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Sometimes I can see myself feeling superior to others because of what I know and they don't . I know that it is my ego which raises it head and is active at the moment. I also see persons, who are successful in profession, business, sports display show of superiority just to break the opponent's composure. Often ego needs bolstering and acknowledgement to survive the life's challenges. My question is how to achieve the balance without pampering the ego and without showing disrespect to others, by own accomplishment, knowledge, possession, gender, class etc and carry on.

  • A related question (whose answers you might find interesting): How are 'conceit' and 'identity-view' not the same? This isn't a duplicate, though, because that question asked "what is?" and this question is asking "how to?" – ChrisW Jul 28 '16 at 13:04
  • would help to know if you are coming from a theravada, mahayana, meditation, practice – user2512 Jul 28 '16 at 14:03
  • as what i've read usually links spiritual pride to thinking you are equal to a buddha, or due to supernormal powers. i think there may be some overlap with the meditative absorptions too, but can't quite recall and am away from books – user2512 Jul 28 '16 at 14:14
  • lay buddhist, no particular school – 8CK8 Jul 29 '16 at 7:10
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This is perhaps due to seeing your journey on the path as "self improvement". Chögyam Trungpa wrote a book addressing this exact issue: Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism that I have found to be very helpful in providing insight to this trap.

Ultimately, the spiritual path involves awakening the mind and eliminating ego. "Bolstering" the ego may seem to help but often results in allowing the ego to use spirituality to reinforce its own power over your mind.

If we become successful at maintaining our self-consciousness through spiritual techniques, then genuine spiritual development is highly unlikely. Our mental habits become so strong as to be hard to penetrate. We may even go so far as to achieve the totally demonic state of complete "Egohood".

Also from this book:

Retreat to nature, isolation, simple, quiet, high people-- all can be ways of shielding oneself from irritation, all can be expressions of the Lord of Form.

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  • When an answer is a reference (to a book or other resource), we usually ask that you also summarize or quote from the reference (beyond what you already wrote: that a cause of the problem is "seeing your journey on the path as self-improvement"). Ideally that (a bit of summary or quote) might: a) Help to make it a more self-contained answer b) Explain how the answer is correct (show how the reference answers the question) c) Help readers decide whether they might find it helpful to acquire and read the reference. Does the book say much about "what to do about it"? How is it "very helpful"? :-) – ChrisW Jul 28 '16 at 15:08
  • @ChrisW, thank you for your helpful suggestion. I have edited my answer and hopefully it is more informative. – Steve H. Jul 28 '16 at 15:25
  • ego is one aspect – 8CK8 Jul 29 '16 at 7:09
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One'd use the same approach to solve the problem like everything else in life: first is to get a clear understanding about the nature of that problem, then spend time to contemplate, and finally apply the proper methodology to solve it. So, the first thing to investigate is to clearly understand the nature of that "feeling of superiority". The Buddha taught about it in quite a few suttas here.

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In his book “Further Along the Road Less Traveled: Self-love Versus Self-esteem”, M. Scott Peck talks about the difference between the two. In it he says that one being in love with one’s self esteem is NOT a good thing. A person being in love with oneself is good. It is an overall self-acceptance of who one is as a person, despite all of the foibles and faults.

In the scriptures - especially in the fourth chapter of the Suttanipāta I it says that it is not good to even grasp/cling onto one’s sense of goodness, because such clinging only reinforces identifying with self-view. It only leads to moral superiority or in other words one’s self esteem. So instead we should have thoughts on the superiority of the Dhamma, as nothing excels Dhamma. So even when discussing of our own experiences it is good to refer /writing in third person (writing from the third person point of view).

Say for example, an individual who meditates inquires from a friend “How is your practice? How are you doing? Depending on the answer one will feel inferior, and the other will feel superior. Did the result of such a conversation be beneficial to either one of them? The Arahant are the only ones who have eliminated all types of conceit. Not only the superiority and the inferiority complex, but the complex one of feeling equal (seyya mana, hinamana Sadisamana).

So if you get a chance to read M. Scott Pecks books like People of the Lie and The Road Less Traveled, etc. you will be able to distinguish between Narcissism and self-love.

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I will answer honestly, with my impressions from what I've read, in translation.

I've read some monks say that buddhism is good for the ego, but there's just no way that they can mean the competitive ego that strives to be better than others. Maybe mindfulness can help with that, but the entire practice of buddhism is, like Abrahamic religion can seem to be, based on humility and respect.

You do have the recorded sayings of zen masters, but these are performed in a tightly knit community of monks. Sure they are competing, and it is perhaps quite similar to highly aesthetic game, but the goal is found in the bodhisattva vows (to save all sentient beings through your own efforts), at near any cost.

In no way am I saying you don't get anything at all, but would suggest that if "what I know" is about the dharma, the best response is "no merit"; abandon some of your ideas!!

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I practice the Zen tradition so I believe once you realise the meaning of emptiness then one is able to understand that the concepts of superiority or inferiority, are the result of the deluded mind creating separation.

It reminds me of the famous Bodhidarma talk with emperor Wu:

The emperor told Bodhidharma that he had built temples and given financial support to the monastic community, and asked the patriarch how much merit he had gained for these actions. Bodhidharma replied, "None whatsoever." Perplexed, the emperor then asked the eminent monk who he was to tell him such things, to which he answered, "I don't know."

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