TED Conversations

João Pinto

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Are buddhists/monks that say they have found inner peace and happiness, selfish somehow, considering the world around us (poverty,etc)?

Lots of monks in the world dedicate their lives to the pursuit of happiness and inner peace. They live through charity, limited to their temple and village.
Aren´t they sellfish (just a question) knowing after all that there are people around the globe needing help and knowing that they could contribute to them?

0
Share:
progress indicator
  • thumb
    Nov 13 2011: Although I know this to be a provoking question - I respond to your wishes so as not to be selfish with my time.

    The monk who is dedicated to inner peace and harmony understands that to find it within, he need never search for it ever again. By searching - he believes it is not there - missing from his own being - he is not whole. He becomes listless and not satisfied with what he has - because he maintains this belief that happiness has escaped him. He strives out to find it - and in doing so creates impact with those around him - impact that in turn sparks conflict and peace remains elusive.

    The monk who first finds inner peace and harmony does not search in the world any longer. Instead he carries the treasure with him always. When he encounters others - they too perceive his contentment and desire this condition also. He tells them it lay hidden inside. What greater help could that monk be to people around the globe - if not to show them the divine secret of self realization? The concept of 'self love' is often considered in egoic state. Many have interpreted scriptures of 'love thyself' in religions to mean self indulgence and gratification - a one eyed emotional journey. Self love balances selfless sacrifice with self respect.

    The lineage of Buddhist monks comes from cultures where spiritual values are placed highly within family and community structure. It is not considered a demeaning charity to support the life of a monk who is often one from a family who has given up thoughts of a typical life to serve the spiritual needs of his family and ancestry. The child who joins the monastery is respected and honoured as he or she maintains the role of serving filial consciousness beyond the limited fleeting time of flesh of mortal coil. Regardless, monks in understanding always open their doors and give great support to those who have lost the values of spirit and higher truth - in life and beyond. I thank them for walking with me. Om Gaia Om.
  • thumb
    Nov 15 2011: Monks do contribute. They contribute an example of how to live happily and compassionately with less. An example that most people in the industrialized world could learn from.
    • thumb
      Dec 4 2011: How can people that are starving, or are suffering physically or emotianely, in industrialized countries or undeveloped countries can learn with monks, that in several cases are miles and miles away? Is it possible to help at distance?
      • thumb
        Dec 6 2011: If a person is starving on the other side of the world then the monks actions aren't going to directly help them, but is does that make them selfish? By that criteria most people in the world are selfish because few are directly helping every starving person in the world.

        My point is they are a shining example of living happily with less. Obviously there are people who are so impoverished that they need no example of how to do this. There are many people, however who are absorbed in a consumerist lifestyle that strains the economies and ecologies of other parts of the world. The roots of wealth lie in the poor and roots of poverty lie in the rich. Some have to let go of what they have if others are to have more.

        My second point is that we can't really say that monks spend their whole life doing nothing. How do we know what every monk actually contributes to his or her community? Its a huge and unfair generalization to say that they contribute nothing to society.
        • thumb
          Dec 8 2011: 1) What if I say that is not one person that are starving, and what if I say that they´re not only miles away, They are in the monks own countries.
          2) I´m not saying they don´t contribute nothing to society (when I refer to monks generally I don´t mean every monk), but with what they accomplished in meditation they were supposed to reach a different level of sensibility of the problems around them.
          Don´t forget that the question of this debate is "CAN WE CONSIDER monks selfish because...".
          Of course every person who don´t contributes to solve the worlds problems directly can not be considered selfish because not every people has the same sensibilisation of the worlds problems.
          Trough this debate, I've already understood that to make peace for other people we have to find our own.
          If you still have any question or argument left, don´t hesitate replying.
  • Nov 13 2011: Hi João.

    An interesting question. I highly recommend a short article by Dale Wright in Psychology Today in which he looks at precisely this issue.

    He states that "[Buddhist] practitioners vow to seek enlightenment not just for themselves but globally on behalf of everyone" and "we are unable to be of service to others until we have undergone enough self-transformation to begin to see larger realities beyond the importance of our own personal well-being".

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/six-perfections/200911/is-self-cultivation-inherently-selfish-buddhist-perspective
    • thumb
      Nov 13 2011: I propose this philosophy as an essential pre-requisite for becoming a politician - i.e. undertaking sufficient transformation so as to be ready to serve others in a healthy self respecting way without the 'transparent' power games and perpetuated self interests and aligning power networks.

      NEW WORLD ORDER
  • thumb
    Nov 13 2011: Basically, I would add that there are things you can't help other people about if you don't do it for yourself first. This can sound obvious in first aid, for instance - you must ensure your survival first if you want to be able to sustain life of other victims.

    It takes a lot to help other people's failure in happiness, wether they are poor or wealthy. If you have not found a minimum of happiness on your side, something you can find support with, I guess you cannot push other people to feel better.
  • thumb
    Nov 14 2011: no, for two reasons.

    1. buddhists believe in karma. that is, your situation is a consequence of your previous lives. if you are poor, these sufferings are connected to your own past behavior, possibly greed or lack of compassion, though these things are not that simple. either way, you are here because you need to pass that test. that is a step, you can't bypass that.

    2. buddhists do care about others, and their purpose is to help others. but not economically. the real help is to teach them about reality. about the fact that their suffering can be remedied only by knowledge, and not by food or medicine.
  • thumb
    Nov 13 2011: I thank to all your coments! You have shown me a different perspective that I have never realised.
    I am being totally honest: this will affect my life (positively of course) and I´m glad i´ve made this question.
    In this present moment of my life I have given a great advice. And this advice fits in my present moment of my life.
    Thanks to you all!
  • Nov 13 2011: First of all it has nothing to do with Buddhism (Monks).....Any charity organization (Be it religious church or Social organization ) which surviving on donation should not preach about fruits of labour..... On poverty and about poor people…….We the people who have something in life to enjoy should not feel pity for the people who have less to enjoy, because we might have more than others, but we certainly have less than many people in this world.......No one fears poverty or for that matter any type of pain as long as there are freedom to resolve them….Second thing, Global poverty and misery is not because of Monks…..poverty and other misery will not vanish if we remove Monks.....Everyone on this earth is enjoying their life that’s why they are alive irrespective of their economic or social status…
    • thumb
      Nov 14 2011: I´m sorry but I can´t agree with you. We should care about others like ourselves. The empaty is part of the human nature.
      And I´m not saying that the poverty and misery is because of the monks.
    • thumb
      Nov 15 2011: I read some confusion about your comment on charity organisations surviving on donation have no right to preach about commercial profits (aka fruits of labour) and poverty about poor people.

      Firstly although I think a 'charity' model is certainly not the most sustainable - it does not regenerate and requires a huge amount of donor solicitation, marketing and energy to receiving the 'giving' - I think it necessary a few points about monks and charity. Any monks (not just buddhist)

      Firstly monks conduct 'labour' every day by living. I spent a couple of months with Tibetan government in exile recently and was fortunate to witness and experience 'how' by living in a Monastery with them - and also by one example a Monk how had used his wisdom and compassion to gather homeless Hindu (actually any nationality) street children - often sick or maimed for begging purposes and set up a home and school for them. He's one of the people you describe who have no right to preach about fruits of labour. I wonder why you think it is not reasonable for this man and others who choose to serve others - not to be remunerated for it?

      I am amazed at how many people who run charities (Monks or otherwise) go broke because they are not 'allowed' to be supported financially - while they are effectively performing legitimate community service work. Why would you think that turning up in a suit in an office, talking to a few people in a meeting over coffee and juggling a few numbers around a balance sheet is more legitimately deserving of remuneration - i.e. is some labour that deserves 'fruits' - and very big fruits at that!

      We the people have something in life to enjoy - because of our circumstances and priveleges - nothing more nothing less.

      Time spent running a business or selling a product is not a higher or elite superiority. It simply means that someone somewhere is 'giving out' financially. I personally favour payingthe labour that goes directly and unselfishly into community
  • Nov 13 2011: Don't they live in a sort of self-imposed poverty?