Pride – The Powerful Passion
Pride or ego is reputed to be the most powerful of our passions and the very last to leave us. The most dangerous aspect of pride is its subtlety. It has been described as a black ant on a black rock in the darkest of nights. This description is meant to convey the invisibility of pride.
The Masters often warn us that pride is so subtle that even thinking we are humble is a form of pride. Pride is vanity and it is also the awareness of the self, the I-ness – not the true self or the soul. Pride is about preserving the self that we are familiar with.
Pride is about self-interest and self-importance. It manifests in the form of us talking about ourselves, our achievements, our experiences, our successes, our failures, and our family. It also manifests in thinking that we are right and others are wrong. If someone offers us good advice, instead of assessing whether we should follow that advice or not, our pride steps in and we may question their right to give us advice. For example, if someone advises us to avoid watching violence on television as it might affect our meditation, and if we enjoy this type of programme, we are likely to challenge that person angrily.
Why do we often shoot the messenger? The messenger only conveys the message. Let us value the message and not condemn or judge the messenger. Let’s rather analyse the benefits of the message and take positive action.
Perhaps we are afraid of the truth because it strikes at the heart of our habits and practices and reveals our true character and weaknesses. It is our pride, our ego and our notion of always being right that stands in the way. This is the very reason that people never learn from their mistakes.
Pride prevents us from improving ourselves because we make the fatal assumption that we are right. The Masters tell us that pride’s fundamental assumption is its own infallibility. We don’t listen to others and won’t take any advice or criticism. The moment someone criticizes us we defend ourselves to prove we are right. Pride is that part of our thinking that makes us feel more important than others, and that we are right while others are wrong. Many ascetics, holy men, and swamis have, after years of sacrifice and deprivation, succumbed to the subtle passion of pride, despite their years of seclusion and discipline.
Pride is subtle – it cannot see itself because it sees nothing but self. It can never see its own imperfections. It sees its own shortcomings reflected in others while it imagines itself perfect.
Another subtle manifestation of pride is when we tell others what to do without being asked for our opinion. The big assumption is: “I am right!” This assumption leads to arguments, fights, disputes, wars and bloodshed. Yet its opposite – humility – leads to sharing, caring and serving.
We must not be afraid of the truth or the ideal, even if we are not practising it. We must remember that we are here in the creation because we are all imperfect and that we are all striving for the same goal.
Maharaj Charan Singh once said that Sant Mat presents the ideal so that we can strive for it. It doesn’t mean that those who follow Sant Mat always practise the ideal. We are all struggling souls and we are all striving to achieve the ideal. But if the ideal is not presented to us, what will we strive for?