Vanity

Vanity defined: Excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements; narcissism.

There are so many things about which we can be vain: youth, health, physical beauty, academic accomplishments, particular talents, family heritage, social skills, etc. We can easily grab onto a quality that we consider special and build an identity around it. Then we have to keep the idea of our greatness intact with regular reinforcement and defense against criticism. Vanity can act as a wall between ourselves and others.

Being vain about anything requires that we participate in “comparing mind”.

…The Blessed One then said to Sona the householder’s son:
Sona, when any ascetics and brahmins, on the basis of form – which is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change – regard themselves thus: ‘I am superior’, or ‘I am equal’, or ‘I am inferior’, what is that due to apart from not seeing things as they really are?
When any ascetics and brahmins, on the basis of feeling…[repeated as above. Also on the bases of perception, volitional formations, and consciousness]…regard themselves thus: ‘I am superior’, or ‘I am equal’, or ‘I am inferior’, what is that due to apart from not seeing things as they really are?

Sona, when any ascetics and brahmins do not, on the basis of form – which is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change – regard themselves thus: ‘I am superior’, or ‘I am equal’, or ‘I am inferior’, what is that due to apart from seeing things as they really are?
When any ascetics and brahmins do not, on the basis of feeling…[repeated as above; likewise with perception, volitional formations, and consciousness] regard themselves thus: ‘I am superior’, or ‘I am equal’, or ‘I am inferior’, what is that due to apart from seeing things as they really are?

…Therefore, Sona, any kind of form [feeling, perception, volitional formations, or consciousness] whatsoever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all form [feeling, perception, mental formations, consciousness] should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’
– from SN 22.49, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi

So we are invited to check ourselves: how often do thoughts of our superiority or inferiority arise? How deeply do we believe these thoughts when they come up? Can we see that the activity of separating ourselves from others with this attitude is a product of not understanding how things are in the world? Anything that we lay claim to is a form of grasping and will lead to unhappiness.

Again, one remedy is humility; not that we are in any way less than anyone else, but that we are not competing with anyone. We are only trying to be present and open, with all of our attention, right now. And right now. And right now.

Imperfections that defile the mind:
(1) covetousness and unrighteous greed
(2) ill will
(3) anger
(4) revenge
(5) contempt
(6) a domineering attitude
(7) envy
(8) avarice
(9) deceit
(10) fraud
(11) obstinacy
(12) presumption
(13) conceit (māna)
(14) arrogance
(15) vanity
(16) negligence

from MN7, translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi

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