Selfishness, Greed and Human Frailty


Well, time to explore the most common trait one finds all around – selfishness. If you follow Buddhism, you would know that Buddha left his family and earthly desires for seeking enlightenment. The key facet of that faith is the elimination of worldly desires in the pursuit of peace and enlightenment.

While I may not agree with the total abandonment of desires (and responsibilities), it is important to step away occasionally from the swirling emotions and desires that one undergoes in daily life. One encounters a non-stop parade of greedy people all around in routine life. Humanity is characterised by selfishness, originating from the need to protect one’s self interests and needs. It is an important aspect of human life – one has to be selfish sometimes, one has to develop a materialistic focus when it comes to one’s own advancement in professional career and family life, because that is what life is made of essentially. Combined with ambition, such a focus has helped many an enterprising individual to succeed in life. So, what can be wrong with being selfish, and greedy, to a certain extent, as these appear to be important and necessary to advance in life, atleast the materialistic one ?

I would like to point out at this juncture that ambition and focus on advancement are very important and sometimes, critical, if one comes from a chaotic society where there is serious competition for the few positions in anything if one really wishes to make it in life. If society is ill-defined, chaotic, largely unregulated, and is mostly left to fend for itself, then you would see the creation of ambitious individuals who are self-driven to a large extent. Such a sociological formulation is not a given, but mostly appears true if you look around, not just at your own country, but at societies all around. Ambitions cannot be regulated, desires and selfishness cannot be overseen and guided.

However, when one oversteps and integrates the selfishness into his/her inherent portfolio of characteristics, then that transforms into an “ordained” greed which permeates one’s life forever. The soul gets corrupted eventully as one progresses in the material world. You would find that you accede to “bribery” requests easily, because the soul ignores your mortal efforts to correct your own behaviour. You try to justify your incorrigible actions, by bringing others who may be in your immediate circle, like your own family members, as justification enough to take those actions, transferring or imputing the benefits of such actions towards them, rather than to yourself as you wish to raise above the impact of these actions. This is stupidity, as in essence you are trying to cheat yourself.

It becomes critical at this stage (probably this happens in your early thirties) to recognise the fact that you have overstepped, your soul is irretrievably corrupted, you are not able to think of anything in a spiritual or holistic manner at all. If you succeed in recognising these aspects of your current status, then that is great progress. Most people, in my experience, don’t reach this state even – they are much too engrossed in their own ambitions to the detriment of their soul.

When business schools start to focus on “ethics” and “corporate compliance”, and advocate “corporate social responsibility”, then we know that this moral and soul corruption has reached an institutional status from being just a personal trait or behaviour, because after all, business life is made up of these very same individuals. When one realises that ambitions and professional advancement can be realised even by other “straight” ways, and that it is not really necessary to be totally selfish to achieve one’s goals, then a new path opens for the soul to redeem itself.

Without downsizing the importance of material advancement, I would like to emphasise that simultaneous, continuous efforts be made by all towards a positive integration of the soul in all aspects of human endeavour. When we see misery in the world, when the world still cannot solve the humanitarian problems in places like Africa, when people die for no reason in the 21st Century, then the collective conscience of the world needs to ask very serious questions. The world bodies that we know of are more interested in preparations for waging the next war, rather than on alleviating the miseries around the world and protecting the environment for the future generations of mankind. Positive changes can only happen when school curricula is modified to “learn” about the world and its problems, and kids are asked to go and do something to help the poor and charities as part of their education. When politicians and ambitious professionals are exposed at a young age to such concepts and execution of projects pertaining to solving some part of the worldly problems, then there is a serious chance that the world will improve in the next generation at least. Otherwise we will leave a legacy of greed and ignorance about world’s ills to our posterity, which would find it is just that much more convenient to continue in the same manner.

Human Life is short, and we should make it productive not just for ourselves but for all around us. Hinduism and New Christianity encourage continuous engagement of ourselves into the daily lives of all around us in a positive way. There are other religions which suggest the same. While religious faith is not necessary to liberate corrupted souls, it does help and assist in the process. Otherwise, one needs to take inspiration from the green nature, for which most of us have only a couple of weeks in a year. Faith is an ongoing process of realisation, recognition, fulfillment and advancement.

More discussions to be expected in the near future, I guess.

Have a wonderful weekend ahead.

VIJAY SRINIVASAN
Singapore

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16 comments

  1. JBW

    I listened to an excellent podcast the other day that featured an interview with Sir Jonathan Porritt, formerly of Friends of the Earth, and author of Capitalism: As if the World Mattered which you might find interesting. In essence, Porritt argues that you have to be in the system to change it. For example, appeal to the greed of corporations to make them more responsible. Point out that they can cut costs by producing along sustainable lines, and increase revenue by enticing people to buy their goods because of their good corporate citizenship.

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  4. Thetruth

    when one seeks to be enlightened they are the ones truly being selfish. Whilst going down the road to enlightment, the person is only thinking about themselves and their own happiness, at the cost of family and loved ones.

  5. missy.76

    Extremely bias article. The facts in this article are questionable. No limitation of scope : business, psychology, spiritualism, sociology are mixed as one.

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