abilities we have or lack. In that sense, we all need Krishna. Even when we are too infatuated by hopes of worldly pleasures and so don’t feel the need for Krishna, still humility helps us to see how we need him even to do justice to our abilities and even for our very survival.

When the feeling of humility is divorced from devotion, then it often transmogrifies into injurious pseudo-humility that is simply the obverse of arrogance – a debilitating self-absorption wherein we wallow in self-pity, self-recrimination and self-destruction.

Humility, when coupled with devotion, progressively enhances our awareness of Krishna’s contribution in our life till eventually we realize that he is the center and goal of our very existence.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13 Text 08

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3 Comments

  1. If I understand this well devotional humility means that we offer all we are and do and experience to Sri Krishna. In that light everything is divine as we live our lives in His Presence.

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  2. hsribol! enlightening… humility(less than straw on the street) sometimes puts us in a dilema whether to tell another person if he or she is wrong,maybe even just giving advice to him(who are we to?) but still, you find it necessary to do so. what is to be done?

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