Proudly Bowing Down To Maya
Do I Want To Be Humble?
One of the great agonies of Krsna consciousness – or life in general for that matter – is that we can’t fully understand something without living it deeply. For years I desired to better understand humility. I studied it, analyzed it, discussed it, observed it, honored it, and wrote and taught about it. So I thought I knew a thing or two about humility. And then one day someone criticized me when I was expecting appreciation. Boom! I was devastated. My so called understanding and realization of humility got kicked out the door when I got kicked in the butt.
Why after studying the subject so deeply and thus “realizing” that to seek honor for myself is only to taste the stool and urine of false prestige did I still thirst for recognition like a fish on land thirsts for water? There can only be one answer; I didn’t really want humility. It was being handed to me on a silver platter and my false ego immediately rejected it.
So the important question here is, “Why didn’t I want it?
Like you, I came to the material world to imitate Krsna. And like it or not, old habits die hard.
Did you know that 25% of the people who quit their jobs leave because they are not being appreciated? Conditioned souls have a deeply rooted need for recognition, appreciation, and distinction. That’s not good news because to chant the holy name properly and constantly we have to be completely devoid of these needs. Is it any wonder that you and I so often find chanting our rounds a burden?
Are we fighting an uphill battle? Yes, but the top of the hill can be reached. How steep a hill you must climb depends on how attached you are to making sure others think highly of you.
What You See Is Not What You Get
Image is what we want the world to think they are seeing when they see us. And we’ll deceive ourselves into thinking that image is real in order to feel good about ourselves. But the reality is that it’s painful to maintain a self image that’s different from whom we really are.
Since we came down to this world to imitate God, part of our job is to fool everyone into thinking we are way more special, way more intelligent, way more talented, way more this or that than we really are. And if we do this as devotees we are going to have to fool a lot of people into thinking we are way more Krsna conscious than we really are. Doesn’t it make you feel warm and fuzzy when people think you are spiritual?
- I know this is getting pretty depressing. But we got ourselves into this mess. Stay with me. It will get better (but it gets a little worse before it gets better).
It’s Time To Exercise
- Think of or write down your good qualities.
- Think of or write down all the bad qualities you have.
- Think of or write down all the stupid things you’ve done in your life.
- Think of or write down what image you portray to others.
- Is there some disconnect between what you are and what you project? If so, what?
- Think of or write down all the things about yourself you would be ashamed for others to know, especially those who highly respect you.
- Why wouldn’t you want them to know?
- Who is it important for you to impress and why?
From these exercises it’s probably clear that image is important to you. Hopefully it’s a little clearer now how different you really are from the image you try to project. Some of us even portray a humble image because it makes us feel good when others think we are humble.
But the reality is that the more there is a difference between who you are and how you want people to see you, the more you will be concerned with looking krsna conscious than being krsna conscious.
So how do we become humble? As long as image is important, humility is going to take a back seat. Humility doesn’t fall out of the sky and by chance land on the heads of the privileged few. I know from experience that if I really don’t want and value it, I’ll see little need for it, maybe only employing it as a last resort to get myself out of a mess.
The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know. Similarly, the closer you come to Krsna, the more you realize how far away from Krsna you really are. The more you realize how far you are from Krsna, the more you realize what is separating you from Him. The more you realize what is separating you, the more you are acknowledging and accepting your faults. The more you are aware of your own faults, the more you can be real. And the more you can be real, the more you can be humble and wise. After all, humility means acknowledging what’s real.
“The fool who knows that he is a fool is for that very reason a wise man; the fool who thinks he is wise is called a fool indeed.” – (Buddhism – Dhammapada 63)
So the question is, “Do you want to be real?”
Was that a “yes” I heard you saying? Good. But some yes’s are louder than others (I hope yours wasn’t a “yes, but…”.) But if that “yes” inside of you isn’t screaming out of you, your internal system that automatically seeks honor, recognition, praise, appreciation, and distinction can easily prevent humility from taking root within you.
How would you feel if someone pointed out a fault, a weakness or an anomaly of yours in an area in which you regarded yourself to be competent – or even praiseworthy? And how would you feel if that criticism came from someone you thought respected you, or worse, from someone you needed to respect you?
If your answer is something like, “I’d be devastated,” try the following suggestion:
scream “yes” louder!
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati said those who point out my faults are my real friends. It is acknowledging and confronting those faults that help us advance. The reality is that the more we confront our faults, the closer we come to Krsna.
“A brahmin should ever shrink from honor as from poison, and should always be desirous of disrespect as if of ambrosia.” – (Laws of Manu 2.162)
When Oh When Will That Day Be Mine
So to be Krsna conscious means to desire disrespect as if it were ambrosia. When was the last time you went out looking for disrespect as if it were nectar? I am looking forward to the day when I actually feel that way. It will probably be one of the greatest days in my life.
So we have two choices: we can maintain a false face to the world, do our best to look and act in ways to get other’s appreciation and praise, and thus remain a slave in maya’s hand. Or we can acknowledge how foolish we are to run after the crumbs of false honor and consequently gain shelter at Krsna’s feet.
I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day I’d rather be humbly sitting at Krsna’s feet than proudly bowing down to maya.