Pride and Selfishness — Cause of Sins

Hari Om

It is said in the Bhagavad-gita (16.04), that pride is a characteristic of the unholy.

Pride is caused by the misconception that we permanently own the things that we only temporarily possess (selfish attitude) : talents, gifts and abilities, positions and possessions. Pride infatuates us with our temporary possessions and sends us off on a dangerous ego trip, that is propelled by the imagination that we are superior to others and independent of God.

The ride that pride takes us on is dangerous from the beginning to the end. From the moment we become proud, we sentence ourselves to loneliness and insecurity. We feel lonely because our very desire for superiority alienates us from those around us as well as from the Lord. We feel insecure because of the fear that our sources of pride can and will be taken away from us at some time or the other. Hoping to get rid of the insecurity, we bury our fears by increasing our external bluff and pomp. Tragically, this only increases our loneliness, which in turn makes us more insecure, thereby creating a vicious cycle.

The journey of pride is even more perilous in the end. It is, because when pride unceremoniously dumps us off, that is, when we lose our sources of pride, we wake up to the horrifying reality that we have hugely alienated ourselves from all those who loved us – including especially God.

That’s why it’s best to never climb aboard the ride of pride – or to get off as soon as we realize what we have got into. The wisdom from Bhagavad-gita makes this easier by offering us a far better ride: the ride back to the Godhead Sri Krishna in the plane of devotional service. Once we experience the intimacy and the security of Lord Krishna’s presence in our heart, pride can no longer entice or attract us.

dambho darpo ’bhimānaśh cha krodhaḥ pāruṣhyam eva cha

ajñānaṁ chābhijātasya pārtha sampadam āsurīm – B. G (16.4)

Meaning: Pride, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness and ignorance are the qualities which belong to those of demoniac (devilish) nature, O son of Partha.

Pride is the love and estimation man has for himself beyond measure. Every man should have a proper pride in himself as a creature of God, an heir of everlasting life, and so maintain his dignity and self-respect, not degenerating into buffoonery, and making himself a laughing-stock to men.

But Pride must be within due limits. Let no man think more highly of himself than he ought to think.

There are five ways in which Pride may become excessive and sinful.

(a) When a man is puffed up with self-esteem because of the natural gifts he has received, as though they came from himself, and were not the unmerited gift of God. Thus a girl may become vain and conceited because she has good hair or eyes, and is esteemed a beauty. A man because he has wealth. He becomes purse-proud. Or because he has great abilities. Or because he has great strength and health. This leads to vain boasting, to an insolent demeanour, to great self-opinionativeness.

(b) When a man regards what successes he has met with as due to his merits. Success may be, and probably is, due in most cases to frugality, sound judgment, caution at one time and daring at another; but there is ever in it an element of the unforeseen, due to God’s ordering. Moreover, the good qualities, the prudence, frugality, and so on, in the man are the growth of good elements implanted in him by God. A man must always acknowledge God as the Giver of all good things, recognize His hand in the inception and the carrying out of whatever succeeds, and must not attribute it solely to himself. The thought of self drives the thought of God out of the mind.

(c) When a man boasts himself of what he has not. When, that is, in order to flatter his self-pride before others, he pretends to be, or to have what he is not, or has not got. Thus living under false appearances, living beyond one’s income, are due to Pride.

(d) When a man despises others. Every man who looks down on, disparages, and regards others as common and vile, is guilty of Pride.

The rich have no occasion to despise the poor, those of one social class to talk contemptuously of those of another, or as being common people, as Nobodies. With God nothing is common, and not one of His creatures is a Nobody.

(e) Moreover, it is possible to sin through pride if those who have committed no mortal sins despise such as have sinned. Spiritual Pride is the worst kind of Pride.

Pride produces a good many children, all bad when overgrown:

(a) Ambition : The desire to distinguish oneself above others. Harmless when moderate, evil when excessive.

(b) Vain-glory : The desire to make parade of those qualities one has, and to attribute to oneself qualities one has not. Always bad.

(c) Ostentation : The affectation of making display of those advantages we possess—wealth, cleverness, knowledge, &c. Always not only bad, but vulgar.

(d) Contempt for others, leading to disparaging what is good in others, and exaggerating their faults. Never other than bad.

(e) Presumption, which impels to attempt what is beyond one’s powers. It is not wrong to have self-confidence in what one has. It is wrong when one presumes on what one has not.

(f) Hypocrisy, which seeks to show to the world a better face than what one really has, to pretend to be what one is not. Ever bad.

(g) Obstinacy, which follows self-determination as if that must be right; and a stubbornness which does not suffer a man to give way when his reason has been convinced that he is wrong.

(h) Disobedience, which follows on self-conceit, making a man follow his own wishes and opinions, and disobey just commands, because he desires independence, or because he despises his superiors and those in authority over him (Excerpts from “Conscience and Sin”)

GF’ Blessings.