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Spiritualizing our Actions, the Cultivation of Humility

Pride and it's opposite humility. Redirect praise, avoid spiritual pride. Karma yoga, spiritualizing our actions, is effective in increasing humility and reducing pride. Work is worship.

Unedited Transcript:

When I opened TAKA this morning, Gurudeva spoke to me, he said: "Conceit is a sure sign of insecurity; humility denotes awareness."

So I said: "Well, why don't I speak on that this morning."

So, I thought of something I'd written up. It's a work in progress on spiritualizing our actions, otherwise know as karma yoga.

"An aspect of our nature that needs to be brought under control to achieve solid spiritual progress is the innate pride of the ego. Webster's dictionary defines pride as an unduly high opinion of oneself; exaggerated self-esteem' conceit. The opposite of pride of course, is humility. Unfortunately, our modern educational system at the university level quite often increases in students their sense of intellectual pride. A way of measuring an individual's pride is to offer a complement for something they did. Do they simply take it and say thank you, defer some of the praise by saying it wasn't really that much of an accomplishment or do they even redirect the praise by saying it was only possible because of my great teacher or by the grace of God or guru. "

It's one of the challenges, we haven't had many of our younger swamis traveling in recent years but it's a common experience, when they do and they go to a country such as Malaysia and do the puja, do some satsanga, give a talk and inevitably some of the devotees will come up and say: "Oh, you know, you're the greatest. No swami has ever come here and done this as well as you have."

So, what a great opportunity to become proud. All of a sudden you know, were just a humble monk and now all of a sudden you have this wonderful opportunity to acquire what's called "spiritual pride."

So, of course, you know, if you're wise you defer it and you say: "Oh, well, you know, I had a very good teacher, the older swamis have been teaching me for years and, you know, if they were here they'd do a much better job than I could." Something like that is what you need to do. You need to redirect the praise; you don't want to absorb it and say: "Oh, finally someone has recognized me. After all these years, you know, I've finally been recognized. "

"An effective way to reduce pride and increase humility is for one to perform menial tasks. Karma yoga offers such opportunities through offering your service at an ashram or temple for such tasks as washing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning the kitchens and bathrooms, working in the gardens, washing the windows, sweeping the paths all without seeking praise or approval."

We don't have this problem but some of the temples in the U.S. have this problem. They have a group of trustees and the basis on which they've chosen their trustees is that they've given over a certain amount of money. So it varies in the temples. I know one temple, it started at $10,000, then they got so many trustees they said: "Well we'd better raise it to 25." So, currently if you give over 25 thousand dollars you become a trustee of the temple. I always thought, I never said, of course, but I always thought: Well a better measure if someone is qualified to be a trustee, should be the number of hours of karma yoga they put in at the temple. They need a minimum number. If they put in more than 4 hours a week in karma yoga then they can be a trustee, maybe. Something like that. Would totally change the group and you'd have the ones who are really working hard to make the temple work. Because, what you find is many trustees don't even come to meetings and the work falls on a very core group in many temples; they work very very hard just to, particularly at festival times to make it all work and they're not even trustees. They're not even acknowledged for all their effort.

So there's a story, Swami Sivananda tells a story of Mahatma Gandhi.

"Study the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhiji. He never made any difference between menial service and dignified work. Scavenging and cleaning of the latrine was the highest Yoga for him. This was the highest puja for him. He himself did the cleaning of latrines. He annihilated the illusory little 'I' through service of various sorts. Many highly educated persons joined his ashram for learning yoga under him. (You can guess what?) They thought that Gandhiji would teach them yoga in some mysterious manner in a private room and would give lessons on pranayama, meditation, abstraction, awakening of kundalini, etc. They were disappointed when they were asked to clean the latrine first. They left the Ashram immediately. Gandhiji himself repaired his shoes. He himself used to grind flour and take upon his shoulders the work of others, also, when they were unable to do their allotted portion of work for the day in the Ashram. When an educated person, a new Ashramite, felt shy to do the grinding work, Gandhiji himself would do his work in front of him and then the man would do the work himself from the next day willingly."

Isn't that a nice story? Shows the importance of humility.

Swami Sivananda adds the comment:

"He who has understood the right significance of karma yoga will take every work as yogic activity or worship of the Lord. There is no menial work in his vision. Every work is puja. In the light of karma yoga all actions are sacred. That aspirant who always takes immense delight in doing works which are considered by the worldly man as menial services, and who always does willingly such acts he alone will become a dynamic yogi. He will be absolutely free from conceit and egoism. He will have no downfall. The canker of pride cannot touch him."

Thank you very much.

[End of transcript.]

Photo of  Gurudeva
The key to discovering and understanding personal dharma is the worship of Lord Ganesha, the God of memory, time and wisdom, who knows our past lives and can clarify our most perfect pattern, our right path in life.