HUMILITY

“Humility is just as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self-exaltation. To be humble is not to make comparisons. Serene in its reality, the self is neither better nor worse, bigger nor smaller than anything in the universe. It is—is nothing, yet at the same time is one with everything.” — Dag Hammarskjold

 

A student approached the teacher and said: "Teach me humility."

The teacher answered:  "I cannot do that, because humility is a teacher of itself.  It is learnt by means of its practice.  If you cannot practice it, you cannot learn it."


As a spiritual experience, Humility contains its own unique paradox:  Those possessed by it do not realize that they do participate in it!  And those who think they possess it most often have no idea what "it" is.  As a Sufi saying suggests:  "A saint is a saint unless he knows that he is one." A favorite story told in many versions throughout the ages injects a dose of humor into this spiritual insight:  

One day a rabbi, in a frenzy of religious passion, rushed in before the ark, fell to his knees, and started beating his breast, crying, "I'm nobody!  I'm nobody!"

The cantor of the synagogue, impressed by this example of spiritual humility, joined the rabbi on his knees, saying, "I'm nobody!  I'm nobody!"

The shamus (custodian) watching from the corner, couldn't restrain himself either.  He joined the other two on his knees, calling out, "I'm nobody!  I'm nobody!"

At which point the rabbi, nudging the cantor with his elbow, pointed at the custodian and said, "Look who thinks he's nobody!"