Author Topic: "Overcoming" self-importance  (Read 3420 times)

Offline humanitas

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"Overcoming" self-importance
« on: February 02, 2010, 07:40:44 pm »
There is something that gnaws at me.  I think the idea that "overcoming" self-importance is so dry, overdone, and incomplete in the popular perception of the new practitioner.  Why do seasoned practitioners make this process sound so overwhelmingly difficult?  Self-importance is a completely natural phase (being the key word) to human childhood and development.  I don't sense in my practice of only a year that my search for dharma has led me to "overcome" anything.  If anything, I've simply outgrown childish ways of viewing the world. 

When we sit there and point a finger, oh he or she has so much "ego" my first response is: So what?

I've found some of the most powerful language in life is very simple.  So what? is one of the most powerful questions you can probably ask. 

I started thinking about many things from my primitive and wholly unsophisticated understanding of sunyata, and so far, what I've seen on the internet is a bunch of people just either trying to do their best or who are very involved with telling others what is and isn't dharma.  Sometimes both.  I appreciate reading it all, knowing what is dharma according to each tradition and what is dharma to these practitioners.  However, I don't personally ascribe to this idea that awakening "belongs" to the practitioner of Buddhism.  I know that the Buddha said that he who follows the path of dharma will one day reach awakening.  But did he mean that if you deviate from these modern day traditions and what Joe Shmoe says is or isn't Dharma you will fall away from attaining compassion, or even worse... Buddhahood?

Something about this double standard really doesn't sit right with me.

I'm seeing the same kinds of politics in the Buddhist construct as I've seen in every other religion because the construct is held up by people.  The only thing I'm seeing that is different is that at least in Buddhism, we're all in it together going at it alone.  The difference is the focus is individual.  The Buddha brought one thing to us, the means to the cessation of suffering.  But the Buddha never said, ah! You non-buddhist (or maybe he would have said you non-me-ist) you aren't allowed into the kingdom of the Buddha.  So while tradition is essential to learning the Buddha's words and method, I find all these politics around this or that tradition really have little relevance to the serious practitioners who disinterests themselves in this or that conflict with other people.  The serious practitioner is a person who does this because they have hit rock bottom and know it's time for a radically different (or familiar depending on where you're from) approach to life... how about we try this buddha thing, now I got nothing to lose.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone or anyone's tradition, I've just been feeling new practitioner angst lately.  I find something tremendously depressing about how much practice is approached so painfully by its practitioners.  Perhaps it's just the internet as this is where I'm sourcing the thought from.   Oh, no!  I have self-importance, oh no!  Ok, so what? It's like telling a 4 year old, you're a 4yr old, neener.  So what?  Does this have any significance to anything meaningfully important? I'd rejoice how wonderful I'm like a child, I have no idea, how about I grow up now.  I personally approach it all with a spirit of interest and curiosity.  I find being a Buddhist is much like being an adventurer or an explorer.  Oooh... let's see what I'll dig out now!  If anything when someone admits some terrible thing, rejoice!  I always say, Now you know and that is wonderful because now you know what you can take off your shoulders.  What people seem to forget is that it's NOT practice and discipline that weigh down on our shoulders but the weight of our ignorance.  As we shed more and more ignorance we become lighter, more free with love life laughter. Why does it have to be a sufferance to grow up out of our own self-importance?  Why instead not look forward to how much more you're going to grow and have to offer yourself and everyone else?  Why is it so many Buddhists who HAVE this wonderful method at their fingertips continue to focus so much on what sucks without seeing that what sucks IS what makes what's wonderful indeed wonderful...?

I don't think I have to "overcome" self-importance.  It's not a disease!  It's a stage of mind.  If you haven't outgrown it yet, you will eventually.  After all you started following this dharma for a reason, no?  My basic thought is self-importance is something to outgrow naturally, if you pretend, you look as credible to everyone else as a toddler trying on mom's big shoes.  But when you get there, you can stand behind your understanding because it's all encompassing, because its nature is full and open and alive.  The dharma is a live path, not a path practiced in a room with a book, or on a cushion alone.  But you of course, all know that, I'm just finding out and I'm excited about this greatness about it.  I want to BE dharma. I don't want to just argue over what is tradition and what is fiction.  That has its place too for sure, but it's secondary to the objective.  BEcome dharma.  Become the kindness that pours out of your cup effortlessly for all others...  That is wonderful practice! 

I don't want to pretend to be anything I'm not, do you?  I'd rather have you tell me what I'm not seeing so that I may have more to consider, and I may reach outgrowing whatever self-importance I may be clinging to in my own time with your careful consideration of not imposing some "truth" on me, in this way I'm just like everyone else.  And if I don't like what you have to say, I can see a direct indication of something I gotta work on.  But it doesn't have to be this dreary chore.  I think that misses the entire point of dharmic practice.  I myself am learning to balance the element of joy in every little step I take, in every little pain I pass, I also note the joy that comes FROM the passing of the pain... what a relief when that weight is off my shoulders.  Suffering isn't personal, what a relief.  Self is a construct, what a relief... here I was thinking I had to hold the world up on my own shoulders, turns out the world holds itself up just fine.  I just need to take care of not dragging around what's not mine.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is there is something so absolutely wonderful about freeing yourself of weight internal and external, how is practice in any way a chore?  :grouphug:

dunno... just a thought I've been mulling over today...

thoughts?

 :headbow:
Ogyen.
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Dharmakara

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2010, 07:47:55 pm »
Over-coming self-importance isn't difficult... being brutally honest with oneself is.

Offline humanitas

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2010, 07:57:00 pm »
Honesty is a skill, not an innate talent.  Like any skill it can be developed little by little. 

But I agree, honesty with oneself is a very tough skill to master as we have this little childishness fighting back and pluggin' ears going... LALALALALALALALA. 

I think humor is a great tool for eliminating self-importance and developing honesty.... what do you think?
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Offline pickledpitbull

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2010, 08:49:13 pm »
How does a person with no-self act like himself? 

Who are we being honest with?

All the world's a stage.  Everyone is an actor.

 :D
You've been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, but there isn't and you're not.


~ Cheri Huber

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2010, 08:55:02 pm »

I think humor is a great tool for eliminating self-importance and developing honesty.... what do you think?


Exactly!  Now take my strife.  Please!
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Dharmakara

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2010, 09:29:50 pm »
Who are we being honest with?


Silly wabbit, you know exactly what I meant  :teehee:

« Last Edit: February 02, 2010, 09:38:58 pm by Dharmakara, Reason: Added Image »

Offline dhammaseeker51

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2010, 11:06:16 am »
I think self importance melts away with practice.
The everyday practice is the exciting part which takes us out of ourselves.
Everyday is a new day in which to be mindful and practice ones compassion and understanding of the teachings on ourselves and everyone we meet!
Our degree of Mindfulnes varies at different stages throughout the day, and our meditation can go from agitated mental preoccupation to blissful states which defy all description.
It's a wonderful and exciting path, and humour makes it even better.
"Thank God" for the Buddha !  ;D
with Metta

Offline santamonicacj

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2010, 11:31:42 am »
Over-coming self-importance isn't difficult... being brutally honest with oneself is.

I agree. Self-importance dissolves if you do a serious meditation on death. After you're dead who cares how much of a big-shot you were.

Now being honest...
Warning: I'm enough of a fundamentalist Tibet style Buddhist to believe that for the last 1,000 years Tibet has produced a handful of enlightened masters in every generation. I do not ask that YOU believe it, but it will greatly simplify conversations if you understand that about me. Thanks.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2010, 11:32:32 am »
Quote
Posted by: dhammaseeker51 :  "Thank God" for the Buddha ! 
with Metta 


Actually we do have gods to thank for Buddha teaching The Dhamma to humankind:

Quote
"Mindful and fully aware... the Bodhisatta appeared in the Tusita deva plane... Mindful and fully aware the Bodhisatta remained in the Tusita deva plane... for the whole of his lifespan... When the Bodhisatta passed away from the Tusita deva plane and descended into his mother's womb, then a great immeasurable light surpassing the splendor of the gods appeared in the world with its gods, its Maras and its Brahmas, in this generation with its recluses and brahmans, with its princes and its people... When the Bodhisatta had descended into his mother's womb, four young deities came to guard him at the four quarters so that no humans or non-humans or anyone at all could harm the Bodhisatta or his mother." (MN 123.7-8)


What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Tsongkhapafan

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2010, 05:15:14 pm »
Self importance disappears if you think about dependent relationship.  We're always completely dependent upon factors other than ourself for whatever it is we achieve.  We're not self-made people but all our skills and talents arise in dependence upon the kindness of others passing on their knowledge and experience to us.

Without this recognition, we would be like a flower that develops pride thinking "I've grown so strong and beautiful" without recognising the contribution of the sunlight, moisture, nutrients and other conditions needed to grow. We don't provide any of those conditions but are completely dependent upon them.

There's a big difference between self-importance and self-confidence.

Offline Ngawang Drolma

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2010, 12:33:05 am »
Humility takes practice I believe.  But it's so helpful and productive when you do it  :)

Kind wishes,
Laura

Offline Rayfield

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2010, 06:42:31 am »
Mindfulness has been quite an eye-opener for me. It seems that every other thing I do during my day has an "I" in the mix.
"What will that car think of me if I don't get up to speed fast enough?"
"Do those production workers think that I'm lazy because they don't understand what I'm doing here at my desk?"
"My 10-year-old is being a bit defiant this morning. Does she not respect me the way I respected my father?"

I'm trying to be more of a verb and less of an "I", I promise.  :lmfao:

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2010, 07:32:19 am »
Quote
Rayfield wrote:  "I'm trying to be more of a verb and less of an "I", I promise.  "

LOL!  Heard a great line on "House" a popular t.v. medical program:  "There is no "I" in "Team", but if you rearrange the letters there is "me".

Mental consciousness lusts for existence and recognition.  It continues its quest for recognition and validation with constant attempts at reification; vainly, futilely, desperately, attempting conversion of what Buddha described as mental froth on a Ganges River-like mind to become a concrete thing, a substantial self.

We have been advised in the suttas that to use the word "I" in the mundane sense in everyday parlance is not a problem to those of noble mind, Arahants, Buddhas and the like, those who realize The Dhamma with regard to Buddha's Teachings of Dependent Arising, Impermanence, and Emptiness, all of which are underlying factors of The Four Noble Truths.  However, those of us living in ignorance of Buddha's teachings as regards the delusional self are in grave danger of entering the hell realms for their intentional actions are more often than not based upon the delusion of self and the preservation of this delusion of self;  the insubstantial mentality of which is usually found at the foundations of justification for abuse, violence, and wars, greed, lust for power, all manner of pleasure seeking regardless of harm caused to others.  Invariably, when we look at the basis of all such horrific acts we find the rotted stench of the delusion of self.

Just so, and in this light Buddha advised his son, Rahula, to reflect as if looking into a mirror upon intentional actions under consideration before taking them; to pay attention to the potential outcomes of our actions being evaluated, and to examine personal motivations with regard to the delusional self; asking always, "Will our actions result in benefit or harm?"

Scary and highly motivating.  A method which will lead to skillful actions in all interpersonal interactions, but only if we are aware of it, and apply the primary countermeasure against this delusion of self, which is of course living our lives in accordance with The Noble Eight Fold Path, Right View, as always, taking the lead in all of our intentional actions.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2010, 10:28:35 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Anders Honore

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2010, 05:03:16 am »
I am not sure that it is helpful to think of self-importance as something to be overcome. As long as one understands that it is an undesirable trait and not something you will want to feed, I think the onus should more properly be on recognising self-importance than overcoming it (thinking to overcome it, or trying to become humble, is itself a rather self-important project). When you really sees how you are self-important and why, the mind will eventually come to see quite naturally that it is a bit ridiculous and unfounded and at that point will find it harder to keep it up.

I think santamonicacj and Tsongkhapafan made some good points. When you are mindful of death and the fact that all your accomplishments can disappear five minutes from now when you slip and fall down the stairs, it proves a different perspective on how substantial the things in our lives are (along with an increased sense of urgency). And likewise, when you recognise our co-dependent relations with all others (and perhaps just as importantly, how we all share in affliction), this is itself something very humbling. Of course it is also possible to be self-importantly compassionate. Some may picture themselves as potential superhero glowing bodhisattvas who are just ace gurus for their talented disciples. Others might think that serving in most ordinary and lowly ways, is the only appropriately humble response to compassion. I think when one is equally willing to adopt either role for others, we can talk about proper humility.
Deaf, he hears his own nature.
Blind, he sees his Original Mind.
The empty, clear moon
In the water rises
Where heart and mind are forgotten.


- Jungkwan Ilson (1533-1608)

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Re: "Overcoming" self-importance
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2010, 08:58:39 pm »
In my opinion, its useful to keep self-importance in mind when practicing.

There are two potential dangers at the intersection of Buddhism and self-importance.

The first one relates to Buddhism emphasizing introspection. I think that if a new practitioner is not mindful of their self-importance, the introspective focus can be fixed on the self as opposed being introspective to develop awareness. This way unchecked self-importance can turn the practice into spiritual narcissism. Spirtual narcissmism is probably the best kind of narcissism, but still...

Also, as with any religion, taking yourself too seriously as Buddhist can create barriers between you and other people be they practitioners or not.

So I don't think that the focus on overcoming self-importance is misplaced. Certainly overcoming anything is not assisted by aversion toward that which you are trying to overcome. Its better to observe self-importance and the conditions in the mind that give rise to it. And, hopefully, with time ad effort, the awareness of the mechanism that gives rise to self-importance will weaken and eventually dismantle that mechanism.   

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
~L. Cohen

 


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