The art of being humble(from Yoga Advaita, published with permission of ' de Driehoek' publishers)
- Wolter Keers -
(photo's: Johan van der Kooij)
When all sorts of religions try to tell us in all sorts of ways that humility and simplicity are 'Pleasing to God', it is finally not a moral story, but rather an almost technical question.
Humility is not something you can directly strive for like aiming an arrow at a bull's eye. But, humility is a consequence that is experienced by those who have reached it or better said those who have discovered it not experienced as a character trait, but as an insight into the actual.
Humility is the deep insight that I know nothing and this in the most literal sense. There is no one to be found in this skin, nor outside it, any man, woman or God who knows something.
Let's begin with the last.
God, we are all told by all religions is all-knowing. This is the upside down formulation of the fact: that he knows nothing.
To make this clear we might to begin with try to use images that are more fitting than our old notions, but which at a given moment we must also abandon, because no image, no matter how great and refined can encompass what religious people call 'God's reality'. To a humanist one might say: No person can understand the whole of nature, because he is himself a part of nature. But does nature understand something?
All-knowingness has ten letters in common with the word we have often used: knowingness, a synonym of 'understanding'. Only the writers of the holy books give it the prefix all, and why not all-understanding-ness?
The All-knowingness that God is, is at the same time All-encompassing.
Together this gives us the notion of 'the universe full of knowingness'.
People who have not taken the trouble to outgrow their childish imaginations, imagine 'god' a bit like someone who knows all the encyclopedias of the whole world by heart. They can't do anything else, because we see things, including what is called 'God' at our own level. And because we think that someone who knows, must know a lot, say a tenth of an encyclopedia by heart, we multiply this idea with as much as our imagination permits and then we get the 'picture' that we call 'God' as a result.
God 'knows' not only all the encyclopedias, but also my most intimate thoughts, and feelings. He knows the molecules, the atoms, yes even the inside of atoms from which this and every body are made.
But does he know these in the way that we knew geography with some effort when we were students.
All-encompassing knowingness is in the inside of the atom, and on the outside and in that which might separate the inside from the outside. Inside and outside melt together in (all)knowingness, because from the point of view of Knowingness everything is knowingness. If God is all encompassing there is nothing outside him: all encompassing goes right through everything.
In other words God only knows himself, because there is nothing outside of that, no matter how much all kinds of theologians wrestle with this problem that has led to the most distorted positions; because how are we to explain that nothing exists outside the one, but that there is darkness nevertheless, at least as seen from the human point of view? (Because what they call reality in everyday life is the Human Point of view. .. and in fact it often comes down to My Reasonable Point of view).
In any case, there must be two points of view: God's point of view and mine. From the infinite-knowing there is nothing outside itself, and because there is nothing outside itself the infinite knowing can also not know that. And what is inside the infinite-knowing, is this infinite-knowing and the infinite-knowing can also not know that: it can never go outside of itself (where should it go?) or stop being infinite in order to gather knowledge of the finite.
To say that 'God' is all-knowing amounts to exactly the same as saying that 'God' knows nothing, because there is nothing outside this all-knowingness that it could know.
People have is it not better to say: are that other standpoint. People think that they know something, because that is what they have learned. They have made an image of themselves (better: an image has grown that they call 'I' and part of that image they call 'my thinking'). That thinking gives them the impression that they know all kinds of things.
The fundamental shock that wakes people out of this apparent-knowingness knocks him apart in pieces as it were; the moment they have this deep insight that they don't even know this thinking these thoughts but on the contrary are themselves objects of the knowing; better: that a thought is an object that forms itself out of this always present Knowingness, and specifically that the I-thought also, and the I feeling, that are projected into all sorts of things (I am this body, this thinking, etc.) are no more than such an object.
I know nothing, I know nothing, I know nothing .
This one shocking, scattering everything away, taking everything away with itself insight, remains as a mantra that constantly repeats itself.
That is humility. That is also at the same time what some people call 'godliness'.
Because the moment that I, right to the roots of my existence, know nothing more and am nothing more, then it appears that this is not the opposite of nothing. What is nothing from the human point of view, appears to have been a dream that was made only out of Knowingness, of Understanding, out of Consciousness, just as the wave is made of nothing more than water.
And what therefore remains out of the recognition of this nothing that I appear to be, is suddenly nothing other than pure Presence, timeless, Knowingness, without object and without any limitation of any sort.
When this 'I know nothing' is complete, the 'I' that knows nothing has gone for good. But, it can happen often in some cases that this insight breaks through 'in someone', but does not carry everything away with itself and in some way the automatism of I Know, I think, I feel, I do and so on is not totally destroyed. In that case we have to come back repeatedly to this I-don't know, until the mechanism is exhausted. Only then are we, but now fully Knowing, the one Knowing that remains, when all the projected knowing, all this seeming knowing, is dissolved for good like ice in water.
When religions and moral teachers impress upon us that humility is something that we should strive for, that is only a preamble to what humility actually is. Because it should be certainly clear that, humility as it is in actuality, can never be a standpoint or attitude; humility is after all the absence of a 'knowing' ego in other words, as long as a 'someone' remains there is no complete humility. In humility there remains no someone who is humble. What we call enlightened people is an empty house. In that body and in that psyche there is no longer someone who knows or is humble. For that very reason the words that come to us via the enlightened sometimes make such a deep impression on us: it is as if the universe stands behind them, as if they carry a cosmos of conviction and certainty in themselves.
And in a certain sense that is also true: the words that we hear from 'them' are as it were a translation of the one, indivisible, timeless eternally-present knowingness or beingness within which the universe appears and disappears again, and of which it is made as long as it exists.
One could say that the creation is the body of knowingness.
In so far as we projected the idea of 'greatness' on this knowingness in the past we called it 'God', in so far as we projected the idea of 'smallness' we called it for example: 'the few sparks in the heart that still remain from the image of God from which men are created' (freely translated from the Heidelberg catechism)..
When the deep insight that 'I' know nothing more, and have never known anything or could have known anything, and the insight that what we call 'God' similarly knows nothing, has known anything or can know anything, has completely taken over the place that used to be the dwelling of our egoism, then the little sparks melt in the heart with the All-knowingness, and the understanding with the All-understanding. Even more accurately: we discover that there never have been two, in view of the fact that if necessary we can take what we could call 'God's point of view', that we could be nothing other than godly, because god knows only god, because nothing exists outside of this, and that the godly things can only know things from its own, 'Godly' standpoint.
From the Godly, never limited and so never changed 'standpoint', people are nothing other than a reflection of this one, indivisible godliness within the infinite godliness. This is as it were the being-in that we take to be a more or less separate person. But from the godly point of view, the air that caresses my skin 'on the outside' is just as godly as what there is to be found coincidentally within this skin at the moment, and part of which consists of oxygen and nitrogen molecules which only seconds ago were outside the skin; then they were not I, but as soon as they via the skin or the lungs suddenly land in my brain for example, are suddenly I according to the usual human point of view at least!
Viewed from the Godly point of view, what we call human ignorance, or sin, or distress, or what we also call pleasure: is knowingness turned upside down, or; godliness viewed from a limited standpoint.
But of course, because we can never see the unlimited godliness from any point of view whatsoever, the human vision has nothing in common with the godly vision as it actually is. The Knowingness itself is seemingly split in pieces and so arises the thinking, alias time and space.
And what is finally in fact The Godly Experiencing Self, is felt by people, that is to say interpreted, as pain, suffering and sadness. The indivisible becomes, in this apparentness, divided into good and bad, in godliness and devilishness (and of course all the aspects lying between these two).
But what people from the fragmented point of view name as good or white or godly does not cover the reality which is unlimited. Godliness as seen by a pious person is no more than a projection of his thinking: the picture that comes up in him as a thought and that he calls 'God'. But it is clear that what is called 'God' is not a little picture in the mind of a pious church member, nor in the head of learned X-ologist. Just as little is 'God' an exalted feeling in the heart of a person who wishes to surrender to that. Countless pious and well meaning people strand half way because they consider exalted feelings to be what they call God.
As long as I consider myself to be an image, a person, and as long as I think that I am someone, and as long as I see God as an image, even if I have outgrown the childish Santa Claus on a cloud, and as long as I see everything upside down myself, 'God', and my fellow men (instead of seeing what is before us we see our own projections and to the extent that something is more or less threatening we love our neighbor more), just so long will I be 'knowingness standing on its head'. What applies to the knowing of what the pious person calls 'God', holds exactly the same for the knowing of what he considers his fellow men to be. We see them and love them to the extent that our 'I' is dissolved in 'knowingness' as ice in water. As soon as we have let go of the last little shell of our I-ness, the union with 'God' and our fellow men turns up at the very same moment.
That is the moment of real humbleness. So it seems that humility and love are two words for the same unity.