World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


Pride And Egotism

The correlate of ignorance about Absolute Reality is pride and the inordinate preoccupation with one's own self. Pride and egoism blind one to recognizing transcendent Reality, or even to taking an accurate measure of oneself. Because of pride, a person thinks he is independent and cannot recognize that his very existence is dependent upon Ultimate Reality. He is blind to his relationships to other people, and neither can he conceive that there is a Deity who cares for him. In Christianity, pride is often regarded as the first step to the fall and rebellion against God. In Buddhism, grasping after the self and the sense of ego is the chief of all cravings and the deepest root of ignorance. In the Indic religions pride, like ignorance, is a fetter that binds humans to the wheel of rebirth. The passages collected below discuss pride as the cause of rebellion against God, as a hindrance to knowledge of Ultimate Reality, and as leading to improper estimation of oneself.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Judaism and Christianity. Proverbs 16.18

The mightily proud ultimately rot in their own arrogance.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Gauri Sukhmani 12, M.5, p. 278

Nay, but verily man is rebellious For he thinks himself independent. Lo! unto thy Lord is the return.

Islam. Qur'an 96.6-8

Proverbs 16.18: Cf. Matthew 23.12, p. 545; Erubin 13b, p. 545. Gauri Sukhmani 12, M.5: For more of this passage, see pp. 546 and 950. Cf. Bhagavad Gita 16.7-16, p. 397; 18.58, p. 685.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

Judaism and Christianity. Isaiah 5.21

Selfishness may be sweet only for oneself, but no harmony of the whole can come from it.

Tenrikyo. Osashizu

We say that "Good" and "Harmony," and "Evil" and "Disharmony," are synonymous. Further we maintain that all pain and suffering are results of want of Harmony, and that the one terrible and only cause of the disturbance of Harmony is selfishness in some form or another.

Theosophy. Helena Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy

He who makes his thought better and worse, O Wise One, Better and worse his conscience, by deed and by word, He follows his leanings, his wishes, his likings. In thy mind's force, at the end of times, he shall be set apart.

Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 48.4

Turn not your cheek in scorn toward folk, nor walk with pertness in the land. Lo! God loves not each braggart boaster. Be modest in your bearing and subdue your voice. Lo! the harshest of all voices is the voice of the ass.

Islam. Qur'an 31.18-19

But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked; you waxed fat, you grew thick, you became sleek; then he forsook God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.

Judaism and Christianity. Deuteronomy 32.15

I know that Western culture is characterized by individualism. However, selfish individualism is doomed. Sacrificial individualism will blossom. Individuality in itself is good. God gave each of us a unique way to serve. But individualism without God can only build castles on the sands of decay.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 10-20-73

Isaiah 5.21: See Proverbs 3.5-6, p. 752; Luke 18.10-14, p. 902; cf. Bhagavad Gita 16.7-16, p. 397. Key to Theosophy: Cf. Sun Myung Moon,10-20-73, p. 467. Qur'an 31.18-19: Cf. Samanasuttam 135-36, p. 912; Doctrine of the Mean 33, p. 912. Deuteronomy 32.15: Cf. 1 Timothy 6.10, p. 420; James 4.13-16, p. 913. Sun Myung Moon, 10-20-73: Cf. Philippians 2.3-4, p. 915.

Nzame [God] is on high, man is on the earth. Yeye O, Yalele, God is God, man is man. Everyone in his house, everyone for himself.

African Traditional Religions. Fang Tradition (Gabon)

Like a traveller on earth, overstuffed with pride, Committing innumerable sins, in maya-hues dyed, beings Sunk in avarice, attachment, and pride are ruined. Forgetful of death, involved with progeny, companions, worldly transactions, wife, Is their life passed.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Jaitsari Chhant, M.5, p. 705

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, whose dwelling is high, who say in your heart, "Who will bring me down to the ground?" Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, thence I will bring you down, says the Lord.

Judaism and Christianity. Obadiah 3-4

For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up and high; against all the cedars of Lebanon lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; against all the high mountains and against all the lofty hills; against every high tower, and against every fortified wall; against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft. And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the pride of men shall be brought low; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

Judaism and Christianity. Isaiah 2.12-17

Fang Tradition: This selection is taken from a creation story, and describes the rebellion of primal man as springing from a false sense of of God's remoteness and man's independence. Jaitsari Chhant M.5: Cf. Shalok, M.9, p. 390. Obadiah 3-4: This passage is an indictment of the Edomites, who thought their fortresses in the high cliffs were impenetrable. Cf. 1 Samuel 2.4-9, pp. 545f.; Qur'an 89.6-14, p. 1086. Isaiah 2.12-17: Cf. 1 Samuel 2.4-9, pp. 545f.; Matthew 3.12, p. 545; Erubin 13b, p. 545; Isaiah 24.18-23, p. 1098.

All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.

Judaism and Christianity. Isaiah 64.6

If you desire to obtain help, put away pride. Even a hair of pride shuts you off, as if by a great cloud.

Shinto. Oracle of Kasuga

The Buddha restrained Shariputra, "If I preach this matter [the Lotus Sutra], all the gods, men, and asuras in all the worlds shall be alarmed, and the arrogant monks shall fall into a great trap. Indeed...

My dharma is subtle and hard to imagine. Those of overweening pride, If they hear it, shall surely neither revere it nor believe in it."

Yet Shariputra again addressed the Buddha, "I beseech you to preach, I beseech you to preach!..." [The Buddha, prevailed upon by Shariputra, began to teach, but as he began,] in the assembly monks, nuns, lay brothers, and lay sisters to the number of five thousand straightway rose from their seats and, doing obeisance to the Buddha, withdrew. For what reason? This group had deep and grave roots of sin and overweening pride, imagining themselves to have attained and to have borne witness to what in fact they had not. Having such faults as these, therefore they did not stay. The World-honored One, silent, did not restrain them.

The Buddha declared to Shariputra, "My assembly has no more branches and leaves, it has only firm fruit. It is just as well that such arrogant ones as these have withdrawn. Now listen well, for I will preach to you."

Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 2

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does a holy one say within himself, 'I have obtained Perfective Enlightenment?'" Subhuti replied, "No, World-honored One... If a holy one of Perfective Enlightenment said to himself, 'Such am I,' he would necessarily partake of the idea of an ego-identity, a personality, a being, a separated individuality."

Buddhism. Diamond Sutra 9

Isaiah 64.6: This passage was originally a complaint by certain Israelites that they were being shunned by society despite their faithfulness to God. But in the Christian tradition, it been understood as an exclamation of the worthlessness of worldly fame or knowledge as mere pretense in the presence of the divine majesty. Oracle of Kasuga: Cf. Sutta Nipata 798, p. 65; Sutra of Hui Neng 6, p. 399. The grand shrine of Kasuga, in Nara prefecture, is one of Japan's oldest Shinto shrines. Lotus Sutra 2: The Buddha seeks to weed out the prideful and retain only sincere disciples before he begins to preach the wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sutra. Cf. Sutta Nipata 798, p. 65. Diamond Sutra 9: Cf. Dhammapada 63, p. 915; Tao Te Ching 71, p. 915; Shinran, pp. 913f.

Shun all pride and jealousy. Give up all idea of "me" and "mine".... As long as there is consciousness of diversity and not of unity in the Self, a man ignorantly thinks of himself is a separate being, as the "doer" of actions and the "experiencer" of effects. He remains subject to birth and death, knows happiness and misery, is bound by his own deeds, good or bad.

Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.4

He who has in his heart faith equal to a single grain of mustard seed will not enter hell, and he who has in his heart as much pride as a grain of mustard seed will not enter paradise.

Islam. Hadith of Muslim

Where egoism exists, Thou are not experienced, Where Thou art, is not egoism. You who are learned, expound in your mind this inexpressible proposition.

Sikhism. Maru-ki-Var, M.1, p. 1092

In thinking, "This is I" and "That is mine," he binds himself with his self, as does a bird with a snare.

Hinduism. Maitri Upanishad 3.2

Travelling powerless, like a bucket travelling in a well: First with the thought "I," misconceiving the self, Then, arising attachment to things with the thought "mine."

Buddhism. Candrakirti, Madhyamakavatara 3

Not knowing the consequence of good and evil karmas, he is afflicted and hurt. Nevertheless, he, due to his egotism, piles up [more] karmas and undergoes births and deaths again and again.

Jainism. Acarangasutra 2.55-56

The fool who thinks he is wise is called a fool indeed.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 63

Hadith of Muslim: Cf. Hadith of Bukhari, p. 911; Bhagavad Gita 18.58, p. 685. Maitri Upanishad 3.2: Cf. Digha Nikaya ii.276, p. 390; Bhagavad Gita 2.71, p. 896. Madhyamakavatara 3: Candrakirti (ca. 560-640) wrote the Madhyamakavatara to explain Nagarjuna's view of sunyata. It consists of twelve chapters. Following the Dashabhumi Sutra, the first ten chapters explain the ten stages of perfections leading to the Buddha-wisdom, and the final two chapters explain the stages of Bodhisattva and of Buddha. Cf. Sutta Nipata 205-6, p. 914.

If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me: If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.

Judaism and Christianity. Job 9.20

Whoever proclaims himself good, know, goodness approaches him not.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Gauri Sukhmani 12, M.5, p. 278

Confucius said, A faultless man I cannot hope ever to meet; the most I can hope for is to meet a man of fixed principles. Yet where all around I see Nothing pretending to be Something, Emptiness pretending to be Fullness, Penury pretending to be Affluence, even a man of fixed principles will be none too easy to find.

Confucianism. Analects 7.25

He who tiptoes cannot stand; He who strides cannot walk. He who shows himself is not conspicuous; He who considers himself right is not illustrious; He who brags will have no merit; He who boasts will not endure. From the point of view of the Way, these are like "excessive food and useless excrescences" Which all creatures detest. He who has the Way does not abide in them.

Taoism. Tao Te Ching 24

Pride has seven forms:

Boasting that one is lower than the lowly, Or equal with the equal, or greater than Or equal to the lowly Is called the pride of selfhood.

Boasting that one is equal to those Who by some quality are better than oneself Is the pride of being superior. Thinking That one is higher than the extremely high,

Who fancy themselves to be superior, Is pride greater than pride; Like an abscess in a tumor It is very vicious.

Conceiving an "I" through ignorance In the five empty [aggregates] Which are called the appropriation Is said to be the pride of thinking "I."

Thinking one has won fruits not yet Attained is pride of conceit. Praising oneself for faulty deeds Is known by the wise as wrongful pride.

Deriding oneself, thinking "I am senseless," is called The pride of lowliness. Such briefly are the seven prides.

Buddhism. Nagarjuna, Precious Garland 406-12

Gauri Sukhmani 12, M.5: See Gauri Sukhmani, M.5, p. 950. Analects 7.25: Cf. Chuang Tzu 1, p. 916. Tao Te Ching 24: Cf. Tao Te Ching 71, p. 915.


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