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!