Pride and conceit

Acharn Sujin spoke about the deepest cause of all our failures in the development of satipatthana: our own defilements which we have accumulated for so long. She reminded us again of our fundamental inconsistence: we want to develop satipatthana in order to eradicate the concept of self, but we still continue to consider ourselves as very important. This selfish attitude appears in our manner and speech, it can be very prominent. We often speak about realities such as seeing, hearing or thinking as anatta, non-self, but do we realize it when there is plain selfishness in daily life? Up till now we did not understand very well that less clinging to the concept of self also means being less selfish in our daily life. We are so used to thinking of ourselves that we do not notice it. Acharn Sujin reminded us to realize more the moments we think of ourselves and to realize our action and speech that are motivated by egoism.

How often do we find ourselves important? How often do we have conceit? Do we think ourselves better than others? Even when we think ourselves equal to or less than others we may find ourselves important and that is conceit. We may, for example, think: “Why does he treat me in that way?” Does this not often happen in daily life?

The “Vibhanga” (Book of Analysis, Second Book of the Abhidhamma) enumerates in the “Analysis of Small Items” (345) many objects which can be objects of pride and conceit. Pride is here the translation of the Pali word “mada” which literally means intoxication. We read: -- “Pride of birth; pride of clan; pride of health; pride of youth; pride of life; pride of gain; pride of being honoured; pride of being respected; pride of prominence; pride of having adherents; pride of wealth; pride of appearance; pride of erudition; pride of intelligence; pride of being a knowledgeable authority; pride of being (a regular) alms collector; pride of being not despised; pride of posture (bearing) ; pride of accomplishment; pride of popularity; pride of being moral; pride of jhana; pride of dexterity; pride of being tall; pride of (bodily) proportion; pride of form; pride of (bodily) perfection; pride; heedlessness; (mental) rigidity; rivalry ... ”

All these objects can be a source of intoxication and conceit. We should consider them in daily life, that is the reason why they are enumerated. Is it not true that we want to be honoured and respected, that we want to be popular and receive compliments? We are attached to other people’s opinion about us. The word “rivalry” used in the “Vibhanga” is another word for competition. We do not want others to be better than we are, even with regard to kusala and right understanding. We may not have noticed that we are so self-seeking, but the enumeration in the “Vibhanga” can remind us to be aware more often of such moments. We should investigate the deepest motives of our behaviour. Behaviour and speech we thought to be correct and pleasing are often motivated by selfishness. Acharn Sujin told us in plain words that we should do something for others instead of doing something for ourselves, and that this gradually can become our nature. It will condition more kusala in our life. When we consider ourselves not as “somebody” we see more the importance of other people.

A “nobody” or “not somebody” is another word for non-self, anatta. Do we really understand the meaning of anatta and its application in daily life? The sotapanna has realized the truth of anatta and for him there are no more conditions to neglect the five precepts. When we transgress them there is no true consideration for other people’s well-being. The sotapanna has eradicated stinginess. We are still stingy, we do not always want to share with others what we have because we think of our own comfort. Through satipatthana there will be less ignorance of the many moments of selfishness which arise and there will be the understanding that akusala is only a conditioned reality, not “my akusala”. We shall develop satipatthana with a more sincere inclination, we shall develop it in order to understand whatever reality arises, to understand it as non-self.

Topic 233