Don’t Be Selfish
You don’t have to be a college graduate to know that being selfish and self-centered causes stress in your own life and makes you a pain to be around. This is a common teaching and understanding in the world. Finding a way out of our ego and self-centered ways of thinking is one of the major journeys of growing up and developing as a human being.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that this concept also shows up in Buddhism. It just goes by different names and has different features. After all, we can be selfish through greed and trying to get things for ourselves; we can be selfish through aversion and trying to push others out of our lives; and we can be selfish through conceit and delusion – failing to see the people around us and the way the world truly works.
The varieties of selfish thought are too many to name, but the way out of selfish thinking is always the same. We get out of the trap by letting go out of greed, aversion, and delusion, and by letting go of the sense of self that prop these states of mind up.
Many people believe that the Buddha taught you have to give up the things you like to be enlightened. After all, it’s about renunciation, right? To them we can show a simple experiment. Hold out your hand with the palm facing up. Now, put a small object in it like a ball or a pen or a set of keys. Try holding onto that object as tightly as you can, desperately trying to keep it. Now hold onto it loosely by just letting it sit on top of the hand. Which state is more pleasant? Which is more painful?
The thing the Buddha suggests we let go of is not the thing we enjoy. He suggests we let go of the clinging and craving and grasping. The key to overcoming selfish thought is seeing that this way of thinking is as painful as it is unnecessary. We don’t need a rigid sense of self to operate in the world. If we look closely, we’ll see that it is actually the very source of our suffering.
For more reflections on this topic, check out the recording of the Sunday Morning Vipada Session at The Resident of Dhamma YouTube channel: