When we mistake self-pity to be humility, spirituality becomes an exercise in futility
The essence of spirituality is the inner transformation from self-centeredness to Krishna-centeredness.
Self-centeredness essentially means installing ourselves at the center of our inner world – viewing everything from the perspective of “What’s in it for me?” Krishna-centeredness essentially means installing Krishna at the center of our inner world – viewing everything with the perspective of “What’s in it for Krishna? How can this be used to serve and please him?”
The quality that paves the way from self-centeredness to Krishna-centeredness is humility. The Bhagavad-gita (13.08) indicates humility to be the beginning of knowledge, the knowledge that brings about inner transformation. Humility enables us to think less about ourselves and think more about Krishna.
Unfortunately, we often confuse humility with self-pity, which is a perverse form of self-centeredness. Usually, self-centeredness manifests as positive self-obsession, for example, constant thought about how good and glorious we are. Occasionally, self-centeredness manifests as negative self- obsession, for example, constant thought about how fallen and worthless we are.
This negative self-centeredness takes on a spiritual mask when we struggle to follow the standards of spiritual life. We obsess over our moral and spiritual lapses (“I am so fallen”) and mistake such morbid meditation to be humility. With such a mentality, even if we go through the external rituals of spirituality, self-pity blocks our inner journey, thereby reducing our spirituality to an exercise in futility.
Real humility is Krishna-centered, not self-centered. It begins with a candid confession of our deficiencies and inabilities, but immediately progresses towards a confident contemplation on Krishna’s potency to elevate everyone – even those as flawed as us. Self-pity fills us with hopelessness and moroseness. In sweet contrast, humility fills us with hope and joy, for it comprises our strongest link with the source of all hope and joy, Krishna.
"Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona ﬁde spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control… – all these I declare to be knowledge."