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Lately I've been noticing how often people in my everyday life mention being proud of themselves or their loved ones for some good effort or action or being ashamed of themselves (or decrying others should be ashamed of themselves) for some lack of good effort or bad action. Even in court precedings, it seems judges take into account whether or not the convicted is "showing remorse" when sentencing. It seems to be considered a positive thing to display your pride or even your shame when appropriate.

In my studies of Buddhism so far, I don't really recall learning anything specific about pride and shame but have only a vague notion that these emotions don't seem very "Buddhist"; maybe being related to ego or judgement.

Did the Buddha teach anything about pride and shame? Are they ever considered positive mind states in Buddhism?

Thank you.

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    Regarding the Eight Worldly Dhammas you might want to check out "The Buddha and His Teachings". It has a large section on these dhammas in chapter 43. – Lanka Jun 27 '15 at 13:49
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    @Lanka, thank you! Looks like very interesting reading. – Robin111 Jun 27 '15 at 14:19
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Lokavipatti Sutta on the eight worldly winds:

Monks, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. Which eight? Gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions.

"For an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person there arise gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. For a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones there also arise gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. So what difference, what distinction, what distinguishing factor is there between the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones and the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person?"

"..the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person..he welcomes the arisen gain and rebels against the arisen loss. He welcomes the arisen status and rebels against the arisen disgrace. He welcomes the arisen praise and rebels against the arisen censure. He welcomes the arisen pleasure and rebels against the arisen pain. As he is thus engaged in welcoming & rebelling, he is not released from birth, aging, or death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, or despairs. He is not released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

"..the disciple of the Noble ones does not welcome the arisen gain, or rebel against the arisen loss. He does not welcome the arisen status, or rebel against the arisen disgrace. He does not welcome the arisen praise, or rebel against the arisen censure. He does not welcome the arisen pleasure, or rebel against the arisen pain. As he thus abandons welcoming & rebelling, he is released from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

"This is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing factor between the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones and the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person."

I suppose before we gain enlightenment equipoise or equanimity would be the appropriate response, then again use Upaya-kaushalya (skilful means), if you have the wisdom

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I believe what you are mentioning is called the "Eight Worldly Dhammas":

"These conditions are inconstant & impermanent.

Gain and Loss

Pleasure and Pain

Praise and Blame

Fame and Disrepute (status/disgrace)"


Ven. Yuttadhammo also writes about them in his book "Lessons In Practical Buddhism" in the chapter: Dangers, p. 12-24. Here is quote from the chapter:

"The third set of dangers are most important for a meditator to become familiar with so as to not be dissuaded from the goal because of them. The Buddha taught these dangers using the metaphor of crossing a body of water. Just as one attempting to cross a large body of water, much danger awaits for a meditator wishing to escape from samsara to the farther shore where safety and freedom from suffering are found. The four dangers the Buddha enumerated are

1) waves

2) crocodiles

3) whirlpools

4) sharks.

These are four dangers for one wishing to reach the farther shore. They are also metaphors for the dangers that may stop us from reaching peace, happiness and freedom from suffering.

The first danger, waves, is what the Buddha called the eight worldly dhammas, eight vicissitudes of life that we easily get caught up in, even though they are worldly things of no inherent benefit. When we come to practice meditation, we try to leave behind worldly things, doing away with our attachment and aversion to the ways of the world. If we get caught up in such things, they will toss us about like waves on the ocean, and may even drown us with their force. The eight worldly dhammas are fame and obscurity, praise and blame, gain and loss, and happiness and suffering. When we are famous, or have high status in society, it is easy to get caught up and proud of it. Some people become addicted to fame, constantly thinking of ways to become better-known or rise up in social status. Such people become devastated if they find themselves without status or fame, and thus are tossed about chasing after the peak of the next wave. Even meditators may succumb to such danger, letting their minds wander into thoughts of becoming famous or successful in the worldly sphere.

Likewise, when we receive praise, we can easily become caught up in it, addicted to the esteem of others, and tossed about whenever we receive dispraise. Some meditators become angry and obstinate when criticized by their teachers, refusing to listen and even leaving the meditation centre without finishing their training simply because of their inability to withstand criticism. Others become caught up in their worldly accomplishments, relishing the praise that comes from involvement in the world, and so are unable to focus their minds on meditation, thinking only of the pleasure that comes from being among those who shower them with praise.

Gain as well can be a great hindrance to meditation if one worries about ones possessions or if craving for new possessions arises. Some monks become dissatisfied with the monastic life because of their remembrance of pleasant experiences when they were lay people. Some monks become infatuated with the lives of lay people and give rise to craving for what seems to be a life of happiness as compared to the difficult life of a monk. Some monks are even enticed by rich lay supporters to disrobe, with the promise of marriage or financial support once they disrobe. Likewise, those meditators who have much wealth will often fail to put out any real effort in the practice, unafraid as they are about the future, thinking that they are already safe and that their riches will protect them from all dangers. Often this prevents such people from even attending a meditation course, since they are unable to see the dangers that await even rich people if they are negligent."


They are also mentioned in verse 29 of "Nagarjuna's Letter to a Friend":

"29) O Realizer of the Transitory World.

Don't have as objects of your mind

The eight transitory things of the world:

Namely, material gain and no gain, happiness and unhappiness, Things nice to

Hear and not nice to hear, or praise and scorn. Be indifferent (toward them)".


Edit:

When reading your question again i see i misunderstood it a bit when reading first. Now i see that you are asking about the internally generated pride, e.g. because of ones own achievements and the like. I think that too can fall under "praising", here praising oneself.

Pride can be refered to the so called asmi-māna meaning the "I-am-conceit". Here the Buddha teaches that one can create a self on 3 levels: I am inferior, I am superior or I am equal. They are all wrong view since they refer to a self of some kind which is not to be found anywhere.

Also pride is one of the 10 fetters that are to be destroyed in order to reach Nibbana. According the palicanon.com pride vanishes completely only at the entrance to arahantship.


  • Thank you for reminding me about the "waves" analogy Lanka. While I was initially thinking more about an internal welling up of pride or shame rather than externally being praised or blamed; it really does amount to the same I think. :) – Robin111 Jun 6 '15 at 22:08
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    You are welcome. I have made an edit to the answer that might address the question more precise. – Lanka Jun 7 '15 at 9:45
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It would be useful to be very precise about what we mean by "pride" and "shame".

Wikipedia mentions these relevant terms from the Theravada Abhidharma tradition:

The unwholesome mental factors (akusala cetasikas) include:

  • Ahirika - lack of shame or disgust for doing evil
  • Anottappa - disregard for consequence, lack of shame for consequences
  • Māna - conceit or pride
  • Kukkucca - regret or remorse, shame of past mistakes or actions

The beautiful mental factors (sobhana cetasikas) include:

  • Sati - mindfulness
  • Hiri - shame or disgust at doing evil
  • Ottappa - regard for consequence, or shame for consequences
  • Looking at the Wikipedia article, Hiri seems to me more like "a preference to not feel remorse" and not for example "actively/actually feeling shame for past and present transgressions". – ChrisW Jun 6 '15 at 12:49
  • Hiri is not remorse. That's kukkucca. Hiri is feeling ashamed in a way that prevents one from doing evil. For example being ashamed of paedophilia – ruben2020 Jun 6 '15 at 12:55
  • For example if I avoid paedophilia then I have no cause to be ashamed of it, and so (having no cause to feel shame) I don't feel shame at doing evil: perhaps it's wanting to avoid shame that's skillful ... whereas doing wrong and feeling shame isn't skillful (and isn't what's meant by Hiri). – ChrisW Jun 6 '15 at 13:04
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    Maybe another way of looking at it is to feel disgusted or repulsed at the prospect of doing evil. – ruben2020 Jun 6 '15 at 13:11
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in court proceedings judges consider whether the convicted is "showing remorse"

The Bhikkhuni Sutta (that I mentioned in a comment a few days ago) says something,

Then the nun — getting up from her bed, arranging her upper robe over one shoulder, and bowing down with her head at Ven. Ananda's feet — said, "A transgression has overcome me, venerable sir, in that I was so foolish, so muddle-headed, and so unskilled as to act in this way. May my lord Ananda please accept this confession of my transgression as such, so that I may restrain myself in the future."

"Yes, sister, a transgression overcame you in that you were so foolish, so muddle-headed, and so unskilled as to act in this way. But because you see your transgression as such and make amends in accordance with the Dhamma, we accept your confession. For it is a cause of growth in the Dhamma & Discipline of the noble ones when, seeing a transgression as such, one makes amends in accordance with the Dhamma and exercises restraint in the future."

There is a lot about "confession" in the Vinaya: the breaking of various rules is described as "a fault of confession".

And this answer mentions that "skillful virtues have freedom from remorse as their purpose, freedom from remorse as their reward" etc. So a person's experiencing remorse might be seen as a motive or incentive for their not repeating the offence.

being proud of someone for some good effort or action or being ashamed

However Māna (pride or conceit) is variously seen as a "poison", as an "unwholesome mental factor", as a "fetter". I don't see "shame" mentioned explicitly (as wholesome or unwholesome), but I wonder if maybe shame is the same coin as pride: this comment suggests, not that "good" and "bad" actions don't exist, but that thinking "I am better" or "I am not as good" might indicate identity view or conceit.

On the other hand (to take a more positive view), "being proud of their loved one for some good effort or action" sounds like it could be related to this one of the brahmaviharas (which is a "positive mind state"):

Empathetic joy (Pāli and Sanskrit: muditā):
joy in the accomplishments of a person—oneself or another; sympathetic joy; "the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings."

See also answers to your question What is Right Action for a Buddhist regarding talking about personal success?

I mentioned this psychology experiment to my mum yesterday:

  • Children are given a task
  • At the end, praise some of the children for how clever they are; and praise others for how much effort they put into it
  • When you then give them another difficult task, the observed results were:

    • Those who had been praised as clever would abandon the new task, when they found it difficult and that they weren't making progress
    • Those who had been praised for persevering continued the task

Anyway I don't know in what context you've been hearing "proud" but something like that better side of "pride" might be seen in some words/phrases of the suttas: "well said!", "praised by the wise", "noble".

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