The Conceit of Self
A reflection on practice by Marcia Rose
One of the most prevalent and pervasive ways that the deeply rooted habit of conceit, the ‘conceit of self’, binds us and is perpetuated is through the comparing mind. What a great gift it is to ourself to wake up to seeing that the process of comparing oneself with others perpetuates one’s learned feeling of being deficient or inadequate, or the learned self identification of being better than or the very best. It’s then that we begin to understand one of the primary reasons that we live with an underlying or not so underlying feeling of uncertainty, tension and stress.
The ‘conceit of self’ is what usurps the vitality and power of being fully present, blocking mindful awareness of simply and clearly being with what is. With ‘conceit’ we separate ourself – set ourself apart which is an endlessly unsatisfying and painful experience and a major source of suffering in this human realm.
Another way that ‘conceit of self’ may show up in our practice is that often one’s idea of what it means to be really honest with ourself about ourself, is understood as admitting our weaknesses, faults, and all the unskillful ‘bad’ things we’ve done. This is another facet of the ‘conceit of self’. Identifying and dwelling in this negative idea and image of who we think we are is how guilt, sorrow and anguish are nurtured.
The Buddha instructs us to recognize, acknowledge and rejoice in our healthy humanbeingness through reflecting on ways we’ve been of service and cared for others and on the choices we’ve made that have been absolutely appropriate and wise at any given time. We can reflect on and rejoice in the times when our mind/our heart has been clearly present and connected, emanating loving-kindness, compassion and joy in relationship to others. And we can of course rejoice in the fact that we’ve had the great good fortune to connect with the teaching and practices of the Buddha and are practicing!
Taking the Buddha’s instruction to heart by rejoicing in oneself isn’t a call for arrogance or self-centeredness, but rather just the simple recognition and acknowledgment of our goodness, success, and compassionate heart. To be able to rejoice in ourself is essential, not in a prideful or conceited way, but as a means of generating the self respect, love, confidence, joy and sense of well-being that is fundamental and natural for the cultivation of the wholesome mind and heart which are vital for our practice to deepen and blossom.
Until we are liberated/awakened…in the Buddha’s words: “tis the self by which we suffer”.
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