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  • Daniel Rodman

Comparing

When we compare we look at how two or more things are similar and/or different. Comparing can either make someone or something more meaningful or less meaningful, depending on if the comparing is done with appreciation and reverence of the truth, or if it is done with fear, neurotic judgement, or insecurity.

When we compare the scores of two sports teams it is honoring the spirit of the game, which is ultimately based in mutual respect. The players would not have a game at all if there was no opposing team. Players can often forget that, but if they truly love the game they must know that they at least secretly love their rivals. So when we say this team is winning and this team is losing, that is a honest observation. The judgements we have about that observation is another story. When we compare the smartest and most academically excelled person in college with the rest of the class by naming her valedictorian and offer her an opportunity to give a speech during graduation, we do not make a judgement about her value over others, but rather to honor who was probably the most hardworking student in the entire school, or at least the most talented academically. It is to acknowledge the achievement that stood out amongst the others. The same thing goes for awards ceremonies like the Oscars or the Grammys, all to honor what is considered the best in comparison to all other movies and shows of the year. Not to say no to those who are not selected, but to say yes to those who were for good reason. This kind of comparing has a place in our society, It is meant to draw distinctions that distinguish the worthy.

In contrast to this is the kind of comparing that is a drag, that brings down the value of anything, wether of the thing being esteemed or the esteemer. For example, lets say a person constantly compares herself with others in her workplace. Always comparing their achievements in work, sizing herself up with others, never being satisfied with her own accomplishments. In this kind of comparing the value of her work goes down not just because it is compared with others neurotically, but is also never good enough because it is never as good as her peers. And even if she excels at her work, all its value goes into an inflated ego that is rooted in fear of not being loved. So it is reduced to a crutch for her ego instead of being appreciated for what it truly is, her love and effort in the form of work. Bullying, making fun of people, and other forms of discrimination like sexism, racism, and homophobia, is another type of toxic comparing. The bully in his own mind compares himself to the one he's bullying and thinks of himself as superior. Even if he is in some way, his need to put others down in order to feel it is inferior in the first place, since it is rooted in insecurity and fear of not being loved or good enough. The bullied can live with this sense of comparing their whole lives after, feeling insecure and less than others. Ultimately, letting go of comparing in this way is the remedy for bullying or an inferiority complex. To stop comparing in this way and accept yourself and others for who and what they are is how we can overcome this obstacle.

In meditation, we compare in order to let go of comparing. We compare a worried or anxious mind to an equanimous peaceful mind. We compare dualistic and conceptual thinking to unitive and non-conceptual thinking. We compare egoic states of mind to love and wisdom. Once we make these appropriate comparisons, we come to a still place in our practice that allows us to let go of all points of reference, to rely on direct experience of the ultimate reality and the nature of our minds which is transcendent. Through realizing the transcendent we let go of all comparison, since there is nothing in this manifested world that the transcendent can be compared to, on the same level with. May you come to know the difference between appropriate comparison and harmful comparisons, and come to a place in your practice that realizes a truth that is transcendent of all comparisons.

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