Friday, March 6, 2009

Are we reverent?

I looked at the word reverence in the dictionary and learnt that it means a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe. It is a combination of admiration and wonderment. While we can have awe for even a tyrant or a cruel animal, admiration is reserved only for positive qualities .Reverence, a mixture of awe and admiration, is a virtuous quality. It is however not that simple as proper definition of reverence is difficult. Reverence begins only where there is a realization of our limitations as a human to comprehend things that are external to our control.- God,nature,justice,death to name a few.. Reverence does not belong to religion. It belongs to society or community. When the people live together they secure themselves with some form of rules, regulations, forms of ceremony, and good manners and observance of these is an act of reverence. An arrogant man cannot be reverent as he has no respect for things that are higher than himself. Power without reverence is arrogance, politics without reverence is blind to general good, service without reverence is rebellion and life without reverence is brutish and selfish.

We should not confuse respect with reverence. Respect can be good, bad, wise or silly depending upon the person respected. It would be silly to respect a fool but wise to respect an intelligent youngster. To pay respect to vain men with false fame or tyrants with power is not reverence. Reverence calls for respect only when respect is really the right attitude. We can define somewhat reverence as “the well developed capacity to have the feelings of awe and respect and shame when these are the right things to have. Reverence can be misplaced on wrong things on basis of belief, custom or whatever reason. It is not proper to mock at them if there is sincerity behind such reverence. There is a story related by Mark twain about a Yankee who was shown a lamp burning in a temple in Burma. The priest told him with awe that the lamp had never been extinguished for hundreds of years. “Is that so?” said the Yankee;” well, I guess it’s out now”; and he stooped down and blew it out. Mark Twain remarked that, “True reverence is the reverencing of other people’s reverence. Such an act alone would foster better understanding and tolerance in the world.


  1. True reverence comes only from an advanced soul because he can see God working through all and through everything.

    Only one advanced soul can show reverence for another. Ordinary ones usually laugh at those worthy of reverence and show reverence to those who deserve it the least. Why else was Jesus laughed at by some when even on pain of death, he asked God to forgive those who had crucified him?

    And as you have rightly said, real reverence is beyond all social expectations. When Siddhartha became Gautam Buddha and returned to the city of his birth, his father was the first one to touch his feet as a mark of reverence.

    Thank you Parthasarathi for this outstanding post.

  2. I completely agree with Ayesha, its an outstaning post an one which would help a person to understand oneself. Coz those who respect others are the ones who end up respecting themselves. Its not everyone who can be reverent,coz it truely is an act of an advanced soul:)Thanks