Humility Is The Hallmark Of Refinement
The world never ceases to be volatile what with virtues and vices vying desperately to outdo their counterparts. There are times when positive vibes such as wisdom, honesty, patience, love and care, discipline, benevolence, commitment to a cause, humility, etc. reign. On the other hand, we also see the likes of shameless parading of arrogant money power, animosity, jealousy, greed, stupidity, indiscipline, cheating, treachery, wickedness, all sorts of crimes, etc. make a sweeping impact on our society.
All these forces – noble and evil – combine to carve out situations congenial for calm living or create outrageous ambience in varying degrees depending upon the net result of their battle for supremacy. It is a different matter that one would not be off the mark in thinking that it is more of the latter these days.
One look at the negative qualities would reveal that the root cause of the majority of them is ‘egoism’ – domination of the ‘I’ and ‘Me’ thoughts in the mind. They are known as ‘Ahankaaram’ and ‘Mamakaaram’ respectively. These thoughts sub-consciously corrupt the mind and hijack it into devious means and an invigorated intensity results in vices.
Egoism can be innate, acquired or a combination of both. Whichever the case is, it is unacceptable because it means putting self before everything else. Self-centric tendency and an obsession to succeed at all costs may be perfect recipe for a ‘personality development’ course but preceptors of our Sampradaya never approved of the same.
On the contrary they professed and practised humility even upto a severe degree of self-deprecation. These are genuine expressions of mind steeped in devotion and uncomplicated knowledge that everything is made possible or happens as disposed by Sriman Narayana. ‘ஸ்வஸ்மை ஸ்வப்ரீதயே ஸ்வயம் ஏவ காரயதி’ (On His own accord and for His own pleasure He only causes things done) and ‘ஸர்வம் ஸ்ரீ க்ருஷ்ணார்ப்பணம் அஸ்து’ (Let everything be dedicated to Krishna) - these declarations we utter during Sankalpam are typical examples of this philosophy.
This pushes the ‘supposed ability’ to the backstage and brings to the fore the ‘dependence on divine force’. Without His will nothing can happen. It is relevant here to note that ‘Aakinchanyam’ or ‘helplessness’ is one of the five pre-requisites for performing Prapathi.
Therefore, humility as opposed to egoism is one virtue which could be an answer to mitigate the effects of negative qualities. If the society becomes conscious of this, not only divinity but more orderliness can be expected to thrive. That is why almost all our preceptors made it a point to lay emphasis on it.
Azhwars and Acharyas have led by example in this in an exemplary manner. There are gems galore through their great works, highlighting the importance and indispensability of humility as a virtue. We shall see some of them:
குலங்களாய ஈரிரண்டில் ஒன்றிலும் பிறந்திலேன்; நலங்களாய நற்கலைகள் நாலிலும் நவின்றிலேன் ... Thirumazhisai Azhwar (Thiru-Chandha Viruththam – 90)
“Alas, I’m not blessed to have hailed from well-bred families, nor am I well read in the four Vedas ...”
மனத்திலோர் தூய்மையில்லை; வாயிலோர் இன்சொல் இல்லை ... Thondar AdipPodi Azhwar (Thirmaalai – 30)
“I have no purity in my heart; no sweetness in my speech ...”
... நலம் தான் ஒன்றுமிலேன், நல்லதோர் அறம் செய்துமிலேன் ... Thirumangai Azhwar (Periya Thirumozhi 1-9-4)
“... I have no goodness and have not done anything good ...”
சீலம் இல்லாச் சிறியனேலும் செய்வினையோ பெரிதால் ... Nammazhwar (Thiruvoymozhi 4-7-1)
“Alas, I’m a wretched low-born, great indeed are my sins ...”
அபராத ஸஹஸ்ர பாஜநம் ... Aala Vandhaar (Sthothra Rathnam – 48)
“(I am) the receptacle of countless sins ...”
... அநந்ய சரண: சரணம் அஹம் ப்ரபத்யே! Sri Ramanuja (Saranaagathi Gadhyam)
“... Refuge for the refugeless! I surrender unto You”
அஹம் அஸ்மி அபராத சக்ரவர்த்தீ; கருணே த்வம் ச குணேஷு ஸார்வபௌமீ ... Swami Desika (Daya Sathakam – 30)
“I am the emperor of sins and You (Daya Devi) are the monarch of all virtues...”
What is important is that these are not words of ordinary men but great souls of piety and divinity. We can well deduce from the outpourings that it is mature devoutness that brings in refinement which in turn leads to humility. Trying to take a leaf out of our Azhwars and Acharyas will only enrich our character and elevate us.
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