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Pride of place!
The Dalai Lama and recent Archbishop of Canterbury - public embodiments
of the twin scourges of modesty and self righteousness respectively, despite
their very best intentions as individuals...
N.B. The particular Archbishop of Canterbury pictured and being referred to is Rowan Williams, who was the incumbent in that role at the time of the original writing of this article - but the principles of course would apply with just about any Archbishop of Canterbury.
Modesty and humility too easily fall into inverted snobbery
Modesty and humility are upheld as virtues in the teachings of the vast majority of religions - including those of Buddhism. On the face of it, this looks like common sense, for seeking to impress others and feel that one has special status is clearly problematical. However, if you stop and think about it, a lot of this doesn't really add up. It comes down to 'morality speak', which is about following rules and judging on people and not living a life of love, empathy and fully aware and responsible free choice, which would all arise naturally from our deepest aspects if we allowed it to do so.
If we have special roles (such as being a teacher of self-actualization), or particular strengths, undoubtedly any ostentation in flaunting these publicly wouldn't be a positive or helpful thing for our self-actualization process. When I talk about ostentation here, I really mean, making people aware of your particular special role(s) or abilities without regard to whether it's actually helpful and positive in effect in that particular situation at that particular time for you to do so. On the other hand, the so-called modesty and humility taught and practised widely in religions is very negative in two important respects:
It actually 'feeds the people's egos' (i.e., it actually cultivates people's desire to try to be seen as 'superior'), because instead of accepting and acknowledging in a relaxed fashion their strengths and any special roles of theirs, people are then showing off to others around them with the implicit message, "Look what a virtuous practitioner / highly spiritual person I'm with all this modesty and humility and self denial!"
Yes, it's a sort of inverted snobbery or 'egotistical' showing off. It's also plain dishonest. For an apparently distinctly self-actualized teacher (not mentioning any names!) to say "I have little [or even no] realization" or, without qualification, "I'm just an ordinary monk / person" (a particularly strong custom rife among supposedly advanced practitioners in Tibetan Buddhism and publicly exemplified by the Dalai Lama) is simply telling lies - even though in one important sense it's perfectly true. Pretence and genuine self-actualization don't mix.
It gives people a lot of negative programming, which actually stunts their self-actualization process and prevents them from manifesting their unique qualities and 'strong points' and true abundance and potential as enlightened people, making them instead fixated on their practices and following the path laid down to them by their guru, 'master' or religious cleric. Actually, to be able to stand our full height and in relaxed fashion to openly acknowledge our strengths where it's appropriate and constructive for us to do so is an essential part of letting go of the negative patterns and self beliefs that we carry.
Once we're clear of negative programming, our natural and most healthy and enlightened state is that of joyfully celebrating in and using our unique 'gifts'* - not bowing our heads in 'humility' and pretending that we have no such 'gifts' - a mockery of the beauty and splendour of our true nature. To me, the common slight stoop and slightly bowed head of so many Buddhist monks (as in the photo of the Dalai Lama on this page) is an abomination - a travesty of what a true self-realization path is about. It's also harmful for one's body and one's whole energy system to maintain such a distortion, so why on earth go doing such a crazy thing? All those monks would do well to take up the Alexander Technique!
* This is actually an extremely unfortunate and unhelpful use of that word, to indicate our strengths and 'plus points'. It's the garbage (aka 'dark force', forces of darkness) and nothing else, that has, either directly or indirectly (through various traditions) sought to get us believing that our points of strength / abundance are gifts (presumably from a supposed God or other 'higher' presence). They aren't gifts. They're simply aspects of us as we are at the present time. They're tips of the 'iceberg' of our true nature, which is in almost all cases to a great extent hidden. It's the general apparent absence of such strengths and plus points that is the true 'gifts' (of the worst possible kind!) that people have - which are 'given' to them by the garbage, which seeks through all manner of means to prevent our intrinsic qualities of clarity, freedom and abundance from manifesting.
It's a neat coincidence that 'Gift' in German means 'poison'!
Although I mention this here in relation to Buddhism, I must stress that the same thing in different forms is happening generally in religions and so-called spiritual paths. Whether any supposed higher beings that they defer to or worship be great buddhas, angels, archangels, Jesus, Muhammad, God, Jehovah, Allah, Shiva, Krishna, ascended masters, guides, or any other name or description, the garbage is involved, and the only effective and indeed safe way to open to 'the Ultimate' is through ceasing such deference and indeed ceasing even to recognise those supposed higher presences any more, and instead opening to one's deepest aspect (which is actually 'the Ultimate' as far as we can ever 'know' anything) and letting go of any notion of apparently external non-physical beings of any kind. To relate to a supposedly higher being in any way whatsoever is straightaway disempowering yourself, implicitly denying the true ultimateness and absoluteness and of your very own true nature and that of all living things, and thus demeaning yourself and empowering the garbage over you.
I'd go as far as saying that, far from being virtues, modesty and humility are actually scourges upon Humanity. Apart from the elimination of ostentation and showing-off (which can be achieved in other ways), there's no positive or worthwhile purpose served by those so-called virtues, and they simply program people into being untrue to the stature of their true selves and to live pathetically diminished travesties of the lives that they could be living and which would be enlightened manifestations of their true nature as manifestations of 'the Ultimate'. If you're living on the basis of love, empathy and aware and responsible free choice rather than attachments, desires and compulsions, then you have every worthwhile reason to manifest ALL your personal power* and splendour.
* I'm NOT referring here, however, to the willful use of 'special powers' (i.e.,'psychic' or 'paranormal' powers), because any tendency to do that gets us embroiled with the garbage again, and also immediately cultivates people's attachment to personal or social status. Indeed, as I explain in The True Nature of 'The Forces of Darkness' and its Interference and Attacks, it's very likely indeed that it was very early human-type beings (long before Earth was here) starting to use 'special powers', that resulted in the inadvertent creation of the garbage in the first place - i.e., ALL of the massive problem that, if pointers from my own inner inquiry on the subject are at all correct, so far has screwed up and eventually destroyed every human-type civilization, whether in this or any other universe.
So, what I mean here by personal power is the natural healing power of your love, positivity and clear thought, which would tend to catalyse the opening up of those qualities in other people around you and with whom you interrelate, and which would naturally be powerful in interrupting, dismantling and dissolving the effects of the garbage's interferences, and indeed to a certain extent in weakening and dissolving the garbage itself.
Let's be clear about pride
Okay, now I've got so far, let's bring in the dreaded 'P' word - Pride. A clear distinction needs to be made between what people might call egotistical pride on the one hand and, on the other hand the self esteem and rejoicing in oneself (and others) that's intrinsic to a balanced, enlightened and self-actualized person.
I've seen this latter use of the word in some teachings in the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, and then it was called vajra pride. While I'm actually happy with the use of a different expression* for the positive meaning, in common usage the two meanings are hopelessly confused under use of the one word, and teachers (if they really must 'teach'!) would better make those two meanings clearly distinct and use different terms for them, so that full, unqualified self esteem is never confused with problematical tendencies. This is what needs to replace all the culturally based and dark-force instigated stuff about humility and modesty. Let's stand our full height and tune into such a self view as "I'm great, unique and beautiful - you're great, unique and beautiful too".
* but NOT 'vajra pride', because the vajra (sorry to say) is just one of the countless symbols and emblems of the garbage that permeate the religious and 'spiritual' traditions - notwithstanding the fact that in Tibetan Buddhism it's supposed to represent the most direct path to enlightenment. In reality, the moment you go using a symbol, emblem or device to represent that, you're already diverted by the garbage away from the most direct means to enlightenment - in just the same way that you're diverted from it by externalizing fundamental consciousness ('the Ultimate') and making it into a god, such as in Christianity, or into 'Spirit', as in various mystical and paganistic traditions.
Personally, I prefer generally not to use the word 'pride' at all, because using it tends to bear religion- (and thus garbage-) sourced connotations of disapproval, and, as noted above, it really covers various meanings and thus it tends to confuse issues. Therefore, I prefer to use more specific and objective terms for what I'm referring to - such as 'self esteem', 'status addiction' or 'self righteousness'...
What that photo shows us...
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop of Canterbury are both, as actual people, lovely individuals, full of good intentions. Their problem, as with people generally who have positions and titles within traditional hierarchies, and particularly in religious ones, is that they've been made into public embodiments of actually highly problematical tendencies, which their traditions are upholding as 'good' and 'positive' and what everyone supposedly needs to be cultivating in themselves.
In the case of the Dalai Lama, the public image of an affectation of humility is the issue, whereas in the case of the Archbishop of Canterbury, officially legitimized - indeed, cultivated - self righteousness is the issue. These different posturings can both be seen as particular flip sides of what both would recognise and deprecate as pride - that is, the problematical, 'egotistical' sort of pride.
I certainly don't intend any sort of personal assault on these two really nice individuals, for you can see exactly the same traits in others in their respective traditions. In Buddhism - or at least Tibetan Buddhism and modern derivations therefrom - it is absolutely normal for monks and lamas right up to the top of their hierarchy to show the same affectations of 'humility', with the same slightly bowed head (physically, mentally and emotionally extremely harmful) and self effacing body language.
Christians worldwide are much more diverse - at least in my experience. However, there is overall a strong tendency for a good proportion of Christians to exhibit some degree of self righteousness - which becomes really marked in the case of those in 'Holy Orders' - i.e., the clerics and priests, who exhibit a sort of 'Holy superiority' in their manner. The majority by far speak in affected ways that somebody outside the deceptions of their tradition would perceive as sounding plain silly, all the time carrying a subtext going something like "I'm in Holy Orders and thus have superior knowledge and belief, and everything that I say to you is Right and True and said in a simple manner for you because you're one of God's sheep and are an ignorant simpleton..."Note particularly the stiff uprightness of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Rather than the "Look how humble and modest I am" posture and 'vibes' that the Dalai Lama presents, the Archbishop of Canterbury projects an 'aura' of a formal, righteous self importance - "I'm in Holy Orders and am an ambassador of God".
Actually, I feel a bit uncomfortable about applying the term 'self righteousness' to the Archbishop of Canterbury, because, unlike 'humility', it's widely used as a pejorative expression, and I have no wish to be pejorative towards him - but, unfortunately, technically 'self righteousness' is a particularly appropriate term to use here. So, I want to point out that I use that term in an objective way, and I don't mean to imply the normal pejorative aspect of its use. Self righteousness is NOT something bad about a person but simply a particular, addressable, problem that the person has.
There's quite a lot more that I could write about the issues that these two religious figureheads are presenting to us in the above photo, but I've come to the conclusion that it would be a distraction to say more, and to leave it to you to fill in the various gaps yourself if you're interested, particularly referring yourself to relevant sections in The True Nature of 'The Forces of Darkness' and its Interference and Attacks.