Humility is power, not a weakness
Humility is not a weakness. Ignorant people think that to be humble is to be weak. Of course, with a material conception of humility, that might be true, but that’s not the case with real humility. Real humility is to see that the power of God is within me and within everything. Real humility is to give up the ego that I am the doer, thoroughly dive into the truth that God is the doer, and to be an instrument of His power to do welfare in this world. Real humility is the greatest power in all creation, because it connects us to the power of the Absolute Truth. We cannot be connected as long as we have false ego. Humility tunes us in to the highest power. Ego tunes us in to the other frequencies and it just complicates our lives.
We may try and even understand the concept of humility to a certain extent, but it remains one of the most difficult and esoteric subjects in the entire world because the concept of humility literally defies all the laws of material nature. It really cannot be understood with mundane intelligence. Real humility could only be understood by the causeless mercy of the Supreme Lord.
Real Humility, a difficult subject
Humility is such a thing that when we behave in a humble way, and think about ourselves to be very humble, we become proud of our humility; we consider ourselves better than others which is contrary to the principle of real humility. Real humility is a natural state of consciousness and it comes through purification of heart. But as spiritual practitioners we must also practice the principles of humility while cultivating an earnest and genuine desire for real humility. Doing that, we can achieve the grace of the Lord, the guru, and the advanced souls; and then, we can actually realize what real humility is.
Humility and Bhakti
Bhakti and humility can never be separated from each other just like sweetness can never be separated from sugar and liquidity can never be separated from water. They are constitutionally inseparable in nature.
Opposites attract one another in the field of magnetism. The negative pole of the magnet attracts the positive pole, and the positive pole of the magnet attracts the negative. Krishna, God, is all attractive. He is the Supreme Great. If we think we are great then we go farther and farther away from Krishna. If we think that we are insignificant, that we are nothing, then we are naturally attracted to Krishna. The subtle most of all layers of material conditioning that is covering our pure love of Krishna is ahankhar, the false ego, and all the other layers of material conditioning are built upon that false ego. What is the false ego? “I want to be honored, I want to be respected, I want to acquire and posses, I am the enjoyer.” The whole material creation is built upon the foundation of false ego. If the false ego collapses all of our material conditioning is vanquished. If we do everything else—we control our senses, we live in poverty—but if we think we are great, if we think we are the doers of our activities, then we are still strongly bound by material bondage. Humility in its true sense means to be actually free of the influence of false ego.
Humility is the beginning of real knowledge
The beginning of all knowledge comes through humility. Without humility one can have theoretical knowledge, gyan, but realized knowledge, vigyan, realized knowledge cannot be obtained without humility. Srila Prabhupada explains that some people have tremendous amount of intellectual prowess, but that’s not how real knowledge comes in the heart. When theoretical knowledge is actually practically applied in our life we get realization. But theoretical knowledge cannot touch the heart unless there is humility. Therefore the very beginning of the spiritual progress is to humble ourselves. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati(the guru of Srila Prabhupad) says that without humility transcendental knowledge is simply impossible.
The Lord has given many examples to demonstrate this principle. We read in the Bhagavad Gita that as long as Arjuna thought he knew the answers to the problems he was facing, Krsna remained silent. In the first chapter we read how Arjuna is doing all the talking and Krishna is simply, patiently waiting. Arjuna frustrated himself with all his speculative ideas even though they were based on sastra, the Scriptures. Nothing he said was wrong but the problem was with his attitude—he was not humble and was not submissive. He didn’t come to the conclusion that he does not know anything. The more you think you know the less you can learn. The less you think you know the more you can understand.
Finally, Arjuna humbled himself. “Krishna, I don’t know anything. I don’t know what is to be done and what is not to be done. I am bewildered, I am confused. I am your disciple and you are my spiritual master. Please instruct me.” This was not a formality, nor a matter of curiosity. This was a desperate matter for his survival. Similarly, we should want to hear from great souls understanding our condition of drowning in this ocean of material existence. To learn from them is the matter of our survival. That is how we should approach our spiritual preceptors.
What does it mean to be submissive? It is not an artificial show; it is about a state of heart. To be submissive means to consider oneself inferior, to consider others superior, and not to be blinded by materialistic conception. Arjuna was a great warrior, great king, intimate friend of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But Krishna did not speak to him until he felt himself to be the most insignificant. When you feel yourself insignificant, you become submissive, that’s the beginning.