“ Enlightened Self interest”

Buddhism, the religion or more accurately the philosophy of seeing reality as it is has always appealed to me. The idea of not blaming others or the world for our problems, the idea that to change our lives we must change ourselves has always made sense to me from a young age.

People not familiar with the practices of Buddhism from the outside looking in may feel some of the practices are selfish. ” With so much suffering in the world how can you run off and meditate at isolated retreat centres or monasteries for long periods of time? Wouldn’t that time be better spent being in the world helping others?”

Anyone who’s caught a plane would’ve heard the airline host during the safety demonstration tell the passengers to make sure that they have followed the procedures to keep themselves safe before helping others and for good reason, because you can’t truly help others unless you can help yourself first.

In Buddhism the view is by taking some time out to fix yourself first you will be in a much better position to help others or if we can’t help others at least not make their suffering worse. There is so much judgement and fake action in life, if we were all to be honest everything we do is out of self interest in one way or another, everything we do we because it makes us feel good or it feels right on some level, helping others for instance feels good to us.

My theory why we adore small children and pet animals so much is because they are always acting genuine, always acting out of self interest, pets and small children don’t fake niceness, they will show you what they want in one way or another when they want it.

We never really grow out of acting out of self interest we just learn to hide our motives or intentions behind a wall of smiles or certain actions, many times we fool ourselves saying what we are doing is truly for others but in the end it’s always about doing what makes us feel good or what we feel is right depending on our conditioned morals and values, what I may feel guilty about doing you might not think twice about if our values or morals are different for instance.

What I’m saying at one level my sound uncomfortable to hear if we are in denial but deep down we must know it’s all true and we must also realise that it’s totally natural as we all feel that way. There is so much hypocrisy in religion, how many religious leaders do we constantly hear of being caught out not practicing what they preach and for good reason, it happens because the religion holds themselves and everyone else many times to impossibly high standards.

Most of us want to be good people but forget that life is a reality of opposites, opposites that are always being one and the same. We must embraces the darkness and parts of ourselves be would rather not face if we want to be a complete person. Love and Hate, Goodness and Badness etc always exist within all of us at all times, we are constantly in a struggle between the two but must come to realise we don’t need to struggle we just need to be ourselves and come to realise that at times how we view ourselves is going to be unfavourable. We aren’t a bad person for having bad thoughts we are just a person experiencing natural thoughts.

People love genuine people, people love honest people, the best gift we can give ourselves and to others is to just be genuine and honest no matter how uncomfortable it may feel, a big part of this is accepting that we do everything out of self interest, even when helping others and that’s ok because if our needs aren’t met or we are doing things for others we don’t want to do or feel forced to do then that’s when resentment and hate can build over time not because we are bad people but because we aren’t being honest with ourselves or with others.

To put ourselves first doesn’t mean to take advantage or to hurt others intentionally it just means being honest and upfront with what we truly want and what we truly feel and if we can do that consistently I feel it’s the biggest gift we can give ourselves and others as they will always know where we stand are as we are always clear about our intentions.

My thoughts anyway,

Thanks for reading,

Simon Coleman.

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