This is a part of The Teachers Speak, a series of articles on the Culture of Awareness and Openhearted Rebel.
Lao-Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer who authored the Tao Te Ching and founded philosophical Taoism, shared his wisdom on topics such as the spiritual path, being a sage, and our oneness with the God-consciousness known by many in the spiritual community as Source.
He wrote about love, compassion, virtue and other qualities, and his poetic words shed light on an unseen inner power and the ways in which it changes one’s interaction with the world.
I’d like to look at some of his writings on humility in an effort to better understand its role in the evolution of the soul.
Humility reminds us that even though we are one with our creator and everything around us, in our current form we’re an infinitesimal spark and we have no idea how small we are in the big picture.
He who realizes he is one with God becomes much more humble than he who arrogantly assumes power over others because of false spiritual authority, and humility will get you far if you want to expand your consciousness or even change the world.
You can work toward your goals while being humble about their achievement, and changing the world will not only require patience and perseverance, but humility.
Lowly Rivers Rule the Valley
Lao-Tzu uses nature (specifically, the rivers) as an example of humility in action.
“How could the rivers and the seas
Become like kings to valleys?
Because of skill in lowliness
They have become the valley’s lords.”
He advises a similar way of being for us.
“So then to be above the folk,
You speak as if you were beneath;
And if you wish to be out front,
Then act as if you were behind.”
The Wise Man Humbly Serves Others
The ‘Wise Man’ is ‘ahead’ of others so he can help them, and he poses no harm and considers him or herself equal with everyone. He aims to look out for others as he would his own family.
“The Wise Man so is up above
But is no burden to the folk;
His station is ahead of them
To see they do not come to harm.”
Perhaps we can take from these quotes that nature is our greatest teacher and by observing it, we can learn things that are relevant to the way we interact with each other.
The rivers teach us that humility puts you in a place where you can help others without considering yourself better than them, and applying the knowledge that you are one with them will not only help you serve them more devotedly, but expand your consciousness and understanding in the process.
People Will Support the Wise Man
The world will “gladly” support the Wise Man because he or she seeks only to help.
“The world will gladly help along The Wise Man and will bear no grudge. Since he contends not for his own The world will not contend with him.”
He may not do anything amazing in life, but he achieves a “greatness of his own”.
“The Wise Man, … throughout his life
Does nothing great and yet achieves
A greatness of his own.”
The Wise Man might not achieve much on a global scale by practicing humility and helping others. He might only help his neighbors or his community, but his humility – in his work and the way he lives – grants him the ultimate higher power as he continues developing his spiritual faculties.
The development of these faculties often precedes the development of humility, but the opposite can be true if you work on the latter first. Either one will be a path to the other. Both will be infinitely rewarding.
“Those Who Know Do Not Talk”
He writes that those with true knowledge don’t discuss it much due to their humility, and those who claim to be enlightened while talking incessantly about what they know probably don’t possess true knowledge.
“Those who know do not talk
And talkers do not know.”
“The knowers are not learned men
And learned men may never know.”
Humility and Health
He also writes that from humility comes health.
“To know that you are ignorant is best;
To [claim to] know what you do not is a disease;
But if you recognize the malady
Of mind for what it is, then that is health.”
The humble Wise Man maintains a healthy mind by remaining on his path.
“The Wise Man has indeed a healthy mind;
He sees an aberration as it is
And for that reason never will be ill.”
We don’t desire much in a state of humility; we’re content with what we have and we want only to share the wealth with anyone who’s lacking.
We’re too busy trying to help others to want anything other than a life of service and spiritual bliss, and this alone is probably great for mental and physical health because it keeps us where we need to be.
The “Great Land”
He writes that the “great land” (the underlying feminine/creative aspect of nature) gradually overcomes the “male world” through humility and quiet.
The great land is a place
To which the streams descend;
It is the concourse and
The female of the world:
It overcomes the male.
By quietness and by humility
The great land then puts down the small
And gets it for its own….
That both be served and each attain its goal
The great land should attempt humility.
Favor Brings Trouble
Here, he shares some thoughts on the trouble with being favored.
What does [it] mean, to say
That “favor, like disgrace
Brings trouble with it”?
When favor is bestowed
On one of low degree,
Trouble will come with it.
The loss of favor too
Means trouble for that man.
If you suddenly became used to being favored, you might have trouble coping if it’s taken away. The need for attention would no longer be satisfied, but if you let it, your humility could resurface and remind you that in the big picture, nobody is more special. We’re all amazing, and we’re all worthy of God’s love.
As I continue to read the teachings of various teachers and philosophers throughout history, I find a common theme emerging that’s centered on meditation, expanded consciousness, and most importantly, love.
Humility, compassion, respect, understanding – these are all rooted in love and this is what various teachers including Lao-Tzu have tried to bring to our attention for centuries.
Love is the key to creative and spiritual transformation, and once we let it in, the humility it brings will enhance life through simplicity and inspire us to make the world better in big or small ways.
Source: Lao-Tzu, The Way of Life (Tao Te Ching). Trans. R.B. Blakney. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1955.
By Wes Annac, Openhearted Rebel, May 6, 2016 – http://tinyurl.com/hgy3gzm