The word humility is derived from the Latin humilitas, which means ‘grounded’, or from the root humus, the earth which is beneath us.
This derivation is particularly appealing to us in India, as we consider Mother Earth, Bhumata, as the most gentle, uncomplaining and compassionate mother who allows us to literally trample all over her. Indeed, magnanimity, the ability to treat others with generosity, the tendency to put others before oneself, is a characteristic feature of humility.
Humility does not consist in hiding our talents and virtues, or in thinking of ourselves as being worse than we really are; but in realising that all that we are, and all that we have, are freely given to us by God.
The ‘hum’ of humility is humiliation
A man of humility is unconcerned about the reaction of other people. He is not hurt by criticism. He remains calm even when criticised or mocked at. What happens to us when someone criticises or casts aspersions on us? We get angry. Our immediate reaction is to confront and retaliate. Our instant impulse is to seek vengeance from the opponent; tit-for-tat is what we believe in. A single word of criticism ruffles us to no end. We do not have the humility to forgive and forget. We do not have the humility to accept the criticism or a harmless joke at our expense. Every single unkind word hurts our ego.
Let us learn to be humble. Let us aspire to the virtue of humility; and let us not commit the fatal error of assuming that we are perfect. If we have even a trace of humility, it is not due to our achievement, but thanks to the grace of the Lord.
The light of God shines in all of us, in every creature that breathes the breath of life. But in some of us, the Divine Light is hidden behind many veils, so that we cannot behold its radiance. These are the veils of pride and ego. When these veils are torn asunder, we can see the Divine Light shining in all its glory. Humility will surely help us to attain the Lotus Feet of the Lord.
(Dada J.P. Vaswani is humanitarian, philosopher, educator, acclaimed writer, powerful orator, messiah of ahimsa, and non-sectarian spiritual leader.)