How does humility relate with willpower?

by Chaitanya CharanJanuary 25, 2024

Question: What is the relationship between humility and willpower? How does humility help us to distance ourselves from our emotions?

Answer: The word “humility” can have different meanings in different contexts. In the context of, say, self-improvement, humility means acknowledging where we are right now. It simply means, this is where I am. Now, in the outer world, I may act as if I have this much control, I have this much discipline, I have this much self-mastery, but actually, this is where I am. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because we can start our journey only from where we are, not from where we think we should be.

Sometimes, humility, if it is misunderstood, it can lead to feelings of inferiority or inferiority complex. That happens when we are centred only on ourselves. Like, oh, I am so bad, I am so good for nothing, I can never do anything right. When we are thinking only about ourselves and how deficient we are, that is not actually humility. The essence of humility is not to think low of ourselves. It is to think less about ourselves. Not that I am so fallen, I am so bad, I am so useless, but there are better things for me to think about than myself. I have a purpose, I have a service. Let me think about that. Ultimately, when we start practicing Krishna Bhakti, we have Krishna to think about. We have Krishna’s service to think about. So, the purpose of humility is not to push ourselves down. The purpose of humility is to lift our consciousness to Krishna.

So, if I am too full of myself, then I can’t think of Krishna. But if I understand that there is some reality bigger than me and I focus on that. So, in the context of self-improvement, humility means that I understand I can’t do it alone. I need Krishna. If I only think, oh, I am here and my disruptive mind is here and I have to alone fight against this, no I can’t do it. And then it will lead to feelings of low self-esteem and it will lead to feelings of inferiority complex and that can be very damaging for us.

But when we see that I am here, this disruptive mind, these bad habits, these negativities are here, but beyond them is Krishna and He is much bigger than me and He is much bigger than my conditioning also.

So, for us, humility doesn’t mean just thinking, I am so fallen, I am so fallen, I am so bad, but rather, yes, I have my conditionings and I cannot fight them without Krishna, but with Krishna, I can do it.

So, our humility should direct us towards Krishna. Our humility should inspire us to take shelter of Krishna. If somebody says, I am so fallen that I cannot practice Krishna Bhakti. Some people say that, actually I am so contaminated, if I come to the temple, the temple will become contaminated. That is not humility. That is like pseudo-humility. If somebody is so unclean and I tell them, please take a bath. He says, no, no, if I take the bath, the river will become unclean. Don’t worry, the river is not going to become unclean. It has constant flowing water and you will become clean. So, no matter what our condition is, Krishna is there with us always, and if our humility inspires us to feel the need for Krishna, then that need for Krishna will intensify our connection with him. With that connection, the willpower will naturally manifest as a result. So, humility is meant to help us, to inspire us to connect with Krishna. Then that humility is very favorable for self-transformation.

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Chaitanya Charan