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 thinks:
- 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 respectfully.
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 his heart:
- 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 Abbot:
  - 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 asked:
- 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 worshiping you.
- 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.
For liberated 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 the future.
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.
1- Pride:
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.
Why can 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 inner growth.
Arrogance 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.
Although 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.
You can 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.
2- Confidence
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 mean you 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. Such as:
1- Education:
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.
2- Money:
Similarly, if 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.
4- Intelligence & wisdom:
To counter 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 Paper:
Those things 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 Diary
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.
Every evening 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.
All these self-reflection questions will help you define more clearly who you are, and what you want out of life right now.
3- Practice Mindfulness
Meditation is 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 Criticism
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.
In short, 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.
If you have any recommendations, please e-mail to: