I do a lot of reading about Buddhist teachings, and it weighs heavily into my own spiritual practices. However, I do question the idea of living from complete selflessness. I believe in balance in all things, and this way of life conflicts with that.
Many Buddhists seem to believe in living a path of total selflessness. Letting go of ego and personal desire is recommended. However, isn’t there a point when selflessness becomes detrimental? Perhaps what I’ve read in this regard is an extremist view, but it does give me food for thought.
It is admirable to live in a way that is caring and compassionate. It is good to care for others and to do whatever we can to help people other than ourselves. Unfortunately, I’ve seen selflessness turn toxic. When you only give and never take for yourself, you can become ill, stressed and lost. I believe that you must have your own desires and attend to your own needs as well as provide service to the world.
How could a person ever let go of all personal wanting? If you never think of yourself, couldn’t it lead to the decay of your own body and life? Is it really wrong to want for yourself so long as self isn’t your only focus? Shouldn’t there be a balance between giving and taking?
I have grown throughout my life, and as a result I am less self-oriented. I feel good about the fact that I have let go of hate and pure selfishness. However, I still think of myself and want for myself. Even today I made a choice to let go of helping another in favor of saving myself. I believe that was the best choice for all and I don’t feel that my desire for self-preservation was wrong. Nor do I believe that wanting a better life for myself is wrong.
I do want for myself, even in material senses. I don’t want much, but health, safe housing and some financial freedom are goals for me. I believe that caring for myself is actually good for the world as well, because if I am healthy and safe and my needs are met, I can focus less on my own needs and more on those of the world.
How do you feel about the idea of totally selfless living? Do you think it’s even possible? Is it a lifestyle best left to nuns and monks rather than the common man, or something to aspire to?