ਮਿਠਤੁ ਨੀਵੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਗੁਣ ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆ ਤਤੁ ॥:
Mithatu neevee Nanakaa gun changiaaeeaa tatu:


Religion and true Wisdom is to be humble. In fact, lives of the Gurmukhs indicate that to become humble is the very goal of spiritual life (Gurmukhtaa) - ego-free, etc. As indicated in the SGGS (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) false ego-sense (Haume) and humility cannot coexist.

  • ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੧ ॥ ਸਿੰਮਲ ਰੁਖੁ ਸਰਾਇਰਾ ਅਤਿ ਦੀਰਘ ਅਤਿ ਮੁਚੁ ॥ ਓਇ ਜਿ ਆਵਹਿ ਆਸ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਨਿਰਾਸੇ ਕਿਤੁ ॥ ਫਲ ਫਿਕੇ ਫੁਲ ਬਕਬਕੇ ਕੰਮਿ ਨ ਆਵਹਿ ਪਤ ॥ ਮਿਠਤੁ ਨੀਵੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਗੁਣ ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆ ਤਤੁ ॥ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਨਿਵੈ ਆਪ ਕਉ ਪਰ ਕਉ ਨਿਵੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਧਰਿ ਤਾਰਾਜੂ ਤੋਲੀਐ ਨਿਵੈ ਸੁ ਗਉਰਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਅਪਰਾਧੀ ਦੂਣਾ ਨਿਵੈ ਜੋ ਹੰਤਾ ਮਿਰਗਾਹਿ ॥ ਸੀਸਿ ਨਿਵਾਇਐ ਕਿਆ ਥੀਐ ਜਾ ਰਿਦੈ ਕੁਸੁਧੇ ਜਾਹਿ ॥੧॥: Saloku M: 1 ||: The Simmal tree is straight, very tall, and very thick. But the birds that come and sit on it hopefully, depart disappointed; (because) its fruits are tasteless, its flowers are nauseating, and its leaves are useless. O Nanak! There is sweetness in humility, and Virtues; (humility) is the essence of all good Virtues (i.e., it's the best Virtue!). Everyone bows down to himself (in this world - for the sake of one’s own selfishness); no one bows down for the sake of other. (But notice that) when something is placed on the balancing scale and weighed, the side which descends is heavier! An Aparaadhe (ਅਪਰਾਧੀ - offender, defaulter, transgressor, guilty, culprit, wrong-doer, etc.) like the deer hunter, bows down twice as much. (But) what can be achieved by bowing the head, when the heart is impure (i.e., nothing is attained by bowing if one is full of Bikaars within- ਜੇ ਨਿਰਾ ਸਿਰ ਹੀ ਨਿਵਾ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਜਾਏ, ਤੇ ਅੰਦਰੋਂ ਜੀਵ ਖੋਟਾ ਹੀ ਰਹੇ ਤਾਂ ਇਸ ਨਿਊਣ ਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਲਾਭ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੋ ਸਕਦਾ ਹੈ)? ||1|| (sggs 470).
  • ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕੈ ਗਰੀਬੀ ਸਮਾਹਾ ॥: The Braham Giaanee (the God-Realized being) is steeped in humility (sggs 273).
  • ਗਰੀਬੀ ਗਦਾ ਹਮਾਰੀ ॥ ਖੰਨਾ ਸਗਲ ਰੇਨੁ ਛਾਰੀ ॥ ਇਸੁ ਆਗੈ ਕੋ ਨ ਟਿਕੈ ਵੇਕਾਰੀ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪੂਰੇ ਏਹ ਗਲ ਸਾਰੀ ॥੧॥: Humility is my spiked club. My dagger is to be the dust of all men's feet. No evil-doer can withstand these weapons. The Perfect Guru has given me this understanding ||1|| (sggs 628).
  • ਇਉ ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਪੁ ਛਡਿ ਸੁਖ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਮਨ ਨਿਮਾਣਾ ਹੋਇ ਰਹੁ ॥: Iou kahai Nanak aap shad sukh paavahi mann nimaanaa hoi rahu: Thus says Nanak: renounce your ego, and obtain peace; let your mind abide in humility (sggs 441).
  • ਆਪੁ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਹੋਈਐ ਸਭ ਰੇਣਾ ਜੀਵਤਿਆ ਇਉ ਮਰੀਐ ॥੨॥: Aapu tiaagi hoeeai sabh renaa jeevatiaa iou mareeai ||2||: Renouncing egoism (ਆਪਾ ਭਾਵ), become humble, the dust of all; in this way, die while still alive (i.e, become Jeevanmukta) ||2|| (sggs 750).

First thing: here the SGGS talks about deep humility, not hypocritical humility for sincere humility alone is indicated to be the way to God. Also called meekness, modesty, humbleness, ਮਸਕੀਨੀ, etc., humility is to consider others better and important than yourself. However, the material conception of life makes us finding faults in others by ignoring our own; because we lack. Due to this lack, we are unable to recognize our own imperfections. This formidable weapon — humility — can be used to cut the roots of arrogant pride and conduct; and to free ourselves from uncooperative, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, disrespectful, and self-justifying behavior. It disposes a person to a condescending behavior to the meekest and to treat others with courteous respect and affability. It is the opposite of aggressiveness, arrogance, boastfulness, and vanity. Humility is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and demands of others. Humility is the way to remove ego (Haume). The SGGS tells us that humility is the essence of all good virtues. Thus, its importance is underscored in the SGGS. Bhai Gurdaas Jee indicates three characteristics of a true Gursikh, humility being one of them.

  • ਨਿਵ ਚਲਣੁ ਮਿਠ ਬੋਲ ਘਾਲਿ ਖਵਾਇਆ ॥: They (the Gursikhs) walk in humility, speak sweetly, and eat the earning of their own hands (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas Jee).

Simply put, meekness is realism. A meek person will have no inflated notions about himself and what he has learnt — after all, given the hard reality that "the more one probes, the more there is to explore". It is the defining characteristic of an unpretentious and modest person's natural state of being (Sahaj) who has formed within the consciousness a deep feeling of the realities of life. As a result, through the natural exercise of humility, often, even under the circumstances, advanced persons can take the more difficult course. Humility is like a shock absorber for the harmful experiences in life.

As indicated in the SGGS, Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam Giaan) cannot be found or practiced through lust, anger, delusion, arrogance, enviousness, stubborn mindedness, and so on. Humility comes with the knowledge that God's creation as a whole transcends our own narrow or selfish interests. It will gain us much more than we sacrifice. Proudly contemptuous words inflame prejudice and hatred, but humble speech spells "magic" for it soothes. Words make or break human relationships. Words can make war or make peace, within and without. The words we say or write have tremendous power for good or evil. So the SGGS indicates we should be as careful with our words. In a way, words are like any other weapon!

  • ਕਵਣੁ ਸੁ ਅਖਰੁ ਕਵਣੁ ਗੁਣੁ ਕਵਣੁ ਸੁ ਮਣੀਆ ਮੰਤੁ ॥ ਕਵਣੁ ਸੁ ਵੇਸੋ ਹਉ ਕਰੀ ਜਿਤੁ ਵਸਿ ਆਵੈ ਕੰਤੁ ॥੧੨੬॥ ਨਿਵਣੁ ਸੁ ਅਖਰੁ ਖਵਣੁ ਗੁਣੁ ਜਿਹਬਾ ਮਣੀਆ ਮੰਤੁ ॥ ਏ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਭੈਣੇ ਵੇਸ ਕਰਿ ਤਾਂ ਵਸਿ ਆਵੀ ਕੰਤੁ ॥੧੨੭॥: What is that permanent letter; what is that virtue; and what is that jewel-like spell? What are those clothes, which I can wear to captivate my Husband? ||126|| Humility is the word, forgiveness is the virtue, and sweet speech is the jewel-like spell. O sister (soul)! Wear these three robes and you will captivate your Husband. ||127|| (sggs 1384).

A lifestyle void of humility exhibits undesirable qualities (Bikaars or negativity) such as lust, anger, greed, etc. (Manmukh lifestyle). Contentment, self-control and detachment — which are antidotes to our negativity — are a big part of humility. Grace, inner strength, and forgiveness are promised to the humble. As the foundation for Spiritual Unfoldment, humility disposes people to become God Conscious (Shabad-Surti); and make them receptive to inspiration, revelation and Wisdom. Thus, true humility is the way of the Gurmukh, not the way of the Manmukh. It belongs to a godly person (the Gurmukh) endowed with the Divine Nature. Thus, humility abides in the heart of those fortunate ones who have spiritualized their mind, intelligence, consciousness, and ego. Therefore, in the SGGS, considerable importance and emphasis has been given to the quality of humility. One can evaluate himself by this quality to see how far he is progressed in spirituality.

Humility allows us to rise and Grow (Inner Growth). However, the feeling of I and mine (Haume) obstructs any possibility of Inner Growth. While we cultivate humility, other divine qualities also become natural to us. Humility puts us in a right relation to God and the Creation, including our fellow human beings. Wise, kind, and contented, a humble person is a godly being. His actions are never abominable. Sincere humility is the recognition of one's imperfections. The feeling of being lowly comes when we attain humility. For example, God-realized persons are embodiment of true humility; for they always think themselves meek and lowly. Their pattern of humility is unblemished. Humility is a habit of mind and heart corresponding to our comparative meanness, unworthiness and vileness before the Parmaatam. A truly humble person is sensible of the small extent of his knowledge, and the great extent of his ignorance, and of the limited extent of his understanding as compared with the Divine Understanding. He is infinitely sensible of his weakness and limited ability. The true spirit of humility and surrender can put us in proper frame of mind to receive Grace and Guidance.

Baabaa Nanak was full to the brim with inspiring humility. In reality, the distinguishing characteristic of a truly Wise person or a Brahm Giaanee (God-realized) is humility. Undoubtedly, Baabaa Nanak was the embodiment of it. In the SGGS, he calls himself "fool", "ignorant", "lowly", "thoughtless", and so on. His entire life is inspiring in many respects, for the exemplary devotion and humility that is reflected in his thoughts, words and deeds.

  • ਹਉ ਮੂਰਖੁ ਨੀਚੁ ਅਜਾਣੁ ਸਮਝਾ ਸਾਖੀਐ ॥: I am foolish, lowly and ignorant; it is only through the (Guru's) Teachings that I understand (sggs 688).

A person of humility can neither be cheated, nor robbed, nor destroyed, nor conquered, nor defeated, nor insulted, nor scared, nor split, nor killed; for he has no baser desires and fear. He has already killed himself (cut off the head of his menacing ego or Haume). In short, he does not exist as an ego (Haume) anymore. He has gone beyond Maya — he has no inner "burden". He has already surrendered that which can be hurt, exploited and manipulated. He has become living liberated (Jeevanmukta, dead while yet alive).

Simply put, to be with or in accord with one's True Nature (Mool, Joti-Svaroopa...), one has to be humble. "The humble servant of God should be just like God", states the SGGS.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਰੋੜਾ ਹੋਇ ਰਹੁ ਬਾਟ ਕਾ ਤਜਿ ਮਨ ਕਾ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ॥ ਐਸਾ ਕੋਈ ਦਾਸੁ ਹੋਇ ਤਾਹਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਭਗਵਾਨੁ ॥੧੪੬॥ ਕਬੀਰ ਰੋੜਾ ਹੂਆ ਤ ਕਿਆ ਭਇਆ ਪੰਥੀ ਕਉ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਐਸਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਦਾਸੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਉ ਧਰਨੀ ਮਹਿ ਖੇਹ ॥੧੪੭॥ ਕਬੀਰ ਖੇਹ ਹੂਈ ਤਉ ਕਿਆ ਭਇਆ ਜਉ ਉਡਿ ਲਾਗੈ ਅੰਗ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਜਨੁ ਐਸਾ ਚਾਹੀਐ ਜਿਉ ਪਾਨੀ ਸਰਬੰਗ ॥੧੪੮॥ ਕਬੀਰ ਪਾਨੀ ਹੂਆ ਤ ਕਿਆ ਭਇਆ ਸੀਰਾ ਤਾਤਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਜਨੁ ਐਸਾ ਚਾਹੀਐ ਜੈਸਾ ਹਰਿ ਹੀ ਹੋਇ ॥੧੪੯॥: Kabeer, let yourself be like a pebble on the path (become tolerant as the pebble); abandon your egoism. Such a humble slave will meet God. ||146|| Kabeer, what good would it be, to be a pebble? It would only hurt the traveler on the path. Your slave, O God, is like the dust of the earth. ||147|| Kabeer, what then, if one could become dust? It is blown up by the wind, and sticks to the body. The humble servant of God should be like water, which become like the vessel (i.e., takes the shape of the vessel its kept in) ||148|| Kabeer, what then, if one could become water? It becomes cold, then hot. The humble servant of God should be just like God ||149|| (sggs 1372).

This little story (Sakhi) will give us a glimpse into Baabaa Nanak's Bhaav of utmost humility. In 1530, it is said that Baabaa Nanak with his companion Mardana, went to Multan (pronounced Multaan). At that time, the city was known for its many fake Sants, gurus, Pirs (Sufi priests), Fakirs, etc. They were afraid of some true one coming in their town and disillusioning crowds that worshipped them. Baabaa Nanak and Mardana stopped by the side of a river there and sat down in a garden outside the town. Because of his intensive travelling, Baabaa Nanak was well known there. Worried of Baabaa Nanak's presence there, it is said that the head of the spin masters (Pir Bahauddin of Multan) sent an emissary to meet Baabaa Nanak with a bowl of milk completely filled to the brim: too full to have another drop. Symbolically, implying that 1) the place was already full of Pirs and Fakirs and that there was hardly any room for more; 2) therefore he was not welcome there; 3) so he should move along. Baabaa Nanak knew the implication in the offer made! A true saint, as a rule, has no conflict or friction with anybody. Instead of boasting about himself, it is said that in utmost humility, Baabaa Nanak plucked a jasmine flower from the garden and gently placed it on the surface of the milk and returned the bowl to the Pir. The jasmine flower was a symbolic message in return, meaning that there was still room for one more - he would float as lightly as the flower and give fragrance to all of them. The Pirs and the Fakirs, finally, allowed Baabaa Nanak to enter the city. He gave them a sweet discourse. The proud and arrogant Pirs came to their senses and learnt humility.

The true Sant (the Gurmukh), as a rule, has no conflict or friction with anybody. They work humbly and quietly in the Divine Service. Great deeds done with humility speak for themselves. This story brings out many important points. For example:

  • Humility (the state of no-ego or no-Haume), understands and interprets correctly. For humility places everything in proportion and balance within the mind.
  • To the contrary, the ego-mind (or the Haume-mind) goes on misunderstanding and misinterpreting.
  • One who does not exist as an ego (Haume) is humble. They own the world!
  • Humility is the attitude (Bhaav) of no judging of others, no friction, no conflict, no fight, no attack, no harm.
  • Humility is the principle of deep harmony - "let go". It is to be in tune with the Whole ("Saabat"). Such being is "Saabat". He is never against "Saabat". So he is never a hurdle in the Way of "Saabat".
  • By humility we acknowledge that we are here not for our self-glorification, but there is specific purpose to the life.
  • By humility we cool the angry and envious passions; we cool the resentment and grudge of others.
  • By humility we can turn enemies into friends. It is deep inner silence, cooperation and selfless love.
  • Humility is the power and the formidable weapon of a saintly soul, a power of the fullness of the unpolluted and unconditioned mind.
  • Humility translates into fearlessness, Freedom and detachment. Humble beings conquer the world.
  • Humble persons don't create waves. Their lifestyle is compared in the SGGS with a "bird" that flies without leaving any footprints across the sky, a "duck" that swims through the stream untouched, a "lotus" flower that grows and lives in the slimy water but floats on the surface unblemished, a "fish" whose path through the water cannot be seen or traced, etc!
  • Instead of , "Me first," humility affords us to say, "No, you first".
  • Large trees are uprooted and structures collapse in a violent storm and flood, but no matter how strong a storm or a flood is, it cannot uproot a bamboo tree (it bends!) or grass (it remains low!). This is the greatness of sincere humility...

Conventional wisdom present in many religious, philosophical, rational and practical teachings unanimously affirms the need to develop humility and eliminate the false sense of ego (Haume) that easily attaches itself to human beings. Let's see what some other religious teachings have to say about this quality of humility.

  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Bible, Matthew 5:5).
  • Meekness is most powerful for it harbors no evil thoughts, and moreover it is restful and full of strength. As it is free from evils it is sure to be honor by all (Buddha).
  • Humility... is indicated to be the real knowledge or wisdom in Gita (chapter 13, verses7-12).

Acting with humility does not in any way deny one's own self worth. On the contrary, it affirms the inherent worth of each and everyone. Some would consider humility to be a psychological malady that interferes with worldly success. However, worldly success (wealth, power, status, etc.) gained at the expense of others brings only intense apprehension, worry, discontentment, fear and restlessness — never Sukha (ineer peace, happiness etc.), contentment, serenity, deep harmony, love, etc. Some would also consider humility to be a sign of weakness. To the contrary, it's a sign of one's inner strength and fearlessness.

For example, consider the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Jee, beheading of Guru Teg Bahadur Jee, and circumstances faced by Guru Gobind Singh Jee Nothing could make them fearful or weak. They handled every threat and situation with fearlessness. You can only scare a person who is scared of death. How anybody can scare or kill the Self-realized being who has already killed himself (Jeevanmukta or the living dead)!!

There are many more examples like these not only in the Sikh history but throughout the world. For example, here is a little story of a Wise man called Dandamis and king Alexandra the Great. When Alexandra (also known as Sikandar in India) was setting out to invade India his teacher, Aristotle, asked him for a rather strange gift. He asked the king to bring a true sage from India. On his way back to Greece, Alexandra remembered this. People of the place where he had camped out with his Macedonian army (historical Taxila area in ancient North India) told him about this hermit, Dandamis. Soldiers were sent to meet him, who ordered Dandamis to follow Alexandra as a royal guest. Upon hearing this from soldiers, Dandamis laughed and told them that all his wanderings have ended, that since he was situated in his True Home within, he would not go anywhere. Further he told soldiers that he was a Free man like clouds, and they could not make him prisoner either for he has dropped the very thing they could imprison! It is said that king Alexander himself came to see Dandamis and told him that he (king) would cut off Dandamis' head with his sword if he did not come with him. The sage's answer in short was that Alexander had nothing to offer that was of any value to him and that Alexandra could cut off his physical head, but not his soul, and that he already had cutoff his head himself long ago! Dandamis further told Alexandra that since he (i.e., Dandamis) had become a witness, if king were to cut off his physical head, they both would witness it falling down on the ground. After seeing the state of such Absolute Bliss and fearlessness of this sage, it is said that king Alexandra could not gather courage to cut off Dandamis' head and left India without him.

As indicated in the SGGS, without renouncing false ego-sense (Haume), the mind will not abide in humility. Hence, the path of humility is not easy at all. Because, first, it is difficult to renounce false ego-sense. Second, humility has to be genuinely felt and be ingrained in oneself. That is, one has to become " just like God"! Although very "rare", such meek being is a true Sant or Saadhoo (the Gurmukh) — he is Nanak-like. He becomes the doorway to the Ultimate. In his magical presence one feels meditative; one feels elated; one feels lifted to the higher dimension (or plane of Truth); one feels becoming more and more luminous within (thinning of ignorance, darkness etc.); one feels dawning of Peace and harmony within; one feels being transformed; one feels bursting of a pool of energy within; and so on.

  • ਸਾਧ ਕੀ ਸੋਭਾ ਅਤਿ ਮਸਕੀਨੀ ॥: The Glory of the Saadh comes from (his) total humility (sggs 676).

— T. Singh