“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”
Dalai Lama XIV
“Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in others but justify in ourselves.”
Stephen Kendrick- The Love Dare
“Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.”
It’s a big ask this selflessness, yet some of the greatest minds ever to have lived tell us that this this is the way to a contented and fulfilled life.
Selflessness is not self-sacrifice. There’s nothing ‘lost’ or ‘sacrificed’ in being selfless. It is the simple act of giving, and of putting the needs of others before your own.
There are those who manage to be selfless without a single thought of their own wellbeing, and there are others who know that the selfless act is right but can’t help but consider the impact upon themselves, even though they know that whatever they are going to do is the right thing for another.
Being selfless is a true gift, and one that doesn’t become the many. There’s that famous quote from the bible that has been used the whole world round; most famously by Churchill “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
When Churchill quoted this, it was literal. Men had lost lives and limbs for the sake of others but ‘laying down your life’ doesn’t have to be literal. We can be as selfless in living as in dying. We can guide and enable through selflessness, in the hope that others will see the goodness in our actions.
Whether we literally lay down our lives, or whether we give a part of our lives that we may not necessarily wish to concede, in order to fulfil another’s needs, then we are acting selflessly (as long as we don’t see it as sacrifice).
Here’s a short story found in an internet search today.
A division of the Japanese army was engaged in a battle, and the officers decided to make their headquarters in a temple.
The priest at the temple told his cook, “Let the officers have the same simple fare we eat”.
When the soldiers received their food, they were horrified and said, “Who do you think we are? We are soldiers sacrificing our lives for this country. Why don’t you treat us accordingly?”
The priest responded, “Who do you think we are? We are soldiers of humanity, aiming to save all sentient beings.”
Selflessness can come in small or larger measures. You don’t have to “give up” anything in true selflessness. A gift at Christmas to a stranger is a small act of selflessness. A smile afforded to a friend costs nothing. Time spent with people that you don’t necessarily want to be with is selfless. Truly loving another is selfless, if you’re not expecting anything in return.
How often do we act selflessly, really? How often do we think of the needs of others before our own very selfish desires? How can we ensure that we get a healthy balance between what we want and what we want for others?
Some of the things that we value most are the most difficult to comprehend, and even more difficult to do, and yet deeply buried in our conscience we know that selflessness is the “right action”.
A man that has led his life selflessly, as the Dalai Lama says, can look back in old age and enjoy it all over again.
And talking of the Dalai Lama, we’d like to remind all of our readers about the wonderful words he offered to the world at the turn of the century. Our selflessness doesn’t have to be huge, and it doesn’t have to be harmful to our own wellbeing. Selflessness is a key component to living well, and living well is what we should all be working towards.
- Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
- When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
- Follow the three Rs: Respect for self, Respect for others, Responsibility for all your actions.
- Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
- Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
- Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
- When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
- Spend some time alone every day.
- Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
- Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
- Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
- A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
- In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
- Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
- Be gentle with the earth.
- Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
- Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
- Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
“Only a life lived for others is worth living.”
“It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.”
“Through selfless service, eternal peace is obtained.”
Sri Guru Granth Sahib