Dalai Lama on self-centeredness

Dalai Lama on self-centeredness

According to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the Living Buddha, “If we shift our focus from ourselves to others and to the wider world, and if we turn our attention to all the crises in the world, all the difficulties and the sufferings and so on, we will see that many of these problems are direct or indirect consequences of undisciplined negative states of mind.  And where do these come from?  From this powerful combination of self-centeredness and the belief in our independent existence.  By shifting our attention to the wider world in this way, we can begin to appreciate the immensely destructive consequences of such thinking.”

Self centeredness is taught early.  At home, youngsters are spoiled and learn material values from their parents.  New toys, new clothes and entertainment are thought of as necessities, rather than luxuries.  And children mimic the behavior of adults.  School becomes a competitive arena with the emphasis on book knowledge. Before long, children accept that they must be independent and stand out in a crowd, especially in academics, or they will not get ahead.  Not many are taught how to implement human values such as truth, love, non-violence, righteousness, and peace, for example.  Even fewer, no doubt, discover the power of positive thinking on the collective consciousness.

“These attitudes (undisciplined negative states of mind) are not helpful even from one’s own selfish point of view, “His Holiness stresses, “We might ask ourselves, ‘what benefit do I as an individual derive from my self-centeredness, and from the belief in my existence as an independent self?’  When you really think deeply, you will realize the answer is ‘Not very much.’”

Putting others before ourselves is a radical action.  But the society we are living in needs an infusion of care if we are to change it, perhaps.  To continue a self-centered view when others are crying out for help is, therefore, deleterious to the health of humanity.

Our beloved, Nobel Peace Prize winning Lama insists, “In fact, these beliefs are the source of suffering and misery even for the individual.  The Buddhist literature is full of discussions on this.  Interestingly, (many years ago) I was at a medical conference in America, and a participating psychologist presented the findings of research he had carried out over a long period of time. One conclusion he considered almost indisputable was that there seems to be a correlation between early death, high blood pressure and heart disease on one side, and a disproportionately high use of the first personal pronouns on the other.  (‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’).

I thought this finding was very interesting.  Even scientific studies seem to suggest that there is a correlation between excessive self-cherishing and damage to one’s physical well-being.”