One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind,
thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street;
one should be more tolerant than a tree,
devoid of all sense of false prestige,
and ready to offer all respect to others.
The variation goes something like this (I'm working from memory, here):
One should approach yoga in a humble state,
thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street,
devoid of all false prestige,
and ready to offer all respect to others,
without ever expecting any in return.
Every time I hear those words, they just fucking BREAK me. Strangely enough, a later verse of the Siksastaka says,
Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain,
and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absence.
That's exactly what happens every time I hear that instruction in humility.
Well, maybe the fact that it's 5:30 in the morning has something to do with it, but I think it's more about PRIDE. I aspire to compassion and humility, but those aren't really qualities that are bred into us, growing up in North America.
Even here in Canada, where we are particularly self-effacing, we are still raised to be proud and strong and command respect... and if commanding it doesn't work, you DEMAND it.
Having grown up in a household plagued by violence and addiction, I always felt like I had to work SO HARD to advocate on my own behalf, and to PROVE MYSELF in a world that might otherwise write me off. I had to show my teachers how SMART I was, how GOOD I was, how I could SUCCEED despite every impediment I'd faced. I had to prove that I deserved their respect.
I've come a long way since then. I'm educated now. I'm self-sufficient, I have a career that I love, and I give my time to children who are facing the same obstacles I did when I was their age. I've earned respect, I would say.
Even so, all it takes to break me down into a sobbing heap is the suggestion that I might give up that respect. (Full disclosure--I'm crying right now!)
I aspire to different things than I did when I was young. I don't want to feel challenged and threatened when I encounter someone with a dominating or demeaning personality. I don't want to be angered. I only want to feel compassion for them, respect for their journey, and understanding that they didn't arrive where they are in a vacuum.
How do I get there? How do I get to that place where I no longer require respect?
I want to be lower than straw in the street.
But, man, it's not easy...
The gorgeous videos in this post are from Krishna Art: http://www.youtube.com/user/romapada