Knowledge can lead to arrogance but wisdom leads to humility

When you listen to or read the Tao Te Ching, you can’t help but find the aphorisms or sayings profoundly paradoxical. And that apparently is the characteristic of the Tao, or Dao if you prefer. There appears to be inconceivable and simultaneous opposing features in the nature of the Way. As a result the mind or intellect can’t really place the wisdom in a logical compartment of the mind. The premise is that the Way is beyond logic or intellect.

One thing that does stand out though, is the reference to returning to the natural order of things. By doing nothing everything is done, and such phrases echo repeatedly through the text. The leader is said to be able to sway his people without overt force, but simply by being in balance and setting the example, so that the people feel as if they have come to the right conclusion and behavior of their own accord.

It’s as if we need to unlearn as much as actually learn. We need to cease doing certain things in order to find greater things are naturally done. We are told to get out of the way and allow the Tao to emerge. These subtle allusions to the style of being most conducive to the noble Way, are masterful and require the listener to meditate on them or re-read them over a lengthy period of time, for them to really sink in or become realizes, as opposed to simply theorized.

One of the wisest teachings of the Tao involves encouraging humility, and this really resonates with all that I have learned from the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita – the ancient Sanskrit text from India. Both of these teachings are ancient and from the East, perhaps residing as neighbors for millennia already and therefore probably from the same source, just angled slightly differently. When studying any of the authentic ancient texts on self-realization, it adds weight to the insights when they concur across time and space. It means that they are touching upon an essential truth that resonates for all people of all time.

And humility appears to be the overarching quality of any self-realized person or even leader in thought or politics. A wise and learned sage would not flaunt their doctrine or try to impose it on others and a wise ruler would not demand respect but would empower their people from behind the scenes. The best leader is one who you never see but through whom everything is being put in place to function well.

Not requiring respect or honor or credit for anything, is the way of any true learned person. Once you have some degree of insight, you realize that there is a far greater power and source of talent than yourself. You also realize that you actually know very little compared to what is really available. As a result natural humility manifests. Those who demand respect or obedience from their subordinates or people, are not really in full control.

One symptom of humility is to be self-satisfied regardless of outcome. One realized that you are not the doer and everything is going on by the laws of nature, as well as higher arrangement. Therefore it becomes possible to equipoised in gain as well as loss, whether of respect or assets. Bhagavad Gita has a verse explaining this exact point:

न प्रहृष्येत्प्रियं प्राप्य नोद्विजेत्प्राप्य चाप्रियम् ।
स्थिरबुद्धिरसम्मूढो ब्रह्मविद्‍ब्रह्मणि स्थित: ॥ २० ॥

na prahṛṣyet priyaṁ prāpya
nodvijet prāpya cāpriyam
sthira-buddhir asammūḍho
brahma-vid brahmaṇi sthitaḥ

“A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant nor laments upon obtaining something unpleasant, who is self-intelligent, who is unbewildered, and who knows the science of God is already situated in transcendence.

Bhagavad Gita As It Is chapter 5:20 translated by Swami A. C. Bhaktivedanta

This verse, like some others, has a similar ring to it as the verses of the Tao Te Ching, with its almost paradoxical innuendo. It also shows the characteristics of one who is detached and equipoised despite loss or gain, whether of assets or reputation. The one Sanskrit phrase of interest here is “sthira-buddhih” which translates as “self-intelligent”. The name of Buddha actually comes from this Sanskrit word “buddhi” which means intelligence of the realized sort. The Buddha was considered “the enlightened one”, a label that has the same meaning as this phrase mentioned in this verse.

Self-intelligence, or knowledge and realization of the real self, is what enlightenment means. When one glimpses it, the symptoms of humility as well as equanimity arise in ones nature. According to this verse these are symptoms of a person situated in transcendence, or who knows spirit – or brahman – as seen in the Sanskrit word “brahmani” used in this verse.

With these lessons form the Tao and the Gita one can become self-reflective and discern whether these qualities exist within ourselves or not. If we still become affected or thrown off our center or balance by insult as well as praise, or loss as well as gain, then is suggests that we are still under the influence of the material nature, and identify with the body, mind and ego.

Any serious or time-tested wisdom tradition will concur with these points, as we see in the Tao and the Gita. As a result we don’t need to speculate or imagine too much. We simply need to go to the source texts or instructions on the subject that have existed for millennia and which hold true for all time. You can’t change these natural laws of nature as well as consciousness like you can the laws of the political territory on a map, or under the rulership of a new administration. They are immutable.

There may be differences of flavor between the various ancient wisdom traditions, each with their own nuance, but the underlying truths will be in alignment. Therefore the need to keep these ancient teachings alive and available for society throughout all times in history. Otherwise the masses become swept into illusion and forgetfulness by self-motivated leaders who actually benefit from an uninformed population. When you have knowledge, you can see the deviations in the ruling regime so much more easily. And that is why we are where we are today.

(image pixabay)

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Bitcoin Babaji
Bitcoin Babaji

Self- employed, writer and researcher into cryptocurrency and consciousness.

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