Selfishness to selflessness

A quick search of the word “selfish” online generates millions of results, and none of them deviate from giving it a negative tinge. Most of these definitions can be distilled to the way of acting in a manner with no regard for anyone else.

If selfish behavior is dissected and analyzed, an interesting theme emerges about people; especially folks who have been categorized as selfless: all of them were selfish at one point in time.

Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha, is a figure revered all around the world for his teachings and contributions to the field of spiritual development. It is no secret for anyone who has studied Siddhartha to realize his initial steps were selfish: renouncing his royal life and leaving his wife and 1-year-old baby to tread the path of self-realization.

Similarly, anyone who decides to become a monk or a nun, their first step towards monasticism involves not just resigning from a materialistic life, but also abandoning friends and family who care and love them abundantly. The resignation from a materialistic life is often seen as an act of selflessness, but it isn’t. It is done to follow a path, however noble, in order to meet a self-seeking goal.

My intentions aren’t to be pejorative of people, especially someone like Siddhartha Gautama who is idolized. I have immense respect for him, and I even practice his method of meditation- vipassana. I am able to call him selfish because I am not attaching any negative connotation to the word. As a matter of fact, it is the very step required to become selfless.

Consider the example of a charge traveling through a wire or a liquid flowing across a pipe. The flow is always from a higher to a lower potential. The charge or the fluid has to be at a higher state for it to “flow”. Attaining a higher potential is usually achieved with a self-serving act.

Naturally, the question arises: why is it that all selfish individuals (which is pretty much the entire population) don’t feel like they are brimming enough to be in a position to fill others’ vessels? The simple answer: every selfless individual has to be selfish initially, and the converse isn’t always true.

If plant physiology is studied during the transition stage from flower to fruit, it becomes clear how selfishly a flower acts. The flower becomes a heavy sink and draws nutrients and SUC (Sucrose Uptake Carriers) to its tissues. The SUC helps the flower to accrue all the sucrose, which eventually becomes a fruit.

This fruit is available for consumption for everyone except the plant.

Thank you for reading!

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