Krsangi Dasi - October 5, 2004 10:07 am

Dear devotees


I've often heard Guru Maharaja say that "a Vaishnava should be more humble than a blade of grass". I personally find it a bit hard to try to develop humility because for the last years I've actually been trying to become less humble.


I work part-time doing the layout for a small weekly magazine, and do freelance work on the side. Being a freelance graphic designer isn't always so easy: you have to fight for new customers (and thus make someone else lose the job), argue about the payments, coax the customers to deliver the material on time, convince them that your design works and so on. I also encounter most of these things in my regular work.


I've seen a lot of nice, friendly graphic designers and illustrators end up completely burned out simply because they've been too nice to their customers and co-workers. In Finnish we have a name for it: "the nice girl syndrome". It means someone who has low self-esteem and works super hard all the time to please everyone else, and ends up overtly stressed and finally unable to continue working. I recognize this tendency in myself and have been trying to become more aggressive and outspoken, learning to say "no".


I guess this might sound awfully selfish, but you should understand that I've been close to getting a burnout. I've realized that I need to have some free time (I've sometimes worked 10 hours a day, 7 days a week and I'm now trying to stop working on weekends) just to keep my head together. And if I'm working too much there's no way I can concentrate on spiritual life, either, thoughts of work just keep filling my mind.


Maybe my real problem is that I can't separate my professional personality and my devotee personality. It feels quite hard for me to think of myself as a different person at work and on my free time because as I do creative work the things I do on my free time aren't really that different from the things I do at work. So how to learn to be a humble devotee and a non-humble graphic designer at the same time?


I'd appreciate any thoughts any of you might have on this subject.




Audarya-lila Dasa - October 5, 2004 6:34 pm

Here is the first part of one answer that Guru Maharaja gave when asked about humility, "Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura said that humility refers to giving up the enjoying spirit. This involves the positive cultivation of a serving disposition. "


This is really important - humility means giving up the enjoying spirit and involves the positive cultivation of a serving attitude. If you apply this in your life you will see that it is certainly possible to be assertive as you need to be at work. You can also be assertive in a devotional context. We see that in Krsna lila with his intimate associates. They are selfless and have the higest degree of serving disposition and sometimes that service requires assertiveness.


I am a parent and, of course, as such I often have to be very assertive. This is not going to make me arrogant or less humble. Actually, when I really think about it I have to be really humble to be an affective parent because I sometimes have to be very strict and stern even though it goes against my nature. But in order to do the service of parenting effectively I must act accordingly and give up my own ego in the process. I suspect it is much the same with you in your work. You have to act against your nature which is more accomodating and 'humble' in the normal sense of the word. As a manager I often have to assert myself and act in ways that don't come to me naturally either, but if I don't do so my effectiveness at work will be compromised.


I hope this helps a little,


Your servant,

Audarya-lila dasa

Shyam Gopal Das - October 6, 2004 1:17 pm

I just came across this post from a while ago and since it deals with humility I thought it is helpful:


Dayal Govinda Dasa - October 8, 2004 8:47 pm
Maybe my real problem is that I can't separate my professional personality and my devotee personality.



Personally I think that the seperation of oursleves into two personalities is the cause of real problems.

Whilst I was at university (admittedly not a stressful environment, at least the way I approached it) I was a full practicing devotee. I got up early (er than my housemates) generally chanted 16 rounds and followed the regs closely. My friends were used to my 'quirks' and introduced me to people as their "Krsna friend". I had many long and involved, sometimes heated, talks with people (usually when they were drunk) about philosophical topics and always had the respect of people for my choices in life.

I'm glad that I was open about my faith in that situation although I would do things slightly differently now (maybe not write 'Gauranga' on my book bag for example) but essentially I am pleased that I was openly a devotee, it made it hard to forget what I was identifying myself with.


In regards to humility, I think it is important to remind ourselves who and what we are being humble towards. It is not that those who lay themselves down to be trampled on ( blade of grass style) are necessarily more humble than others if they do so only in the context of material interactions. We are to become humble towards Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga, humble towards other Vaisnavas, and humble towards Sri Nama prabhu. In the context of which we should practice offering praise to others whenever possible, and expecting none for ourselves. This doesn't mean that we cannot stand up for ourselves in any circumstance though.

We hear that Sri Radha pushes herself forwards for service to Krsna, why? Simply because she knows that she can serve him the best.

If we take that attitude (that of wanting to see the best service performed) then we can glorify others when they do something good and also see when we can offer the best service and do the needful.


In regards to work in the secular sense, I think it is best to conduct oneself as is expected in the work world. If trying to be humble gets you nowhere then a more assertive attitude will be needed to succeed, after all we should see any work we do as an opportunity to serve our Guru since it gives us the ability to contribute (time or money) to his mission.



The bottom line is, all we do should be to afford us the peace of mind to be able to take up our sadhana with full attention, if we cannot do this then we may need to make adjustments in our daily life to facilitate that.


I hope this has been of some use


Dayal Govinda dasa