Selfish compassion/mindfulness

A forum for discussion of Buddhist ethics.
Post Reply
Groovy_
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Dec 04, 2016 6:51 pm

Selfish compassion/mindfulness

Post by Groovy_ » Sun Dec 04, 2016 8:06 pm

Hello all, I'm new to the site and this is my first post. Hopefully this is the correct place for this topic, and apologies if it's not. I'm not exactly sure how to accurately state my problem without writing a 5000 word essay, but basically I find it difficult to authentically act, speak, or even sometimes think for the benefit of others. I feel I put on a false appearance to project a certain "nice" image to others, or I choose my words carefully so others will think of me in a certain way. But at the same time I feel this is wrong and that I'm being manipulative. In my mind I'm calling myself a sociopathic coward, who presents a false face just to get his way. It's a very extreme way of looking at it, but I sometimes despise myself because of the inauthenticity I display to others. I practice meditation almost everyday and with each session recite mantras and prayers to cultivate genuine compassion toward others, rather than selfish compassion that only seeks to benefit me, but it doesn't seem to be helping. Over the years my inner workings and thoughts have only become more resentful and within my mind I'm downright hostile to people, all the while on the outside putting on a facade of kindness and being a "nice" guy. I feel it mainly stems from my extremely sensitive personality and my mind using it as a defense strategy to avoid confrontation or hostility of any kind from others. Over the years my enthusiasm and drive to do something with this life to benefit others has waned and lately I've found myself disillusioned and succumbing to alcoholism and nihilism because I feel hopeless and powerless to overcome this obstacle. I will leave it at that, as I've taken up much of people's time already. But any advice on how to overcome fears of what others think of me and how I can learn to act more selflessly would be tremendously appreciated. Thank you, and have a great day :).

Bristollad
Posts: 280
Joined: Fri Aug 21, 2015 11:39 am

Re: Selfish compassion/mindfulness

Post by Bristollad » Sun Dec 04, 2016 11:11 pm

Dear Groovy,
I would say first off that maybe some of what you're seeing is how caught up in the 8 worldly dharmas we all are. It can be disheartening to begin to see how many of our motivations are mixed with selfishness. However, not seeing this, not realising how false our masks can be is even worse because now there is something to work on, before we were perfect ;) (at least we thought we were!)

There's are nice metaphor I've heard that goes something like this - you need to dig the well deep before you can dispense the water. That is, we have be kind to ourselves and take the time to develop our good qualities before we can be of full benefit to others. If you don't dig the well deep then the water will be full of mud and dirt and the well will dry up quickly. If we start trying to be full-on bodhisattvas on the outside but really our minds are full of self-concern, then everything we do becomes tainted and we soon burn out and it all feels like pretense.

So I would back off the self-blame a bit. Look for moments when you feel genuine concern, genuine sympathy and rejoice in those moments. Don't try and force yourself to be compassionate, instead try to recognise those moments each day when you genuinely care about another being and rejoice in those moments. Remember how those moments felt. Take time to become familar with how it feels. Accept that until we are enlightened, our motivations are going to mixed but rejoice in those moments when your concern for someone else outweighs your concern for yourself or is at least balanced :smile:

Outwardly, practise basic morality, avoid the non-virtues of body, speech and mind as much as your are able and rejoice in your successes. Rejoice in the practise and deeds of others that are commendable but don't use what they are capable of as a rod for your own back. Give yourself space - if its too much to be around some people - then allow yourself to not be there. Try not to take on stuff just to please people.

If any of this is helpful, good. If any (or all of it) isn't, feel free to completely ignore it :smile:

Groovy_
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Dec 04, 2016 6:51 pm

Re: Selfish compassion/mindfulness

Post by Groovy_ » Wed Dec 07, 2016 4:41 am

Firstly, thank you so much for your helpful words :twothumbsup: .

That metaphor with the well is very fitting and is definitely something I will have to remember. I recently started reading a translation of Shantideva's The Way Of The Bodhisattva text, and while highly beneficial, it also has caused some problems and made me set my expectations for myself much too high. Like you said, if we try to fully adopt a Bodhisattva way of living, the potential to burn out and become overwhelmed is greatly increased. The rest of what you said also makes sense to me. I do have moments of feeling genuine compassion toward others so I will try to make note of these instances. I also have always had a very strong and genuine concern for the well-being of non-human animals, so I think it would be highly beneficial to rejoice in those moments as well (which are more common).

Thanks again though, you're advice certainly was helpful! :D

DGA
Former staff member
Posts: 8984
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm
Contact:

Re: Selfish compassion/mindfulness

Post by DGA » Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:42 pm

Groovy_ wrote: Over the years my inner workings and thoughts have only become more resentful and within my mind I'm downright hostile to people, all the while on the outside putting on a facade of kindness and being a "nice" guy. I feel it mainly stems from my extremely sensitive personality and my mind using it as a defense strategy to avoid confrontation or hostility of any kind from others.
Not all hope is lost here. At least you recognize that this is a problem, and you care--many, many do not care. How to proceed?

A measure of self-care is important. There's a parable in the Lotus Sutra that is helpful on this point. The bodhisattva "Never Disparage" has a worthwhile practice: because he recognizes that every sentient being he meets, including himself, will become a Buddha, he resolves to never, ever disparage them or put them down or underestimate them. Look in the mirror and recognize that the person looking back at you will become a Buddha, and honor that person too.

If you want to treat others with genuine kindness, treat yourself with genuine kindness. You deserve it.

Now, how not to get so worked up, agitated, and so on? I have it on good authority that recognizing the unreality of all this stuff (all of it) naturally reduces those tensions and tendencies, and makes life a lot easier to cope with too on a day-to-day basis. Find yourself a competent teacher if you don't have one already and get back to work on this one too.

I hope this is helpful.

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 4617
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Selfish compassion/mindfulness

Post by Queequeg » Fri Dec 09, 2016 5:21 pm

Bristollad and DGA I think have nailed it: it might seem counterintuitive, but real compassion must start with you.

Being selfless is an awesome achievement. Most of us here aspire to it but are well short of the goal. In the meantime, we do our best to practice for others while practicing for ourselves. In the Buddha's teachings, practice for ourselves is expected - and practice for others is the goal.

The aspiration to help others is there - the arousal of bodhicitta. However, the immediate path sounds like it ought to be tending to yourself. Eventually, that practice will evolve into practice for others naturally. You won't feel you have to force yourself to do it nor feel guilt for somehow coming up short. Feeling natural in your interactions with others will free you from the tension and when you do extend yourself you will likewise feel genuine and natural in doing so.

Fare well on the path.
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates the problems."
-Modest Mouse

"Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world!"
-The Grateful Dead

User avatar
Minobu
Posts: 1898
Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2016 6:57 pm

Re: Selfish compassion/mindfulness

Post by Minobu » Fri Dec 09, 2016 7:33 pm

I think the fact you are posting this and thinking about this in such a way , shows you are well on the path. We all worry about ourselves and what we are..or least i do . If we don't...well, thats for the muggles.

Farewell fellow traveller , and Groovy , is your other half Groovella?
;) lol

User avatar
Minobu
Posts: 1898
Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2016 6:57 pm

Re: Selfish compassion/mindfulness

Post by Minobu » Fri Dec 09, 2016 7:40 pm

Groovy_ wrote: Over the years my enthusiasm and drive to do something with this life to benefit others has waned and lately I've found myself disillusioned and succumbing to alcoholism and nihilism because I feel hopeless and powerless to overcome this obstacle..
i left this for a more serious post by me.

Most of the alcoholics i know , are the nicest people when sober. It's a shame we have to go through this hell at times.
I think it is a weird sort of karmic retribution , and overcoming it is like some incredible prize.

If it were not for my Buddhist practice and queequeg's input in the Nichiren section, I might crawl back into the bottle.
somehow i attracted a wife who just won't let that happen as well.

people my friend people ...surround yourself with kind people and kind words.


also i hate to say it , but drugs and alcohol seem to be part of the path for a lot of us.
ya gotta work it out ....

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 1110
Joined: Mon May 26, 2014 5:53 am
Location: California

Re: Selfish compassion/mindfulness

Post by Mkoll » Sat Dec 10, 2016 2:46 am

Hi Groovy,

It may also be helpful to reflect on how you've conditioned your mind to sometimes think in these habitual patterns of self-condemnation. Investigate how they arise, how they they increase, how they decrease, and how they pass away. See which conditions lead to their arising and which lead to their non-arising then cultivate the latter.

And it may be good to recognize that your mind is not always thinking like this. As your post shows, you've also conditioned it in wholesome ways. This can be rejoiced in and pursued.

Good luck! :smile:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests