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Practical suggestions for stopping the comparing mind

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  • Practical suggestions for stopping the comparing mind

    I was hoping to get some ideas for how to train my mind to stop comparing myself to others and judging others, as this is a persistent obstacle in my loving-kindness practice.

    It seems to me that this is where negative thoughts start, first comparison to others, then judging them as worse or better than myself, and then this sildes to envy, and then grinchy thoughts about how they don't deserve their success, happiness etc....

    When I judge people's behaviour as worse than mine, that often leads to lack of compassion for them, as I judge them as not being deserving of my attention or good wishes. While I'm aware of these thoughts when they arise, I feel I don't have anything to replace them with. Do you have any suggestions? I don't want to feel jealous of other people's happiness or mean-spirited and superior towards people who behave badly.

    How can I develop feelings of loving-kindness and empathetic joy towards all people without first judging whether they are deserving or not?

    Thank you for your help,

  • #2
    Dear Emma,

    When I judge people's behaviour as worse than mine, that often leads to lack of compassion for them, as I judge them as not being deserving of my attention or good wishes.
    Remember that people are a product of their conditioning: their environment, their upbringing, their past lives, etc. The Buddhist idea of non-self means that we quite literally are not in charge of ourselves. Rather, we are in effect victims of a reality that we have constructed for ourselves through our past karma. So the people around you who are worse than you are the first and foremost victims of their own "badness". They experience it much more powerfully than you do, both in this life and in future lives. Moreover, they do their silly actions because they can't help themselves; they are deluded and therefore incapable of doing what leads to their own happiness. When you look at it like this, you realize they deserve compassion, not judgement and hardheartedness.

    As for people you perceive as better than yourself, you don't really know if they are. Many of the things we judge people by are very superficial. Deep down are they really happy? Do they have a spiritual path that is taking them in the right direction? Probably not. They are probably worthy of compassion too. Remember that everyone, without exception, has more suffering in life than they wish for. Look for the problems and pain behind the facade. Life is never a breeze. Have you ever met anyone who is completely contented and happy? I certainly haven't - despite the fact that I've met some quite remarkable people.

    Try also to value the beautiful spiritual qualities in people. When you see kindness and generosity, allow yourself to be uplifted. These are things you too are aspiring for, and therefore it is wondertful to see. When you see wisdom and compassion, rejoice. It means the world is a better place than we sometimes think. A lot of seemingly ordinary people have beautiful hearts and even quite a bit of wisdom. Isn't that wonderful? Be inspired and then you can rejoice in their good qualities!

    I hope this helps.

    With metta.


    • #3
      Remember that everyone, without exception, has more suffering in life than they wish for.
      - This is very insightful. Sahdu.

      Dear Emma,

      I encounter this problem as well many times and there are some "tricks" that work for me, maybe some of it could be helpful for you as well.

      First of all there are two sources of envy inside of me.
      A)Thinking that others are inferior.
      B)Thinking that others have more than me.
      I find these both to be illusions.

      When I think that others are inferior to me. I start thinking of life and lives as school with different years. If I am in the 10th grade and I meet someone from the 2nd grade. Does that truly make him inferior to me? Comparing my level of understanding and his level of understanding, should we be treated with the same rigor and seriousness? It's easy to obtain a perfect score on tests in the 2nd grade, but it is a lot harder and more rewarding to get decent grades in a hard subject in the 10th grade. Either way I should consider the 2nd grader the same as myself as a 10th grader a student, and appreciate him for the potential that he has to become a graduate one day (Arhat).

      As for the other case, when I think that others have more than me, I start thinking about the size of the universe, the span of time in the universe and how things arise and later dissolve. Thinking of this I realize how small the material wealth of the most wealthy man on earth is. And then how valuable my awareness of these facts is in comparison to that material wealth, because it draws me to the truth. Also remember that having too much, whether power or material wealth, your mind may be more clouded towards such thoughts of searching for truth and what is truly right.

      With metta,


      • #4
        Dear Meher,

        I would feel bad if there weren't anyone around wiser than myself! I am so glad there are people in this world with great kindness and wisdom, people I can learn from and whose example I can follow. I am quite happy to bow down to anyone in whom I see superior spiritual qualities, particularly if I see those qualities consistently over a long period of time. Isn't compassion, peace and wisdom worthy of bowing down to? And if other people have succeeded in developing these qualities, we can too. That's the promise of the Buddha. If you think like this, you may find that other's good qualities can actually be inspiring.

        When it comes to other's worldly success, the difference between us and them is really quite minor. Whether you have a big mansion or an ordinary house does not make as much difference as most people think. How often don't we hear of fabulously wealthy people with miserable private lives? Sometimes even to the point where they commit suicide? A good and happy heart is much more valuable than enormous wealth. And having access to a profound spiritual teaching to guide us is a true blessing that most people miss out on.

        With metta.


        • #5
          Being 'better than'

          Thank you all for your kindness and comments, I will reflect on them all and see if I can come a bit closer to the mind and heart I would like to have. I think Meher makes an interesting comment, as I have found myself having similar thoughts also, I see someone who looks very happy and like they perfectly 'have it all', but instead of truly being happy for them, I compare the idea I have of their happiness with my own, and if I find mine lacking, I then try to tell myself why they probably aren't really happy or successful at all (which can make me feel better), so I think this could be a trap too.

          I guess something to work on is the letting go of the ego's need to be 'better than' something, because as soon as we identify that we are better, we have defend that position in fear of someone else becoming better than us. If we don't have the need to be 'better than', then I think we would no longer feel inferior to other people, because there's no 'better' we're trying to hang onto.

          Thank you for your thought-provoking suggestions.


          • #6
            Dear Meher,

            Happiness and suffering can change very fast. Whenever you see a happy person, you can be sure that you have had the same happiness (and much more!) in the past (certainly in a past life) and that you will be there again in the future. Also, people who are happy now have been unhappy in the past and they will eventually be unhappy again in the future. This is all just the ebbs and flows of samsāra, and when you look at it like this there is very little difference between you and them.

            Another way of looking at it is to realize that anyone who is happy deserves it. They have put in the causes for happiness to arise. So reflect on those causes: the kindness, the generosity, the compassion, etc., and again you can appreciate the good spiritual qualities.

            In the end you will have to use your own wisdom. If you keep reflecting on this, you will eventually find a skillful way of looking at people differently. When it comes from your own wisdom, it will be a much more powerful technique. So keep on going, patiently, and eventually you will succeed.

            With metta.


            • #7
              Dear All,

              Whenever I experience any of of the above thoughts I try to recall a quote from one of Ajahn Brahm's talks, apologies for not being able to remember which one. The quote being, "This too will pass". I always find it a great help.

              With Metta.


              • #8
                Dear Meher,

                Have you tried Mudita meditation? I myself find it a great help to prevent myself from becoming envious of people that have "more". As Ajahn Brahmali already states, the worldy posessions the financially rich people own, are far less important than the richness of the Dhamma that we have.


                • #9
                  Dear Emma,

                  Thank You for asking this question, just thought of asking this one now.

                  I remember Ajahn Brahmali speaking in talk that according to the Buddha that Ill-Will itself is Bad Kamma, I find this the greatest motivation to not judge anyone and ofcourse getting into trouble for having Ill-Will. I think this is also easily visible in daily life, that after you practice metta, people have a much more positive response towards you, simply because you have a much more positive attitude towards them and if you've been thinking negatively about someone they tend to cause harm to you, this I've seen in my own life, irrespective of how nice you pretend to be infront of them.
                  For example irrespective of how much I try to show off how wise I am by asking questions in this thread, people won't really buy that.
                  Just to show how complex our minds can be when it comes to such things.

                  Also because of this personality view, deep down inside we always think that we are special and more important than others, even if we have nothing really special in our lives, even if we did not have anything on the outside. But this is no excuse for not working on Ill-Will just wanted to mention this.

                  Also one story that Ajahn Brahm said in a talk of this prisoner, initially we can so easily judge somebody in a prison for committing a crime but this man when he was kid someone had stabbed his arm and when we when back to his home to show the wound and get proper treatment his father gave him a knife and told him to stab the guy back. So we can see that how when someone has an upbringing like this, they can take to crime as an adult and they didn't even get a chance to walk on the path of goodness.

                  Hope I've not said anything stupid.

                  With Metta.



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