Selfishness

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Selfishness

Postby adosa » Sun Aug 02, 2009 2:57 pm

Friends,

Is every action we take, while we are still under the delusion of "self" and conceit, tinged with selfishness, no matter how kind the act? I mean deep down, even though we may wish the action was for the benefit of others (and it may be) and selfless, do we still derive some ego-gratification from that action?

Honestly and regrettably, this is something that I have been observing within my own mind-stream. I may be kind or do a skillful action and somewhere deep inside there is something saying "Atta boy!, you are a good guy." And is it that feedback, deluded in "self", that drives future action. At what time do actions entirely become for the benefit of others without a trace of that ego-gratification aspect? Is it before Stream Entry, at Stream Entry, or at the level of Arahant? Or am I hopelessly conceited? Is this just a sign of clinging to self view? :shrug:

thanks for any and all honest replies.


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Re: Selfishness

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Aug 02, 2009 3:19 pm

adosa wrote: Is it before Stream Entry, at Stream Entry, or at the level of Arahant? Or am I hopelessly conceited? Is this just a sign of clinging to self view? :shrug:


See my post here: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=1917&p=25463#p25463

Based on the ten hindrances and when they are eradicated, it appears that to completely eradicate all sense of self and conceit does not occur until one is an Arahant.

I had a professor in college who claimed "everyone has their price" and that "everyone is motivated by greed for getting something back." He claimed that even Mother Teresa is doing her good works (was alive at the time) so that she can get her "kicks" in heaven. He makes a good point, but forgets that there are some rare beings who really do things out of selflessness. George Soros was born Jewish and is now an atheist and regularly gives millions to disadvantaged people and fights for various causes, including anti-war. But I suppose my former professor could argue that even he may be doing so for fame (in this life) or some other selfish reason or for some other reward, such as recognition and awards. Many people often donate large amounts to universities and hospitals with the expectation of having their name literally on the building. But I think there are those rare beings who truly can give without the conceit, sense of self, pride, etc. But they would be Arahants or near to there. So if you still feel some sense of self when you give, that is okay for now, Arahantship is a long journey.
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Re: Selfishness

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Aug 02, 2009 3:23 pm

AN 4.159 PTS: A ii 144
Bhikkhuni Sutta: The Nun
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2009
I have heard that on one occasion Ven. Ananda was staying in Kosambi, at Ghosita's Park. Then a certain nun said to a certain man, "Go, my good man, to my lord Ananda and, on arrival, bowing your head to his feet in my name, tell him, 'The nun named such-and-such, venerable sir, is sick, in pain, severely ill. She bows her head to the feet of her lord Ananda and says, "It would be good if my lord Ananda were to go to the nuns' quarters, to visit this nun out of sympathy for her."'"

Responding, "Yes, my lady," the man then approached Ven. Ananda and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to Ven. Ananda, "The nun named such-and-such, venerable sir, is sick, in pain, severely ill. She bows her head to the feet of her lord Ananda and says, 'It would be good if my lord Ananda were to go to the nuns' quarters, to visit this nun out of sympathy for her.'"

Ven. Ananda accepted with silence.

Then in the early morning, having put on his robes and, carrying his bowl and outer robe, he went to the nuns' quarters. The nun saw Ven. Ananda coming from afar. On seeing him, she lay down on a bed, having covered her head.

Then Ven. Ananda approached the nun and, on arrival, sat down on a prepared seat. As he was sitting there, he said to the nun: "This body, sister, comes into being through food. And yet it is by relying on food that food is to be abandoned.

"This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.

"This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.

"This body comes into being through sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is to be abandoned. With regard to sexual intercourse, the Buddha declares the cutting off of the bridge.

"'This body, sister, comes into being through food. And yet it is by relying on food that food is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk, considering it thoughtfully, takes food — not playfully, nor for intoxication, nor for putting on bulk, nor for beautification — but simply for the survival & continuance of this body, for ending its afflictions, for the support of the holy life, [thinking,] 'Thus will I destroy old feelings [of hunger] and not create new feelings [from overeating]. I will maintain myself, be blameless, & live in comfort.' Then, at a later time, he abandons food, having relied on food. 'This body, sister, comes into being through food. And yet it is by relying on food that food is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said.

"'This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears, 'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now.' The thought occurs to him, 'I hope that I, too, will — through the ending of the fermentations — enter & remain in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for myself in the here & now.' Then, at a later time, he abandons craving, having relied on craving. 'This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"'This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears, 'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now.' The thought occurs to him, 'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now. Then why not me?' Then, at a later time, he abandons conceit, having relied on conceit. 'This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said.

"This body comes into being through sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is to be abandoned. With regard to sexual intercourse, the Buddha declares the cutting off of the bridge."

Then the nun — getting up from her bed, arranging her upper robe over one shoulder, and bowing down with her head at Ven. Ananda's feet — said, "A transgression has overcome me, venerable sir, in that I was so foolish, so muddle-headed, and so unskilled as to act in this way. May my lord Ananda please accept this confession of my transgression as such, so that I may restrain myself in the future."

"Yes, sister, a transgression overcame you in that you were so foolish, so muddle-headed, and so unskilled as to act in this way. But because you see your transgression as such and make amends in accordance with the Dhamma, we accept your confession. For it is a cause of growth in the Dhamma & Discipline of the noble ones when, seeing a transgression as such, one makes amends in accordance with the Dhamma and exercises restraint in the future."

That is what Ven. Ananda said. Gratified, the nun delighted in Ven. Ananda's words.
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Re: Selfishness

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Aug 02, 2009 3:29 pm

Tipitaka Anguttara Nikaya Sevens
AN 7.49 PTS: A iv 59
Dana Sutta: Giving
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2009
Translator's note: This discourse discusses the motivations one might have for being generous, and rates in ascending order the results that different motivations can lead to. The Commentary notes that the highest motivation, untainted by lower motivations and leading to non-returning, requires a certain level of mastery in concentration and insight in order to be one's genuine motivation for giving.

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying in Campa, on the shore of Gaggara Lake. Then a large number of lay followers from Campa went to Ven. Sariputta and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As they were sitting there they said to Ven. Sariputta: "It has been a long time, venerable sir, since we have had a chance to hear a Dhamma talk in the Blessed One's presence. It would be good if we could get to hear a Dhamma talk in the Blessed One's presence."

"Then in that case, my friends, come again on the next Uposatha day, and perhaps you'll get to hear a Dhamma talk in the Blessed One's presence."

"As you say, venerable sir," the lay followers from Campa said to Ven. Sariputta. Rising from their seats, bowing down to him, and then circling him — keeping him on their right — they left.

Then, on the following Uposatha day, the lay followers from Campa went to Ven. Sariputta and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, stood to one side. Then Ven. Sariputta, together with the lay followers from Campa, went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One: "Might there be the case where a person gives a gift of a certain sort and it does not bear great fruit or great benefit, whereas another person gives a gift of the same sort and it bears great fruit and great benefit?"

"Yes, Sariputta, there would be the case where a person gives a gift of a certain sort and it does not bear great fruit or great benefit, whereas another person gives a gift of the same sort and it bears great fruit and great benefit."

"Lord, what is the cause, what is the reason, why a person gives a gift of a certain sort and it does not bear great fruit or great benefit, whereas another person gives a gift of the same sort and it bears great fruit and great benefit?"

"Sariputta, there is the case where a person gives a gift seeking his own profit, with a mind attached [to the reward], seeking to store up for himself [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a priest or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?"

"Yes, lord."

"Having given this gift seeking his own profit — with a mind attached [to the reward], seeking to store up for himself, [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the Four Great Kings. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.

"Then there is the case of a person who gives a gift not seeking his own profit, not with a mind attached [to the reward], not seeking to store up for himself, nor [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death.' Instead, he gives a gift with the thought, 'Giving is good.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a priest or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?"

"Yes, lord."

"Having given this gift with the thought, 'Giving is good,' on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the Devas of the Thirty-three. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.

"Or, instead of thinking, 'Giving is good,' he gives a gift with the thought, 'This was given in the past, done in the past, by my father & grandfather. It would not be right for me to let this old family custom be discontinued'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the Devas of the Hours. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.

"Or, instead... he gives a gift with the thought, 'I am well-off. These are not well-off. It would not be right for me, being well-off, not to give a gift to those who are not well-off'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the Contented Devas. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.

"Or, instead... he gives a gift with the thought, 'Just as there were the great sacrifices of the sages of the past — Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, & Bhagu — in the same way will this be my distribution of gifts'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the devas who delight in creation. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.

"Or, instead... he gives a gift with the thought, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the devas who have power over the creations of others. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.

"Or, instead of thinking, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise,' he gives a gift with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a priest or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?"

"Yes, lord."

"Having given this, not seeking his own profit, not with a mind attached [to the reward], not seeking to store up for himself, nor [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death,'

" — nor with the thought, 'Giving is good,'

" — nor with the thought, 'This was given in the past, done in the past, by my father & grandfather. It would not be right for me to let this old family custom be discontinued,'

" — nor with the thought, 'I am well-off. These are not well-off. It would not be right for me, being well-off, not to give a gift to those who are not well-off,' nor with the thought, 'Just as there were the great sacrifices of the sages of the past — Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, & Bhagu — in the same way this will be my distribution of gifts,'

" — nor with the thought, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise,'

" — but with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of Brahma's Retinue. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a non-returner. He does not come back to this world.

"This, Sariputta, is the cause, this is the reason, why a person gives a gift of a certain sort and it does not bear great fruit or great benefit, whereas another person gives a gift of the same sort and it bears great fruit and great benefit."

See also: AN 5.148.
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Re: Selfishness

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Aug 02, 2009 3:41 pm

rowyourboat wrote:" — nor with the thought, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise,'

" — but with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of Brahma's Retinue. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a non-returner. He does not come back to this world.

"This, Sariputta, is the cause, this is the reason, why a person gives a gift of a certain sort and it does not bear great fruit or great benefit, whereas another person gives a gift of the same sort and it bears great fruit and great benefit."

See also: AN 5.148.


:thumbsup: Great quotes. That shows that it is just those who are bound for the non-returner (and subsequently will be Arahants) realms that can give that self-lessly.
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Re: Selfishness

Postby Individual » Sun Aug 02, 2009 4:14 pm

adosa wrote:Friends,

Is every action we take, while we are still under the delusion of "self" and conceit, tinged with selfishness, no matter how kind the act?

No. A radical skeptic could logically reduce every action to an imagined form of selfishness. Observing this with mindfulness and wisdom, this is clearly wrong, though. Some hypothetical examples: A soldier jumps on a grenade to save his comrades... for the selfish sake of getting medals post-mortem? A firefighter or police officer risks his life to save others for the selfish sake of being called a hero? A relative donates a kidney, again, for the sake of being commended? A mother takes care of a child, for the selfish sake of feeling good about raising a child and being taken care of in old age?

These things are all logically possible, but they are not plausible, given what we have experienced of human nature.

We could speculate in such a way that virtually anything could be derived from selfishness, even the Buddha's own actions, but such a view is extremely convoluted and in error.

adosa wrote:I mean deep down, even though we may wish the action was for the benefit of others (and it may be) and selfless, do we still derive some ego-gratification from that action?

We might, but if you're being neurotically worried, "Am I seeking ego-gratification from every action?" it's the speculative anxiety right there that is the ego-gratifying activity.

People are capable of expressing real compassion. If not, what would be the point of Dhamma practice?
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Re: Selfishness

Postby genkaku » Sun Aug 02, 2009 4:18 pm

Hi adosa -- Good for you! It's not everyone who notices what you have noticed. And fewer still resolve to see the matter through.

"Selfishness" is a hot-button word that is likely to conger up contrasting and inviting notions like "virtue" and "selflessness." When a person notices his or her own selfishness, s/he can be pretty hard-hearted about things. " "Virtue" and "selflessness" are the way I am supposed to be and I fail at every turn: What a lousy person!

My mother once said, "Don't get too holy by next Thursday," and I think this is good advice. Yes, it is good to notice how we invest even the most cherished goals with a component of selfishness, which is to say, a component of self. But if self is where we are at, then self is where we are at ... and a very useful place it is to be, assuming anyone might choose to examine and pay attention to it.

The key that unlocks the door, that puts selfishness to rest, is practice. Whatever your practice is, just practice it. Pay attention and take responsibility, day in and day out, and a little at a time the needs expressed by selfishness will recede and with them, the selfishness itself. Take your time. Don't get too excited by what is not yet the honest truth. Just go forward with courage and patience and doubt. Will you fail? Sure. Big deal. It's human and we are human. Gently but firmly, follow the Japanese adage, "Fall down seven times, get up eight." Make a mistake, correct it. Make the same mistake again? Correct it again. Make a new and improved mistake? Correct that. If you can't correct a mistake, acknowledge your responsibility and keep on keepin' on. Keep on keepin' on and let the holiness or serenity or virtue take care of itself.

Sounds to me as if you were doing fine.
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Re: Selfishness

Postby adosa » Sun Aug 02, 2009 5:20 pm

Thanks all for your kind replies.

Sometimes trying to put into words what one observes during mindfulness is a little tricky. I apologize for my lack of clarity on this issue. I'm not sure selfishness in the conventional sense is correct. Also in my O.P. I used the term ego-gratification which may have been correct to a degree but I may have also been alluding more to ego-identification.

Individual, you pointed out some excellent selfless acts. Great points. My question was not cynical as such. I do not diminish those who have acted heroically but wonder if there is still not some ego-identification involved. Not so much for a medal but as a split second reaction to "self" view. Is this the view that propels us? I've been "under the gun" before and acted accordingly. And yet I could still recall, after the fact, something akin to identity view.

As far as "what's the point of Dhamma practice", isn't this the crux of the matter..... to eradicate this identification entirely. I see it in my daily practice and it does start to get comical after awhile. I was wondering when it would wear thin enough that it just goes packing. But it appears that will be awhile.

Thanks once again friends,

adosa
"To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas" - Dhammapada 183
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Re: Selfishness

Postby adosa » Sun Aug 02, 2009 6:34 pm

Genkaku, The Dhamma,

Thanks for the advice. It's always appreciated. It's an interesting road to follow.



Rowyourboat,

AN79.4 was what I was looking for. :thumbsup:

It appears there are steps and grades involved here. Practice, more practice.




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Re: Selfishness

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Aug 02, 2009 10:00 pm

"This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.

"This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.

These are wonderful teachings. Thanks for reminding me of them.
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Re: Selfishness

Postby BlackBird » Sun Aug 02, 2009 10:03 pm

I'm the most selfish person I know.

;)
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Re: Selfishness

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:54 am

Blackbird is the most selfish person I know.
;)
Last edited by kc2dpt on Mon Aug 03, 2009 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Selfishness

Postby adosa » Mon Aug 03, 2009 11:00 am

Peter wrote:Blackbird is the most selfish person I know.
:P


I like Blackbird. He's a cool dude.
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