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The Fatuity of Hubris: Why Arrogance is Stupid?

More from Dr. Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar

Arrogance is stupid. Only the weak are arrogant. Arrogance is the tool of the charlatan who tries to market a certain item as that which it is not. For even when, at a worldly level, one may have attained much, does that attainment determine your Self? If hypothetically we were to take away all your material attainments one fine more, would you still not be you? And which among those attainments was not rather a movement of a number of beings (say your parents, teachers and co-workers) and circumstances.

Fighting COVID and facing lockdowns has shown us the transience of life, of pursuits, of attainments. It has shown us, in stark contrast, the relational reality that Buddha spoke of – that the essence of reality lies in the correlations and unity of nature, not as much on the absoluteness or identity of a specific element, entity, process or phenomenon.

Representational image.

In Ancient Indic thought, the concept of “Ahaṃkāra” (अहंकार/arrogance) meant the form of the self-sense (“Aham“). The understanding of “Aham” as ‘Self’, in its truest sense, is given in the powerful words: “अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि” from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Here the subtlety is around what is the ‘Self’. It is spoken of as “Brahman”, in Vedantic thought. But what is “Brahman”? “Brahman” is the fundamental reality underlying the Universe, in Sanatana Dharma.

It defies any description based on relative constructs and ideas. It is eternal, formless, attribute-less. All that sounds beautiful but this is not just philosophy constructed by seers in confined hermitages. This is the lived truth, which one can access by simply focusing on the self and asking Who am I? Am I the physical body? Am I the thoughts or emotions carried by it? Am I the defined by the background I come from? Am I the achievements and attainments I have had?

If any of these are yes, for you, ask yourself: what happens if you take them away either partially or completely? While taking the body completely away is a question that may be beyond the purview of rational thought, since reasoning defines that as the end of existence itself, the other questions highlight that while taking any of these away is going to change your form or state of being, it does not change your being.

Intersection Of Psychology And Spirituality

It does not change your very existence, nor your faculty of being conscious even as you live, nor your completeness within yourself. In Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche, the “psychic apparatus” is said to be comprised of distinct, interacting agents described by the concepts of id, ego and super-ego.

In his book “An Outline of Psycho-analysis” published in 1940, Freud defines id as “contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, is laid down in the constitution — above all, therefore, the instincts, which originate from the somatic organization, and which find a first psychical expression here (in the id) in forms unknown to us.”

Id precedes ego, in the Freudian model. The mind of a child is said to be full of id: a mass of instinctive impulses and drives that need immediate satisfaction. The ego seeks to please this drive of the id in realistic ways that bring benefit, not grief, in the long run. “Über-Ich”, German for the super-ego, is basically the reflection of the internalization of cultural rules, primarily taught by parents who apply their influence and guidance.

Representational image.

There is an iceberg metaphor that is often used, when trying to relate these concepts with the conscious and unconscious mind: parts of the super-ego and ego along with the entire id is submerged in water, representing the unconscious mind, while the remaining parts of the super-ego and ego, displayed above water, represent the conscious mind.

Seers of ancient India also tried to discuss reality of one’s Self in terms of the waking state, dreaming state, and dreamless deep sleep. It, however, goes one further in talking about the fourth – “Turiya”, the state transcending all three.

This state is defined in the Mandukya Upanishad (Verse 7): नान्तःप्रज्ञं न बहिष्प्रज्ञं नोभयतःप्रज्ञं न प्रज्ञानघनं न प्रज्ञं नाप्रज्ञम्‌।अदृष्टमव्यवहार्यमग्राह्यमलक्षणमचिन्त्यमव्यपदेश्यमेकात्मप्रत्ययसारं प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवमद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते स आत्मा स विज्ञेयः॥

Meaning: He who is neither inward wise, nor outward wise, nor both inward and outward wise, nor wisdom self gathered, nor possessed of wisdom, nor unpossessed of wisdom, who is unseen and incommunicable, unseizable, featureless, unthinkable, and unnameable, whose essentiality is awareness of the Self in its single existence, in whom all phenomena dissolve, who is calm, who is good, who is the One than whom there is no other. Him they deem the fourth; that is the Self, the object of Knowledge.

Awareness Of Self

While this particular text goes into the essence of one’s ‘Self’, reflecting on the words may help, even at a certain day-to-day level. wisdom is an attribute, an acquired asset that is based on predicated truth and knowledge, either obtained by experience or learning. If you acquire it, can you be that? If your parents named you, can you be your name? Was there no you before you were named? If life and your journey therein equipped you with an education, occupation, thoughts and tendencies, ideologies and alignments, can you be those either? Was there no you before all these were obtained?

If you meditate and try to be aware of yourself, you shall see that once, like peeling the layers of onion away, one peels off all these superficial and additional layers of truth associated with you, the fundamental Self is simply existence that is self-aware and complete in itself, for it needs not anything else to fulfil its being. Now, if one were to take that proverbial leap of insight and awareness, and look around, at others, at nature itself, do you not see the same truth in each of them?

Just like Indians tag themselves such as they live or  ‘belong’ to India, just like we physically identify our body as everything within a certain form, must we not also identify that which satisfies a definition of ‘Self’ consistently as part of the same Self? Simply self-aware and complete existence. You may ask whether a stone is aware or whether a dolphin or an amoeba is  ‘complete’.

Yes, a stone is ‘aware’ as much as awareness is defined by its tendency to react or respond to physical stimulus like a shove, which going by our definition of ‘Self’, means that the stone and agent undertaking the shove are part of the same ‘Self’. Dolphin or amoeba are complete within themselves, even as they have evolved and aligned well with the specific conditions in their environment, to be self-reliant and self-dependent.

This tendency of increasing consciousness and completion is what ancient Indian texts regards as ‘spiritual evolution’. Given this definition and understanding of the ‘Self’, does it make sense to have acute body-consciousness or ego centered on physical individuality and attainments? We are different reflections of the same one ‘Self’, and these attainments of ours are appreciable and good only in a limited, relative sense.

Even the greatest of seers, scientists, doctors, leaders and traders, everyone from Alexander to Albert Einstein, everything from hieroglyphics to the steam locomotive that spurred the Industrial Revolution, will be lost in the pages of history, ages down the line. All that will be left will be the operative and utilitarian development of humanity and its existence.

All that will be left is a collective consciousness that encapsulates, either in our very DNA or in Freud’s super-ego or in the Vedantic spiritual memory, if you will, all that we have progressed through. In this broad realisation, where exactly does your individual ego factor in? The ego of a human in a small planet in one of many planetary systems of a galaxy that is in one corner of the Universe.

Laughable, wouldn’t you say? Some would say that what is the point of attaining anything at all then? Or working in any direction? The point is in instantiating the essence of correlating, of uniting in structure, tendency and essence, for no attainment, no task is performed in isolation by any element in the Universe. Even within us, there is a self-correlation of sorts, where many different faculties work together to create a specific form and functionality of our body.

Essence Of Actions

Even if we were to look within, this relational reality comprising of elements that have no functionality or meaning by themselves, becomes clear. We all are qualitatively distinct and more than just the sum of our parts. The parts, frankly, do not matter beyond a point.

It is in the essence of those parts, in the actions they take, in the bonds and correlations that they form, that something beautiful and profound lies waiting to be found: the self-aware, complete existence. We are not this and that. We just are.

The article was written and first published at Pragyata.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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