Modesty

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Modesty (atimàna, appiccha or hirimantu) is the quality of being unpretentious about one’s virtues or achievements. In some religions humility, self-abasement even, is considered good because it indicates a recognition of humankind’s sinful nature and a genuine fear of God.

In Buddhism, to assess yourself above your actual worth is pride (màna), while to deliberately undervalue yourself is a kind of reverse pride (hãnamàna). Humility is to underrate your true worth while modesty is to know your true worth without being proud or self-satisfied. Genuinely modest people are able to see themselves as they really are and rejoice in their good qualities without becoming vain or self-promoting, and acknowledge their faults without shame or self-loathing.

Once the Buddha mentioned to some monks that his lay disciple Hattaka had seven wonderful and marvelous qualities; these being faith, virtue, propriety, self-respect, learning, generosity and wisdom. Later when Hattaka learned how the Buddha had praised him he commented, ‘I hope there were no laypeople around at the time.’ When this comment was reported back to the Buddha, he remarked, ‘Good! Very good! He is genuinely modest and does not want his good qualities to be known to others. So you can truly say that Hattaka is decorated with this eighth wonderful and marvelous quality – modesty’ (A.IV,217).

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