Humility. Humility is the conscious awareness and acceptance of eternity as your own body.
Humility is the time that you spend in love - in love with existence itself. When you don't love existence, you feel that you're separate from existence, you're separate from this world and you stand back from it. You hide.
Humility is courage in that it's the open acceptance of your own perfection. Humility is the ability to see through darkness and perceive light, not only on the other side of darkness but in darkness itself. Humility means that we're willing to take tremendous chances with our life, with our death and that which lies beyond. Humility in its simple form is an image that is applied in the I Ching - a mountain within the earth, the hexagram of modesty or humility. The mountain exists within the earth. We don't see it, but its strength and power are there. So humility is something that exists and has a strength and power but is unseen.
Humility is the most important quality in the spiritual life. There is no quality that is more important because whatever qualities and powers you possess, if you do not have humility, they're all in vain, whereas if you have humility, you're halfway to God-realization. Humility is not enough, but I say it's the most important quality you can possess in your arsenal of spiritual qualities because it is the only one that, when it is lacking, spiritual growth stops.
Humility is the most important quality in the spiritual life.
The absence of humility is ego. Ego stops all spiritual growth. Just as during an eclipse we fail to see the sun because the moon gets in the way, so the light of knowledge, of dharma, of truth, is eclipsed by the ego. Even though just beyond it there may be nothing but light and perfection, unless we can break through the ego or dissolve the ego there is no spiritual progress.
You are happiest when you are humble. You are most miserable when you are very egotistical. The ego sense suggests that, "I am the body. I am the mind. I am temporal. I exist in this world. I was born at a certain time. I'll die at a certain time. The space in between those times is what I call my life. The time after that is my death. Then there's my rebirth." The sense of ego is the sense of separativity: "I am a finite individual. I suffer. I feel joy. I feel pleasure. I feel pain." Ego synthesized is selfhood, the sense of self-importance, that you really matter. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Humility means freedom - freedom in its earliest stages - because it provides growth, and growth takes you out of the cycle of change that you're currently in, which is stagnation. Humility leads to absence, to the void and beyond. It's very easy to be humble when no one else is around. There's no reason for us to demonstrate our superiority because no one challenges it. So we can sit and be humble. When we interact with others the ego manifests. We have to show that we're superior or that in some way that we know more, we're more spiritually advanced, we love more, we're kinder. Or we're not as developed, we're the worst, everyone is better, everyone meditates better than I do. That's ego - the best or the worst.
Humility accepts moderation. Humility feels that there is someone, somewhere who can do anything I can do, better - except for one thing: no one can be better at being me. I have no importance. I will come and go in this world and be forgotten. That's freedom. Yet at the same time I am important, in the sense that I do have a role to play in this cosmic game, that there is something for me to do. I may ease the suffering of another; I may give joy or I may die in the attempt. But I must play my role, be it great or small. That's humility - without self-importance, without self-indulgence.
The ego seeks fame, fortune. Humility doesn't seek at all - it accepts. The ego wants to climb the highest mountain so it can stand on top. Humility is content to be in the valley or to be on top of the mountain or anywhere in between. Humility knows that whatever is the dharma, whatever is truthful and right, will eventually persevere. Humility accepts that God places each one of us in the right place at every single moment - not a moment too soon and not a moment too late.