Benefits of ending selfishnessLecture by Buddhadasa Bhikku
Translated by Santikaro Bhikkhu
5 September 1987
Suanmokkhabalaram, Chaiya, Thailand
In the first talk we talked about the dangers of selfishness and then in the second talk we discussed the cause of selfishness as well as he foundations of selfishness. In yesterday’s talk we talked about the extinguishing of selfishness. Today we will discuss the value and benefits of extinguishing selfishness.
When we speak about the fruits or benefits of extinguishing selfishness we would like to bring up one Thai word that ought to be of interest to you. In Thai this word is anisong, which comes from the Pali word ani-sung-sa. The meaning of this word is the ‘milk that flows out of’ or ‘the flowing milk’. When we milk a cow, the nutritious milk flows out from the cow’s udder is the literal meaning of the Thai word anisong.
So today we will talk about the anisong of extinguishing selfishness. The Benefit Of Ending Selfishness Is Happiness
When we talk about the anisong of extinguishing selfishness the simplest way to put it is to say that happiness is the benefit of extinguishing selfishness.
However when we use this word ‘happiness’ we must be careful because ‘happiness’ is a very vague and uncertain word. People give it all kinds of different meanings.
We will clarify what is meant by the word happiness. We will take a good look at this word.Two Kinds of Happiness: Sensual and Spiritual
At first we can see there are at least two kinds of happiness, the happiness of every day people language and the happiness of Dhamma language.
By people language we mean the common, everyday language of people and persons.
In people language, happiness is something we can get drunk on, we can become infatuated with it, go crazy over it, get lost in, and …this is very important… it bites its owner.
This is the happiness of people language. The happiness that is intoxicating, infatuating, very tricky, which in the end ‘bites its owner’.
If we look closely, this happiness of people language, this common and ordinary happiness, isn’t true happiness. What it really is, is a kind of pleasure that deceives and tricks. It is a kind of entertaining luscious attractive pleasure that deceives.
This most people take to be happiness.
This tricky pleasure, this deceiving pleasure is always ready to become a bait, to catch us and trap us.
So all of the worldlings who are chasing after these deceptive pleasures are being trapped by this bait. This is the state of worldlings being deceived and lured by the bait of worldly pleasures or deceptive pleasures. This is happiness in people language.
This worldly happiness is always something material and physical, it depends on bodies and material objects. It is not a mental or spiritual kind of happiness. Therefore these kinds of deceptive pleasures are very expensive, they are very difficult and a real pain in the neck to acquire and keep. And so they lead to all kinds of busyness, competition and problems for the worldlings who are chasing after this worldly happiness.
The last point to be made about this people language happiness is that it is basis of selfishness. As soon as people indulge in these deceptive kinds of pleasures it becomes selfishness and creates all the problems associated with selfishness. Dhammic Happiness
Now let’s look at the opposite kind of happiness. This happiness is not intoxicating or infatuating, it does not make us crazy and it does not bite the one who possesses it, the one who has it.
This kind of happiness is not a deceptive pleasure, it does not trick or deceive; but the ordinary worldling overlooks it. Common people overlook this genuine true happiness. So let’s take a good look at it.
This kind of happiness is not a bait; it does not lure us and trap us. This genuine happiness is pure, bright, clear, calm and it leads to peace. It is not a bait that entraps and deceives.
This kind of happiness is not at all expensive, it doesn’t cost any money or involve any material difficulties. There are no hassles and problems associated with this kind of happiness. It is free.
The most important point is this type of happiness does not lead to selfishness. It does not support or nourish selfishness.Hot Happiness and Cool Happiness
In Thai there is a very nice pun. The word suuk, which means happiness, has two kinds of spellings. One spelling means ‘happiness’ and he other spelling means ‘well-done ’. Both kinds of suuk have the same sound and pronunciation but the meaning is different.
We use this to point out the difference between the two kinds of happiness. Genuine happiness is cool and calm, it doesn’t lead to selfishness. The false kind of happiness that means ‘well-done’ is hot.
So the best way to translate this into English is hot happiness and cool happiness.
This hot happiness is dependant on the defilements, greed, anger, delusion and so forth. It needs their help in order to be happy.
Cool happiness has nothing to do with the defilements. It doesn't need their help at all.
For hot happiness to realise its aim, it needs to use and get help from the defilements and this is why it is hot.
Genuine cool happiness is free from the defilements. It doesn’t need their help and therefore can be very cool and soothing.
Hot happiness depends on all kinds of material goods and when people become infatuated with this material happiness they set about acquiring possessions, material objects and all kinds of luxuries. This is the kind of happiness of which the world is infatuated in, everyone chasing after various kinds of luxuries, spending all kinds of money, in pursuit of what they take to be happiness, this hot deceptive kind of happiness.
The other kind of happiness, cool happiness, doesn’t cost a penny, or a fenning or a mark or whatever currency. It costs absolutely nothing for this kind of happiness. It is a mental, spiritual happiness that has nothing to do with material things.Mindfulness with Breathing
So when one overcomes selfishness, or when one is able to concentrate the mind correctly, when one practises Mindfulness with Breathing meditation correctly and properly, then there arises this genuine cool happiness that doesn’t deceive and trick and doesn’t cost a penny.
So if we talk in economic terms, there is the happiness that costs money and the happiness that doesn’t cost a penny. Which one are you interested in?Three Levels of Dhammic Happiness
Now that we have made the difference clear between hot and cool happiness, we would like to focus on the happiness of Dhamma, this cool happiness.
Even though we use the term ‘the happiness of Dhamma’, there are difference levels to it. There are different kinds of Dhammic happiness with different qualities and characteristics.
So we would like to talk about these different levels of true happiness. The First Level of Dhammic Happiness: The Happiness Of Non-Harming
The first level of Dhammic happiness is the happiness that comes from non-harming or non-violence. When there is no harm being done, then there arises this first kind of happiness.
In Pali, there is the phrase:Abya pacca sukham loke pana bhute su samyamo
This means ‘non-harming is happiness within this world’.
When we live, aware that we are not harming ourselves, any other people, any other creatures or the environment; when we are aware of a life and lifestyle that is not harming anything; not exploiting or violating anything; then there arises this first kind of happiness.Genuine Non-Harming
With these words ‘harming’ or ‘non-harming’ we have to be very careful because many people take a one-sided view of it.
When we talk about ‘harm’ there are two sides of it. One side is we can harm ourselves and the other is we can harm others. When there is genuine non-harming neither side is harmed or violated; nobody is being afflicted.
Sometimes we get confused on this and in order to help others we harm ourselves.
Then of course there is often the kind of ‘helping oneself’ by harming or exploiting others.
In true non-harming, in true non-violence, there is no harming of either ourselves or others. When there is this complete non-harming then there arise genuine happiness. Harming Ourselves
We would like to say that the more one loves oneself, the more one harms oneself. Or the more one is selfish, the more one harms oneself.
When one loves oneself, this love makes us blind and then we indulge in those deceptive pleasures, which lead us astray. We go through all types of ridiculous difficulties to get some trifling pleasure and this is how we harm ourselves because of this self-love.
The more stupid we are, the more we harm ourselves, and when there is this stupid foolish self-love then we harm ourselves immensely wasting our time on these trifling deceptive pleasures and overlooking true happiness. So the more selfish we are the more we harm ourselves.Harming Others
When we come to harming others we probably don’t have to say too much about it because the world is full of this, of people’s selfishness leading to people harming others for their own selfish benefit.
When we selfishly see something as beneficial or advantageous to ourselves, then we are completely willing to go and take advantage of someone else, to exploit or harm another, for our own advantage. The world is full of this.
There is this exploitation all around, underground, above the ground, in small ways and in big ways. So it is some people are trying to take advantage of the whole world.
Sometimes we cut the world into two halves and each half is trying to harm the other half. Or sometimes we try and harm the whole world and this exploitation and affliction starts to think about other worlds, to go over to conquer other planets and other worlds in order to take advantage of those worlds.
This kind of selfish harming knows no limits. It is limitless. The Four Divine Dwellings: Friendliness, Compassion , Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity
When there is no selfishness, nothing is harmed. Merely by removing selfishness, all violence and exploitation can be destroyed. When there is no selfishness, there is no harming of ourselves, there is no harming of others , even the animals are not harmed. We can even go as far to say even the ground, the soil, the earth is not harmed when selfishness is removed.
When this selfishness is extinguished when there is none of this harming, then it becomes natural to relate to others in terms to what are called the Four Divine Dwellings - Friendliness, Compassion , Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. This is the basis for Dhammic happiness.
Those of you who value this teaching of the Four Divine Abodes – metta, karuna, mudita and uppeka – you should focus on this one thing of removing selfishness.
If you are interested in metta: universal love or friendliness; karuna: compassion; mudita: sympathetic joy and uppeka: equanimity, then all you need to do is direct your attention to unselfishness or selflessness.
When there is no selfishness then there is metta automatically, there is this very spontaneous love for everything. There is spontaneous karuna, the desire to help, to be of service or compassion. There is spontaneous mudita, joy at the happiness of others; and there is spontaneous uppeka, when it is not possible to help at this moment then with uppeka, it is to wait for the opportunity to help and serve.
Some people understand this last Divine Abode incorrectly. They take uppeka to mean to be indifferent when we can’t do anything to help. True uppeka is to observe and await an opportunity to help if there is no opportunity to help right at this moment.
So if you value these four Brahma Viharas, these four Divine Abodes, then focus your attention on not being selfish.The Spiritual Meaning of ‘Equanimity’
This last Brahma Vihara is often a source of confusion. Uppeka means ‘to look at’, ‘to observe’, ‘to watch’. Some people think it means to close our eyes and not pay attention, to be indifferent. That’s silly and of no value or benefit. Uppeka means ‘to look at’, ‘to observe’.
If everyone in the world would keep looking for opportunities to help others, for opportunities to serve others, then there wouldn’t be any of these crisis in the world that there are these days.
So please be especially interested in uppeka, looking, observing for opportunities to help and serve. Insomnia, Neuroses and Suicide Are Caused By Selfishness
We have talked about the basic level of happiness that arises when there is no harming. By neither harming oneself or anyone or anything else there arises this fundamental kind of happiness. This happiness arises when there is no harming by not being selfish.
At first this may seem illogical to you - that by not being selfish there arises happiness. Many people have the warped kind of logic that by being selfish we become happy, that by being selfish we help ourselves. This betrays a fundamental truth about life.
It may sound illogical but by removing selfishness, when there is no selfishness, this is what benefits us, this is to our advantage.
If we look carefully, it is selfishness that burns our minds so even if we are all by ourselves this selfishness is constantly disturbing us so that we can’t even sleep well at night. This constantly thinking of oneself, thinking in terms of ‘ourselves’, this egocentricity , gives us all kinds of headaches, it leads to all sorts of neurosis and it makes us go crazy, even to the point that many people are killing themselves because of selfishness.
This sounds strange to many people but suicide is essentially a selfish act. This is because selfishness in itself it very stupid and it leads to all kinds of ignorant results including suicide. If you study all the suicides in the world, if you look beyond the superficial causes and look really deep, you will see the fundamental cause of suicide is selfishness.
Selfishness leads to not being able to sleep at night, egocentrism leads to headaches and neurosis, and even leads to us harming ourselves in such extreme ways as suicide.
The only way to stop harming ourselves is to end selfishness. As long as there is selfishness we harm ourselves and others. This is something you ought to examine as carefully as you can.The Second Level Of Dhammic Happiness: The Happiness Of Being Without Lust
Now we will talk about the second level of Dhammic happiness. This is the happiness of that comes from being without lust. When there is no lust; when there is the absence of lust, this is a higher form of happiness. Everyone knows what lust means. To remove lust, to remove sexual greed and sensual greed, is a higher kind of happiness.
In Pali there are the words:Sukha Viragata Loke Samana Samati Sammo
This means, ‘the happiness that comes from being free of lust towards the world surpasses the happiness of sensuality’.
This is a higher kind of happiness. When the mind is free of this sensual lust, then it is even happier, calmer and cooler.Sensual, Material and Immaterial Lust
This word ‘lust’ has a broader meaning than most people understand.
Most people think that lust has only to with sex or things related to sex. This is the narrow understanding of the word ‘lust’ or in Thai ‘raka’, which can mean lust or passion, a very passionate excited kind of love.
Actually lust has a much broader meaning than that. Sexual lust is only the first level.
There can be also lust towards material objects that isn’t so much a sensual lust but the lust to possess or to have material things.
Then there’s a third level of lust that doesn’t have to do with material things. This is the lust for power, for influence, for fame , for honour and things like this, for immaterial things. This is also a kind of lust.
So please try to understand lust in this broader way and when all three kinds or levels of lust can be removed then there is a very great happiness of being free from these levels of lust.
But even if you can only remove the crudest sexual kind of lust, by being free of that lust is in itself a great deal of happiness.Selfishness, Lust, Meditation Upon Repulsive Objects
The stronger selfishness is, the stronger lust will be. As selfishness decreases and lessens, then lust also abates and decreases. So the more powerful and strong selfishness is the more powerful lust is and its agitation. By lessening and eliminating selfishness then there can arise the happiness of being free from lust. By lessening and overcoming selfishness there comes the higher level of happiness, which is to live without lust.
Often people teach to way to remove lust is to contemplate repulsive, ugly and loathsome things. So it is often advised to people with a lot of lust to go to a cremation ground or mortuary to contemplate the corpses or the remains of corpses. To contemplate these various quite unattractive and repulsive things are traditional techniques for lessening lust.
That is right in its own way, it is correct, it can help, but the most efficient and powerful way to remove lust is to remove selfishness.
However even going to the cremation ground or mortuary, if that includes any selfishness, still there will be kinds of lust, there will be some lust remaining.
So the best way to eliminate lust is to eliminate selfishness.
If you want to contemplate corpses or other unattractive and repulsive things to help to removing of selfishness that would be a good idea, bit the essential thing is to remove selfishness. By removing selfishness there is nothing upon which lust can stand. Selfishness is the basis or the foundation of lust. If we take away that basis there can be no lust .
This is the best way to be free of lust. To be free of selfishness.
So this second kind of happiness comes when we are free from lust. This is the kind of happiness that arises because the mind or life is no longer disturbed or hassled by lust .
Often we cannot sleep well at night because of lust in a cruder or more refined forms.
Lust keeps us from sleeping well at night and sometimes it prevents us from sleeping at all, and it can disturb us or hassle us throughout the day.
This kind of lust exists and there is also a way of removing it, merely by removing selfishness. Then there will arise this second level of happiness, the happiness of being without raka or lust.The Third Level Of Dhammic Happiness: The Happiness Of Removing Self-View and Experiencing Nirvana
Now we come to the third or last level of happiness. This is the happiness of being completely free of all selfishness, of when all selfishness is absolutely and completely removed , eliminated , extinguished. This is the kind of happiness that surpasses the world. This happiness is ‘above the world’, it is not trapped within worldly conditions.
When there is absolutely no selfishness, then there can arise no defilements . When there is no selfishness then the mind is ‘beyond the world’. It is no longer caught within the world and worldly conditions. There is nothing in the world that can have influence over the mind, there is nothing in the world that can make the mind greedy, or angry or hateful or afraid or worried or any other kind of defiled reaction.
The mind is free of all these things and this the kind of happiness which is above the world or surpasses the world.
The Supreme Accomplishment or Victory
The Pali sentence that expresses this third kind of happiness is:Asami manassa vinayo etam ve paraman sukham
What this means is, by removing asami mana completely is the highest happiness – Voi!
We will have to explain some of these words.Asami mana
you have been hearing about, over and over again. This is to regard things as ‘I’, as ‘me’, as ‘mine’, as ‘self’. By removing ‘self-view’ - by removing the idea that there is a self, ‘personality-belief’ or whatever you want to call it, ‘I’, ‘self’, ‘soul’ or ‘ego’, whatever name you call it, it is the basis of selfishness - by removing the belief in self, the view of self, this is highest the supreme happiness –Voi!
The word Voi means something like hooray, hoorah; it is a cry of victory, when a supreme accomplishment has been accomplished. When there is the highest kind of victory or success, then in Thai the kind of call would be Voi!.
Removing all self-view is the highest happiness, hooray, but Voi is more than hooray, it is the supreme kind of triumph of victory.
This is the highest kind of happiness: Asami manassa vinayo etam ve paraman sukham
. Sukham means ‘happiness’. Paraman means ‘supreme’ or ‘the highest’.
This word ve or Voi is a little more than hooray because it is also a challenge, it is like shaking one’s fist at selfishness, in triumph at having defeated selfishness. The Mind ‘Beyond The World’
We would like to discuss the Pali word lokutara. Lok or loke means ‘the world’. Utara means ‘to be above’ or ‘beyond’. So lokutara means above or beyond the world.
This doesn’t mean getting into a spaceship
and flying off into space because it doesn’t matter where we went, that would still be the world. Anyplace, no matter how far away it is, is still the world.
Lokutara, ‘above the world’, doesn’t have anything to do with our body. This means for the mind to be above worldly conditions.We Cannot Escape The World
We cannot escape the world, we must live in it. But the mind needn’t be trapped under the influence of ‘good and bad’, ‘winning and losing’, ‘getting and missing’, ‘positivism and negativism’ and all those worldly qualities and values.
While living in the world, even if we are under the ground, the mind can still be ‘above the world’ , can still exist ‘beyond the world’.
This is something mental or spiritual, it is not a physical ‘being above’, floating around in some spaceship.The 'Self' Is The World
To make it more simple or short, we can just say that ‘I’ or the ego is the world. This concept of ‘I’ or the ego, this is the meaning of the world. To be above that egoistic idea or concept is to be above the world. Above The Misunderstanding Of Duality
Another way to explain lokutara is to be above the misunderstanding of duality.
The world is full of dualistic things because the world is full of foolish people.
Foolish people understand there are dualistic things – good and bad, winning and losing, positive and negative and so forth. This is a misunderstanding.
In reality all things are the same. Good and bad is the same, positive and negative is the same. It is just a process of the law of idappaccayata
.The Law of Cause and EffectIdappaccayata
means ‘because this exists, this arises; because this disappears, this disappears’. More simply it is the law of cause and effect or the law of conditionality.
This process or flow of causes and effects, of idappaccayata, is all there is. There is neither good nor bad, neither positive nor negative.
Fools misunderstand this fundamental reality, discriminate things as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ and then are trapped by this misunderstanding
To be lokutara, above the world, is to realise how things truly are, that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is the same thing and then to be free if those dualistic misunderstandings that lead to attachment, indulgence, selfishness and all of the problems we have discussed.
So lokutara, ‘being above the world’, is being above the misunderstanding of dualism, of duality, that there are pairs of opposites such as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’.Examples
A simple example that should be easy for all of us to understand is the example of hot and cold. ‘Hot’ and ‘cold’ are not are dualistic opposites as most people think. If we have learned anything about science we realise that hot and cold are just differences in temperature and that ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ are not absolutely true.
For example in a lump of ice there is just a certain amount of temperature. Or in the sun there is just a different level or degree of temperature.
The words ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ are not absolutely true, they only have relative meaning. There are really just differences or changes in temperature.
Or ‘day’ and ‘night’. A child thinks ‘day’ and ‘night’ are completely different but really ‘day’ and ‘night’ is just the same thing, it is just time, just differences in time, ‘changing time’.
There is no absolute truth to ‘day’ and ‘night’.The Middle Way of Seeing Clearly
When someone sees the world this way, instead of getting caught in the dualisms and making things into opposites, one is no longer trapped in ‘left’ or ‘right’ and the mind is in the middle, free and unattached. This is the mind or the life that is above the world, to be no longer caught up in duality, no longer caught up in ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, ‘left’ or ‘right’, and so forth. This is the way of life to be in the middle, to above the world, to be free of worldly conditions. Then none of those conditions can deceive the mind into attachment, selfishness and suffering.Gaining and Losing, Profit and Loss
Or there is the pair of ‘gaining’ and ‘losing’. This is another dualism that exists in worldly minds, that there is ‘gain’ and ‘loss’. Such a thing does not really exist. There is merely the stream or flow of idappaccayata.
When certain conditions exist then this result arises or when these conditions exist there will be this result or this effect. It all just depends on conditions and causes that lead to certain effects and this process of cause and effects just keeps flowing onward and onwards . There is nothing that is ‘gaining’ or ‘losing’. These are just words, dualities, illusions created within worldly minds.
People say ‘this is profit’ , ‘that is loss’ and then they get all excited about these things.
It is really just the flow of cause and effect. Seeing things in this way is to be above the world, to be no longer be trapped in these dualistic conditions. Laughing and Crying
What about when you laugh and when you cry, when positivism makes you laugh and when negativism makes you cry. Have you ever examined this matter? When we really see things as they are there is no longer these positives and these negatives to make us laugh or cry.
We can just observe whatever takes place without this laughing and crying. Or are you worried that would not be any fun, that it would not be very enjoyable, that it may be boring or something?
Take a good look. This is the happiness that is lokutara, above the world, to not have to laugh or to cry at ‘positive’ or ‘negative’; to no longer laugh or cry about worldly conditions.
Is this the kind of happiness you are interested in?Nirvana is Unsurpassed Voidness - Empty of All Dualism
When there is no positivism and no negativism, then there is what we call sunnata - voidness.
Voidness is when there is no more positive and negative, when there is no more dualism. When the mind is free of all those dualistic illusions, then there is Voidness or sunnata.
Can any of you fit or classify Voidness as positive or can you classify Voidness as negative?
Sunnata is neither positive nor negative. It is beyond, above, surpassing both positive and negative.
This is the meaning of Nibbana or Nirvana , which is unsurpassed Voidness . Nibbana is the supreme Voidness that absolutely transcends ‘positive’ and ‘negative’, that is free, void, empty of all dualism.Perceiving Voidness and Setting Out On The Path To Nirvana
When the mind perceives Voidness; when the mind sees or realises Voidness; then mind itself is void; because when the mind is realising or seeing voidness it doesn’t see anything that it can be attached to as ‘good’ or ‘bad’; there is nothing to grab onto as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ and so the mind then is void as well.
When the mind is void, that is the supreme happiness, there is no happiness that comes even close to this truest most genuine happiness of voidness. This is the happiness of freedom, when the mind is completely liberated from all the things that have power over it, that influence it, that trap it, which push its buttons and so forth.
This is the highest happiness, the happiness of Voidness.
This kind of Voidness does not just happen after many years of practice and training. You probably haven’t noticed it yet. In fact in everyone’s life there are moments, if only a very short moment, when the mind is free, when the mind is void of any feeling of positive or negative, when the mind is not clinging to anything as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
This is a free sample or free specimen of Nibbana, of the complete and perfect Voidness. People tend to overlook these free samples, they don’t pay any attention because they are too busy chasing after the deceptive pleasures. So please start to pay attention. Be on the look for these moments when the mind is free, when the mind is void of positive and negative.
Once we begin to see, just a split second of this Voidness, when we come to really realise what it truly is, then we turn our lives towards this voidness and set out, truly and genuinely set out, on the path to Nibbana, to a life that is void, that is above worldly conditions.
So don’t overlook these free samples of Nibbana that Nature gives to us. Then you will begin to understand this highest most genuine happiness.
To summarise, when there is selfishness then the mind is not void; when there is no selfishness the mind is void and free.Practicing Concentration and Insight Meditation:Training Yourself To Abide In Voidness
So please start to be very interested in this matter we have been discussing. These moments of voidness when the mind is completely free of selfishness is something to be very concerned with and interested in. These momentary little samples of voidness that occur coincidently in life are generally ignored so we need to pay attention to them. We can learn and practice to be aware of them but not only just these coincidental moments of emptiness.
Through the practice of concentration and insight, through correct mediation in concentration and insight, there will be deeper and further understanding of these moments of voidness .
So please take special interest in this matter of the mind being void of selfishness. Understand what it means to be void, to be empty of selfishness, in a way that doesn't depend on using drugs such as heroin or LSD. There are much more refined ways than that.
Please be very interested in this.That ‘Self’ That Wants To Be Happy Must Disappear For The Mind To Be Happy.
Finally we will wrap this up with the rather amusing truth of that ‘self’, that ‘I’, that wants to be happy must disappear for the mind to be happy. Until we let go of that self that is trying to be happy the mind will never be happy. By merely letting go of the ‘I’, the ‘person’, who wants to be happy, then there arises true happiness.
This may sound quite illogical but we hope you are beginning to understand.
May we ending today’s talk on this amusing truth.