Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
A student expressed concerns about feeling pride when she helped others.
It’s OK to feel happiness when we help. If pride comes, think, “I am fortunate that I'm able to help.”
Focus on benefiting others. It’s OK if you want them to like you, so that you can bring them greater benefits, like teaching the Dharma.
Overwhelmed by Pride
A student in Wisconsin, USA, wrote the following to Rinpoche: “I would like advice. My mind becomes overwhelmed with pride again and again. I would like to prevent it, but I don’t know how.”
My very dear Janine,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. Regarding your question on pride, this is my advice.
Each time pride arises, it leaves negative imprints on the mind. It causes strong delusions to arise, if it is dependent on lower objects—poor, ugly, lower forms, all these different aspects that you see, and from which strong delusion arises and makes karma. This is very heavy, and interferes with your achievement of enlightenment, which is the ultimate goal.
Water cannot stay on the tip of the mountain, and also water cannot stay on top of an upside-down container, meaning you can’t receive any qualities or knowledge—not just intellectual understanding, but also realizations—in your mental continuum if you have pride. Even in this life, you won’t get along with others. Many mistakes arise because of pride, and that is not including the shortcomings in future lives.
As it says in the thought transformation teachings, examine yourself and think of all the ignorance that exists in your mind, and how many subjects you don’t know about. Also, think of all the phenomena that exist and all the subjects that you don’t know about. What you know is so little, hardly anything. There is so much ignorance. In this way, focus on your shortcomings.
Think that the realizations in your mind are so small. They are not there, not even the realization of death and impermanence, or the realization of a precious human rebirth. You do not have even those realizations.
In this way reflect on your shortcomings, including mistakes made in the past. Thinking like this immediately makes you feel lower and helps you feel respect for others.
In the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, it says: “With my actions, I want to achieve a human body in my next life, but what I create is only negative karma, so there is only non-virtue being created.”
If you examine your actions daily and your motivation, you will see that your main motivation is for this life only. Most actions are performed out of attachment, not just attachment seeking happiness in this life, but also attachment clinging to this life’s happiness. Actually, 24 hours a day your attitude is attachment. That means even our Dharma actions are performed with this motivation, with the thought of this life’s happiness. So that means 24 hours a day, your life becomes non-virtue, so the ripened result is to be reborn in the lower realms. This means all your actions are non-virtuous, including meditation and prayers. All of these also become non-virtue. That is what the quote means.
When pride arises when you see others who have lower qualities, an ugly body, less possessions, no realizations, and so forth, the antidote is to think about the good qualities that they do have. Even if the person has shortcomings, think on the side of their good qualities. That is one antidote.
Then, when you see their good qualities, think “How wonderful,” and rejoice. The nature of sentient beings is mistaken, but to be able to develop good qualities is wonderful. Rejoicing is also an antidote to pride.
Then, also think that they appear like they have shortcomings, but you never know in reality who he or she is, what kind of good qualities they have, what their realizations are. It is not for you to judge their mind. You cannot see their mind, so you can’t know if they are enlightened buddhas or bodhisattvas. In the past, Buddha was criticized by Hindus in India. They only saw shortcomings in the Buddha. This is one example. They did not see the beams of light shining out from the Buddha’s body. They only saw a deluded monk. It is very good to think in this way. This is a very good antidote to pride.
Even with insects, for example, you can think of all the shortcomings that you have that they don’t, all the mistaken actions you perform that they don’t. Then even they become objects of respect. Insects do not create the heavy negative karma that you create.
These are some methods for you to use. If you cannot practice, then pride arises and you cannot cherish others. This becomes an obstacle for you to have realizations, to practice bodhicitta, and achieve enlightenment, so you can benefit and liberate all other sentient beings, and bring them to enlightenment.
I hope this is enough advice on pride. Have a good time and good experience putting this advice into practice.
With much love and prayers,