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October 5, 2013

There is No Self, So Don’t Be Selfish.

One of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism is that our sense of individuality is delusional.

The Buddha taught that we aren’t really individual beings in the way that we tend to think. We are really just part of everything else, like how waves are part of the ocean. A wave can be described as an individual, but it isn’t really separate from the rest of the ocean.

The Buddha taught that what we think of as our self is actually not an individual being, but a combination of things.

He called these the five aggregates. They are: physical form, consciousness, feelings, perceptions and mental habits.

If we are just a collection of things, like parts of a car, then our self is less significant than we think it is.

So, what are the implications of this?

Well, feelings of greed and jealousy become insignificant if we aren’t so focused on ourselves. I think everyone agrees that the world would be a better place with less selfishness. Recognizing ourselves as part of a context rather than thinking we are some separate independent being can go a long way toward fixing many of the problems in the world.

Selfishness is a big problem. Because of selfishness we are greedy. Because of selfishness we are jealous of others and we tend to get upset if we don’t have everything that we think we deserve. Because of selfishness we take others for granted, which can greatly damage our relationships. Selfishness is at the root of most of our human problems.

A lot of our anger is motivated by selfishness as well. When we get mad or upset that things aren’t the way we want them to be, or that others aren’t behaving in the way we think they should.

If we recognize others as ourselves then we are certainly less likely to harm them.

It can make us want to help them instead—and ultimately, helping others is really important in Buddhism.

When we recognize that we are everything, it can be easy to forgive everything—or at least accept everything.

 

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg lives in Kansas City. He’s been practicing Buddhism for nearly 20 years. He teaches at the Open Heart Project Sangha and is a Zen Teacher (Fashi) in the Dharma Winds Zen Order. His main focus is on mindfulness practices rooted in the earliest Zen teachings and compassion practices rooted in the Bodhisattva Tradition. He has taken Bodhisattva Vows and Brahmajala Precepts and he is affiliated with the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun.
Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook