Spiritual Humility

The quality of humility is important to keep the ego in check, but even here, the ego finds ways to create an artificial form of humility that actually reinforces the ego. Those following an inspiring leader, or treading a path that provides true spiritual experience may use their position to puff up the ego and provide a sense of superiority or that one’s own path is better than others, or one’s progress exceeds that of others, etc. There is, as with all things, a fine line between true spiritual humility and the ‘appearance’ of humility outwardly.

Spiritual humility is based in the understanding that each seeker, from the human standpoint from which he starts, is limited in both understanding and power of action, and it is the Divine, acting through the nexus of the individual, that actually can carry out the divine intention. The shift away from the ego-standpoint brings with it an overwhelming sense of the vastness of the universal creation, the magnitude of the evolutionary development, and the tiny, yet important, role that each individual plays in that process spanning many thousands of years, and lifetimes of any individual.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Humility before the Divine is also a sine qua non of the spiritual life, and spiritual pride, arrogance, or vanity and self-assurance press always downward. But confidence in the Divine and a faith in one’s spiritual destiny (i.e. since my heart and soul seek for the Divine, I cannot fail one day to reach Him) are much needed in view of the difficulties of the Path.”

“A spiritual humility within is very necessary, but I do not think an outward one is very advisable (absence of pride or arrogance or vanity is indispensable of course in one’s outer dealings with others) — it often creates pride, becomes formal or becomes ineffective after a time. I have seen people doing it to cure their pride, but I have not found it producing a lasting result.”

“Perhaps one could say that it [spiritual humility] is to be aware of the relativity of what has been done compared with what is still to be done — and also to be conscious of one’s being nothing without the Divine Grace.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Humility, pp. 289-291

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