Bhagavad Gita III.21
yad-yad ācarati śreṣṭhas / tad-tad evetaro janaḥ / sa yat pramāṇaḿ kurute / lokas-tad-anuvartate
“A great person leads by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.”
– Translation by Sharon Gannon
The great leaders of the world – Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, the Dalai Lama – all share certain characteristics. They are clear communicators as well as great listeners. Each has a firm and steady grounding that reflects an unwavering commitment to their cause. They inspire and empower. They are also confident, honest and discerning. There is another quality each great leader has, a quality that perhaps outshines the others – humility.
According to Vedic scripture we are currently living in the Kali Yuga – an era of conflict and struggle – and great leaders are especially needed. As yogis, it is our responsibility to lead by example, to be spiritual activists. If we want to see peace and true happiness in the world and live on a thriving Earth where all beings are happy and free, then we need to live the kind of life that we want to see.
In an article from Success magazine, Jim Rohn says, “Humility is almost a God-like word. A sense of awe. A sense of wonder. An awareness of the human soul and spirit. Humility is the grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we are part of the stars.” Humility is seeing yourself in others; it is being able to see all life as holy.
The word humility is derived from the Latin word humilis, which is translated as “grounded” or “from the Earth,” since the word humilis itself originates from humus (Earth). We can associate the concept of humility to “sthira-sukham-āsanam” – PYS II.46 (“The connection to the earth should be steady and joyful” – Sharon Gannon). Being firmly connected and balanced with the Earth is also an expression of “tat twam asi” (You are that) – Chandogya Upanishad, the knowing that you are the same as all life on this Earth. A great yogi has the humility to understand that they are the same as all that exist on Earth. The Earth and its natural resources support life, so it is our responsibility to protect and equally support the Earth. A yogi has the responsibility of living life in the most compassionate way possible, following the dictates of the Yamas: ahiṃsā, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual responsibility and greedlessness) – YS II.30. When we embody these five ideals as the way of life, others will see how happy and free we are, and then they will follow suit.
A great yogi is the embodiment of what it means to stand for what is right. A great yogi offers strength to others so that they too can learn how to be steady and joyful, to be humble and to be the change they want to see in the world. It is time for humanity to progress in a different way, to rediscover that we are same as the stars and shine just as bright, and to lead by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.