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Life Arts    H4'ed 7/25/19

Daily Inspiration — Renouncing Selflessness

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Doing good seeking rewards
Is contaminated virtue.
Doing good without thought of reward,
Dedicating it to enlightenment,
Is uncontaminated virtue.
Contamination and non-contamination
Refer to the state of mind of the doer,
Not to the good deed itself.
- Muso Kokushi (1275-1351)
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Suppose I give up on the lesser reward of praise or goodwill from others because I'm after the greater reward of enlightenment? Is that just as bad, or is it actually worse?

Suppose I offer you kindness and acceptance because behaving magnanimously supports my secret belief that I am a better person than you. Suppose you sense my patronizing attidude, and you're mad as hell. Suppose I continue to smile and offer a gentle acceptance in the face of your angry tirade, because it confirms belief in my innate superiority.

Maybe it would be better for me to scream back at you. Or maybe it doesn't make a whit of difference whether I scream or I hide behind Mona Lisa's smile....We will only find our way to one another once you get over trying to change my behavior with your disapproval and I outgrow my preference for lonely self-esteem over vulnerable relationship.
--JJM

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Josh Mitteldorf, a senior editor at OpEdNews, blogs on aging at http://JoshMitteldorf.ScienceBlog.com. Read how to stay young at http://AgingAdvice.org.
Educated to be an astrophysicist, he has branched out from there to mathematical (more...)
 

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Josh Mitteldorf

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Maybe enlightenment cannot be achieved by trying or strategizing, but only by grace.

Maybe, like enlightenment, relationship is only granted to us via grace.

Submitted on Thursday, Jul 25, 2019 at 5:07:35 PM

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Josh Mitteldorf

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Rumi says, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing. and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there."


Maybe what he means (and Kokushi, too) is that civilization has taught us rules with which to figure out which behaviors are good and bad, and has set up systems of rewards and punishments to keep us doing more of the one and less of the other. But someday we are slated to outgrow rule-based morality, to give up analysis and commentary on the law, to abandon even judgment and rely instead on our instincts and intuitions. Without giving up our best human faculties, we will live the way animals live, choosing spontaneously, effortlessly, without foresight, without regret. And this state is akin to enlightenment.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 12:31:07 PM

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Zef Rose

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Grace is a state of being, a way of doing things; it is not a thing bestowed from the outside by a god.

One finds the grace within by self-observation and self-governance.

When one interacts with others with grace, there is no need for any laws made up by graceless seekers of fortune and praise.

As long as the focus remains on the outside, whether it be government or god (the same thing, really) the inner self will atrophy and die, leaving in its place an empty husk, waiting to be filled with anything the controlling body politic sees fit to put there.

Thank you Josh, for bringing us back to the basics.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:40:08 PM

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Erik O'Dowd

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(1) The last sentence of the post is garbled. Shouldn't there be an "and" in the middle of the sentence?

(2) I wonder whether there is such a thing, for humans, as a "selfless" act, an act that's entirely altruistic. Even giving an anonymous gift: Isn't there a payoff for the donor, both anticipated and later experienced, of "feeling good" about it? The Buddhist monk who in 1963 self-immolated in Saigon to bring attention to the plight of Buddhists in South Vietnam -- didn't he gain praise for his anticipated act as he and his fellows were planning the act; and didn't he perform it to gain favor in his quest for enlightenment? If we're honest about human conduct, isn't everything we do in some form for our own self-interest?

Submitted on Saturday, Jul 27, 2019 at 7:18:51 PM

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What you say is logically true, inescapably so. In moral philosophy that position is called psychological egoism. I am incapable of acting on any other motives than "my" motives; even if I choose to do what somebody else says to serve some interest of mine. My motives may be virtuous - I want to do good; build up; or vicious - I want to do bad; tear down. As autonomous beings who are under our own willful control, it is not possible for us to act from any motives other than our own. But we don't always act for our own benefit. We can act at our own cost, for the benefit of others, even if we feel no psychological reward of "being virtuous" for doing it. We can perform purely selfless acts of our own free will. We can know it's the right - the good - thing to do; and do it; even though we get nothing for doing it. Psychological egoism does not negate the possibility of altruism. Selfless acts are possible.

Submitted on Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 at 12:14:53 AM

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