Is everything we do self serving?

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Is everything we do self serving?

Postby Ervin » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:09 pm

I was wondering. Is everything we do, even good brave deeds self serving. Like I am thinking about good things we do, even those where it seems like we are geting nothing in return. Like giving money to a person that is beging, like someone in a wheelchair who you might never see again.

Is even that in a way self serving? It makes you feel good about yourself if you are a non believer. If you are a believer than you either score points with God or you end up good wich leads to peace in next life. I suppose those things depend on what you believe.

At wich point are shure that you are good enough and all you do is maintain good because that's what you have become. At wich point are you certain that all you are doing is because you don't want nothing in return because you already have what you want?

I think that it takes a lot of work on arriving at that point and once you are there you still can't rest but you know that you have either come close to or have fully disolved your ego.

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Re: Is everything we do self serving?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:20 pm

There is pure motivation. And there are the feelings associated with it that don't corrupt it, like rejoicing in virtuous deeds.
You can feel empathy for the person in need and give help without thinking about self gain. It's natural that you feel good about helping someone and this doesn't mean you only do it because you feel good about it. Sometimes it takes sacrifice to help, even if you feel good about it in the end.
The litmus test is not feeling bad when your expectations about the action aren't met, like when you help someone who turns out to be ungrateful or wastes your help. The argument that you do it because 1st you feel bad about the situation and 2nd you want to end that feeling so that you in 3rd feel good again or want to please God/ gather merits and so on is ludicrous. It's the kind of Ayn Rand sort of nonsense that assumes we are inherently self centered monsters. Yet it fails when it comes to the distinction of causation and consequence, ending up putting the cart in front of the ox, seeing a mere consequence as the cause by taking it as a stimuli that alone causes a complex behavior, considering we can only act in a sort of narrow and conditioned way. It's an oversimplification that doesn't account for the whole range of altruistic behaviors seen in humans and perhaps some non human animals.
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Re: Is everything we do self serving?

Postby Ervin » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:44 pm

I agree with you Dechen and I certainly disagree wit Ayn Rand. I would argue that wr have to be vigilant in order to maintain good. I am preaty sure that I have read once from a Buddhist master Hsing Yun that you should never get tired of doing good. I agree with him100%. One of my favourite books ever on ethics is written by him. It's called Being Good.

Nothing wrong with wanting good karma in return but I would say that we should not get attached to the results.

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Re: Is everything we do self serving?

Postby mint » Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:53 pm

You should read Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, which deals with this topic directly.

There is no problem with doing good or virtuous deeds nor do I think there is any problem in feeling pleasure for doing good deeds; however, the problem arises in that we habitually tend to watch ourselves doing good deeds which then becomes this perpetuated self-observation: we watch ourself watching ourself watching ourself doing good deeds. This inevitably leads to clinging. We then tell stories about how great our good deed was in the past...never quite getting beyond it, always looking back to it like some archetype of Goodness or Merit.
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Re: Is everything we do self serving?

Postby catmoon » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:29 pm

The Dalai Lama has an interesting take on this. Since any genuine virtuous act will benefit both the giver and the receiver, there is no way to dodge accusations of selfishness. So you might as well go for the accumulation of merit anyhow, maybe even call it "enlightened selfishness". Nothing you call it, no matter how you think about it, is going to change a virtuous act into an evil one.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
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Re: Is everything we do self serving?

Postby Thug4lyfe » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:16 pm

It's betta to do good deeds based on self servinness bettah than doin nothang at all know wat im sayin?
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Re: Is everything we do self serving?

Postby Clouds » Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:10 am

Is everything we do self serving (good meritorious actions too)?


I think awareness of that is good, in that we give up the delusion of altruism, and I don't think it will in any way reduce meritorious behavior for most people. If that awareness becomes a distraction, just give up attachment to that awareness.
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Re: Is everything we do self serving?

Postby LastLegend » Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:49 am

Do for others is do for self. Do for self is selfish and therefore suffering. Do for self will bring suffering to self thus will harm oneself. Thus a mosquito bites itself when it bites others.

―Listen! Those of you who devote yourselves to the Dharma
must not be afraid of losing your bodies and your lives―
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Re: Is everything we do self serving?

Postby Monlam Tharchin » Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:06 am

I think it's only selfish if there's a self that gets patted on the back or seeks to be a newer, better self. We're made of whatever we're made of. That a self-concept can arise says nothing about some supposed quality of existence but more about the causes of its arising, namely ignorance and other factors. Self is an attitude :) It is made of many parts and conditions, not the other way around.

Mudita, sympathetic joy, is something to read further about as well in this arena. I find the presence or absence of mudita for me will tell the bare truth about my state of mind at the time, no matter how I may feel I am.

Essentially, everything that Dechen Norbu said :applause: And Chogyam Trungpa has some very poignant insight about this as well, like someone else mentioned. :reading:
Speak one sentence less; Recite the Buddha's name one time more. - Ven. Hsuan Hua
Namu Amida Butsu
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Re: Is everything we do self serving?

Postby Jinzang » Thu Mar 15, 2012 3:10 pm

Since there is no self, it's hard to see how it could be served.
Imagine a man who stands before a mirror; a stone strikes it, and it falls to ruin all in an instant. And the man learns that he is himself, and not the mirrored man he had believed himself to be.
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