Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Training of the Ego: Humility

A short, beautiful reading from the Gathas of Inayat Khan:

"Humility is the principal thing that must be learnt in the path of training the ego. It is the constant effort of effacing the ego that prepares man for the greater journey. This principle of humility can be practiced by forgetting one's personality in every thought and action and in every dealing with another. No doubt it is difficult and may not seem very practicable in everyday life, though in the end it will prove to be the successful way, not only in one's spiritual life, but in one's everyday affairs. The general tendency is to bring one's personality forward, which builds a wall between two souls whose destiny and happiness lie in unity. In business, in profession, in all aspects of life it is necessary that one should unite with the other in this unity, in which the purpose of life is fulfilled."

"There are two forms of effacing the self, which in other words may be called giving in. One way is by weakness, the other is by willingness, the former being a defect, the latter a virtue. One comes by lack of will, the other by charity of the heart. Therefore in training the ego, one must take care that one is not developing a weakness, presuming it to be a virtue. The best way of dealing with the question is to let life take its natural course, and at the same time, to allow the conscience to keep before it the highest idea. On one side life taking its natural course, on the other side the conscience holding its highest ideal, balancing it, will make the journey easy. The words of Christ, which teach man to walk with another two miles if the other wanted him to walk one, prove the great importance of harmony in life. And his words, 'Resist not evil', show still more the importance of harmony in life, namely, that if you can avoid evil, in other words keep it away, that is better than to want to fight it. And the idea of Christ's teaching of giving in is also expressive of harmonizing with the wishes of another person. No doubt in this, discrimination is necessary. That harmony is advisable which develops into harmony and culminates in greater harmony, not that which may seem in the beginning to be harmony and would result in greater inharmony. In training the ego, balance must be taken as the most important principle"

Khan recommends we practice humility in our everyday lives by stepping out of the limelight and by letting others go forward. This may seem like anathema in today's society, but there is an underlying principle here. We are not being told not to achieve or to be excellent in our undertakings, whatever that arena may be. Rather, we gain much more in life by fostering a sense of cooperation over that of competition. We build bridges by unifying with others and honoring their gifts and contributions. Yet, we can still do our best by competing with ourselves to always hold forth our highest ideals, whatever the situation may be. As always, Khan advises discrimination in our desires to harmonize with others by seeking balance in all things.

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