Sunday, March 11, 2007
selfworth vs pride
There is a subtle but crucial difference between self-esteem and pride, between self-worth and vanity. Pride, vanity, arrogance are all related to external features- either real as in the case of pride or imagined – as in the case of vanity. So pride has for its basis a very extra zeros in your bank account, a few extra letters in your title, position, power, etc. It is fickle – meet with someone with an extra zero or an extra title and it is pricked, quickly metamorphosing into its other side – envy and jealously. Self-esteem and self-worth are attributes that have for their basis my own view of myself. I find myself acceptable. I find myself worthy – not by yardsticks that others may draw – but in my own eyes. My self-esteem is intrinsic, and never related to anything I possess materially. Hence money, power, possessions may come and go but if my self-image is strong then these do not significantly dent it. Self-image is enhanced by a life lived with values. I may be poor but if I have lived a life with a commitment to values and principles I hold dear or regard highly, then my self-image is decidedly positive. An ideal student of vedanta is cheerful with a healthy dose of self-esteem, with a positive self-image, who does not look down upon himself, or consider himself inferior. So while we expectedly condemn "ego" as a manifestation of abhimana or pride let us not forget that selfrespect or swabhimana is also a manifestation of the very-same ego. A student who was a failure as a student, could never work hard, has been a chronic underachiever, has been perennially unsatisfied, and lacks the guts and gumption to affect positive changes in his life, and develops a disillusionment to the world, and condemns himself – he certainly does not have much of an "ego" - but this is not someone who is anywhere close to being fit for Vedanta. His disillusionment is not the vairagya that stems from a mature outlook to life, that stems from viveka. In fact there is a danger of vedantic teachings of jagat is mithya etc being misinterpreted by such a tamasic individual. So encouraging the growth of a healthy ego or a healthy sense of self-esteem right from childhood is a very positive thing. An everything that builds this self-worth – that helps enhance a person's self-image – has a role – values play a role, scholastic endavors play a role, music and dance play a role, - nothing is unimportant if the attitude is right. Take Arjuna's case – he was an archer par excellence and of course took great pride in that knowledge – he was known to conquer sleep – as he would keep practicing all-night long – all this had its importance in building his sense of esteem – had he been a failure of an archer – his chosen calling - he would have never achieved success either in a materialistic realm nor in the spiritual. Vedanta as a teaching has ever been a "Royal secret". This is because it really is not for everyone. A certain evolution in thought and a maturity in outlook is necessary – paramount is the birth of a seeker who is able to recognize he is searching. Only then can an enquiry begin. And then alone can Vedanta help. Again, take Arjuna's case – Krishna had been his friend for so many years and yet never chose to clue him into the deeper meaning of life, even in the least bit. Not until Arjuna came to him in a spirit of surrender and asking for help was this teaching unfolded. The point is - efforts at spreading the message of vedanta to youth in a general way or a mass-marketing if you will may not necessarily be either appropriate or useful. Having said that the Gita does teach us how to live intelligently. It teaches the student to be objective in life, and this helps him or her to deal with the numerous situations- positive and negative - that he or she faces throughout the struggle and journey we call life. Fame/name are achieved not by seeking them for their sake but by dedicated and diligent hard work done efficiently and intelligently. This is exactly what the Gita's teachings help with. The best advice we can give students is to work hard, avoid complacency and laziness, value discipline, set lofty goals, dream big, and uphold ethics and values more than anything else. Life itself will lead them towards vedanta, if they remain true to their ideals.