1FF66571-8E86-4881-9208-C3100A083112‘Buddha as mendicant’ (Part) – Abanindranath Tagore, 1914 – Wikimedia Commons

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To look into and understand the meaning and implications of being truly humble, of that state of humility which we often hear about — but rarely fully understand — is a precious thing. The word ‘humble’ finds its roots in the Latin ‘humilis’ which means ‘lowly’, literally ‘on the ground’ (from ‘humus’ meaning ‘earth’). Its etymology covers both the more active aspect contained in being ‘humiliated’, or being ‘humbled’, and the one that refers to the state, or quality, of being ‘selfless’. The first one gives the primary importance to the self that we are, to this separate entity that we believe to be, and which needs to be rendered humbler, smaller, lower. But why would we want to do that? Why, if it wasn’t for our deep intuition that this self is illusory, false, and is ultimately preventing our true identity of peace and happiness to be recognised and realised? 

This inherent peace contained in just ‘being’ refers to the second aspect of the word. Being humble is being without self, without the belief of being separate from objective experience. We are not this restless entity that wants to achieve, to aggrandise itself, and needs to be rendered low. We are rather this pure being whose very nature is complete, and already, unconditionally humble. Otherwise, why would Shiva or Buddha be portrayed as a mendicant? Therefore, the solution to our chronic state of suffering and conflict does not lie in having more, or less, or better ‘self’, but in realising, and living from, this deep and already achieved peace that we are. This realisation, and the action that is born of it, is what true humility is about. This simple phrase from the Bible made it crystal clear long ago: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)

I am sharing here a few quotes that will further explore this deep and essential question:

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In a space of humility,
no conflict is possible
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~ Éric Baret (‘Let the Moon be Free’)

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Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. […] If we were incapable of humility we would be incapable of joy, because humility alone can destroy the self-centeredness that makes joy impossible.”
~ Thomas Merton (‘Seeds of Contemplation’)

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We conceive of humility as a quality to be gradually acquired, and thereby totally miss the very simple yet extraordinarily profound nature of humility; and without humility one cannot go very far. The state of humility is essential for all inquiry. It is an `altogether’ feeling, without a centre from which the mind can say, ‘I am humble’. A person who is positively or negatively determined to be free of any particular problem, is not in a state of humility. There is humility only when the mind wishes to see the problem clearly, whatever that exploration may reveal. Such a mind is inquiring. It wishes to know all the implications of the problem both the pleasant and the unpleasant; it wishes to see things as they are, without the urge to transform, to subjugate, or to sublimate what it sees; and only such a mind is in a state of humility.”
~ J. Krishnamurti (Bombay 3rd Public Talk, 30th December 1959)

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C7357E22-7CFD-4FF5-A98F-3E44FD437DB3‘The Victory of Buddha’ – Abanindranath Tagore, 1914 – Wikimedia

[of the Master]
His constant practice is humility.
He doesn’t glitter like a jewel
but lets himself be shaped by the Tao,
as rugged and common as a stone
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~ Tao Te Ching, 39 (trans. by Stephen Mitchell)

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Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a man deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost. In every man there is hidden some root of despair because in every man there is pride that vegetates and springs weeds and rank flowers of self-pity as soon as our own resources fail us. […] But a man who is truly humble cannot despair, because in the humble man there is no longer any such thing as self-pity. […] Humility, therefore, is absolutely necessary if man is to avoid acting like a baby all his life. To grow up means, in fact, to become humble, to throw away the illusion that I am at the center of everything and that other people only exist to provide me with comfort and pleasure.”
~ Thomas Merton (‘Seeds of Contemplation’)

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To humbly become aware that only my story can disturb me, that is the revelation. As long as I believe that anything else can disturb me, this immaturity prevents all clarity. One day, Grace incarnates, and this obvious fact frees me from all my pretending to suffer from anything other than my imagination. As long as I haven’t integrated this revelation, my spiritual life has not begun. That awareness starts the process. Now, when a situation disturbs me, I know, I feel, that what disturbs me is my reaction to the situation. This is the first act of humility. I stop pretending that this or that situation can disturb me.”
~ Éric Baret (‘Let the Moon be Free’)

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It is my humility that gives God his divinity and the proof of it is this. God’s peculiar property is giving. But God cannot give if he has nothing to receive his gifts. Now I make myself receptive to his gifts by my humility so I by my humility do make God giver and since giving is God’s own peculiar property I do by my humility give God his property. […] I exalt God by my lowliness.”
~ Meister Eckhart (‘Sayings’, trans. by Clare de B. Evans)

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F4307DF1-CC94-4F7A-9003-882FA766FD85‘The Final Release’ – Abanindranath Tagore, 1914 – Wikimedia

Humility implies love, does it not?
It implies a chastened approach to problems.
Humility implies an absence of all conclusions,
all goals which the mind has projected
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~ J. Krishnamurti (Banaras 1st Public Talk 24th January 1960)

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The act of seeing my limits opens to the limitless. When I become aware of the arrogance which lives in me, this realization is humility itself. The pretense of humility is only arrogance. I can only see my arrogance. That vision absorbs what is seen. Arrogance is my doorway to a humility where there is no one to be humble. We can’t own anything, become anything, be anything. Only a poet could speak of this.”
~ Éric Baret (‘Let the Moon be Free’)

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One must be willing to stand alone — in the unknown, with no reference to the known or the past or any of one’s condition- ing. One must stand where no one has stood before in complete nakedness, innocence, and humility. One must stand in that dark light, in that groundless embrace, unwavering and true to the Reality beyond all self, not just for a moment but forever without end; for then that which is sacred, undivided, and whole is born within consciousness and begins to express itself. That expression is the salvation of the whole. It is the activity of an inward revolution brought down into time and space.”
~ Adyashanti (‘The Way of Liberation’)

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It is therefore a question of abolishing the self within us, ‘that shadow thrown by sin and error which stops the light of God and which we take for a being’. Without this utter humility, this unconditional consent to be nothing, all forms of heroism and immolation are still subject to the law of gravity and falsehood: ‘We can offer nothing short of ourselves. Otherwise what we term our offering is merely a label attached to a compensatory assertion of the ‘I’’.”
~ Simone Weil (‘Gravity and Grace’)

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Meister Eckhart says,
We fail to get our way with God
because we lack two things :
profound humility
and a telling will
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~ Meister Eckhart

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B4B1EF62-8C55-4D3A-A93C-CEF684A607CC

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Paintings by Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951)

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Bibliography:
– ‘Krishnamurti’s Notebook’ – by J. Krishnamurti – (Krishnamurti Publications of America, US)
– ‘New Seeds of Contemplation’ – by Thomas Merton – (Shambhala, New édition)
– ‘Let the Moon Be Free: Conversations on Kashmiri Tantra’ – by Eric Baret (translation by Jeanric Meller) – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
– ‘Tao Te Ching, A New English Version’ – by Stephen Mitchell – (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
– ‘The Way of Liberation: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment’ – by Adyashanti – (Open Gate Sangha)
– ‘Meister Eckhart’ – Translated by Clare de B. Evans – (Franz Pfeiffer, 1924)
– ‘Gravity and Grace’ – by Simone Weil – (Bison Books)

Websites:
J. Krishnamurti 
Thomas Merton (Wikipedia) 
Éric Baret 
Meister Eckhart (Wikipedia) 
Adyashanti 
Tao Te Ching (Wikipedia) 
Simone Weil (Wikipedia)

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