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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Humility and Surrender


Humility and surrender are mentioned repeatedly in the literature of all religions that I have read. That led me to think about these two mental states.

Humility (In Sanskrit, it is vinaya (masculine gender), namrata (feminine) and amanitva (neutral). It is panivu in Tamizh) comes out of realization of one’s limitations. It comes in the presence of a mystery or in the presence of someone who knows more than you. It is self-arising. It is a positive state and leads to a better understanding or to wisdom of knowing one’s limits. It leads to an open mind and spiritual tolerance for ambiguity.

Surrender (In Sanskrit, it is saranagati or prapanna; in Tamizh, saranadai or oppuvi) is a state of mind in the sense of defeat. It may come out of fear or frustration or a sense of weakness. It is external and often demanded. It leads to obedience.

May be, I am wrong. To my thinking, humility is a healthier spiritual mode than surrender. It has another strength. It is its inherent contradiction. When I say: “I am humble”, I have lost it. That is why in an analogy I have read eighteen human virtues are compared to an army of foot-soldiers. Humility is the very last one, because it is the read-guard to protect us from attack from behind by arrogance.

4 comments:

Kadayam Krishnan said...

Humility leads to Surrender. That is the stage of acceptance of the Reality and submitting to that. It has been a wonderful journey into the knowledge of "Self" and good values for progress in life. Thanks for this.

Balu said...

Yes, I agree that humility can lead to surrender. I thought about this relationship before I posted the blog and again now, after reading your response. And, I feel comfortable with what I said. I am glad those comments made you think and come to a similar but not the same view. The blog served its purpose. Thanks for sharing your view.

Ramesh said...

I am not clear at all about the relationship between humility and surrender. I see humuility as a very strong virtue. Knowing your strength and yet being humble about it is, to my mind, the essence of humility. Its not weakness. Its the abolishment or arrogance.

On the other hand, I have problmes with the concept surrender. I know virtually all religions and certaingly our own faith places a lot of value on surrender. I feel it is more externalising and has tinges of helplessness. If we accept the premise that God helps those who help themselves, I would suggest that vigorous action coupled with complete humiility is a lot more desirable quality than surrender. Would be keen to explore your wise views more.

Balu said...

Yes, Ramesh. My position is similar to yours. Surrender denotes helplessness. Helplessness is not a healthy mental state to be in. At the same time, everything in life is not under our control and this realization leads to humility. As you pointed out both "action from below and Grace from above" are needed.

When I looked up the philosophy of Wisdom, it lists three major theories. The first one is Humility theory attributed to Socrates. Wisdom is in recognizing one's limitations (which is humility). Then there is the Epistemic theory which says that wisdom is not only knowing but in being sure of the conclusions based on knowledge and proper reasoning. And, Knowledge theory equates deep and wide knowledge with wisdom. But, William Cowper pointed out: "Knowledge is proud it knows so much; Wisdom is humble it knows so little".