2021-03-14-Selfishness and Freedom from Selfishness
4:32AM Mar 15, 2021
A couple of announcements before I begin that talk. First is that I'll have a community meeting on zoom tomorrow morning after the 7am sitting in Dharma talks, it'll be at 745 or so. And it's partly to commemorate the one year anniversary of, of starting the 7am sittings. And it's also for many of us. Marks commemorates also the one year anniversary of sheltering in place where our life has changed dramatically a year ago. And different places of course, went into shelter at different times, but least here in California, a year ago. It was been a big year and I almost was going to give a talk today about grief. And maybe I'll do that in a couple of weeks, but I wasn't quite ready for that. And, and then next week, I won't be here next week, a wonderful teacher. Amanda Johnson is going to speak she is to graduate a year and a half ago from the teacher training for at spirit rock. So she's a local Dharma teacher. And and very happy to have her come in and spend Sunday morning with you.
So imagine that you're in a beautiful place in nature that may be someplace you've been found inspiring and maybe far away from buildings and roads and a lot of people it just an expanse of natural setting. Beautiful, comfortable, safe, inspiring place to be. And maybe it's so inspiring maybe you visit regularly to appreciate and feel the freedom of just roaming around and the trees and the skies and the hills and the rivers and the lakes whatever it might be just a vast space that's wonderful to be. And so after visiting many times you think this is special and you want to kind of mark the specialists of it some some nice way and creative way. And so you bring a with you into the wilderness, a glass door with a frame. It's a bit of an effort to bring it in there. And you install that door right in the middle of the wilderness. This glass door swings open very nicely to its frame. And there is the store, middle of the wilderness, some people might think it's an art installation. And but it's your door. And kind of marks at this space. This place is special for you it's kind of like marking yet this being special and and that you know symbolically to door into a different landscape and different place and but now when you go visit in this big vast open space there in the middle, there's a door and and you put happen to put it right in the middle of a trail so that when you go in the trail you have to open the door and step through. And so the door is there and you're like this door and sometimes it gets locked by mistake and you have to go home and get the key to unlock it and sometimes it gets rusty being in the weather and you have to oil it so that it can open and close and some being a glass door sometimes it gets dirty and you have to clean it and and you care for the store. And after a while you think of this store is your door. And and you want to protect your door and so you because the door represents this openness to into this wilderness and this freedom that's there and you decide that the thing to do is to put a fence around the door to really protect it so the moose doesn't come along and knock it down and and break the glass. So you put another fence around it then you come out there and you feel my doors protected. And after a while. The you start feeling you look around to Well, this is in this place where I enclosed the feds. It's not Really big enough for me, it's, you know, really, you know, I'd like more space to be able to come in and, and just kind of be spacious and open and, and so you expand the fence, make it bigger and bigger and and after a while you don't want to really see the fence, you make the fence really big and goes around the hills and outside of you and and so you go inside, you know just you in the door and the doors kind of maybe sometimes it gets branches fall in it and break it and you fix it and all kinds of things happen to the door. And eventually you wonder about the door. And then you remove the door. And then there's vast open space again and then you remove the fence. And it's just like it was before. It's still beautiful, beautiful location, inspiring a peaceful wonder and wonder if wonderful to roam around in. And then you think what was I doing with a door What was I doing with a fence. So, this may be a little silly story is introduction to the topic today, which is the Buddha's teachings on selfishness. The earliest teachings of the Buddha, as best we know, he did not teach anything about not-self. This, you know, famous teachings of the Buddha. It wasn't his focus, but rather he was focused on
talking about the problems, no suffering around being selfish, and how a wise person let go of selfishness. And as he developed his teaching, he described three different ways of being selfish or self focused or self preoccupied in some way. And one was through craving, one was through conceit, and the other is through metaphysical opinions and views, beliefs, that we hold on to. So the craving, idea of selfishness, he associates with possessiveness, possessing things these are mine, this is mine, the conceit is associated with the idea of I Am, you know, that I am something that I am this I am that says their raw identities that we take on, and hold on to. And, and the third is, this is myself, that this is a true self. Now, I know what the self is, and this is what the self is when my true self has my essences. And in Pali, these little expressions appear a lot in the suit does, it's it tired, Mama, so, us, me, and so. And so may and it's kind of close to what we say in English with me, myself and mine. He kind of says it in reverse, this is mine, this I am, and this is myself, this is the self. So, and reason to notice this and pay attention to it. It's the domain that the qualities of selfishness of being caught up in excessive excessive preoccupation with oneself, a strong attachment, clinging, self centeredness, that can happen. And, and this movement towards selfing. And getting holding on to self is, is limits our freedom. It does something which is not really necessary to cling to the self that is comparable to this idea of your Will you allow me of putting this door right in the middle of the wilderness. The Wilderness was beautiful and wonderful by itself. And it was a wonderful place to visit and peaceful and relaxing. And it was so much more less complicated to be there when you didn't have to take care of the door and protect the door and repair the door and build fences around the door. And the same thing, the natural kind of a natural state of being that can be quite open and peaceful and inspiring to experience for oneself that it does require placing something in the middle, this is mine, this is who I am, this is myself, that movement is kind of an extra movement, that that place is something in the natural setting, which, more often than not, is not needed, especially if what we're doing is clinging and holding on to, to these things. So conventionally, we might say things are mine. And, and you know, it's a lie, we say that so, you know, things are mine things are legally mine, there's ownership, there's things which we allow each other to have. But, but this selfishness around that is when we cling to mine, we hold on to it for dear life for the good, it has to be this way. And this movement towards possessiveness and claiming things is mine. But space belongs to me, is a recipe for suffering. One famous myth kind of origin story in Buddhism, that the beginning of the one of the beginnings of the downturn of the of society was private property. And then people started hoarding in their private property and stealing and things got out of hand in this mythic story.
So they do have it's mine and holding, holding a tight, not realizing that possessions, possessions of all kinds, anything we can say is mine is fragile is temporary, is no guarantee that it's going to stay around that they read recently about a meteorite or asteroid that kind of landed in the driveway of someone in I think in Scotland, I think it was our somewhere and the rare rare mineral that came in this asteroid and but there are no you know, guarantee that light things not gonna strike us or strike or things like our car or bicycle asteroids not gonna fall and something we own. And then we don't own it anymore. It's gone. You know, it just becomes a squashed piece of burnt stuff. And the idea that it is it me myself, that it's mine, as disappeared. The you know, I recently I broke a bolc ceramic bowl that my son had made, and beautiful bowl and I broke it in the kitchen and it was ours belong to our family. But soon as was broken, I didn't really think about think of it anymore as mine, or I didn't think of it as belonging to my family. I die rather unseres ceremoniously just kind of put it in the trash and offered went. And the the so mine, as I love the story that Suzuki rush, you have told him many times of Suzuki Roshi Is there a photograph of him actually saying this that taken just as he was saying it's so it's kind of more poignant. He was photographing, holding up his glasses like this. And he says, These are not my glasses, but you know about my old tired eyes, so you let me use them. So that's a very different relationship to my glasses. And so certainly, it's convenient to have things that we use and know they're there. And they're reliably going to be there next day when we find them. And so what's in their mind, but you might reflect a little bit about how much extra attachment there might be possessiveness, fear, fear of safety, fear of not being safe, attachment to, to status, attachment to all kinds of things that come, we say something as mine, it gets more kind of interesting when you look at, that we take as mine, of traits of our personality or qualities of our physique and our body and ways that we are in the world. opinions, my opinions. And, and if we hold on to those and cling to those and think they're unchanging, we'll suffer. So there's suffering of taking things as mine. And for the Buddha is very explicit, even taking this body as mine is a recipe for more suffering. And, and so you know, is that natural and normal take this body as mine. I think it's a natural normal conventionally to take it Mind my body. But, but to do so with an open hand, not clinging to it, just lightly, provisionally. But as soon as they my body, that I, you know, then then I have to be in charge of it, and I can't change and it has to always say the same. Maybe the second form of selfishness is conceit. And this is the idea of over evaluating oneself, it has to do with how we value ourselves, in relationship to other people. And their common way. In English. The word conceit refers to thinking that we're somehow have a higher value than others were better than others in some ways. And, and so it's a form of comparative thinking. And as soon as we get involved in comparative thinking other people, this is a really fun today amazing source of suffering, comparative thinking,
you know, things are constantly shifting in the social world, and between us and our abilities and other people's abilities. And so, you know, if we expect to always have a higher evaluation, other people will meet someone else who's going to be better if you know, I'm pretty good at basketball for someone who are, you know, compared to the six year old next door, but not compared to most adult men at this point? And so do I hold on to that, do I have a conceit around, I'm a good basketball player, better than everyone else, you know, I'll probably just suffer around that kind of idea. And so this comparative thinking, is an unnecessary glass door in the wilderness in the natural setting. It it Mars, the situation, it limits it, it becomes something then that we need to protect, we put fences around it, we add more and more fences and control for it. And it actually is a form of, of little limiting ourselves rather than freeing ourselves. There's a wonderful cartoon from Calvin and Hobbes, where Calvin is in the snow building a fort, and it will make him feel safe in this fort. And he's building up the wall. So it just goes above his head. And, and he's making it really tight and compact and, and he surrounds himself with all this snow to make a good safe fort for himself. But it's, it basically is made around little koan around himself. And once it's all finished, he's trapped inside. And he says, help help, because he can't get out anymore. So, so this idea of conceit is can become a trap, we've kind of protected too much and we kind of can't breathe even me myself in mind, the conceit of being better than and in the ancient Buddhist language, a Buddhist teachings, a word which was closely related to mano a mano, that word for conceit is the word Mada. And the Mata means to be intoxicated, that totally confused and wrapped up in things. And sometimes it's translated as pride. But the English word pride maybe has a variety of different meanings these days, and sometimes they're positive. But this is the original meaning of in talks of this word Mada, is pride is intoxication. One translation of ancient Abbey Dharma text is to list all kinds of things people are intoxicated, intoxicated by. So intoxicated by their birth, by their caste, basically, intoxicated by their clan. intoxicated by their health, by youth, intoxicated with life, itself, intoxicated with gain and acquisitions, intoxicated with honor, with being respected with fame, with having followers, with Well, with skin color, with learning with intelligence, with not being despised accomplishments, popularity with being ethical with meditation attainments, and the list goes on and on. But each of these is seen as a kind of pride a kind of conceit and conceit that we get toxicated by or get caught by. And it's so much easier to be in life in the world without getting caught by these comparative thinking. With There's one form of comparative thinking that in the Buddhist idea of conceit, is also the idea of thinking that we're less than other people, that we're have less value than others in some way. And that's also conceit, because it's also an attachment to an idea of self attachment to a comparative way of thinking. And, and the solution is not to figure out the better way to compare. And even the idea of comparing ourselves as equals to others in Buddhism is considered to be part theory, still playing the comparison game. But rather, freedom is found by not comparing, by allowing ourselves and others to be just as they are in a much more and so removing the door and the fences in the middle of the wilderness and letting that natural setting be itself. The third kind of conceit is
the conceit of views of philosophical opinions, beliefs about what is the true self, the essential self. And the Buddha said, there's he, he knew of his time, no belief in an essential self, a true self, that doesn't bring suffering. And I don't haven't done the analysis myself to see if that's really the case. But it's certainly a provocative idea. That and certainly, we can say that anytime we crave or cling to something, we will suffer. And so we're clinging and craving, craving, clinging or plate craving to abuse an idea. my true self is my soul, my true self is my is my, you know, inner goodness, my true self is my is my, you know, whatever it might be, my consciousness is that going to give birth to suffering? Does a good bring suffering when we're not in touch with our true self, when it's not evident in present, does it just remain an idea that we have and so the idea needs to be reinforced, needs to be reasserted North Qi staying in touch with it, because maybe it can't be really feel and felt and experienced, or what about in deep meditation, when whatever we feel or experiences, the essence of who we are, falls away, then it some people get really frightened by this. Because the deep tip, so meditation, where things just let go, we let go of all clinging. It's remarkable, how wonderful that that piece is, I want remarkable how liberating it can be, and how ordinary reference points for anything we have as experienced as myself dissolve, and, and then if it but some people get really frightened, because that's who they think they are, I am this and I have to be this. So. So selfishness, and the antidote to selfishness in Buddhism, is certainly just to see the suffering of it. And sometimes it's only by seeing how painful it is and how fragile it is, and how much energy goes into being selfish, that people begin to loosen up and let go. But the other the other antidote is happiness is to experience deep abiding sense of happiness, well being contentment, that doesn't require being selfish. And so that's one of the functions of meditation practice is not only to become calm, not only to be mindful, but to acquire a sense of deeper contentment, satisfaction, ease, to be able to breathe easily, freely, without any clinging to selfishness, any kind of idea of me, myself and mine, at least to give ourselves a radical break from it. So we don't come into meditation, and hold on to these ideas of me, myself and mine. Often the the, the source the fuel, for a lot of our preoccupied thinking is me, myself and mine. And to let go of that, so we can experience something really wonderful. And to value this wonderful, beautiful, natural setting that we have the natural capacity for ease and freedom and peace, and to learn how to wander freely, openly, in our own hearts and our own minds in our own life. Without the glass door in the middle of it all, without the fences all around it. So it's unobstructed by at all. Where we don't need to advertise ourselves or promote ourselves or to fish it explained to people who we are and And assert ourselves on people as a form of clinging. And a sense of well being. And one of the benefits of discovering such kind of well being and peace and ease and letting go of all this is that that is also might be easier to,
to stand up for oneself. When society around you, defines you, when society around you says, You can't be that how you how you are, you have to be different to where you are in this kind of way. If we don't get, if we have our own stability inside and peace inside, that we know, and we're not wrapped up around our identity issues, and then in the way that this clinging is most clinging, then it can be quite powerful to stand up for ourselves and say no to people, or not go along with what people or how people are defining us. How other people's me myself and mine, you yourself and then yours is really oppressive for many people. And, and so the idea of really looking deeply at selfishness, and how it works with me, myself and mine is also a gift so that we don't project you yourself and yours onto others in ways that makes makes them oppressed. Imagine if we can live in a world where we don't put any fences around anyone. We don't put any glass doors that block anyone's path where we allow the people to be how they are below the natural world to unfold in a beautiful way. Without the limitations and the problems of our clinging. Especially the clinging to selfishness. May it be that this meditation practice shows us the limitations shows us the suffering of our selfishness so that we become more open more free, more generous, more kind more forgiving. And more in a certain kind of way natural that kind of naturalness is there when there's no clinging so I hope that gives you something to think about and to reflect on and and hopefully you're forgiving of yourself if you happen to have some conceit or some me myself in mind. But you might want to take a deeper look at this this is topic and make it a study for the week and and it's this is this this this that I read from the ancient texts about intoxicated toxicated when I saw this list that was kinda lighted, that they being intoxicated, preoccupied caught up in things like health and youth and gain honor being respected fame, having followers, our learning, accomplishments, popularity, all kinds of things. It's been going on for 1000s of years. This is kind of what humans tend to do, especially when they come together. So if you have if you're involved in some other as well, you have a lot of company and you have the company of the Buddha of freedom, or the company of yourself, perhaps in meditation, where you're beginning to loosen up and unstick yourself from all forms of selfishness. May you be may you let go of selfishness and find out how to be really happy in this life. Thank you