Author Topic: How to get less self centered?  (Read 513 times)

dhammahollanda

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How to get less self centered?
« on: December 13, 2021, 12:45:09 PM »
Want to grow in dhamma and creating less self-centeredness feels like key to me. Still a lot of my activities are around me, and gaining more for me. Being unhappy with what I got. Wanting something better for me. Me me me :) Wonder what you do to get less selfcentered?

What I do is giving dana (donations for spreading dhamma). Which helped enlighten me a bit from selfcenteredness. As an busy entrepreneur many of my intention in activities is gaining more profit for me. Also Vipassana meditiation daily enlightens my selfcenteredness gradually.

Well, interested what you guys do.Thanks in advance!
Be Happy

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2021, 01:48:22 PM »
Hi dhammahollanda,

Welcome to the forum.

You've asked a question which is quite crucial: it really cuts to the core of some contradictions between the goals of the Buddhist path and the norms of the society we live in.

Early in the Buddhist Sangha, monks were strictly limited in their material possessions. They were allowed to carry their robes,a begging bowl, a water filter, and medications. This was because it was seen that clinging to possessions was driven by ego, and an obstacle to the natural goal of the Buddhist path. The limited possessions they carried allowed them to clothe themselves, fed themselves through acceptance of dana food offerings, stay healthy through filtering parasites from drinking water, and maintain their own health and that of others: a very minimalist material set of objects to facilitate meeting basic needs and following the path.

Our modern society and cultural conditioning is very much material based: ownership and consumption define our perceived place in the social hierarchy. We internalise these norms from very early childhood, through watching the adults in our life and learning from the culture which surrounds us. That internalisation of clinging to status through material possessions and gathering more and more stuff, having more and more money, builds and reinforces ego. We identify with our possessions and our successes, we cling to them, and we define ourselves by them. Our possessions and success end up owning us ...

You've discovered for yourself that selfish gratification is not truly gratifying. That's what I see in your question, and in the temporary resolutions you've found to this square this circle: you make money but also give some away as dana, your meditation practice has lead to some insight into the fundamentally unsatisfactory nature of living as you do.

It seems that you have yet to fully realise the very profound nature of this contradiction though ... and perhaps you want to, yet your ego will probably put up one hell of a fight.

As an entrepreneur you are profiting from other people's egoistic desires and clinging to their own wish to progress within the current societal norms. You must be aware, even if that awareness is nascent and tenuous, that the two paths you are following can't be squared. I suspect your question is a combination of your true nature asking for the contradiction to be exposed and your ego seeking justification from others for choosing to continue to live within this contradiction.

Practically speaking, as an entrepreneur, you must know that your profits aren't truly yours: they are built on the work, insights, labour, desires, etc of both the ideas and realisations of many minds who have proceeded you, the labour of people making the products you sell, the extractive capitalism that threatens our existence, and on the desires of your customers to 'fit in' with our cultural norms.

In terms of meditation practices, and as a practical next step to advance your insight, you may wish to consider cultivation of generosity, kindness and goodwill towards other beings. There are various forms of 'Metta' practices from different traditions that have been devised to help develop these qualities and insights.

You've raised an interesting and absolutely fundamental question in your post. You've also reminded me that I need to return to a topic I started some months ago and have yet to respond to.

Kindly,

Matthew

~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Dhamma

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Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2021, 02:51:29 PM »
Excellent topic!

The OP shows a real desire to try to see things clearly, and is already seeing a little more clearly.

It's funny how we our ego lets us think we're special and that we deserved all our wealth and riches.  Reality check: everything is based on causes and conditions. No one is a "self-made" anything (you hear that word in brackets a lot). Nothing is inherently yours.  Emptiness shows us this in a very clear fashion.

I try not to say too much in posts, as I don't want to "overtalk" and say silly things (which is what happens we babble on).

May you continue on the beautiful path to enlightenment to fulfill your deepest wish for happiness.
May we see the emptiness of all phenomena

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2021, 03:02:54 PM »
I try not to say too much in posts, as I don't want to "overtalk" and say silly things (which is what happens we babble on)..

What did I do now? 🤣
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Dhamma

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Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2021, 05:29:57 PM »
I try not to say too much in posts, as I don't want to "overtalk" and say silly things (which is what happens we babble on)..

What did I do now? 🤣


Dear Matthew,

I wasn't thinking of you at all when I made that comment. It's all about me this time!!!  I sometimes say silly things when I overtalk. I need to watch myself more.
 
I was thinking the other day about a Buddhist teaching video where a Theravada monk was discussing talking too much. It hit home for me. That's all.

By the way, Matthew, your posts are always so good. I am not trying to boost your ego, but know that your thoughts on this forum are priceless.

Please take care, dear friend.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2021, 05:36:30 PM by Dhamma »
May we see the emptiness of all phenomena

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2021, 11:08:09 PM »
Dear Dhamma,

Thank you for your kind words. I was joking above, though I'm sure as many find my words frustrating as find them enlightening.

You take care too.

In peace,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

dhammahollanda

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    • Goenka Vipassana Meditation
Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2021, 03:56:32 PM »
Excellent topic!

The OP shows a real desire to try to see things clearly, and is already seeing a little more clearly.

It's funny how we our ego lets us think we're special and that we deserved all our wealth and riches.  Reality check: everything is based on causes and conditions. No one is a "self-made" anything (you hear that word in brackets a lot). Nothing is inherently yours.  Emptiness shows us this in a very clear fashion.

I try not to say too much in posts, as I don't want to "overtalk" and say silly things (which is what happens we babble on).

May you continue on the beautiful path to enlightenment to fulfill your deepest wish for happiness.

No one is truly self-made indeed, there's always the interdependence on the broader network of a society. There's a luck factor, both in talent as circumstances. Or maybe in buddhist theory what I call 'luck' is more seen as karma. That said, effort is a buddhist virtue as well and to be succesfull you need to work very hard. Just like when we want to grow in dhamma we have to work very hard.

Nothing is inherently ours. I agree. There's no such law of nature. As long as the broader network of society accepts individual property, property is something borrowed essentially and still a social construct rather then a truly hard fact. You can't take your property into heaven. In a succesful and respectful society we need to tolerate individual property to some extent (with an optimal tax structure to create an optimal social security). Communism ended and will end in genocide.

A follower of buddha is an individualist (related to social democracy / capitalism), rather then a collectivist (related to fascism / communism). As a follower of buddha I take absolute repsonsibility / ownership of my actions, rather then blaming some external cause. So I want to change my own behavior, my own self-centeredness. Cause that's what I'm responsible for. Sharing my wealth is a good strategy.

But self-centeredness is much broader then attaching too much to money (I'm tackling that one a bit). Think how much thoughts every day are circling around your own well-being, rather then others. Think how upset you are when someone gives you the finger in traffic and how indifferent watching the news about people in a war situation :). Or compare your reaction when someone breaks up with you with hearing someone breaks up with someone else. How to get more detached from that in a virtuous non-suppressing way?
Be Happy

dhammahollanda

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    • Goenka Vipassana Meditation
Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2021, 04:27:24 PM »
Hi dhammahollanda,

Welcome to the forum.

You've asked a question which is quite crucial: it really cuts to the core of some contradictions between the goals of the Buddhist path and the norms of the society we live in.

Early in the Buddhist Sangha, monks were strictly limited in their material possessions. They were allowed to carry their robes,a begging bowl, a water filter, and medications. This was because it was seen that clinging to possessions was driven by ego, and an obstacle to the natural goal of the Buddhist path. The limited possessions they carried allowed them to clothe themselves, fed themselves through acceptance of dana food offerings, stay healthy through filtering parasites from drinking water, and maintain their own health and that of others: a very minimalist material set of objects to facilitate meeting basic needs and following the path.

Our modern society and cultural conditioning is very much material based: ownership and consumption define our perceived place in the social hierarchy. We internalise these norms from very early childhood, through watching the adults in our life and learning from the culture which surrounds us. That internalisation of clinging to status through material possessions and gathering more and more stuff, having more and more money, builds and reinforces ego. We identify with our possessions and our successes, we cling to them, and we define ourselves by them. Our possessions and success end up owning us ...

You've discovered for yourself that selfish gratification is not truly gratifying. That's what I see in your question, and in the temporary resolutions you've found to this square this circle: you make money but also give some away as dana, your meditation practice has lead to some insight into the fundamentally unsatisfactory nature of living as you do.

It seems that you have yet to fully realise the very profound nature of this contradiction though ... and perhaps you want to, yet your ego will probably put up one hell of a fight.

As an entrepreneur you are profiting from other people's egoistic desires and clinging to their own wish to progress within the current societal norms. You must be aware, even if that awareness is nascent and tenuous, that the two paths you are following can't be squared. I suspect your question is a combination of your true nature asking for the contradiction to be exposed and your ego seeking justification from others for choosing to continue to live within this contradiction.

Practically speaking, as an entrepreneur, you must know that your profits aren't truly yours: they are built on the work, insights, labour, desires, etc of both the ideas and realisations of many minds who have proceeded you, the labour of people making the products you sell, the extractive capitalism that threatens our existence, and on the desires of your customers to 'fit in' with our cultural norms.

In terms of meditation practices, and as a practical next step to advance your insight, you may wish to consider cultivation of generosity, kindness and goodwill towards other beings. There are various forms of 'Metta' practices from different traditions that have been devised to help develop these qualities and insights.

You've raised an interesting and absolutely fundamental question in your post. You've also reminded me that I need to return to a topic I started some months ago and have yet to respond to.

Kindly,

Matthew

Thanks for your extensive input Matthew, appreciate it!

 "Our possessions and success end up owning us" Could you elaborate on this phrase? intuitively right in my perception btw

"Our modern society and cultural conditioning is very much material based" I agree, there should be much more focus on the importance of adding value to society as a whole. And value every effort with the right heart highly. Developing our characters, developing more social virtue should be made much more important. That said, we should manage our collective sinful tendencies with tolerance and pragmatism in my opinion. Otherwise we end up in a more authoritarian regime. And suppression brings more suffering, then tolerating some sin but growing in virtue more. That's how I'd approach ideally the goal of less self-centeredness as well. Organicly growing in less self-centeredness rather then punishing / suppressing personality characteristics from the point of view of the buddhist ideal of renunciation resulting in no personal property at all.

Brings me to this point. "You must be aware, even if that awareness is nascent and tenuous, that the two paths you are following can't be squared." Correct. Ultimately we should come at a point where we're ready to renunciate fully. I'd suggest to be tolerant, pragmatic and kind with our imperfection renunciation and make small steps towards renunciation. How do you approach this matter? How do you avoid suppression or are you OK with that?

Thanks for your Metta tips. I'm practising Metta after every Vipassana meditation for a few minutes. Meditate in two sessions of an hour each day. Metta meditation brings less self-centeredness as well, experience that truly. Then another step from that is charitable behavior. Actions creating more happiness, less suffering for others, not for myself and not seeking any selfish advantage. In the latter, I'd argue it's better to create farmers then to hand out free meals. Valuing charity in education or Dhamma education much higher then f.e. food programs.

Be Happy

dhammahollanda

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    • Goenka Vipassana Meditation
Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2021, 09:13:20 PM »
Some more thoughts on sin. Which also relates to self-centeredness. Vanity suppose to be the capital sin in catholic thinking, what is more vain then to think that I as a human can decide what's truly moral and immoral? That we determine the spiritual law of what's right and wrong ourselves?

What I learned in Goenka Vipassana meditation is that I get punished by the law of nature, the spiritual law, as soon as I engage in harmful behavior. And that this same law rewards me when I engage in virtuous behavior. I can experience the reward and punishment of this spiritual law more and more. It is deep rooted self-centeredness to think we can replace this universal law by our own will. The vanity that we can overwrite this law, the vanity to even attempt to overwrite this law. To say as a highly impermenant and vulnerable being, that the permanent and universal spiritual law doesn't apply to me.

I suffer when I sin, and I'm happy when I act virtuous. Happiness and morality seem to be one. Whether I like it or not. There are no free rides :)

So more virtuous deeds in general will evaporate self-centeredness bit by bit, while making everybody a happier person.
Be Happy

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2022, 01:48:15 PM »
Hi dhammahollanda,

You asked:

Quote
"Our possessions and success end up owning us" Could you elaborate on this phrase?

I see in myself the truth of this as awareness ripens. Equally those material things we think we lack and our failures end up owning us too. Your reply to Dhamma pointed to this too:

Quote
Nothing is inherently ours. I agree. There's no such law of nature. As long as the broader network of society accepts individual property, property is something borrowed essentially and still a social construct rather then a truly hard fact.

The teachings of the Buddha point to a deeper truth that underlies this manifestation at the surface. The self is a social and individual construct. The human brain is in no small part a storytelling machine. "I am this", "I did x,y and z", "I own a Ferrari", "my people are ... blah, blah, blah", "those people are different because .. ".

Yet when you sit mindfully and examine the reality is there any "I" other than immediate experience of being and process? Not in my experience, not really. The ego is conditioned to attach/cling to some stories, to reject/hate others, and is ignorant of the process of body and mind behind these things. The ego is made of habits of attaching to some stories, including those about our possessions, successes, failures and wants. But it's not real: it's just a story we tell ourselves about "I, me and mine".

There is an evolutionary advantage to this storytelling part of what we are: our hunter-gatherer forebears were more likely to survive, breed and pass on their genes if they could remember the story of the plant uncle John ate that killed him, or the bit of jungle inhabited by ferocious tigers where the Bones family got eaten for lunch, and the one about where it was safe to drink water, and where the water was unsafe.

Modern society has hijacked this part of our mind and turned us into unconscious and unthinking consumers (and ego is happy to go along with this): consumers of material things and also of stories themselves. Our need for human company and the safety in numbers of the tribe has been hijacked to divide us. The ego becomes the guardian of these things and stories we identify with: it has been hijacked (and hijacks us) so we buy into the stories of what 'success' consists of; the things we need to fit in; the things 'those people' have that we do not, or the things that we have and which 'those people' do not.

It's all rather empty if one is able to examine the felt sense of these attachments and identifications. And that emptiness is really rather frightening in a world consumed with such a way of life: ego fights back strongly against the realisation of how untrue our stories are ... as those stories are the very thing ego is made of.

Quote
Ultimately we should come at a point where we're ready to renunciate fully. I'd suggest to be tolerant, pragmatic and kind with our imperfection renunciation and make small steps towards renunciation.

It seems to me that as one first starts following the teachings this pragmatism is wise. It can, however, become an excuse for not doing 'that which must be done', as the Buddha's teachings phrase it, and lead to 'backsliding' or running in circles, approaching the truth yet never making the leap into the unknown that the Dhamma calls for.

Quote
How do you approach this matter? How do you avoid suppression or are you OK with that?

I laugh at my own folly in falling for the tricks of ego just as much as anyone else. I'd go mad if I didn't. I heard the teachings long ago, I understood the teachings long ago ... I'd still quite enjoy that Ferrari ... at least for a few hours or days until the emptiness started to poke it's ugly head back into the scene 😂

~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

raushan

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Re: How to get less self centered?
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2022, 02:44:37 PM »
Hi Matthew,

Nice post above. Good to see you are seeing things now. Keep going. If there is no self then all the kindness, depression, blame, regret, motivating oneself, therapy everything is also a mirage. It's just mind being kind to the mind. We create self image then when that image get hurt we try to be kind to it. This illusion, this absurdity is laughable. I would recommend you if you want to read Jed Mckenna once. If you don't want then that is also fine.

Raushan
“The man who knows that he lives in a prison will find a way to break free of it. But the one who believes that he is free while being imprisoned will remain imprisoned forever.”