Live for yourself or others?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Live for yourself or others?

Postby mindfulSpirit » Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:44 am

I had an interesting discussion when getting a hair cut. A 72 year old guy walked into the hair cut shop at about 9am for a hair cut. The hairdresser asked him how he was and the old man replied that he wasn't doing so well because his wife left him that day after 45 years of marriage. His wife is 67 years old.

The hairdresser asked him what he thought and it came out in conversation that the old man believed that people live their lives for others primarily and not just yourself. The hairdressor disagreed greatly.

So what did the Buddha say in general? To me it would seem that the Buddha leant more towards liberation of ourselves first but at the same time being mindful of others needs and helping them out where possible. But what do you all think?

Do we live for others or for ourselves?

My dog is getting old and I find that he gets into trouble no matter what I do. For example, he recently got a few ticks on him that was causing him paralysis. I have luckily found some tick repellent that will help him recover but it has me thinking that there just isn't any certainty with living beings. It makes me think that the old man is wrong because if we live for someone else then our happiness is so attached to the other person. So if the other person is sad, we are sad. If they are happy, we are happy. But we can't control other people but more so, what happens to them.

If we live for other people, I think we are setting ourselves up for a lot more hurt. The sad thing is....I've been just like that old man :cry:

edit: The Buddha talked about the four dangers: Old age, sickness, death and separation.
I think the old man was suffering greatly from separation from his loved one.

I wonder how we are supposed to think about 'separation from loved ones', and how to handle it. It's all well good to say, just don't be attached but that is such a hard thing to do.
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Re: Live for yourself or others?

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:18 am

why does it have to be an either or situation?

what does live for one's self mean? hedonism? isolation? a cold heart?
what does living for another mean? codependency? why not compassion?
can one live with another without living for another?
can one live for others, serving, helping benefiting them, while at the same time benefiting them self?

what are all the options available?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Live for yourself or others?

Postby Guy » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:34 am

Hi MindfulSpirit,

I think we should do the best we can for ourselves AND others. Of course, doing the best we can does not mean that we will be appreciated, it doesn't mean that other people will listen to and follow our good advice, it doesn't mean everyone will like us, it doesn't mean that those who love us now will continue to do so for the rest of eternity - and we should accept that. It doesn't matter how much we love a particular person, ultimately we can't control or change them, to try to do so is to create a lot of suffering for ourselves. We should cultivate loving kindness, compassion and appreciative joy for ALL beings (not just our personal favourites) and also cultivate equanimity, accepting the unpleasant parts of life.

Above all else, we should try to escape the dangers of the world through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. This I think is the safe bet.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Live for yourself or others?

Postby Sobeh » Tue Mar 30, 2010 5:10 am

"And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation [of the four foundations of mindfulness]. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.
"And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, lovingkindness, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself."

SN 47.19
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Re: Live for yourself or others?

Postby Nibbida » Wed Mar 31, 2010 4:23 pm

mindfulSpirit wrote:Do we live for others or for ourselves?


There is no self or other.

The question illustrates the illusory sense of duality that leads people to have to make a choice between the two. The solution, ultimately, is not to choose, but to see that the question is based on illusory perceptions and concepts.
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: Live for yourself or others?

Postby Monkey Mind » Wed Mar 31, 2010 6:19 pm

The "best" personal growth experiences in my life have occurred in two very different contexts: sitting on the meditation cushion, and volunteering for non-profit organizations.
"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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Re: Live for yourself or others?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Mar 31, 2010 9:35 pm

Four types of people in regard to helping others:
1. The one who practices neither for his/her own benefit nor for that of others
2. The one who practices for the benefit of others but not for his/her own
3. The one who practices for his/her own benefit but not for that of others
4. The one who practices for his/her own benefit and for that of others
(The highest / best one is number 4 above.) (from Anguttara Nikaya 4.96)

"And who is the individual who practices for his/her own benefit and for that of others? There is the case where a certain individual practices for the subduing of passion within him/herself and encourages others in the subduing of passion; practices for the subduing of aversion within him/herself and encourages others in the subduing of aversion; practices for the subduing of delusion within him/herself and encourages others in the subduing of delusion. Such is the individual who practices for his/her own benefit and for that of others."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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