- Freedom in Thought
- Buddha - Seeking Status Will Destroy Your Mind
Buddha - Seeking Status Will Destroy Your Mind
In The Dhammapada, Buddha warned us about the dangers of seeking status. He wrote,
According to Buddha, seeking status destroys our mind.
A mind that’s destroyed is one that makes us think thoughts that prevent us from getting stronger. It’s a mind that stops us from growing. It seeks short term pleasure rather than long-term growth. It works against us rather than for us.
And seeking status makes our minds work against us by making our thoughts revolve around the values of the masses. We start to think and act in ways that keep them happy. But the mob is like a beast whose happiness consists in consuming the individual. What’s best for the mob is often what’s worst for the individual, because the mob only sees an individual as a means for its own growth. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said when speaking of the mob,
There’s nothing the masses value more than the annihilation of our own individuality, because only when we become empty of ourselves can we become full with whatever they need us to be.
So obtaining status requires us to destroy our own individuality, but destroying our individuality is the same as destroying our potential. In order to obtain our individuality, our highest potential, we must live in accordance with our authentic core. As Nietzsche wrote in Beyond Good and Evil,
Deep inside us all is an authentic core—a compass that guides us towards our highest-self, towards our individuality. But this authentic core is exactly what the mob seeks to destroy in us. For the mob, our authenticity, our individuality, and our potential are simply obstacles to the conformity they desire.
So seeking status destroys our mind by making our thoughts revolve around conformity to the whims of the masses and the destruction of our own authenticity.
But the Buddha gives us a way out of this dilemma. He wrote,
If we want to orient our minds properly, we should not desire to be pleasing in the eyes of the masses, which is what status is, but rather, we should seek to be pleasing in the eyes of Virtue. The gaze of the mob is very fickle. The mob does not even see us. It values nothing more than a clear mirror with which to see itself reflected back. The mob only wants to see itself in us, like a man flexing his muscles in the mirror, or a woman admiring her own makeup. They gaze at us, the individual, only so that they can gaze at themselves. Virtue, on the other hand, has an eternal gaze. Her gaze does not change. It’s not fickle in the slightest. She sees us for us. She does not want to see herself in us. She wants to see the strongest and most beautiful version of us and admire it. She has nothing to gain by staring at us, but we have everything to gain by being beautiful in her eyes. A mind that seeks to be pleasing in the eyes of Virtue will find fruitfulness in its thoughts. Its thoughts will make us stronger, wiser, and more happy. And unlike the mob, Virtue does not lead us away from ourselves, but rather, she leads us ever closer to our highest-self. The foolish want to be pleasing in the eyes of the masses, but the wise want to be pleasing in the eyes of Virtue.