True Courage is Born from Perfect Humility
Catherine Van Houten
Several years ago, my husband, a family physician who operates a medical clinic near Ananda, went through an extraordinarily challenging time. For years, Peter’s days–often seven of them per week–were fully taken up with seeing patients, managing the clinic’s finances, and dictating patient notes late into the evening, while being on call most weeknights and every other weekend.
The clinic served a relatively low-income population and was barely hanging on financially. And then, in what seemed a final blow, the county government began pressuring the clinic to move to a county-approved structure, or else close down. Peter was exhausted, anxious, and at the end of his rope.
He spoke with Swami Kriyananda, and shortly thereafter, he received a brief note that offered a comforting and very powerful response. One sentence in that loving note from Swamiji has burned itself into my memory: “True courage is born from perfect humility.” I had never before realized the vital connection between having the courage and inexhaustible enthusiasm to act, and the being sufficiently humble to perceive God as the Doer.
With my growing awareness of humility as the source of courage, I reviewed what I knew of Kriyananda’s life and work–the founding of Ananda and seeing it through every conceivable difficulty, including two fires, one of which destroyed virtually all the community’s homes; a near-foreclosure during the early days; years of carrying a heavy teaching load while counseling thousands of fledgling devotees; writing dozens of books and hundreds of songs and chants that help the soul to soar in Spirit. All of this while under the painful cloud of condemnation from certain of his spiritual “peers,” not to mention tremendous health problems.
I realized that if Swamiji had in even the smallest way needed to protect his feelings, or a sense of self-importance, or his personal time and energy, Ananda wouldn’t exist today. Only complete self-surrender to God and Guru, with the constant prayer “Thy Will, not my will,” could have enabled him to serve as such a powerful vehicle of God’s help to others.
How much I’ve learned from Swami Kriyananda’s example of true humility! Most touching has been his willingness to place himself in spiritually “risky” positions in order to help others. I’ve learned from him that self-surrender doesn’t mean sitting on the sidelines, faceless, “playing it safe” and keeping a low profile. It means putting out the most dynamic energy possible, and every shred of your God-given creativity and initiative, with the constant prayer that God guide and channel that energy to bring His light into this world. That many people interpret great, “ambitious” deeds always as a sign of vaunting ego is a sign that they haven’t yet understood what the Divine can accomplish through the medium of the completely self-surrendered soul.
When we give to God all that we are, there is no longer a little whining self to protect, coddle, defend, or placate. As Swami Kriyananda has taught me by his own galvanizing example, when we act for God alone, as His instruments and with His power, we can and should dare everything!
Catherine lives at Ananda Village where she serves as director of fund-raising.