19 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside the story of the famous meeting between Guru Ram Das and Baba Siri Chand. This is a story from the Sikh tradition, but I heard this story told orally by an Udasi Nirmala sage. Stories are shaped by their tellers; thus, here I take liberty to add my own embellishment, experience, and flair.
What questions arise when I focus on “humility” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
In 16th century, Northern India, an ascetic yogi named Baba Siri Chand paid a visit to the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das. He was accompanied by the yogis who were following him, yogis who had attained siddhis (supernatural powers). These yogis could fly, read minds, walk through solid objects, be in two places at once, control the weather, etc. They had attained all the powers that come with decades of austere practice. Their leader, Baba Siri Chand, was 90 years old at this time; but, he had the body of a sixteen-year-old boy, no beard and a flawless physique. The guru, on the other hand, aged to midlife and had grown a long, dark beard.
The two enlightened beings sat together with a large audience around them. The audience was filled with anticipation to hear what words these two beings would exchange. What discourse would they expound? Rarely did an ascetic yogi and householder guru sit together. Surely this dialogue would be like that exchanged between Krishna and Arjuna, or like that between Ashtavakra and King Janaka! Surely this exchange would reveal the highest teachings!
The yogi and the guru sat in silence.
No one spoke. No one moved for hours, even days. Who knows how much time passed with the whole gathering immersed in profound, divine silence?
Finally, Baba Siri Chand spoke. He asked the guru, “Why do you grow such a long beard?” The meaning behind his question was asking why, if the guru were so enlightened, did he allow for his body to age; if the guru had mastered his physical form through meditation and yogic techniques why didn’t he control his aging process?
The guru bent low and wiped the yogi’s feet with his beard.
He said, “I’ve grown this beard so that I can wash the lotus feet of such a high One as you!”
Baba Siri Chand turned to all the siddhas and he said, “Hail Guru Ram Das! You all see this humility he has shown here! Let’s bow to him. He is the true yogi. This humility is the true yoga.” Humility is the highest teaching.
This is a beautiful story that I heard within the kundalini yoga community that I am consciously no longer associating with due to the fact that its leader, yogi bhajan, was a criminal. Tragically, his abuse will get swept under the rug if we lone, post-lineage Jnani yogis do not commit to destroying ignorance. #MeTooInYoga
Meditating on humility, a post-lineage Jnana yogi might ask, “So what if humility is the highest teaching? What kind of paradoxical poppy cock logic is it to attain to this: oh, I am so high because I have the most humility? What does it take for traditions to See they are abusing the idea of ‘the highest,’ and See that vying for great height often renders them more toxic than helpful?”