Venugopal Acharya - 8.3 2019


 “Pride must die in you or nothing of heaven can live in you.” –    Andrew Murray

(19th-century South African writer and Christian pastor) 5.00 a.m. – You rise early today and in the solitude of your room, resolve the following things: Today I shall exercise, call up three friends and appreciate them for their services, and fast from my Whatsapp and Facebook for six hours. Note: here the three things that you resolved are what you ‘want’ to do; not that you ‘have’ to do them. There are no obligations. You choose what to do over the next 17-18 hours, and you enter them in your daily journal. 10.00 p.m. – Just before you retire for the day, you revisit the journal and review the day’s doing and being. And especially you look at what you resolved. If you did what you committed to yourself, you have improved your Self-worth and confidence. If a friend betrays his promise to you, your confidence in him is likely to lower. Likewise, if you break your promise your belief in yourself would be negatively affected.

Sometimes we keep high targets or set unrealistic ambitions, and the result is we cause pain to our ego; our sense of worth wanes with time if we fail to meet our commitments.

 The balance of ambition and smallness

The solution is simple: humbly accept one’s small position, and move forward with little, but sure steps. Often when we have big dreams, we forget our small position. And conversely, if we lack aspiration, we ignore our potential. The challenge is to balance ambition with being sensible. Just because you want to fly high, doesn’t mean you imagine you have wings; our feet need to be firmly grounded in reality.

A teenager I knew wanted to be another Messi or Ronaldo. I asked him why he wants to be a football star. He felt discouraged. Soon I clarified that there’s nothing wrong with his desire but the why’s and how’s need to follow our ambition; otherwise, it remains a dream. And when you answer the painful questions, you face your inadequacies and see the agonizing distance between where you are now and where you want to reach. And then you could take short, definite steps on your forward journey.
There are other budding sportsmen who never fully realize their potential because they think it’s not worth it; the competition is too much, they claim. I reason with them that their talents have nothing to do with the other competing athletes. They have to realize their God-endowed gifts. And to consummate their faculties, they merely need to move forward, slowly and surely.

A wrestling legend’s small steps

Milo was an undisputed, six times Olympic champion from ancient Greece. One day he walked into a packed stadium carrying a four-year-old bull on his shoulders. If you are not impressed, imagine a man walks around carrying a premium hatchback Hyundai car, weighing a thousand kilograms, on his back. That’s what Milo did in 500 B.C.

Although this epoch moment catapulted a simple man from Croton to super-stardom and traditional folklore, it’s important to note what led to this spectacular event. One day, a few years ago, Milo saw a calf take birth near his home.

He picked him up on his shoulder, walked a few miles and returned to repeat the feat the following day. He did it every day over the next four years. As the calf grew in size, his consistent effort bore fruit; he was one day carrying not a twenty-five kg cute animal but a thousand kg bull. He began humbly – picking up a calf was no big deal. Secondly, he kept his endeavor steady. Thirdly, he improved by making tiny gains – as the calf grew a few kgs here and there, his ability to lift the animal also increased proportionately. The three steps Milo followed are: Humble – begin small Steady – do it daily Improve – increase a bit regularly.

Humility is the foundation

If Milo had attempted to lift a full-sized bull on the first day, what chances he’d have for success? None! He began humbly, but when he was carrying a bull around, he forgot as a champion he needs to be small again. An oft-ignored reality is smallness is critical even when the world believes you are great. If we allow our fame to grow bigger than us, it would very well become our undoing. Also if you become successful and sit atop the world, remember it’s trite because the earth revolves around in a day. Milo, unfortunately, took his glory seriously and lost it when he let haughtiness creep into him. He began a show of his strength and one day in a forest when he saw a crack in a tree he violently wrenched it out. But as luck would have it, the cleft closed on his hands. He was trapped, and he couldn’t escape. Soon after sunset, a pack of wolves attacked and devoured him. A sad end to a glorious hero!

That’s life – ever ready to humble us. It’s better we voluntarily choose humility in life rather than let the indefatigable material energy eventually humiliate us. Milo was successful, but because his head was filled with thoughts of himself, he was empty. One of America’s prominent religious leaders and author, Gordon Hinckley summed up our role in this world, “I need to be humble, and that means recognizing that I am not on earth to see how important I can become but to see how much difference I can make in the lives of others.”

But naturally, we can’t achieve humility as if it’s a medal. It’s the inner state of our consciousness. It’s funny; the moment you think you are humble, you are likely to lose it. A town council once awarded a man for being the most humble, but soon withdrew the award when the ‘humble’ man wore the badge of humility always on his shirt. He proclaimed to the world that he was the most humble man in the universe and of all the good qualities he possessed, humility was his most cherished virtue!

The story below highlights the need to cultivate humility even amidst success. A kind-hearted wealthy man once saw a young orphan and offered him help. He provided education to the boy and gave him a job, a good income, a place to stay, food and love. The boy learned fast and soon won the trust of his master. Years passed, and the young man now got more significant responsibilities and one day got the coveted position of the treasurer. Other employees who had been working for many years felt envious and complained to the owner.

The man patiently explained to them that this young boy was like his son; he was not only competent but also had an excellent character. The others weren’t satisfied and revealed that this boy is siphoning off the employer’s funds to a secret vault. At night when everyone would leave the premises, he quietly sneaks into a chamber, opens a box, and puts his money there. His hushed and mysterious movements confirm he is cheating his benevolent benefactor. Finally, urged by the staff, the man laid a trap the next day and just when the young man opened his secret chest, the team of his detractors led by the owner, caught him red handed.

 But what did they discover? To their shock, he had opened a case that contained his old torn clothes that he was wearing when his master had found him on the streets years ago. The young man explained to the bewildered group that he came daily before closing the office, to see his past so that he remembers it well. He didn’t want to forget his humble roots and not take the love and trust showered on him cheaply. His gratitude now silenced his critics and earned more respect from his master. Eventually, he inherited the entire fortune and expanded the master’s business.

A daily test to cultivate humility

One of my teachers His Holiness Sachinandan Swami gave a regular practical test. He says before you retire each night, ask yourself three questions, and the answer to these would help you develop humility.

1.     How much did I serve others today and how much did I receive service from others?

2.     Did I appreciate others today or seek appreciation for myself?

3.     Was I concerned for others and remember God today or was I absorbed in myself?

Ralph Waldo Emerson shared a universal principle, “A great man is always willing to be little.” Many men and women secretly desire to be somebody important and do something significant. As Saint Augustine said, to rise, we begin by descending. You may plan to build a tower that will pierce the clouds. But first, you have to lay the foundation of humility. And it’s not easy; nothing good in this world anyway comes easy. But the good news is when you walk the path of humility, the only competition you have is with yourself.