Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #20 – A Match Made in Heaven

May 14th, 2018

Even though “heaven” is technically not the right word, the phrase works here. I can’t think of a better match of two people or things than the match between humility and prema (love of God). They nourish each other. The more one’s humility increases the more one feels love of God, and the more one feels love of God the more humble one becomes. In fact, one who has attained prema is so humble that he or she feels devoid of even a scent of divine love. Let’s explore this unique relationship, for it forms the foundation of bhakti.


Philosophical concepts can be subtle and difficult to explain. They often need practical examples to illustrate them. In my struggles to explain the relationship between humility and prema it took me years before I finally came up with some examples to help communicate this principle.


Example 1

A child who is proud and entitled never feels the love of his parents even if the parents give their child the whole world, and as a result of not feeling that love from his parents he doesn’t develop love for his parents either. A child who is humble, however, overflows with appreciation and love at the slightest gesture of affection. In the same way, a proud soul feels entitled and can neither feel God’s mercy nor develop love for Him, while a humble soul can both fully experience the mercy of God and awaken feelings of devotion in his heart. Humility and prema thus naturally encourage each other.


Example 2

A mafia Don sees the world according to his own desire to such an extent that he may even kill a person who gets in his way. He is an emblem of pride, for in his self-created world he sees everyone under his control. That same crime boss, however, when at home may happily take the humble position in the presence of his mother and center his desires according to her will out of affection for her. Similarly, as one develops prema-bhakti, one puts Krishna in the center and sees the world according to His desires, a vision that fosters deep humility. Again, there is a direct relationship between prema and humility.


Example 3

As hunger increases a person feels his own lack of food more and more. Lack or poverty naturally makes one humble. Prema is the thirst or hunger for God and thus as prema increases one feels a lack of it to the extent that one humbly feels devoid of even a scent of devotion.


Example 4

When one receives something far beyond his or her ability to earn, one experiences undeserved kindness and naturally contemplates one’s lack of qualification. In other words, being a recipient of mercy instinctively makes one feel humble. The greatest treasure is love of God. Therefore when even a drop of that love enters the heart one feels unbounded mercy, reflects on one’s dearth of qualification, and becomes humbled by such grace.


Example 5

If a person keeps a messy living space then he will hardly notice the addition of more clutter, while a person who keeps things spotlessly clean notices the smallest mess. Prema is the height of purity and thus even an apparent impurity or mistake becomes glaring and prominent. Ironically, a person with the treasure of prema thus feels impure and humble, while a person filled with selfishness doesn’t even notice.


Example 6

Two verses come to mind that succinctly illustrate the correlation between humility and prema. The first is by Śrī Caitanya and the second by Queen Kuntī:


“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” (Śikṣāṣṭakam v. 3) [1]


“My Lord, Your Lordship can easily be approached, but only by those who are materially exhausted. One who is on the path of [material] progress, trying to improve himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling.” (Bhāg. 1.8.26) [2]


The point is clear. Humility and devotion are tied at the waist. But the question remains: How to become humble? I heard a nice saying that sheds some light on the question: “It is easier to act humble and then to become humble than think humble and then act humble.”


Acting humble means to culture a mood of service and to think of others before oneself. In this regard, I heard one beautiful definition of bhakti: To make oneself available. And that is the mood of chanting the mahā-mantra – to announce both in voice and in heart that we want to serve and actually be ready when Krishna, through guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, respond to our prayer.


Whenever we talk about spiritual life and developing our relationship with Krishna it comes down to this point of humility, because it is indeed a match made in heaven.


[1] Implied here is that humility is the foundation of prema because the only activities that can be done ceaselessly are those done in devotion, so if humility is the cause of constant chanting it must have invoked feelings of devotion.

[2] Simply put, only one who is not proud can chant with devotion.



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