ALBERT Einstein came to realise the spiritual value of humble simplicity. For most of his extraordinary life, Einstein hung portraits on his wall of two scientists, Isaac Newton and James Maxwell, as role models to inspire him.
Near the end of his life, Einstein replaced them with portraits of Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Gandhi.
Einstein said he realised he needed role models, not of success, but of humility. He apt was to quote Tolstoy – “There is no greatness where there is not simplicity’’.
Mohandes Gandhi, the Indian spiritual leader, wryly observed the beginnings of the age of self-importance.
Gandhi said too many were trying to elevate their ordinary narcissistic impulses into a religion when they really need to discover their own insignificance in the universe, and be humbled.
But he warned to avoid the sort of obsessive religious humility that “consists in being a great deal occupied about yourselves’’.
“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people. It means freedom from thinking about yourself, one way or the other, at all,’’ he said.
Vietnamese Buddhist monk and prolific writer Thich Nhat Hanh listed practices that would promote humility and keep the mind alive to present experience and reality.
He advised: Do not be bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology. Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless. Do not avoid contact with suffering. Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not kill. Do not maintain anger or hatred. Do not lose yourself in your surroundings. Be humble enough to be aware of what is happening in the present.