Ahamkara...Humility...the forgotten quality

In the year 2012, in our North American ‘me culture’, values such as harmony and agreement are often given short shrift.

Instead, uniqueness and expression, and the desire to ‘stand out’ are decidedly driving forces. These qualities have given rise to a generation of me-focused indivduals. While this creates a dynamic and innovative population, it also appears to drive the anxiety and unhappiness scale sky-high.

A study by Northwestern University in Chicago compared levels of depression and anxiety in individualist societies (North America, Western Europe) with collectivist society (eg. China and Taiwan.)

They were surprised to find that there was a direct correlation between the two. The more individualistic the country, the higher the levels of depression.

In our efforts to be unique, to self-satisfy, to give in to every whim, to believe we are not enough, many of us have forgotten what it is to practice humility. We continue to ‘prop ourselves up’....when in actual fact, we are feeding the ego, and starving the self.

In every major world religion, humility is considered to be one of the major stepping stones to self-realization. 

In Buddhism, humility is a most sought-after quality.....one of the basic tenets of Buddhism is to lessen the suffering of others by practicing compassion and empathy. By putting others first. By stepping aside. By letting be.

Christianity..... Humility is said to be a fit recipient of grace; according to the words of St. James, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (Proverbs 3:34, 1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6)

"True humility" is distinctly different from "false humility" which consists of deprecating one's own sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments for the sake of receiving praise or adulation from others, In this context legitimate humility comprises the following behaviors and attitudes:
• Submitting to God and legitimate authority (sounds like Ishvara Pranidhana to me!)
• Recognizing virtues and talents that others possess, particularly those that surpass one's own, and giving due honor and, when required, obedience.
• Recognizing the limits of one's talents, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for what is beyond one's grasp (another of Patanjali’s teachings...Aparigrapha...non-grasping)

Hinduism has preached about humility and egoless state through numerous sacred scripts and sages which date back to 5500–2600 BCE.  In our most highly regarded yoga text, the Bhagavad Gita, the subject is "the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious". Fancy words to convey that the most difficult battle is often found within...and we must wage war to free ourselves from the tyranny of the ego, the cause of all our suffering and sorrow.

To get in touch with your true self, whether you call that God, Brahman, etc., one has to deny the ego. The Sanskrit word Ahamkara literally translates into The-sound-of-I, or quite simply the sense of the self or ego. When this sound is stilled, you are in touch with your true being.

In the religion of Islam, the Qur’an Arabic words conveying the meaning of "humility" are used, and the very term "Islam" can be interpreted as meaning "surrender (to God), humility” Among the specific Arabic words used to convey "humility" are "tawadu" and "khoshou”.

This month let us actively practice Ahamkara. Mother Teresa has given us a few tips on how to get started.....

“Speak as little as possible of oneself. Mind one's own business. Avoid curiosity. Do not want to manage other people's affairs. Accept contradiction and correction cheerfully. Pass over mistakes of others. Accept blame when innocent. Yield to the will of others. Accept insults and injuries. Accept being slighted, forgotten, and disliked. Be kind and gentle even under provocation. Do not seek to be specially loved and admired. Never stand on one's dignity. Yield in discussion even though one is right. Choose always the hardest.”

Notice the stillness within when you yield. Feel the quiet strength inside as you allow. Listen to the interior field of silence while others speak.  - Maureen