Selfishness and selflessness

Selfishness and selflessness are mutually exclusive. Where there is one, there cannot be the other. If a person is selfish in an action or thought, then he cannot also be selfless. One leads to awakening of human potential while the other prevents it. Selfishness is an obstacle, while selflessness is a necessity. But of course, selfishness cannot be wiped out instantaneously; it takes time. This is the purpose of yoga practices (sadhana). As you expand awareness and change your attitudes correspondingly in the outside world, then your ego motives will gradually reduce.

This is directly related to the ida and pingala. If you concentrate too much on ida (introversion) then your ego will not reduce. You will make little headway in realizing your potential beyond a certain point. If you are totally involved in the outside world, without any inner awareness, then again there will be no drastic changes in your ego-centredness. This is the, case with most people. In the first case, people tend to be absorbed in getting 'high' on psychic experiences, which eventually leads to self-centredness. In the second case, people tend not to have the incentive to change their ego-centred attitude to others, even if they recognize them in the first place. It is only when the ida and pingala are balanced that there is a reasonable balance between inner unfoldment and outer expression; it is here that the ego identification becomes less.

This balanced attitude towards life is very important, and is clearly stated in the scriptures. Christ said: "Look within", but he did not mean people to lose themselves in psychic adventures. He said look inside but also "Love thy neighbour" and "Love thy enemy". This important point is often missed or forgotten. The Mahayana Buddhist system emphasizes that you should not seek nirvana (liberation) for your own benefit. You should seek nirvana for the sake of other people. This is embodied in the ideal of the Boddhisattva, It is very easy to miss the significance of this idea. The Mahayana Buddhists say that a person should not be satisfied until he has gained liberation of all other beings. Of course, this is rather an impossible task, and is not really intended to be taken literally. The purpose of this ideal is to indicate that spiritual awakening should not be and cannot be egotistical. It cannot be a personal thing; it is not possible. The spiritual path does not mean that you only unfold your own nature and potential; it means that you simultaneously understand and tune in with the nature of others.

The implications of the sayings of Christ and the precepts of Mahayana Buddhism are that one should have aspiration for awakening one's potential, but that one should not become lost in continual thoughts of personal self-development and progress. There has to be a balance between ida and pingala. You have to develop inner awareness, relate this to the outside world and change your attitude to other people and things along harmonious lines. One must develop understanding of both oneself and others and tiy to follow the rule: "Do to others as you would wish them to do unto you."

The balance of the ida and pingala is the 'middle path'. It is basically the same path that

Buddha advocated but put in different words. This balanced attitude towards life, both internally and externally, will bring greater selflessness. It will arise spontaneously through understanding brought about by the simultaneous development of inner awareness and outer expression. It arises through simultaneous balancing of the ida and pingala at all levels. This is the way to unfold the potential that is your heritage. Bear this balance in mind and apply it as much as possible. Practise meditational techniques etc. in the inner world combined with karma yoga in the outside world. This is so important.


We have discussed the meaning and implications of ida and pingala at the following levels:

1. Physically in relation to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and in turn the organs and functions of the entire body. Balance of ida and pingala at this level helps to maintain or bring about perfect health.

2. Mentally and pranically with regard to energy flows and direction of thoughts. Overstimulation of either the ida or pingala aspect of the psyche can bring disharmony. There must be balance.

3. Inner awareness and outer expression. Failure to develop inner awareness and also rejection of external actions both act as obstacles on the path to higher understanding and bliss. There must be detachment from both inner and outer events, but with continued participation in the world and simultaneous development and intensification of inner awareness.

Balance of ida and pingala at all levels is most important if you want to gain good health, if you want peace of mind, and if you want to attain understanding of your own being6.


1 The chakras have been fully discussed in Lessons 19, 20 and 21

2 Book II, Lesson 19, Topic 2

3 Book II, Lesson 20, Topic 2

4 For further details refer to Book II, Lesson 23, Topic 2

5 For more information refer to Book I, Lesson 4, Topic 3

6 For the second part of this discussion refer to Book II, Lesson 23, Topic 1

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