Subtle Dangers of Pride

By Desmond Yeoh SC

Most of us do not see pride as something bad because, apparently, we do not really harm anyone else due to pride. Some may argue that pride is a virtue because it motivates us to strive to achieve our full potential. But if pride is a virtue, why is it that in Kundalini Yoga, pride is taught to be a blockage in our third eye chakra? This means that pride is an obstacle which we need to transcend in order to achieve self-realisation. This article seeks to clarify this point.

When we are praised, our pride makes us feel wonderful and at times, blissful. As we receive more praises, we become more pleased with ourselves. However, as we become more attached to praises, we also become more sensitive to negative things said about us. This is a trap which pride sets for us. A drug dealer will give a victim free drugs and once the victim gets addicted, he will extract the full price for the victim! This is how pride works.

Our mind is more sensitive to negative circumstances than positive ones. A praise can make us feel good for a short while, but an insult may trouble our mind for days. A single insult can nullify all the praises one recently received. If we do not want to be too sensitive to negative things said about us, we must first learn to let go of our attachments to praises. Whenever we feel proud because of a praise, we should remind ourselves about the dangers which pride entails. Unless we let go of pride, we will not be able to let go of the negative emotions triggered by insults.

Pride can rob us of contentment. We strive for more and more to attain the rush of pride that comes with achievements or success. The Dalai Lama said, “Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it”. In the name of success, we chase after achievements in order to feel proud of ourselves, sacrificing our health and relationships in order to do so. Even when we already have more than we can spend within one lifetime, we continue to struggle in order to feed our pride. We can never feel contented.

True success arises from a motivation that transcend One’s pride. A person who exemplifies this is a tycoon named Robert Kuok. A close friend, Tim Dumas, once asked him, “Why do you want to go on battling the odds in the business world, Robert? You’ve made your pile. Why don’t you retire?” Robert Kuok explained, “Tim, can’t you see we come from two different worlds? The British Empire spanned the world; wherever the sun rose, there was a Union flag fluttering in the breeze. You had colonies for over 200 years. Even today, Britain punches above its weight because of that history. I belong to a developing Southeast Asia. And now there is China, the land of my parents and ancestors. As long as I can still contribute, I cannot rest.”[1] Robert Kuok is driven by compassion, not pride, in the process of expanding his business empire. He wanted to improve the well-being of the citizens of Malaysia and China through his business empire.

The more pride one has, the more easily is one offended. I read in the news recently of a multi-millionaire getting himself in hot soup for assaulting a car attendant because the car attendant did not show him enough respect. We cannot learn humility without first letting go of pride. The famous Buddhist text called “Lamrin” teaches that the main cause of our suffering is the view that `I’ am more important that others. Pride deludes us to think that we are more important than others, thus inducing us to mistreat others, and thus accumulate negative karma.

Not all arguments are worth it. If we analyse all our past arguments with others, we can see that most of them are pointless. It really does not matter whether we win or lose the argument. The end result is the same. In some cases, the result would have been better had we not gotten into the fight in the first place. Nevertheless, we get into those arguments because of pride. We just do not like to lose. If we have the strength and wisdom to back away from arguments, our life would be much more peaceful. We will live a longer life.

Pride can also cause us to miss valuable opportunities presented to us. It may block us from learning from a wise person because we think that the teacher does not deserve our attention. It may cause us to turn down a job opportunity because we think that the job is below us, but the job could have been a jumping board to something great. Pride may block us from learning from a wise friend because we think that he is not as successful as us. In a disagreement, pride prevents us from really listening to the point of view of the other party and thus causing us to lose deals that could have been closed had we been readier to listen and compromise.

Pride is clearly an obstacle on our spiritual path because it can deprive us of inner-peace in so many ways. Because its negative effects are so subtle and indirect, very few notice them. Fewer still see these negative effects as problematic. Even advanced spiritual practitioners find it difficult to overcome this cunning enemy named Pride. To defeat Pride, we must watch ourselves vigilantly and see the harm that it brings us. Only through constants observation of the subtle suffering caused by Pride; can we hope to have a chance of overcoming it. Pride truly deserves our full attention.

[1] From the “Memoirs of Robert Kuok”

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