What is Abhiman or Self Pride?

Hinduism Concepts

by Jayaram V

"Abhi" means towards, in the direction of and "maan" means "respect" or "esteem". Abhimaan literally means "oriented towards (one's) respect or self respect. In a broader sense it means any or all of the following: feeling proud of oneself, feeling respectful towards one self, self-pride, self-esteem or having a high opinion of oneself.

There is nothing wrong in some form of pride in oneself. In certain professions it is a prized quality. However having excessive pride in oneself is a problem and an obstacle to one's peace and happiness.

In Hinduism pride (abhimana) is considered both a desirable quality in some cases and an undesirable quality in some other. For example, on the spiritual path it is certainly a major impediment and needs to be avoided. But in certain professions, such as that of a warrior (kshatriya) whose duty is to proect the people of a country or a community, it is a much prized quality.

Duryodhana had excess pride and it landed him in great trouble. Draupadi had pride too because of which when she was disrobed in front of everyone in an assembly of people, she took an oath not to tie her hair until the perpetrator of the crime was killed. Pride may also inspire you into positive action when your pride is hurt.

Thus, abhmana or pride becomes a positive and negative trait depending upon the obligatory duty. From an negative perspective abhmaana may lead to duplicity and defensive behavior. In many instances it may also lead to loss of inner peace, balance and rationality and prompt people to engate in irrational and destructive behavior.

We may divide self-pride into three categories, gentle pride induced by sattva, egoistic pride induced by rajas and demonic pride induced by tamas. Of the three, the last one is self-destructive. The demons excel in it and thereby invite trouble for themvles. From a spiritual perspective, self-pride is a sign of selfishness, wordliness, imbalance or instability, egoism and attachment to worldly things. It denotes the predominance of rajas, duality and attachment. It is a reflection of excessive worldliness.

In the Puranas we find many characters who were endowed with excessive self-pride, even the most enlightened ones, such as Visvamitra, which lead to serious consequences. The Mahabharata war was precipitated by pride. Apart from Duryodhana, many characters such as Sakuni, Duryodhana, Amba, Asvatthama, Jayadhratha, Bhima and Draupadi contributed to it in their own individual ways because of their self-pride.

Egoistic pride made Duryodhan feel humiliated and vengeful when Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas, laughed at him in the hall of illusions (maya sabha). That one incident alone caused by the immaturity of Draupadi and pride of Duryodhana precipitated in a significant way the great battle of Mahabharata in which millions of lives were lost.

Thus having egoistic pride is not a desirable situation especially if it is induced by egoism, worldiness and rajastic ambition. The antidoe to self-pride is cultivating humility and detachment. Only through detachment and dispassion one can control one's pride and desires and experience peace and equanimity. Feeling upset and disturbed for every small incident is a sign of excess egoism. ence it should be avoided.

In ascetic traditions of ancient India, the initates and the ascetics were required to renounce everything including their self-pride and to cultivate humility and equanimity there were expected to wander from place to place begging for food. That act alone grounded them into surrender, submission and humility. With self-pride you many conquer the world or impress others, but if you want to conquer yourself, you have to set aside your personal pride and cultivate humility.

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