Buddhism teaches that the world and everything in it is illusory. The only way for a Buddhist to realize this truth is to let go of all preconceived notions about the world and accept the nothingness of existence. Vanity presents an obstacle to achieving this state, as an individual's pride in himself distracts from accepting the illusory nature of his own ego. Buddhists must overcome vanity in order to achieve the ultimate Buddhist goal of nirvana.
Vanity directly contradicts the Buddhist doctrine of selflessness, or anattaa. This doctrine teaches that individuals must accept the middle path between extremes in life. An individual must accept neither the belief that the ego is everlasting, nor the belief that death annihilates the ego. According to Buddhism, any concepts related to the ego, the soul or the self are artificial constructs that don't correspond to the true nature of reality. Buddhism teaches there is no self and individuals should avoid anything like vanity that reinforces or celebrates the ego.
Four Noble Truths
Vanity is part of the four noble truths of Buddhism that individuals can understand only after they have extinguished the illusion of the self. According to one of the truths, overcoming vanity is key to attaining nirvana. By following the path of Buddhism, they will realize that pride in their appearance or achievements is fruitless. Buddhists work towards the dissolution of their own consciousness and ultimately complete liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth.
The lifestyle of monks further reinforces the Buddhist belief in avoiding vanity. Monks live humble, ascetic lives, taking only what they need. Buddhists receive everything they need -- from clothing to food -- as gifts from laypeople. Buddhist monks must ignore their own vanity and humble themselves, and by denying their own desires, they accept a humble lifestyle in pursuit of higher Buddhist ideals.
Vanity contradicts the Buddhist notion of impermanence. Buddhism teaches that individuals should accept the impermanence of all things in the world. Everything from people to animals to objects decay and die, but many humans waste their time trying to fight this physical decay out of vanity. Buddhists believe that fighting or trying to conceal their own impermanence is pointless. For example, according to Buddhanet, most monks shave their head as a sign of devotion to the principles of Buddhism, but those who don't, avoid removing or dyeing their grey hairs, as they serve as a reminder of their own aging.
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