Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Sea of Selflessness

The Sea of Selflessness

Selfishness stems from our biological instinct for self-preservation. It is hardwired in our genes and it has to be conquered by software.

All of us are selfish; some more blatantly so than others. Certain acts of selfishness are subtle and are not so easily discernible. When we give to others expecting something in return, we are motivated by selfishness. Sometimes we claim that we are doing something without expecting any rewards, but deep down inside we are actually expecting praise for our supposed "selflessness". That is also selfishness.

There is nothing seriously wrong with that. By nature we will always care for ourselves and our loved ones first before we spare a thought for others. In a previous blog entry, I have equated ego with gravity. Every mass has a centre of gravity; similarly every individual is a center of selfishness. Our circle of friends or our loved ones to whom we give our selfish priorities to is but a natural planetary system of egos that cluster together for self-preservation and mutual benefit.

The word "selfishness" might seem to have some negative connotation, but it is not necessarily so. We must differentiate between its many levels. The famous Indian saint Yogananda describes three types of selfishness: evil, good and sacred selfishness.

Evil selfishness is that which drives a man to seek his own comfort through destroying the comforts of others. It is a win-lose thing. We sabotage someone else so that we might gain some advantage. We talk bad of others and criticise indiscriminately so that we look good ourselves. The easiest way to declare yourself smart is to say how stupid other people are.

Good selfishness is constructive action that feeds the needs of the individual and his family. We render a service to others so that we might get paid. Everyone renders some service that's useful to others and this results in everyone's "selfish" needs being met. It is what makes the world goes round. It is a win-win thing. We are all quite alright if we belong to this category of "selfish" individuals.

The third category of selfishness is the sacred kind. A man of sacred selfishness does not serve his own ego but the whole of humanity of which he is part of. He feels for others and all his sacrifices are done for the sake of the greater good. He identifies with the Universal Self, his own ego dissolves into God's Will. When one successfully attains this state, "selflessness" rather than "selfishness" is the more appropriate word to describe it. Such individuals are rare. The successful ones are well-known to us as religious figures whom many worship.

Perhaps it is fair to say that the average individual would have of mixture of these three types of selfishness. In our moments of weakness, we could sometimes be selfish in an evil way. When we perform our role in society responsibly, doing our job and feeding our family, we attain the level of good selfishness. Those with a religious impulse, aspire to the level of sacred selfishness.

Why do we want to move from a state of selfishness to selflessness? It is an inevitability. It is a law of nature. Like what I've written in a previous entry before, all rivers flow to the sea. Only in the Sea of Selflessnes, will we ultimately find peace.

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