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I'm wondering how Buddhism deals with the comparison of oneself with others, and I'm specifically thinking in terms of accomplishments. For example, I have usually had some success in art fields in my life. I now am in a setting where many people have similar, or greater talent. I can't help but compare myself to them, and this causes suffering.

Similarly, I tend to compare myself to others generally, in many ways. I am aware it is bad to do so, but I cannot help myself in engaging in that process.

Is there any way to make the comparisons cease? What does Buddhism teach about this?

If comparing is conceit, many of the answers to How are 'conceit' and 'identity-view' not the same? seem to advocate merely watching mindfully the arising and passing away of the aggregates to extinguish conceit. Would this be the recognized ways of diminishing the presence of conceit?

If any practice could be recommended it would be much appreciated.

Thank you for any reply.

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    Sounds like you just described 7th fetter, mana or conceit ; i am better, equal , or worse than other.. this is a problem for those with high pay grade (anagami). I read that to use the same method as lower fetters which are panna (wisdom-ceto vimutti or panna vimutti). – user5056 Oct 4 '17 at 4:26
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    See also How are 'conceit' and 'identity-view' not the same? where the answers and comments talk about "conceit". Ven. Yuttadhammo had a (IMO funny) video, where he said when he first started as a monk he expected to "a great monk, better than those other monks". After a first year he decided he hadn't been that great, but that now he was great. Some years later he says he now thinks of himself as "just a monk". – ChrisW Oct 4 '17 at 8:25
  • In the answers of the post ChrisW has listed, they seem (in the two main replies) to advocate merely watching mindfully the arising and passing away of the aggregates to extinguish conceit. Would this be the recognized ways of diminishing the presence of conceit? – Eggman Oct 4 '17 at 11:47
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    @ Eggman. i think so. Wisdom in Buddhism is broken down into 2 types (ceto vimutti and panna vimutti) Basically Ceto vimutti is not clinging to 5 skanda, you have the ability to let it go whatever thrown at you, nothing sticks. That compares to Panna vimutti, you see it thru and thru that everything is impermanent and subject to destruction. And with that knowledge, not clinging to it is automatic. it is dhamma or nature of it. I put this in comment because it is heavily my opinion. – user5056 Oct 4 '17 at 17:55
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Actually start, not stop to compare yourself with others! , but only with the wise, if looking for a longer lasting good.

It's against the mainstream believe totally not wrong to compare "oneself" to others, Eggman, according to the teachings of the Buddha and the path going beyond comparing individuals.

If looking and reading the Suttas one will not find many places where not good or bad samples are used for orientation purposes. Path to liberation is all about learning how and what to judge.

Others then in usually wordily regards the objectivity does not focus on material thing to be compared, but virtues, and while ordinary man judges in the frame of gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. (the 8 worldily Dhammas on which the world turns around), a Dhammika (one following the path, "Buddhist") look for orientation amoung the seven treasures. Which seven?

The treasure of conviction, the treasure of virtue, the treasure of conscience, the treasure of concern, the treasure of listening, the treasure of generosity, the treasure of discernment...

That means that one goes after, associate with virtuose people and compares ones own deeds, and this is importand, with people seemingly having such virtues. But like when one seeks for orientation for material skills, one tries not to do it in a battle way, but by reducing to regard individuals. One compares action and tendencies.

When ever there is much notion of "I" and "you", it gives much rise to envy, issa.

That is the result of conceit, and conceit (mānā) ends only for an Arahat totally. A big amout of this notion of comparing in the three conceit-full ways "better I am", "lower I am" but also "equal I am", falls with the reach of the Stream and the lose of personal-views (sat/k kaya ditthi).

Todays popullar notion "equal are we" is in fact most dangerous, because it forms even bigger groups (kayas) as if as individual for identification.

For the daily live with material items to trade, one of course needs to compare certain gains of others, but if wise one puts also the factor "in what way was this gained", in therms of virtues, into it, gives that more and more value for orientation. "How does he find so much peace while merely poor", for example.

How ever, envy, jealousy, does not end at the point when going even a total spirital way and the best description of what is really and most worthy to compare with, is given in the Cula Saropama Sutta: The Shorter Heartwood-simile Discours

So again, it's not bad at all, but foolish if one puts it more or lesser into such as a lasting person and it's qualities, when knowing that the 8 Wordily-Dhammas are not for sure and change sometimes very quick. So it's good the seek after the possession of the seven treasures, with what one does not only have a good and legitime source for ones healthy selfestimate but also would not be easy excelt by material things. At least, who ever had not found the real heart-wood, will not be perfect and secure, aside of all needs for comparisons, beyond.

One compares oneself not to put others down, but to possible learn from them, become equal, seeing that this also does not lead to lasting ease and searches again for better, till on possible sees and recognice Noble ones, listen to their Dhamma and by understanding loses the gross problems of comparisons of the world, able to even be an island for oneself.

Aside the "Self" and the Devas and gods, admirable friends are always good for comparing oneself, and should be ones govering principles all the time.

And to add a short note on "watching the aggregats", if not having accomplished the treasures, is not really possible to do such, so it is good to compare oneself in regard of generousity, moral and their virtues first, become as good as possible equal with that of the Noble Ones. There then is the place to enter the stream.

May this brief talk about a big issue, as well as the advices to a "youngster" in this manner be of understanding it and with it a help for those able to take.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other wordily gains.]

  • if wise one puts also the factor "in what way was this gained" I like the way that's phrased in the Bhikkhuni Sutta (AN 4.159) -- I think it's clear. – ChrisW Oct 4 '17 at 12:08
  • Yes, what ever food is used to go beyond desrie for food, either in form or mind, kama-raga, bhava-raga. "In what way it is used/gained" is still a pulling conceit, if putting a peron into it. Judging without putting individualls into it is the difference between the judgement of an awakened mind and that of a wordily. From outward it might look as gross conceit, when hearing or reading such speaking, @ChrisW – Samana Johann Oct 4 '17 at 12:17
  • So its not importand that many or normal judge one: In the Eyes of the Wise-The Buddha’s Teachings on Honor & Shame – Samana Johann Oct 4 '17 at 12:22
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    I meant the paragraph about how conceit is relied on: by hearing of someone of high attainment, and hearing how (the method by which) he attained that, and thinking "I hope that I, too... [by following the same method, may attain that result]". – ChrisW Oct 4 '17 at 12:27
  • That "by following the same deeds" does not involve conceit, other than if one would say "I hope to find... like you" (the pains of the "Bodhisattas", if Chris understands). Sadhu for the good sample of "just judging deeds" for a good way to a more or lesser valuable aim, maybe even a lasting "product". Nyom @ChrisW – Samana Johann Oct 4 '17 at 12:31
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Further to Samana Johann's answer, I wanted to add...

Buddhism does have things to say about comparing oneself with others.

I think that it (i.e. the Buddhism which I understand from the Pali canon) recommends that you should compare, that you should be discriminating (about whether people are good or bad), that you should try to associate with good people; emulate and learn from, follow, good people; avoid bad people, and so on.

In advice to lay-people, for example, there's this answer about choosing a marriage partner. And there's the Sigalovada Sutta which has a long section about good and bad friends.

And, in advice for spiritual development, there's the concept of the admirable friend, for example:

As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie."

"Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.

In the answers to How are 'conceit' and 'identity-view' not the same? people said that "comparing" is a symptom of "conceit" ... and that conceit is one of the very last fetters (I won't try to explain that now).

But I think it's worth noting that "conceit" seems to be explicitly identified as essential, in one of the suttas, the Bhikkhuni Sutta:

'This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.'

Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears,

'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now.'

The thought occurs to him,

'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now. Then why not me?'

Then he eventually abandons conceit, having relied on conceit.

'This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.'

Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said.

If I can interpret it, a thought like "Why not me?" and "I can compare myself to him" or "I am or should or could like him, and do or behave as he does" is what makes it conceit.

What makes it useful is, as mentioned in Samana Johann's answer ...

wise one puts also the factor "in what way was this gained"

... in other words you ask yourself, how is it that this person who I admire has attained that admirable state? So in the sutta I quoted, for example, the thought-train includes understanding how the other person did it ("through the ending of the fermentations") and thus sees what needs to be done in order to be successful.


Also you wrote,

I now am in a setting where many people have similar, or greater talent. I can't help but compare myself to them, and this causes suffering.

I guess you're talking about jealousy or envy or something like that.

There is another doctrine in Buddhism, i.e. the Brahma-viharas:

These four attitudes are said to be excellent or sublime because they are the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings (sattesu samma patipatti). They provide, in fact, the answer to all situations arising from social contact. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. They level social barriers, build harmonious communities, awaken slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revive joy and hope long abandoned, and promote human brotherhood against the forces of egotism.

The Brahma-viharas are incompatible with a hating state of mind, ...

In this case I'm thinking especially of mudita i.e. taking joy in someone else's being happy or skillful or successful; for example:

When unselfish joy grows, many noxious weeds in the human heart will die a natural death (or will, at least, shrink): jealousy and envy, ill will in various degrees and manifestations, cold-heartedness, miserliness (also in one's concern for others), and so forth.

I expect that mudita can be developed or brought into being by conscious meditation, i.e. people practice "metta-bhavana" meditation and you might presumably practice "mudita-bhavana" too.


This doesn't answer the question at all, of how to stop comparing yourself. Instead it talks about how to make use of it, and how to live with it.

  • Sadhu (expression of comfirming, approve) & mudita (sympatic joy with the gain of others, with the gain of benefits, by there goodness in deeds)! – Samana Johann Oct 5 '17 at 10:47
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First of all, comparing oneself to others provides no insight into ones own karma. Secondly, the impulse to compare oneself to others is actually an issue related to self-esteem (valuing oneself or love for oneself), which, in turn, related to how much love one experienced during childhood. Hence, a person feels inferior to others because he feels unlovable. A person feels superior to others in order to feel more lovable than others. A person feels equal to others in order to feel at least equally lovable. Ultimately, the only way to overcome this dilemma is to become a deeply loving person and knowing the value of your love. This is how infants feel until they are put down or abused.

  • Ronald Cowen: many of your answers fall in line with my experience, on this post or others. I sometimes experience states of extreme emotion (being moved) and compassionate feelings, but for the vast majority of my life, they are absolutely absent. The affective feeling-toned dimension of my life is almost completely null. Do you have any suggestions about this? – Eggman Oct 6 '17 at 0:40

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