Stay A Student : The Importance of Humility and Modesty

Four pupils used to practice meditation in the time before Zen came to Japan.
These close friends vowed to each other to observe silence for seven days.

The first day passed well.
But as the evening progressed and the oil lamps became dim, one student couldn’t help himself.

“Attend to the lamps!” he shouted impatiently to an assistant.

His friend turned to him, surprised.
“You are not supposed to speak! Have you forgotten?”

The third friend piped up, “You fools! Why are you talking?”

“Hah, I’m the only one who’s kept silent!” exclaimed the last.


Explanation Of The Wisdom


Before judging others, pause for a moment and ask: How perfect am I?

As you can see, all of these 4 meditators started judging each other when one of them screwed up without realizing that they, themselves, broke the silence as well.

Life is full of chances to criticise others. To judge other people’s life decisions. To show them how wrong they are.

And when we are in the teacher’s seat for a while thinking we are the king, we forget to be students again.

  • You went to a 10-day meditation retreat?

Well, that is good. Congratulations! You But realize that Buddhist monks have been doing retreats that span over months. Can you handle a 60-day long retreat?

  • You have been meditation for 6 months for 1 hour a day?

Well, that is good. Congratulations! But have you tried meditating for 2 hours without interruptions? It is much harder than an hour. The challenge of the sit increases exponentially.

  • You had an enlightenment experience?

Well, that is good. Congratulations! But can you maintain mindfulness at the tip of the nose 24 hours a day? Do you have highly developed and effortless concentration skills?

Can you see where I am getting at?

It is easy to judge other people. There will always be people you can feel superior over. But it is not so easy to see our faults and arrogance.

Most often, someone who is senior and wiser than us needs to show us how deluded we are. Unless we meet with a Zen master, it is all too easy to over-estimate our abilities in our meditation practice.

The path of humility requires you to point the finger at yourself. It is the more difficult path but this is where growth happens.

The journey is long. If you relax too early, your progress will be halted.

As the stoic philosopher, Epictetus said:

“You can not know what you think you already know.”

So keep being a student. Always. 

There is only one way to put this wisdom into practical living: start a daily meditation practice and start an investigation towards enlightenment.

Theory, debates, reading, listening, talking, arguing and knowledge will only get you so far. 

You must “walk the talk”.

If in doubt, remember the priceless wisdom.

“Meditate on the breath (mindfulness meditation to build concentration and awareness skills) and then self-enquire (the teachings of Ramana Maharshi) until you are free of all psychological sufferings and ego. (aka enlightenment)

Do this everyday and trust in the process that eventually your mind will be healed.


Because all good things require training and patience.

Know that as long as you do the work, the results will eventually follow.”

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