Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Past Sins Realized

I must confess that this may very well be a narcissistic post on my part but, then again, it’s a blog and much of what goes on here and on other blogs is pretty narcissistic. Perhaps I’ll be excused then.

From time to time, I become especially aware of my past sins. These aren’t dramatic sins of any sort. I’ve never killed anyone, embezzled from my corporation, or even abused a dog. These are the pedestrian sins that many of us have had as none of us are perfect creatures. My biggest failing, throughout my less, is my own selfishness. The second biggest failing, that goes hand in hand with it, is self-absorption or a lack of awareness of my own selfishness. In other words, I’ve often been a selfish shit that only focused on myself and really did not treat other people well. I say this in the past tense but I’m well aware that this can no way be truly in the past. It still happens today though I hope that it does so with some less frequency than in previous years. I’d like to pretend that this is a failing of my young adulthood, 15 years or more ago, but I can see it even within the last couple of years.

There are probably quite a few reasons to do with this behavior based on my upbringing as a largely only child without good connections to others but that is really quite immaterial. As adults, in spite of any reasons for things, we have to take responsibility for our behaviors. You can’t point the finger at circumstances or people and say “It is not my fault!” Of course it is your fault. You’re the one engaging in the behavior.

This is not to say that I’m kicking myself over and over again over this. I don’t want to dwell on my selfishness because that, by its very nature, is selfish as well beyond a certain point. It’s a form of ego clinging or self cherishing that serves no real value and can actually damage your ability to move on and to help others or yourself. I’ve simply become more aware of all of it over time when I look back at things I’ve done. My motivation has, far too often, been about what is nice or easy for me and without any awareness (or caring) of its effects on others. I figure it is part of the inevitable process of maturation and reflection that people do become aware of their behaviors and how they impact people, especially the people close to them (though there are notable exceptions with some people). Spending significant time on a cushion at various points also makes it inevitable that you will see something of the nature of your own mind or thoughts. You can’t run from yourself. This causes me some remorse when I ponder circumstances around my first marriage, my relationship to family, and even my current marriage and friends. So, for those long-term friends of mine who read my posts, here and where they are mirrored on my old livejournal, I do want to apologize for being a selfish bastard and, basically, being a self-adsorbed asshole at times (or constantly). I’ve lost more friends due to my own behavior than any other reason, something which saddens me when I reflect on it.

What is the antidote to selfishness? Well, obviously awareness is a real key. Knowing your habits and mindsets can help you be aware of habitual modes of behavior. Beyond that, the real answer is to quit focusing on yourself. In our hyper-individualistic American culture, it’s all about me me me but, really, it’s not about me, for any of us. You aren’t in a competition with people. Really, you’re not. It’s not about being better off, richer, or having more stuff than others. That way leads to dissatisfaction and suffering. Maybe not now but eventually. You don’t become happy by focusing on yourself. In my opinion, the real key to happiness is focusing outward to others, rather than constantly inwards. Focus on your relationships with other beings. Focus on helping others or just being connected with them, understanding their circumstances and lives. It isn’t ignoring your own happiness but there is a huge difference between meeting your own basic needs as a human being and focusing on them to the point where others are inconsequential or simply a means to your own personal ends. The happiest people I know do things to meet their basic needs to have some joy in their life but then they are involved with others, helping them be happy as well, being compassionate and just a bit less ego driven. In many ways, it is antithetical to our current culture but it is true. This isn’t even a Buddhist thing as I’ve known plenty of happy Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists or what-have-you. It is a matter of reducing the clinging to your own ego or self as the most important thing in the world.

Personally, I wish I would have realized this 15 or 20 years ago but then, I’m sure I wouldn’t have cared then either. This strikes me as something that people need to intuit for themselves, even if others can help point it out.