On Altruism or Selflessness

I would like to write a couple of articles on Altruism and explain a couple of viewpoints. The meaning of the word altruism is: disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others

A person I respect highly sent me this comment on spirituality:

Be content, and automatically you will see beyond yourself and make yourself useful to others, even if they are your family or those who come indirectly into your life. When you stop thinking about yourself you start thinking about others. That’s the essence of altruism. Go that extra mile and you will have attained god.

Now I will start by saying that it makes sense to be seen as altruistic even from a worldly point of view. You gain respectability. I suppose this is why I am thought of by society as something of a black sheep because I have never tried to be selfless and am openly completely selfish.

But coming back to gaining respectability – You cannot fool all the people all of the time and so if you want to be seen as altruistic the only way is to truly be selfless. No point pretending.

You don’t actually have to be completely selfless. Just convince yourself by rational argument that it makes sense to be altruistic. For example being altruistic will open up job opportunities, it will improve your social life and your family and you will be respected by society. These reasons and this path is that of enlightened self-interest. You see clearly that helping others means helping yourself although the benefits may not be obvious or immediate.

I think myself that nothing can be gained by moral exhortations to convince people to be selfless. We are all selfish by nature. It is something that is ingrained in us; it is there in our genes. It is part of our struggle to survive. And being free of the ego is not required for worldly affairs; it is only required if we are seeking the Divine.

Another point that strikes me is the fact that we have here the influence of the Father of the Nation. Mahatma Gandhi exhorted all Indians to serve the nation and the downtrodden. If it hadn’t been for him more people would have probably been frankly selfish like me.

But like it or not I have been influenced by Osho and the Buddha more than by Mahatma Gandhi. Quoting from the book – And the Flowers Showered:

The Buddha has said that when you are saved the only thing to do is to save others … Everybody is on the path stumbling, everybody is moving knowingly, unknowingly and you have attained. Help others.

However, this assumes that we have attained, that we have removed the beam from your own eye. This is not true of me and I don’t think it is true of the person I have quoted above.

Osho further says about being concerned with others:

Once Mulla Nasruddin’s child asked him – I was present and the child was working very strenuously, grumbling of course, on his homework, and then suddenly he looked at Nasruddin and said: Gee Dad, what is all this education stuff? Of what use is all this education stuff anyway.”

Nasruddin said: “Well there is nothing like education. It makes you capable of worrying about everybody else in the world except you.”

And the Flowers Showered further teaches us:

If you are worried in such a way then you can never become enlightened because a person who goes on wasting and dissipating his energy on others never looks at himself. This is a trick of the mind to escape from oneself …

And enlightenment can never be attained unless you have removed the beam from your own eye, unless you have looked within.

Working selflessly however is taught by the Hindu tradition of Karma Yoga. Mahatma Gandhi was – to my mind – definitely a Karma Yogi. But there are other paths also to the Divine and I would prefer to be left to myself and do my meditation and spirituality practice. The path that appeals to me is a mix of Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.

If you are interested in browsing Osho’s book the link to do so at Amazon is below:

I have some more comments on the subject of Altruism that I will state in some following articles. For the time being I will end here.

Please let me have your comments and explore this site for more articles that will interest you. Feedback from my readers keeps me going.

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