Bodhisattvacharayvatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 94-97

Transglomeration: [94] [Moreover], since these words – these puffs of noise – are not themselves sentient, they can have no intention of complimenting or flattering me.   But then, when praises are uttered and shared, whether of me or others, it makes people happy, so me being praised is a source of happiness for others.   [95] But, then, whether it is directed at me or toward someone else, why, in either case, would I feel any benefit or use from the happiness of those who bestow it?   That happiness is theirs alone, entirely in their own minds.   I certainly don’t get even the slightest part of it.   [96] [But shouldn’t I be rejoicing in others’ happiness when praising me?].   And yet, if I do find delight in others happiness (in me), then surely I should feel the same about all others in all cases of rejoicing?   And if this were so, then how is it that I am irritated and resentful when others find something to admire in someone else?   [97] And so, really, that happiness I feel when hearing of my praise, is just the vanity of self-satisfaction, it remains bonded in self-centeredness, it is somewhat unacceptable [for someone who has taken the Vow], and is really nothing more than the behaviour of a child.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 90-93 yearning for respect, honour and fame is self-defeating
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 94-97 enjoying praise of oneself is just vanity and futile

Reflection: [94] words of praise themselves cannot benefit me – they are just sounds, puffs of noise, [de la Vallee Poussin], ‘praise is nothing but a whistle of air’; but what about the joy that others have in praising me?

Reflection: [95] it is others’ joy alone, it is of no benefit to me; Tuffley, ‘but what resides in the mind of another is not really any business of mine’; this retort to ‘praising-me-is-a-source-of-delight-for-others’ exposes the self-centeredness of this attitude, the megalomania, and strikes to the heart of the problem here: that any pre-occupation with praise/fame is just preoccupation with self, and that anger (or ill will or passive-aggressive sulkiness) about it simply strengthens that occupation with a ‘self’ that is put (by my anger) at the centre of a completely fluid and conditioned universe that has no centre – any anger, however expressed, simply strengthens the hold and belief in an illusory self which all-the-more distorts the perception of the universe in which we live; personal reflection: therefore my gathering together the tragedy of being ignored while at work over the decades was all just a self-indulgent vanity, and, it turns out, must have looked like a slow-burn tantrum during all that time – not really all that useful; it put my recognition and my self-worth as if at the center of what was going on in an institution in which what I thought and did were not central at all; OK the rhetoric and ‘professional development’ were all about ‘nurture’ and ‘opportunity’ and ‘joined up thinking’, but I didn’t have to swallow it all, and certainly didn’t have to think I could beat them at their own game and deliver their own propaganda back to them realised on a silver platter – that was my own vanity and, of course, there was no satisfaction to be won there; it is the self-preoccupation which is faulty here: it deprives you of a clear perspective, it limits the scope and effectiveness of your own activity like a tied limb, you become addicted to the scraps of feedback you get and obsess in interpreting them to build up your success and your worth (… look at your obsession with blog statistics, Mark, what are you hoping to find evidence of there?)

Reflection: [96] if I am rejoicing in the joy of those who praise me, I should rejoice, also when they praise others too … if I am not just being self-centred and egoistic about the praise

Reflection: [97] and, of course, I am being just self-centred and egoistic, like that same child whose sand-castle at other times crumbled

Review: there is the pleasure of praise/recognition – [94] that pleasure comes from the words, but it doesn’t come from words, but I’m happy because they’re happy (praising me) [95] it’s only in the mind of the rejoicer, [96] that pleasure comes from the mind of the rejoicer, if I’m really interested in it I should rejoice in it all round, [97] being only interested in it for myself is childish

Summary: verse 97 is the conclusion from the previous three, that any satisfaction or feeling of pleasure that comes from being complimented or praised is just a form of self-concern/self-grasping, it’s holding me (and my feelings and my needs) above that of others, a basis on which no good act will flourish; again this is talking about a type of anger which is ill-will, it is begrudging, mealy-mouthed, unjoyful/glum, a dampener, it is un-rejoicing, it is the exercise of self-concern over and above others’, especially exposed in verse 96 where, if we were concerned for others as we might like to think ourselves to be, we would be celebratory whenever others are praised/recognised; implicitly, here, also is that the celebrating of others does not come with a judgement, they are not celebrated because we are agreeing with the praise – that they have met our criteria for what we think of as good, their qualities are not dependent upon our judgement – we are simply joining in the celebration because it is bringing a certain amount of joy for the rejoicers and the rejoicees, we’re not thinking about it, we are just rejoicing; and, from the point of view of practising patience, here, we are non-thinking-about-it rejoicing because we are stopping being peevish and wishing for the praise/recognition ourselves, it is the stopping of that particular type of anger which is un-celebratory and self-referenced, it is not just a license for glib, unthinking being-nice-about-others, it’s being genuinely open about others’ successes

Practice: practising patience, here, is an exercise of rejoicing, of being happy for others, of actively giving that recognition to others, opening, celebrating; in these ways I am lessening concern for myself – there is a direct inverse ratio to be achieved, here: other-concern <…> self-concern (rather than: self-concern <…> other-concern); it’s no good just thinking ‘I must not be selfish’, because trying to make yourself stop is probably done with a self-centered motivation, rather it is to genuinely rejoice in the happiness and benefit of others, however that presents itself within one’s own life, which allows (which is) the falling-away of self-concern – two for one, buy one get one free