Developing Respect and Humility

Luang Por Pasanno • August 2013

Before the monastery was established, I can remember Ajahn Amaro telling me that there was a Thai monk in Fremont, Ajahn Maha Prasert, who was keen to see a forest monastery succeed in the Bay Area. Since the founding of the monastery, Ajahn Maha Prasert’s support has been unfailing.

Generally in Thailand at the beginning of the Rains Retreat or a bit earlier than that, most of the monks in monasteries go together to pay respects to senior monks in the same province. This is important for a monastery and for one’s individual practice. These trips are opportunities for showing respect and giving respect outside of one’s own little circles as well as within one’s circle. In America, we don’t have many options, but we do have Ajahn Maha Prasert. We’re fortunate, because he’s a worthy monk to pay respects to.

When we reflect back on the discourse that the Buddha gave on the highest blessings, one blessing he points to is gāravo ca nivāto ca, the qualities of respectfulness and humility. These are qualities that bring forth the highest blessings. They engender the sense of not having to carry the burden of a sense of self all the time—which is an incredible burden. Sometimes we can lack humility and respect to the degree that we outwardly appear full of ourselves and carry our sense of self around, showing it off to other people—which is not very inspiring.

We have the opportunity to establish a sense of respectfulness and humility not just once a year, but in our day-to-day lives—how we live with each other, how we treat each other, and how we engage with the world around us. We can frequently think about meditation techniques and methodologies. But when we reflect on the qualities that help the mind become peaceful, we can see how often we overlook these fundamentals that are at the roots of our being—these qualities of respectfulness and humility that allow the mind to become quiet and at ease. If we’ve engendered these qualities within, then when we sit down to meditate, we don’t have to wonder what techniques or methods will make us peaceful, because the peace is already there waiting for us.