DHARMA IN EVERYDAY LIFE
- KNOW YOURSELF WELL
By Nhat Quan
Speaking of knowing yourself well, let me tell you a story:
A certain temple on the mountain has a donkey, its job is to
pull the rice mill every day, quite hard. Over time, the
donkey began to hate this tasteless life. Every day he
- If I could go out and see the outside world without
pulling the mill, that would be great!
Not long after, the last opportunity came, the abbot of the
temple wanted to lead the donkey down the mountain to carry
a Buddha image, and his heart was excited forever. Arriving
at the village near the foot of the mountain, the abbot
placed the Buddha image on its back, then returned to the
temple. Unexpectedly, when passers-by saw the donkey,
everyone knelt down on both sides of the road and bowed
In the beginning, the donkey didn't understand anything, not
knowing why everyone bowed to him, he panicked and avoided
it. However, it was all the same along the way, the donkey
involuntarily became proud of himself, thinking to himself:
"Perhaps I worked hard at the Temple pulling the mill,
that's why everyone worshiped me so much."
So, every time it sees a passerby, the donkey will
immediately proudly stand in the middle of the street to
receive everyone's worship. And indeed everyone was bowing
to him in the middle of the road just like he thought.
Arriving at the temple, the donkey thought himself noble and
refused to pull the mill anymore. The abbot ran out of ways
and had to let it down the mountain. The donkey had just
come down from the mountain, and in the distance saw a group
of drummers beating gongs walking towards him, thinking in
- People will definitely come to welcome it.
So the donkey stood proudly in the middle of the road to let
the group of people come to greet it. But actually, it was
the procession of the bride. On the wedding day, when they
were going to pick up the bride, a donkey blocked the road,
everyone was very angry, so they beat the donkey with
sticks. The donkey hurriedly ran back to the temple, and
when he got there, there was only a little breath left.
Before he died, he indignantly said to the Most Venerable
- Turns out, the human heart is so cruel. The first time
down the mountain, everyone bowed to me, but today they were
so cruel to me, and after saying that, he died.
Hearing that, the Most Venerable Abbot sighed:
- You really are a foolish ass! That day, what people
worshiped is the Buddha statue carried on your back, not
people bowing to you.
In daily life, sometimes among you, there are people who
often express themselves with incomplete awareness. You want
people to know that you have the potential to pursue a big
goal. However, life still proves that things are not so
simple! When you don't know where you are, it's hard to set
goals, stay motivated, and determine what's best. So before
you do anything, you must first know who you are. Don't be
like the donkey, everyone bows to the Buddha image that he
carries on his back and it thinks people are bowing to it.
Therefore, you must know the advantage or strength that you
have so that it can help you in setting realistic goals,
completing tasks, succeeding in relationships, or simply
motivating. your routine in daily activities.
To get the best results, it's important to know who you are!
Thales, the great philosopher of ancient Greece, was also
- What are the difficulties in life?
And here is his answer:
- Is not knowing yourself well!
The story of the donkey living in the temple shows you, the
greatest misfortune in life, is a whole life without
realizing yourself, like the donkey. Sometimes you are who
you are, but there are also times when you lose yourself.
There are times when being aware of yourself is more
difficult than being aware of the world around you.
Therefore, the Venerable Ones encourage, you every day you
should look at yourself in the mirror,
but when you look in the mirror, has anyone ever asked
themselves a question:
- Do you know yourself well?
If you know yourself well, the
answer is easy, such as:
- If you have money, what
people worship is only your money, not yourself, but you hold
the illusion that they are
- If you have
fame, what people respect is only your fame, not yourself, but
you mistakenly think that other people are revering to you.
- If you have
a beautiful face, what people admire is only the beautiful
appearance that you temporarily have, not yourself, but you
mistakenly think that others are admiring you yourself.
And you also
know very well, when your money, fame, and beauty are no
longer available, it is time for you to be thrown away.
Because, what others worship is nothing more than the desires
of their heart, not your own. So it is very important and
necessary for you to see yourself clearly.
practitioners, self-awareness is the first important step in
taking control of your own life, creating what you want, and
holding your future for good or bad your choice.
When you know
your abilities or deeds, you can realize that your thoughts
and actions are guiding you. From there, it will also be
easier for you to control your behavior and make changes when
necessary with the ultimate goal of achieving the results you
want. However, trying to get to know yourself is not really an
easy process, but if you put in the effort it deserves, the
reward in return is self-awareness that will be very sweet. If
you can get to know yourself with an objective perspective,
you will learn how to accept yourself and how to succeed in
So first of
all, you have to determine what causes you not to know
yourself well, according to the teachings of the Venerable
Virtues, it is due to pride, self-confidence but lack of
understanding, and lack of accuracy. Thereby the lesson of the
donkey shows you clearly.
Pride is a
concept, a way of looking at things with an exaggeration of
your own qualities, such as Beauty or health, education,
social status or talent, and thinking that you are superior
the others. Such a tendency has many disadvantages. Under the
influence of arrogance, you are always looking for ways to
make sure everyone knows how nice you are. You are always
talking about your achievements, trying to impress others to
get praise for fame and money. Your pride makes you always
look down on others, thinking that they don't have the same
good qualities as you.
When you fall
into the tendency to think of yourself as important, you are
really pitiful. If you are honest with yourself, you must find
that, behind the disguise, you are not really convinced that
you are good. In order to convince yourself to think
differently, you do your best to convince others that you have
some great qualities. You think, if other people think you're
perfect, then you must be. Looking deep inside, all ordinary
people like you have bad images of yourself. Even a person
with a noble appearance and seemingly a symbol of success by
worldly standards still does not feel self-satisfied. Since it
is difficult to accept your own imperfections, you hide them
by acting arrogant.
Pride is one
of the major obstacles to your intellectual growth and inner
potential. Because you consider yourself to be erudite,
talented, and excellent, you are always complacent. You do not
want and cannot learn from others. It is arrogance that keeps
you in a prison of ignorance.
seemingly successful people not be satisfied with themselves?
They, like you, are always looking outward in search of
self-worth, praise, and acceptance. Therefore, you are not
aware of your own potential for the full development of wisdom
and compassion. While you look outward for happiness and
self-esteem, these qualities are actually acquired through
always makes you act ridiculous: You like to show off your
appearance, often very silly in the eyes of others. You are
free to criticize others, and then get confused when people
don't want to be friends with you. You treat others unfairly
and then complain when there is no harmony in the group.
Discord always occurs in any group when you are arrogant and
disregard the feelings of others.
arrogant people always demand respect from others, respect
cannot be forced. In fact, the social community only respects
the humble. Among the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, no
one is arrogant. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV received
this prestigious award in 1989, he did not see it as his own
reward, but rather for sincere altruistic attitudes and acts
born of compassion.
respect everyone. People who are inferior to you in wealth,
education, or talent, will likely have many qualities and
abilities that you do not have. Everyone deserves
respect, simply because they
have their own feelings. At least everyone deserves to be
heard. Arrogant people do not respect that, so they are often
contemptuous and unforgiving. Truly confident people are kind
and humble and learn from everyone. As a result, they create
harmony and mutual respect.
You should notice, arrogance
is often confused with confidence, and modesty is often
confused with low self-esteem. So acting arrogantly doesn't
mean you're confident, and showing humility doesn't
underestimate yourself. Confident people are also humble
because they have nothing to defend or prove to others.
It is very
difficult to evaluate yourself objectively. You have a
tendency to be too condescending or overrated, so swing
between the extremes of self-worth, dislike, or
self-perfection. Neither of those views is an accurate
assessment of yourself, as you all have some good qualities
along with flaws that need improvement.
You can't get
rid of your flaws by hiding them, or by dragging against
others to show that you're the best. But you can honestly
acknowledge your weaknesses and work on overcoming them.
Similarly, self-confidence does not come from conceit by
proclaiming your good qualities, but from appreciating your
talents and abilities to develop them.
Here, it is
helpful to recall that you always have the potential to become
a Buddha, to completely remove all obscurations, and to
develop completely all beneficial qualities. This may sound
like an absurd claim at first, but as you begin to understand
Buddhahood and the path to enlightenment, confidence in its
veracity will increase. The precious Buddha nature is
something you are given from birth. Buddha nature never
disappears or leaves you. Understanding this will give you a
solid and practical foundation for confidence.
You can accept
yourself for what you are and trust in your ability to develop
compassion and wisdom. Such a balanced view of yourself will
help you to open your mind to understanding and respecting
others, as all sentient beings have qualities worthy of
respect. You are confident in your ability to admit what you
don't know, and thus will gladly be willing to learn from
others. Thus, your good qualities and wisdom are developed.
When you have
good qualities, people will naturally know about you. You
don't have to promote them. Mahatma Gandhi is a prime example
of this. He lived a simple life, dressed simply, never exalted
himself, and always respected others. Although he did not
promote his virtue, his great and noble cause was evidently
known to all.
Pride is a
wrong and narrow attitude that makes you unaware of yourself.
So in order to get to know yourself, developing a more
holistic perception will help you see things more
realistically. That way, you have to get rid of arrogance.
When you feel
arrogant about your education, you just need to realize that
all your knowledge is due to the hard work of your teachers.
When you were born, you were completely ignorant and incapable
of doing anything. You can't even feed yourself or say what
you need. Everything you know, even how to speak or how to tie
your shoelaces, comes from the kindness of those who have
taught you. So what makes you proud? Without the care of
others, you would have very little knowledge and very few
skills. Thinking this way will stop you from being arrogant.
you feel conceited about having a lot of money, you may recall
that those coins were not yours in the past. If you have
received money from your family or inherited it, it is
preferable to be grateful to your family, or to the person who
left an inheritance, rather than being arrogant yourself. Even
if you make your own money, that money is still obtained from
many other people, from the boss who pays you, the people who
hire you, or your customers. Thanks to the boss who gave you
the job, or thanks to the employees who helped your business
grow, you now have a lot of money. In that sense, the people
mentioned above are all very good to you.
You may not
have thought of the kindness of others that way before, but if
you think about it, it makes a lot of
sense. Even if you feel like you have achieved success despite
the lack of sympathy from others, in reality, your efforts
alone are not enough to bring about success. You depend on
many other people. Understanding this, wise people always feel
grateful, not arrogant, towards others.
3- Youth & Beauty
You can also be arrogant about
your youth, your beauty,
your strength, or your talents, but those qualities are always
changing. You may feel young, beautiful, healthy, and active
for a long time, but these qualities pass quickly. Every
second that passes, you are getting older. Wrinkles suddenly
appear, and teeth do not fall out immediately; but by and by,
your body loses its beauty. You always try to prevent or hide
aging, but in reality, a muscular football player is in the
process of becoming an old man with a cane, watching outside.
Even the most beautiful beauty queen will inevitably become a
stooped old woman. When you see that your body is constantly
aging, what is there for you to be proud of?
If you have a
healthy and attractive body, you can appreciate those good
qualities without being arrogant or conceited. Similarly, you
can be happy with whatever talents, possessions, or knowledge
you have, but not be arrogant. On the contrary, you use
whatever qualities you acquire to benefit others.
Intelligence & wisdom:
your arrogance about your intelligence, you can meditate on a
difficult topic. This helps you realize your limitations and
naturally let go of arrogance. With a more balanced awareness
of yourself, you will learn to use your energies for
self-improvement and for the benefit of others.
At the same
time, you try to identify specific insights about yourself by:
1- Write on
written down are your strengths or your weaknesses. At the
same time, you think about something you are proud of or a
talent that really stands out in your life. Think about your
childhood and the things that made you feel happy then. What
has changed, and what remains the same? Why do these things
change? Persuade people to honestly say what they think of
you, and keep them in mind. In the end, you will have a whole
new perspective on yourself and your life.
2- Write a
You can write
about anything in your journal, even things that have nothing
to do with your goals. Writing your thoughts down on paper
helps you reduce and erase old ideas, and makes room for new
information and ideas.
take a little time to journal, and write about your thoughts
and feelings, about the successes or failures of your day.
This will help you become more mature and motivated to move
forward, toward your goals.
self-reflection questions will help you define more clearly
who you are, and what you want out of life right now.
a great way to practice focused self-awareness. Most types of
meditation focus on regulating the breath, but not all. You
can also find that focus and clarity while doing
self-reflection. During meditation, you can pause to think
about some specific questions:
- What is your
goal? Is what you are doing working? Is what you are doing
standing in the way of your success? What can you do and how
can you change that?
4- Listen to
Listen to your
friends and teachers, and let them act as the most authentic
role models. Tell your friends that you are waiting for the
most open, sincere, important, and objective words. Let them
feel at ease as they tell you their truest look.
Make sure your
friends know they're doing it to help you, not hurt you. Also,
feel free to ask your friends about the topics being discussed
if you feel unclear.
knowing yourself is not a simple task, since you are always
prone to denying yourself. Remember that the ability to
understand yourself doesn't come naturally as you do with the
outside world, but it can be learned. The problem is that you
have a tendency to lie to yourself, to cover up the truth.
Socrates, a famous philosopher of ancient Greece once said:
Self-deception is the worst thing that can happen to you.
The more you
know yourself, the more you can control and choose the
behavior you want to manifest. Knowing yourself helps you to
know where you are, and where you want to go so that you are
ready to change to get where you need to be. Without knowing
yourself, emotions can blind you, making you the person you
don't want to be. If you know your feelings and thoughts well,
you can choose how to act or react in a certain situation or
with someone that will be best. This choice becomes strength,
an inner strength that no one can take away.
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