Sunday, August 7, 2011

Doing Good, Being Selfish- The Simplest Formula to Change the World!

I remember having heard a story somewhere, about Sri Buddha that goes like this:

One day Buddha was being praised by a visitor for his magnanimity.  Buddha had given up a very rich and powerful life in search of the ultimate truth that will help in eradicating the suffering and sorrow from the face of this earth.  Buddha, in spite of having all the wealth at his command gave up every comfort.  Buddha, having all the military power and Kings at his command, chose to suffer all the insults and abuses, whenever he encountered them, with utmost humility and a disarming smile.  After mentioning all these facts the visitor said to Buddha, “My Lord, there is not another man or God in this world who is completely unselfish as you”.

Buddha smiled at him and replied, “My friend, it is not my unselfishness that make me do all these things that you credit me with.  Rather, it is my selfishness that guides me in all my actions.”

Addressing all the surprised listeners, Buddha continued, “I am as selfish as any other human being. All my acts and omissions are caused by my selfish motive to sleep peacefully at the end of the day.  If I do something that I feel is incorrect, then I won’t be able to get a goodnight’s sleep.  What is the use of doing anything that robs a peaceful sleep from you?”

I think there is a great lesson in this story and the words of Buddha that we must all imbibe so as to make this world of ours a better place to live.  I really wish this world had more and more people as selfish as Buddha.  Only if we minded our affairs with the simple objective of getting a peaceful sleep at the end of the day!

Very often problems arise in this world because we set double standards for ourselves. We create one set of rules for others to behave towards us and another set of rules for us to behave with others.  How many of us consider the other side before we act?  Do we do what we would have liked the other to have done in a role reversal? Or merely react to what the other side did or perceived to have done? Most often than not, when we act or omit to act, we do not consider what we really liked; instead merely react to various outside stimuli. 

When we drive on a highway, we all would like the drivers from opposite direction to dim the headlights of their vehicles as they approach us.  We all know how inconvenient it is to drive towards a beam of light that is directed at our face.  Yet do we ensure that irrespective of what the opposite driver does, we at least dim the headlights of our vehicle?  Or merely curse the opposite driver for not having the courtesy for dimming and in retaliation keeps our lights in high beam? 

I do not agree with Mahatma Gandhi when he asked us to show the other cheek when someone slapped us on one cheek.  I for one will definitely try to block that first slap before it reaches my cheek.  But should I retaliate with another slap?  I do not think so, unless that is extremely necessary in the circumstances and cannot be avoided.

We are very good at pointing fingers at others- on all their faults and shortcomings. Does it bring any positive changes? No, it only hardens the persons into pigeon holes of prejudices.  Instead, if each of us had spent much less time looking at ourselves and corrected our own shortcomings, definitely it would have made a change.

I strongly believe that it is not possible to change this world en masse, on a fine day.  The journey of change has to begin somewhere, with that single step.  Each of us are duty bound to try and make ourselves that single step, so that the momentum generated by those single steps will ultimately take the entire society forward; not letting any point of resistance to stand in the way.    If we all keep waiting for the momentum to be generated on its own, before joining it, well we will only be waiting and wailing.

Do not look up to your Religions or Gurus or Holy Books to change the world.  They have all failed to achieve that during all these centuries because they were all busy with their own agendas to achieve.  This world will change only when you and I change.  So, it is for you and me to decide what we need to do or not to do.

Is it very difficult to start the process of self change? Does it need any extra-ordinary abilities to determine what needs to be done? My answers are in the negative.  With our bare minimum common sense, we can all decide what is good and what is bad.  Only requirement is the willingness to adopt good and eschew bad, no matter what it takes to do so.

Instead of prescribing moral standards for others to follow, let us do it for ourselves.  Do what you would like your parents have done to you, to your children; do what you would like your children to do to you, to your parents.  Behave to a stranger in a way that you would like to be behaved in a strange place.   Do to your neighbour what you consider as best neighbourly behaviour.  Do what you would like your leader to do to you, to your followers.  It is as simple as that.

When we regulate our behaviour solely on the basis of our convictions and not on how others are behaving, it displays a real attitude and character.  We become leaders in our own way; and not merely followers of incidences around us.  We mould our own destinies instead of being mere pieces in a chess game being played out.

 I know some readers may suggest that this is a philosophy for the chicken-hearted.  Not really; it takes a lot of courage to take on the bad with good.  It may also involve giving up immediate results but displays a stronger faith in one’s own actions.  As Mahatma Gandhi suggested, only the bravest can indulge in a real non-violent Satyagraha (look at some of the recent examples of so called Satyagraha and we all will agree to that view!).

I can foresee another view that all this will go mere waste and expecting that our small steps will change the world is utter foolishness.  May be, but will that cause any lose to us?  Leading a life, based on our conviction on what is ‘Good’, will have enough influence at least in our own family and children.  Which normal parent wants his/her children to grow up with ‘Bad’ influences?!

If we have lived our life on our own convictions wouldn’t that in itself, be satisfying?  Wouldn’t that itself get us a goodnight’s sleep at the end of the day and a well deserved satisfaction at the end of the life? 

Matching Bad with Bad begets only Worse.  But, wouldn't matching Bad with Good surely have a chance in cancelling out the effects of Bad?

PS: You may also like to read this post by runawaydoc  


  1. well said ! "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"

  2. Wow Wow... This blog post exactly represents my outlook towards life.. Do things which helps our Conscience to stay clear..It would be a beautiful place and world if we could all care for each other a little more..and have sympathy for the ones suffering around share their misery with them even if you cannot directly alleviate their sorrow..some soothing words to that person would do magic..I may be being selfish in doing such simple acts of empathy but then it is fine with me..I feel so very satisfied and I keep on doing it..encourage my family and friends too..Just a simple loving smile I get back by doing or saying a kind word or deed makes my day and I am full of Joie de vivre..

    I believe in being a Peaceful warrior..People do vent out on us out of their own personal frustrations.. I keep my weapon is my smile .. they give is almost a daily affair at my job place..the workers do talk loudly, argue too with our section head..but when they turn towards me..they somehow cool down..I make them comfortable and explain things to them..that is how I deal everywhere..I imagine myself in their place..and thus understand their frustrations and anger..when things are not working out for them.

    I derive joy.. immense joy in this simple feeling of care, the richness of loving fully & following it by caring with all one's whole being..

    Let us all make this World a Better place by carrying with in ourselves only the SACRED and never the profane..

    Let me or anyone for that matter never ever be revengeful..Let us spread and give only kindness, trust, joy, relief to all around us..You are bound to get all that back in return providing our minds a sense of satisfaction and a GOOD nights sleep

    Whatte Post..Simply amazing thoughts by you :))