Friday, November 10, 2006

at the end of the day, we're all driven by selfishness!

if you think about it, every thing we ever do, right from the moment we wake up till the moment we drop off into the sweet world of deep sleep, is driven by our own selfish desires.

i cannot think of a single thought, word or deed that is not driven by some 'essentially selfish motive'.

even the so-called altruistic actions that we perform and social service causes that we associate with are finally driven by some deep-rooted selfish desire in us. we feel noble/good/proud/useful/less guilty when we do such selfless activities. we often firmly believe that we have absolutely no personal agenda in performing such activities. but if we look deep within ourselves and are honest to ourselves we realise that we always do have some personal motive, some rub-off.

you may say that there are some relationships which are not based on selfishness. and the most popular oft-quoted example, of course, is that of the the relationship between a mother and a child. the argument is that the mother does things for the baby without expecting anything in return. i mean, how could you expect anything in return from the baby? but if you ask a mother, she will tell you that she too gets a lot from the baby; and that her actions for the baby too are driven by purely selfish (maybe not as selfish as wanting that irresistible diamond solitaire you've been eyeing, but selfish nonetheless!) motives. these motives could be as basic as the sense of satisfaction or fulfilment; or as far-fetched as wanting to be seen as a wonderful mother by the people around her!

ok, now the pertinent question is - is this bad? is being selfish a bad thing? (i know those are two questions, but they actually mean the same thing!)

in our society we are brought up to believe that selflessness is a far nobler state of being, something that we should ideally aspire for. but the problem is that there doesn't seem to be a practical, sure-fire way of achieving that. that's assuming first that you are convinced that selflessness is the way to be!

so how do we reconcile these apparently conflicting scenarios?

i believe the best thing for us to do is to work towards selflessness and try do the few 'selfless' activities that we do with as much sincerity as possible. my view is that it is far better to be doing some social service or working on some noble cause, even though you may be doing it for some purely selfish reason, than not doing anything even remotely selfless!

i firmly believe that slowly over time we will start widening the circle of beneficiaries for our actions and genuinely start becoming selfless in our day-to-day lives!


p.s. i must add here that the above observations do not apply to the great masters in our country who rose far above their 'selves' to a much higher plane of consciousness where they no longer operated on the 'plane of selfish motives' like us. they had risen so high that any action they performed automatically benefited a much wider circle of people beyond themselves.

their lives can be inspiration for us to try bring, in our selfish way, some selflessness in our own lives!


shobha said...

Dear GPda

Its so very true that all of us are driven by selfish motives alone . I agree that whatever we do in life ,is but obviously intended to give "US" or rather "ME" happiness .There is hardly anything i can think of which i do with a selfless attitude . Though the level of selfishness varies , i serve a poor only because i gain happiness in it . And again i do things which are solely meant for my benefit , may be even at the cost of someone else's happiness .

I dont think its wrong coz thats the rule of nature , but i surely think that the intellect of every man comes into play here . he has to make a conscious choice of what he wants to achieve and at what cost . I think that wud make things simpler as i feel complete selfless attitude is an Utopian concept .


Its Only Me said...

I completely agree on this topic. I have always felt that everything including parenting has a motive behind it - where the motive doesn't have to be malicious or materialistic in nature always.

Reema said...

hari om gp!

we've been debating on karma yoga in class n we can't seem to get anywhere!! if karma yoga is with pure , unselfish actionlessness then can we call the few attempts to incorporate this attitude(of karma yoga) in daily life anywhere close to it??? can it be called karma yoga??? or only if a person performs all his activities with the same attitude is it referred to as karma yoga???

varsha said...

Hari OM!!
Yes I agree with you GP...i believe that everything that we do has an ulterior selfish motive to it.But the question for me is that how do we rise up to the level where we can start doing unselfish deeds and broaden our circle of beneficiaries?? How?? We cannot leave our routine activities..coz thts a matter of survival...then how do we actually go about bringing others in our circle of benefit?? I need the answer to this GP...


Garima said...

As Ayn Rand said, selfishness is a virtue....I believe that as long as the acts of selfsihness are motivated by an instinct for a better, healthier more pusrposeful life and not infringing on similar rights of fellow being, they would eventually lead to a state where your personal prosperity of mind and matter leaks out to touch the outside world, like they advise in the safety instructions at the onset of a flight, you need to put on your oxygen mask first before you can save someone else.


Hey GP, I am impressed with ur thinking pattern .. even i feel so many time, being a human selfishness is core to us. Even in your example of Mother-Son relationship, even i feel some selfishness is involve there as well..