“I’m better than these people” “I’ll never be as good as these people” “They’re all cleverer than me” “I must let everybody know that I know important people” “I’ll include in my little speech all the important books and concepts I have read so that others know I’m not inferior” “I’m worth it” “I’m not really worth it” “I don’t love myself enough” - with thoughts such as these people ruin their lives and distract themselves from the glory of existence.
Personal worth is not worth thinking about. If there is a job to do, get on with it as best can. If there is no job to do or duty to fulfil, use the time to contemplate - say the nembutsu. Contemplate the majesty, wisdom and compassion of the Tathagata. Study the forms of nature and the vastness of the firmament.
Know one’s limitations, vulnerability and bombu nature, but don’t put a score on it and don’t engage in relative comparison with others. We are all bombu. That’s enough. To go beyond that is pride and conceit, whether one rates oneself high or low.
When we obsess about our own self-worth, self-entitlement, self-esteem, adequacy, or value, we become dysfunctional, stop learning and find it difficult to interact or cooperate. We become boring. When a person says such things as “I don’t want to sound arrogant” it often means that they are about to say some arrogant things. The urge wells up to show others how one is not actually the worm that one secretly believes oneself to be. However, it is really of no importance whether one is a worm or not. That is not what life is about and is not worth thinking about.
The fact that we become preoccupied with our personal worth is one of the main roots of delusion that Buddha was concerned to try to eliminate. There is no reality in it and it is the foundation of most criticism and conflict. People do not have a relative value. Buddha is not keeping score. Put-ups and put-downs are childish. Don’t dish them out and if they come your way, smile inwardly at the stupidity of it, have a little compassion for the poor soul who is caught up in it, remember that one is oneself also vulnerable, and say Namo Amida Bu.
Conceit has many layers and here I have only highlighted the most superficial ones. Nonetheless, even these can cause us a lot of trouble. What is the antidote? Faith! But when you realise that, in some situation, the gremlins have won and you have got caught up in competition, boasting, timidity or the like, the thing to do is to see it clearly and then laugh wholeheartedly at the human condition. We are all in this same leaky boat.
Recognising our bombu nature is one of the three foundations of the Amida Way. Another is the principle that only nembutsu is true and real. Don’t get caught up in pretending to be something else. Just deal in the objective situation, say the nembutsu and trust in the Trikaya. That is sufficient. All else is just a lack of faith.