Path of Transformation

Abandoning Selfish Desires: Recognizing Clinging


When we attend or watch recorded Dharma teachings, we should always keep our motivation in mind. As we enter a shrine hall or sit down to watch a teaching, we can remind ourselves that we are participating to benefit others. And right now, we may not be able to benefit so much. However, we are developing that ability—that is our purpose! By hearing, reflecting, and meditating on these teachings, we are training.

There is so much suffering in this world, both general suffering that we all share, and individual suffering. Unless we address the causes of this suffering, there is no end. The Buddha taught the truth of the origin of suffering. We have to be clear about what causes suffering, or we cannot bring it to an end for ourselves or others. In the outer world, we see an absence of peace and happiness on a global level. And if we narrow the scope, we also see this closer to home.

The Buddhist texts say that all the suffering in the world arises from selfish desires. The basis for suffering is self-clinging or selfish desires. And the root cause of selfishness is the mistaken perception and clinging to a self. We can observe this on a global scale and also within our personal experience. We can observe how our selfish desires can lead to pride and jealousy—and these are forms of suffering.

Selfish desires contribute to the death of other beings and harm our environment. Yet, we can look around and see that all our efforts have not created a state free of suffering. Children are often educated in this way—pushing them to be the best or the most successful. This is not realistic, as only one person can come first. But we are training kids to believe that they are more important than anyone else. These views all come from thinking “me” and “mine”.

Children trained in this way often become very competitive. And a competitive attitude is the very opposite of loving kindness and compassion. It is rooted in ill will and a wish to harm or beat out others. This mindset leaves people agitated and unhappy. We can reflect on this and realize that the source of this attitude is the strong clinging to the self.

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