Humility, Patience & Tolerance – Adopt Virtues of the Saints
Uncategorized / May 20, 2019
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” - Saint Augustine
Humility, patience, and tolerance – are known as crowing virtues; saintly and selfless in nature, these qualities are the backbone of righteous and principled living. These divine virtues are so paramount and meaningful, they hold the power to transform us radically from within. Religions the world over have encouraged developing humility in consciousness, emphasized patience as an invaluable asset, and promoted tolerance as a mark of elevated thinking.
Lord Chaitanya, who is an avatar of God, appeared about 500 years ago, and in accordance with the Vedas taught that if you want to actually pray and perform spiritual worship in a way that will attract the grace of the Lord – aspire to be humble like a blade of grass; aspire to be more tolerant than a tree; and aspire to give respect to all, never expecting respect for one self.
This is a universal principle – Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” God is merciful to the humble. God loves a heart full of humility, and hates the defect of pride or arrogance. To attract God’s grace, one has to achieve the state of utter humbleness.
So, what is it that prevents us from becoming humble? The answer is pride. Pride is so subtle that it evades us. In self-reflection, one can never admit to having pride, as the intellect is the faculty harboring it, and by itself, cannot identify it, nor address it. Even the best of devotees of God who have devoted their life to service of God can develop pride. The smallest act of service can become a reason for self-aggrandizement, crumbling all humility. Every time we become proud, we turn towards untruth, and when we become humble, we turn towards our true self.
When we consider ourselves to be significant, we forget the significance of God, and if we remember how significant God is, then we realize our insignificance. You may see the hill in the distance and think the hill seems six feet high. But, in reality, it seems it is six feet high because you are very far away from it, and as you start walking close, you see a huge mountain, and now appreciate how small you are in front of it. Similarly, if we are distant from God in our consciousness, we will consider ourselves all important, and contrariwise if we go close to God, we realize that we are like stardust.
In reality, we are all covered in ignorance from eternity. Ego originates from ignorance, from which pride takes birth. We are fully enveloped in this pride, and hence are very far from God. EGO or ‘Edging God Out,’ is what keeps us from attaining the perfect happiness and bliss of God; this ego is what blocks the glory of God from shining through. We can, however, strive to reduce this pride and ego by becoming aware of it and acknowledging it.
The best way to rid of darkness is to let in the light. Similarly, cultivating humility, tolerance, patience, etc., will gradually and readily reduce the ego. Consider the following example: Swami Vivekananda and one devotee were travelling by the roadside when a cart went by splatting mud on Swamiji’s face. The devotee was immensely disturbed with fury, whereas Swamiji was serene. Surprised at Swamiji’s reaction to the mud, the devotee asked him how he managed to stay so calm and unperturbed. Swamiji smiled and said he takes ‘charan-amrit’ (water offered to God’s lotus feet and then partaken for one self) daily, and now he has taken the ‘charan-amrit’ of the cart! The difference in each one’s reaction was due to varying perspectives and thought processes. One perspective was brought about by pride, whereas the other was springing from absence of ego, and elevated thoughts of tolerance.
One of the prominent signs of humility is the presence of patience and tolerance. Tolerance is one of the supreme virtues of any soul. To be able to withstand, forbear, and patiently persevere, all sprout from tolerance. True tolerance is not an outer show of peace while you are in turmoil from within, rather, it is arising from a sense of acceptance, compassion, understanding, and the spirit of servitude. At present, most of us haven’t developed this virtue; even one word of criticism is intolerable to most.
The ideal of tolerance given by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is that of a tree. A tree exemplifies tolerance and forbearance – if someone throws a stone at it, the tree does not object, instead it rewards with a fruit. The nature of a tree in the summer – it will stand right under the hot noonday sun, and give us shade to keep us cool; in the winter -- this the tree will stand cover with ice and give us wood to keep us warm. And if you chop down the tree, it will give its body to help us build a house.
How can we grow in tolerance then? In fact, the way to cultivate any quality or virtue is easy. The best resources are really at our fingertips. The world we live in is designed so that we may evolve and become a better version of our self at every step. All difficulties, challenges, and obstacles that we face, are essentially avenues for our inner growth. All of us have encountered situations where our patience is tested, whether with family, friends, or otherwise. Tolerance, then, can be enhanced by patience and perseverance in the face of adversity. Choose to be proactive, rather than reactive in your approach, and use every difficult opportunity to grow in virtue – such is the nature of the Saints.
A fine example of the saintly perspective is of Saint Eknath. Saint Eknath took a bath in the holy Ganges river, stepped out, and found a Pathan (referring to the Pashtun people - the Pashtuns historically known as ethnic Afghans and Pathans are an Iranian ethnic group who mainly live in Pakistan and Afghanistan in South-Central Asia. – (Source – Wikipedia)) spitting on him. Taking the name of God, Saint Eknath again took his holy bath, and was faced with the same spit by the Pathan upon exit of the river. The cycle continued for an extended period of time. The Pathan finally gave up and asked the Saint how he managed to remain unaffected by his spitting all this time. Saint Eknath gave a beautiful reply and said, “You are in fact my well-wisher, because of whom I got to take a bath in the holy Ganges multiple times!” The Saints find every opportunity to exercise their tolerance in all adverse conditions. They value their inner peace, and maintain that at all times, in all circumstances.
The last point Lord Chatainya expounded was to give respect to others and not to expect respect for yourself. This in fact, is another facet and extension of humility. One measure of humility is also in the degree of our gentleness and pleasant behavior towards others. To become bitter, harsh with words, and hard from within is easy in this world where selfishness prevails. But, to forgive and rise above these tendencies, to adopt a resilient mindset, and live from a place of compassion is true service to God. The easiest way to do so, is to offer all respect to others thinking that they are all parts of God. As the spiritual mindset and vision expands, you will offer respect realizing that God is seated in everyone, and finally at the highest level of understanding, you will know everyone to be God. The scriptures say that one who sees everybody as God has solidified that divine sentiment towards everyone, and then treats everyone in that manner. But, we again have to practice from the first rung, so we have to practice learning to respect everyone, not desiring respect for ourselves.
This simple practice also alleviates our tendency of competition and envy. Respect allows us to appreciate other’s talents and abilities, knowing that they are all God given. Now, instead of competing with others, we co-operate with others out of honor and respect. This perspective protects us from arrogance and conceit as well, as we attribute the credit for all our achievements and successes to that Supreme Almighty.
If we master the virtues of humility, patience, and tolerance, we will master our inner most defects. Of all the three, humility is most regarded and the highest virtue. There is great strength in humility. Why so? It is what allows us to efface the ego and usher in God’s power. Through true humility, we are liberated from our limited understanding, and open to the divinity way beyond our own self. Humility turns our attention from our selfish needs to the welfare of others, and engenders the spirit of service; it allows us to see our self in harmony with God, with nature, and each other.
To grow in virtue; to grow to perfection – is human nature. The greatest obstacle to overcome in this endeavor is our own ego. The wise have attained that perfection; the Saints are our foremost example of the highest human potential. To see everything in relation with the Supreme Creator gives foresight, and sets the foundation for the unfoldment of the divinity of the soul within. To be virtuous is our true soul nature. Uncover and manifest the divinity within yourself through submission of the intellect at the holy feet of God, by curbing the ego, and exalting the Lord!