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My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply? - Dhamma Wheel

My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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James the Giant
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My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby James the Giant » Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:54 am

I have been challenged on this point a couple of times, and today a good friend of mine repeated that he thought Buddhism was selfish, and that the Gotama was also selfish when he left Yasodhara and Rahula.
We were talking of my urge to ordain as a bhikku, and he said in his opinion that was the most selfish thing of all.
We argued a bit, and I can certainly understand what he was talking about. It does seem selfish, from his perspective.
People leaving everything, going away to meditate or become monks, not really contributing to the world in a positive way, etc.
What I need is a couple of good arguments for why Buddhism isn't selfish, and specifically why ordaining as a monk isn't selfish.
I've read a couple of articles refuting this perceived selfishness by pointing out that Enlightenment is done on the behalf of all beings, or something along those lines. And also referring to the mahayana Bodhisattva's vow as an example of engagement with the worldly world... but those arguments seemed a little nebulous to me, and didn't really seem particularly persuasive to my friend, who doesn't believe in a potential Enlightenment anyway.

Grr, I'm fresh out of ideas. Maybe it IS selfish, and that's okay.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:16 am

There are no good arguments — they are all bad — but I know what you mean.

What your friend wants is a convincing reason why renunciation is not selfish. It is hard for those who are still attached to sensual pleasures to see the benefits of renunciation, not only for oneself, but for society in general.

The Bodhisatta's father-in-law, King Suppabuddha, hated him for "deserting" Yasodharā, but Rāhula and Yasodharā both became Arahants later with the Buddha's help. It was because he saw that they were not free from aging, disease, and death that the Bodhisatta renounced the household life in search of the unborn, undying, nibbāna.
• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

PeterB
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby PeterB » Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:20 am

Ajahn Sumedho once said in a talk words along the lines of .." In some ways living this life is deeply selfish..if people knew how completely satisfying it is they would want to share it to some degree.."

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Dan74
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Dan74 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:27 am

_/|\_

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Ben
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Ben » Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:30 am

Greetings James

I agree with everything that has been stated above. And as Bhante said, there are no good arguments. Part of that I believe is that there is a paucity of shared experience or knowledge of what the path actually is by non practitoners. to many people, it is incomprehenisble. And for many practitioners, it is at times a "long and lonesome road".
My only response to someone who says that Buddhism is selfish is to respond by saying that they don't understand Buddhism and that if they did understand Buddhism, there is no way that they would come to that conclusion. And leave it at that. If they have the paramitas they'll go on to discover it for themselves.
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

nobody12345
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby nobody12345 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 11:41 am

Maybe you should tell your friend about Metta meditation practice.
Many Buddhists practice Metta meditation to bring health, wholesome happiness, wholesome joy, and wholesome peace to complete strangers and even enemies.
Even a lowly lay person like me, do practice Metta meditation on three people that harmed me (i.e. enemies) every day in order to bring them happiness.
You might want to mention about Metta meditaton and how big it is in our practice.
And if they are unwilling to listen, just smile and tell them "if you say so" and leave them be.
Worldlings are at the place (spritually speaking) they are supposed to be.
Don't force them to change.
Let it be.
Metta.

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Kim OHara
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:24 pm


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appicchato
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby appicchato » Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:19 pm


Jhana4
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Jhana4 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:50 pm

In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Wizard in the Forest
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Thu Mar 03, 2011 6:56 am

When talking about when the Buddha left home, he left his whole family and all his life to seek the cure to all suffering. He made an incredible sacrifice that just so happened to change the lives of millions of people to this day including saving and bringing all of his family to nibbana. Of course, on the short-term it may have caused his family especially his father and wife much pain, yet before his parinibbana all his family members achieved enlightenment and were free from suffering forever. If that isn't incredibly selfless I don't know what is. Then you have the monks and nuns who go forth who do the same thing. They go forth to seek the end of selfishness. To seek the end of suffering, and to teach others how to get there. Buddhism is actually a highly moralistic religion that puts great emphasis on cultivation of virtue without selfishness because in Buddhism there is no self that owns anything. The Buddhist practitioner who is virtuous knows he doesn't own the virtue and does good for its own sake. Me making and selfishness is the reason why suffering exists, and this means that it is not a "selfish" religion. Quite the opposite, Buddhism is the cure to selfishness. It is noble and it teaches a person to be non-attached to ordinary life and as a result you'll have selfless people willing to sacrifice their own life and comforts for another as the Buddha did.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

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Goofaholix
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:22 am


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pilgrim
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby pilgrim » Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:22 am

Siddhatta leaving his family to find the deathless is selfish? How we perceive what is selfishness depends to a certain extent on how delusional we are. In every society, there are young men leaving their families to join the army, learn how to use weapons and eventually kill each other on the battle field. Is that considered selfish? Some people think that's the most noble thing in the world and would gladly send their sons off in such an endeavor.

plwk
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby plwk » Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:49 am


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Alexei
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Alexei » Thu Mar 03, 2011 12:43 pm


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Lazy_eye
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:13 pm


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kirk5a
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby kirk5a » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:27 pm

Anything we do is selfish when there is self-grasping mind involved. By definition. So by ordaining, you'd be working to dig up the very root of selfishness itself. Doing this is selfish, doing that is not - Totally misses the mark as to what is selfish or not. Selfish is in the mind.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

fabianfred
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby fabianfred » Fri Mar 04, 2011 10:24 am

Everyone wants to change the world...make it perfect or more perfect than it is. This cannot be done....but we can make one small part of it perfect...ourself. The motivation to do that is not selfish. All beings struggling in the cycle of rebirth called Samsara are similar to all those people struggling in the water at the end of the movie 'Titanic'...we can only save others once we have saved ourself by getting on to the shore or a boat.
Like the old story of give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach him how to fish and he feed himself for life. People complain that Buddhism doesn't go about opening schools and shelters and hospitals etc. as the Christians do.
Well, Buddha said that the gift of Dhamma is the greatest gift.
Teach someone the truth about life and the causes of suffering helps relieve them now, and if they practice the Dhamma to its conclusion they escape all future suffering. The other types of social work help people only with their immediate suffering in this life.

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Monkey Mind
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Monkey Mind » Fri Mar 04, 2011 6:46 pm

"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Lazy_eye
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Mar 04, 2011 7:18 pm


meindzai
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Re: My friend says Buddhism is selfish... how to reply?

Postby meindzai » Fri Mar 04, 2011 7:47 pm

I argue from the perspective of the three unwholesome roots. Greed, anger, and delusion. To be enlightened is to be rid of these things. How can it be selfish to free oneself from greed?

-M


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