Everyone seems to have the understanding that holy people, or spiritually advanced people are only humble. After all, the meek shall inherit the Earth, no? (Bible, Matthew 5:5)
However, I’d like to convince you that humility can be a problem in a way identical to that of arrogance or pride. Some posts ago I mentioned that I believe many carnivorous humans are better off from a karmic standpoint, and spiritually, simply because of the ignorant, emotional, and often irrational aversion so many vegetarians have regarding the subject. The post seemed to go virtually unnoticed, which doesn’t bother me in the least, but based on my understanding of how thoughts, emotions, actions, and karma in general work, I really do feel that many who are vegetarian are at times hurting their own progress more than those who bite sentient beings for sustenance – not because of the vegetarianism, but because of the samsaras they build up around the choice. All of that hinges on something good and virtuous (non-violence, non-aggression, vegetarianism) being taken to an extreme.
Religions and spiritual traditions throughout time and around the globe are guilty of this in one context or another, to one degree or another. Of course, some religions are inherently more inclined toward the live-and-let-live model and so there are those who are perhaps “less” guilty of this imbalance. Still, guilty is guilty and people who live in glass houses ought not to throw rocks.
To a lesser degree I think this same principle is sometimes also at work when it comes to humility. Too many people are timid when it comes to displaying a warrior spirit in their own lives. A hymn from the Vedas, in part, says, “Ati Vinayam Dhoortha Lakshanam…” which translates as, “Too much of humbleness is an attribute of a wicked person.”
But how can this be? How can a virtue like humility lead one to wickedness?
Umm… how about by being emphasized or implemented in such a way or to such a degree that it becomes detrimental. Initially, the detriment would be applicable only to the immediate life state of the one exhibiting this imbalance. That person would end up essentially being walked on or abused throughout his or her existence, and while that saddens my heart, I can see, that on that level, it’s still only a localized misery – again pertaining to individualized samsara. If allowed to go further, however, the localization ceases and others begin to suffer, too – others who might need a so-called warrior, Vira, to help maintain or restore balance. The absence of this assertive warrior spirit is adharma, and this is why the Vedas tell us that “too much of humbleness” makes someone wicked. Too much humbleness is an imbalance and is adharmic. So much of the Hindu dharma points to the at-least-occasional need for exhibiting warrior-ness: everything from yogasanas to the Bhagavad Gita hint at this.
If someone tells you you’re going to hell for eating cows, tell them to mind their own damned business and worry about themselves not going to hell. If someone tells you your friend or guru is corrupt or fraudulent, hold them accountable for those accusations – if they refuse, they need to fuck off and you need to make them aware of as much, and if they can offer proof your life has been made better. If someone repeatedly and directly badgers you about your own ishtadevata or chosen scriptures, I do hope you have spine enough (and bhakti enough) to adhere to your spiritual home AND tell them to do the same.
So many people think that if one is humble they’re “good” and if they’re not, they’re not. But the truth is, humility is much like aggression in that it possesses degrees of expression. Ideally, humility is best expressed through patience, understanding and compassion – not necessarily meekness. If one keenly develops these traits, humility will manifest without compromising other areas and without leading to adharma/wickedness.
In posts like this, I eventually begin wondering if my point is lost. Like the vegetarian samsara post, it’s such a broad and deep subject that can be taken in so many directions. It’s actually a challenge to write about effectively without composing an entire book on the subject. If nothing else I’d like to leave you with just two recommendations:
1) Cultivate a keen inner awareness. Progress without this is infinitely more difficult.
2) Follow Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Sometimes we’re called to be warriors. Sometimes dharma, whether localized or general, depends on us being loud, assertive and even bossy. History has shown as much.
Om Jai Shri Ganeshaya Namaha