Misconception of Selfishness

the way of the Elders
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Dharmasherab
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Misconception of Selfishness

Post by Dharmasherab » Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:04 am

Most of the practice explained in forms of Buddhism will only work if we spend sometime by ourselves where we dedicate our time to nothing but the practice.

Unfortunately this is misunderstood by some as being selfish. It is a mistaken yet popular view among certain Mahayana Buddhists that what Theravada monks are doing is an act of selfishness when they spend their time in their own monasteries and retreats just focusing on themselves. This view is simply not true and when such people appear to criticize Theravada, they are actually criticizing their own misunderstanding of the Theravada.

Here is the reason why -
Lets say that you get an illness and required to be admitted to hospital, does this mean it was selfish of you to be in hospital to be treated for your condition/illness? Because it would only be selfish if your intention was to stay in the hospital forever. But the idea is for you to stay as a patient in order to be treated so that you can eventually go back to the world in a healthy state and engage with the rest of your duties to the world. This is also the way practice works. In this life we are affected by suffering. The practice is there to eliminate or minimize suffering. One has to have a reasonable degree of realization before they are considered to be safe in order to teach and guide others towards the path.

Also let us also not forget that in Mahayana there are Tibetan yogis who spend months if not years in caves. There are Zen priests who engage in silence and Zazen for extended periods of time. These are people who have taken the Bodhisattva vows. Was it selfish for them to attend to their practice without helping others at that time? Of course not.
Because being a practicing Buddhist regardless of tradition requires one to dedicate a part of their life towards their own practice - otherwise what is the purpose of all these teachings?

People may spend their entire life or many lifetimes doing nothing but dedicating themselves to their own practices which is just oriented on self-liberation but lets not dismiss this activity as an act of selfishness. Actually in a world full of overwhelming ignorance it is one of the most sensible things to do as a Buddhist.

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Nicholas
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Re: Misconception of Selfishness

Post by Nicholas » Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:21 pm

That misconception is true, but it is mainly found in those who know little about Mahayana, usually ordinary worldlings. Any Mahayana cultivator with a basic grounding knows that extensive individual retreats are needed.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- Buddha

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Dharmasherab
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Re: Misconception of Selfishness

Post by Dharmasherab » Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:50 am

Does the word cultivator mean the same as meditator?

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Nicholas
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Re: Misconception of Selfishness

Post by Nicholas » Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:45 pm

Dharmasherab wrote:
Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:50 am
Does the word cultivator mean the same as meditator?
Meditation is part of cultivation or practice. The basis is threefold: three trainings of - ethics or sila - samadhi or meditation & prajna or wisdom.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- Buddha

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Dharmasherab
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Re: Misconception of Selfishness

Post by Dharmasherab » Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:31 pm

Gotcha. I've been reading The Teachings of Ajahn Chah and in the English translation it sometimes uses word 'cultivator' and I was substituting the word 'meditator' for that word. But now you've clarified that its cultivation with respect to the Three-Fold Trainings so thank you.

For the record, I am a Vajrayana Buddhist.

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