It happens at times that one is given a task to solve, yet can’t figure out a solution at a first glance and have to try different approaches. Consider the famous Zen koan: can you reproduce the sound of one hand clapping? And all those Zen monks would go on contriving to express a sound with no sound, a clap which does not exist, that is, would get highly creative because the riddle appears to be unsolvable. The riddle though is easy to solve, should you choose to focus on the clap rather than the sound. So long as your thinking is narrowed to the subject of the sound, it is constrained. Think of the ways of making a clap sound and you will realize that a palm technically can slap against any surface, for example, a table or your own thigh, if you will. True, the sound will vary depending on the type of surface, but if your master turns down this answer, that would mean he is an idiot who pretends to be a master.   

Say, you are tasked to get to know the spiritual essence of humility. You would want to cast your net wide and bring to mind all connotations and cognates of this word, including, for example, the word “humiliating”. "Humble", "lowly", "subdue", "from the earth", as well as connections to the words "human", "humane", "humanize"a. It is recommended to contemplate each of these word forms, to try sensing the taste of each word and considering possible nuances of the meanings. It is beneficial to study relevant texts by spiritual leaders and to check on any mentioning of the subject in sacred writings. The intensity of inquiry provides means for a deep dive into the topic and for a powerful internal request for the answer which, for example, can come as an insight.  And the possibility of having an insight, mind you, is the attribute that differentiates humans from artificial intelligence, as the latter can never have insights from the above.

One can say that from a spiritual standpoint, humility is the opposite of hubris; however, one would have then to undertake a similar linguistic marathon to come up with a definition of the term hubris. By consolidating all possible meanings unveiled in the course of contemplation, we can say that humility brings about peace of mind and serenity and also that the habit of defending our beliefs or fighting simply for the sake of proving to be more powerful than others bereaves us of humility. We will realize that in humility, there is the presence of deference to the higher authority and acceptance of the hierarchy, and even certain acceptance of life events is present as well. We will see that humility is not a mindset, but rather a state free from certain beliefs, desires, and reactions. Perhaps we may come to feel that the deeper our acceptance of the world the way it is the deeper our humility. Also, we may come to see why humility is often referred to as the main key on a path toward the higher states of being. Eventually, contemplation will help us discover the motives that prevent us from cultivating humility.   

Our persistence in inquiry helps us discover the most accurate answer(s). Having confidence that the task at hand is solvable and a strong need to get the answer strengthens our persistence. The ability to constantly attend to the task in question intensifies the questioning. Setting out an aspiration for finding the answer improves the likelihood of an insight or help from the above. There is plenty of puzzles along the Path, and those who become adept at problem-solving make better and faster progress.  

On the other hand, the same holds true for dealing with daily life problems as well.


aHumility comes from the Latin word humilitas, which can be translated as “insignificance”, “unimportance”. A related adj. humilis means “humble”, “low”. Both words are derivatives of humus (earth, soil, ground).