“What is enquiry into the Truth? It is the firm conviction that the Self is real, and all, other than That, is unreal.”
– Adi Sankaracharya
When a pebble is tossed into a pond, concentric rings ripple out from the point of entry. The innermost ring may think, “I touched the pebble. I felt the pebble. I know the pebble.” The next ring out might think, “There is no difference between the innermost ring and me. After all, I am right next to it. I felt everything it felt. So I know the pebble too.” This process continues all the way to the outermost ring.
Of course no ring fully knows the pebble. Furthermore, any point on any ring has a unique perspective of the pebble. One may say the pebble is in the northern direction. Another sees the pebble to the south. To fully know the pebble, you must be the pebble.
As one gets closer and closer to the Sun, one may feel they know it. They may say, “The Sun is hot.” Yet someone further away may say, “Yes, I know that also.” But the closer you get, the more you know the true meaning of ‘hot’.
Similarly, as water cools to ice, it may feel it knows the nature of ice. But only after water becomes ice, is its full value experienced.
This principle is universal. To know anything, you must be it. Yet what is anything in its essential nature? It is beyond the maya of relativity. It is the Self, the One, the source of all that is… beyond ‘thingness’… no-thing-ness… pure “isness”… pure unbounded consciousness.
So what does this have to do with humility? What is humility? As you evolve, you come to see that your previous understanding, your previous life experience, was a ring outside of the pebble. You take a step forward to a deeper understanding. That is why I say that Knowledge, real Knowledge, is not so much about gaining new facts and information as it is about cultivating a deeper understanding of the facts and information you already have. Ultimately, you arrive at the Self, which lies beyond the grasp of life experiences, knowledge or information. You come to know “that the Self is real, and all, other than That, is unreal.” This is the source of great humility. True wisdom is infinitely humble. Even Adi Shankara said that he knows nothing. The Self lies beyond the grasp of what one thinks one knows. Knowers of the Self experience that directly. Until that awakening, it is another fact or notion… another ring around the pebble in the pond.
It is exquisite, that as one becomes truly great, one becomes truly humble. To know everything, is to know nothing… to know no-thing-ness. To know that for every ‘thing’ that you know, there is another truth that contradicts it. There is a deeper truth until all truths are transcended and the One Self is realized. Arrogance is the opposite of humility. The source of arrogance resides in the belief that you know something, that you know anything.
True humility is not a perspective that one adheres to. It is not an emotion or attitude. It is a quality of a physiological state, a level of consciousness. In the state of enlightenment, the nature of relativity becomes self evident. One rests upon the Self, upon not knowing… that which lies beyond notions and beyond the need to cling to notions. The sublime beauty and the exquisite “absurdity” of life is known. And why the word “absurdity?” Well, once that which lies beyond the illusion is revealed, it seems absurd that you were caught in the web of maya for so many lifetimes. Yet the magnificence of that web remains profoundly humbling. The word reverence comes to mind.