~Meher Baba / Discourses Volume I / Website Meher Baba
SELFISHNESS comes into existence owing to the
tendency of the desires to find fulfilment in action and
experience. It is born of fundamental ignorance about one's
own true nature. Human consciousness is clouded by the
accumulation of various types of impressions deposited by
the long course of the evolution of
consciousness. These impressions
express themselves as desires, and
the range of the operation of consciousness is strictly
limited by these desires. The sanskaras or impressions
form an enclosure around the possible field of
consciousness. The circle of sanskaras constitutes that
limited area in which alone the individual consciousness
can be focussed. Some of the desires have mere latency of
action, but others can actually translate themselves into
action. The capacity of a desire to find expression in
conduct depends upon the intensity and the amount of the
sanskaras connected with it. To use a geometrical
metaphor, we might say that when a desire passes into
action, it traverses a distance which is equal to the radius of
a circle describing the boundary of the sanskaras
connected with it. When a desire gathers sufficient
strength, it projects itself into action for getting fulfilled.
The range of selfishness is equal to the range of desires.
Owing to the hindrance of multifarious desires, it becomes
impossible for the soul to find free and
full expression of its true being, and life
becomes self-centred and narrow. The
entire life of the personal ego is continually in the grip of
wanting, i. e., an attempt to seek fulfilment of desires
through things that change and vanish. But there can be no
through the transient things. The satisfaction derived from
the fleeting things of life is not lasting; and the wants of
man remain unfulfilled. There is thus a general sense of
dissatisfaction accompanied by all kinds of worries.
The chief forms in which the frustrated ego finds
expression are lust, greed and anger. Lust is very much
like greed in many respects. But it differs in the manner of
its fulfilment which is directly related to the gross sphere.
Lust finds its expression through the medium of the
physical body and is concerned with the flesh. It is a form
of entanglement with the gross sphere. Greed is a state of
restlessness of the heart, and it
consists mainly of craving for power
and possessions. Possessions and
power are sought for the fulfilment of desires. Man is only
partially satisfied in his attempt to have the fulfilment of his
desires. And this partial satisfaction fans and increases the
flame of craving instead of extinguishing it. So greed
always finds an endless field of conquest, and leaves the
man endlessly dissatisfied. The chief expressions of greed
are related to the emotional part of man. It is a form of
entanglement with the subtle sphere. Anger is the fume of
an irritated mind. It is caused by the thwarting of desires. It
feeds the limited ego, and is used for domination and
aggression. It aims at removing the obstacles existing in
the fulfilment of desires. The frenzy of anger nourishes
egoism and conceit, and it is the greatest benefactor of the
limited ego. Mind is the seat of anger, and its expressions
are mostly through the activities of the mind. Anger is a
form of mental entanglement. Lust, greed and anger
respectively have body, heart and mind as their vehicles of
Man experiences disappointment through lust,
greed and anger; and the frustrated ego, in its turn, seeks
fication through lust, greed and anger. Consciousness is
thus caught up in a vicious circle of endless disappointment.
Disappointment comes into existence when
either lust or greed or anger are
thwarted in their expression. It is thus
a general reaction of the gross, subtle and mental
entanglement. It is a depression caused by the nonfulfilment
of lust, greed and anger which together are coextensive
with selfishness. Selfishness which is the
common basis of these three ingredient vices is thus the
ultimate cause of disappointment and worries. It defeats
itself. It seeks fulfilment through desires, but succeeds only
in arriving at unending dissatisfaction.
Selfishness inevitably leads to dissatisfaction and
disappointment, because desires are endless. The problem
of happiness is, therefore, the problem of dropping out desires.
Desires, however, cannot be effectively
overcome through mechanical repression.
They can be annihilated only through
knowledge. If you dive deep in the realm of thoughts and
think seriously just for a few minutes, you will realize the
emptiness of desires. Think of what you have enjoyed all
these years and what you have suffered. All that you have
enjoyed through life is today nil. All that you have suffered
through life also is nothing in the present. All was illusory. It
is your right to be happy and yet you create your own unhappiness
by wanting things. Wanting is the source of perpetual
restlessness. If you do not get the thing you wanted,
you are disappointed. And if you get, you want more and
more of it and become unhappy. Say, "I do not want anything,"
and be happy. The continuous realization of the
futility of wants will eventually lead you to Knowledge. This
Self-knowledge will give you the freedom from wants to the
road to abiding happiness.
Wants should be carefully distinguished from needs.
Pride and anger, greed and lust are all different from want.
You might think, "I need all that I want." But this is a mistake.
If you are thirsty in a desert, what
you need is good water, not lemonade.
As long as man has body there will be
some needs, and it is necessary to meet these needs. But
wants are an outcome of infatuated imagination. They must
be scrupulously killed, if there is to be any happiness. As
the very being of selfishness consists of desires,
renunciation of wants becomes a process of death. Dying
in the ordinary sense means parting with the physical body.
But dying in the real sense means renunciation of low
sense-desires. The priests prepare men for false death by
painting gloomy pictures of hell and heaven. But their death
is illusory, since life is one unbroken continuity. The real
death consists of the cessation of desires, and it comes by
The dawn of love facilitates the death of selfishness.
Being is dying by loving. If you cannot love one another,
how can you love even those who torture you? The limits
of selfishness are created by ignorance.
When a man realizes that he can
have a more glorious satisfaction by widening the sphere of
his interest and activities, he is heading towards the life of
service. At this stage, he entertains many good desires. He
wants to make others happy by relieving distress and
helping them. And though, even in such good desires,
there is often an indirect and latent reference to the self,
narrow selfishness has no grip over good deeds. Even
good desires may, in a sense, be said to be a form of
enlightened and extended selfishness, for, like bad desires,
they too move within the domain of duality. But in
entertaining good desires, selfishness is embracing a larger
conception which eventually brings about
its own extinction. Instead of merely trying to be luminous,
arrestive and possessive, man learns to be useful to
The desires which enter into the constitution
of the personal ego are either good or bad. Bad desires
are ordinarily referred to as forms of selfishness, and good
desires are referred to as forms of selflessness.
But there is no hard and fast
line dividing selfishness from selflessness.
Both move in the domain of duality and, from the ultimate
point of view which transcends the opposites of good and
bad, the distinction between selfishness and selflessness is
chiefly one of range. Selfishness and selflessness are two
phases of the life of the personal ego, and these two
phases are continuous with each other. Selfishness arises
when all the desires are centred round the narrow
individuality. Selflessness arises when this crude
organisation of desires suffers disintegration, and there is a
general dispersing of desires with the result that they cover
a much wider sphere. Selfishness is the narrowing down of
interests to a limited field; selflessness is the extension of
interests over a wide field. To put it paradoxically,
selfishness is a restricted form of selflessness; and
selflessness is the drawing out of selfishness into a wide
sphere of activity.
Selfishness must be transmuted into selflessness
before the domain of duality is completely transcended.
Persistent and continuous performance of good deeds
wears out selfishness. Selfishness extended and expressed
in the form of good deeds
becomes the instrument of its own
destruction. The good is the main link
between selfishness thriving and
dying. Selfishness which, in the beginning is the father of
evil tendencies, becomes, through good deeds, the hero of
its own defeat. And when the evil tendencies are
by good tendencies, selfishness is transformed into
selflessness, i.e., individual selfishness loses itself into
universal interest. And though this selfless and good life is
also bound by the opposites, goodness is a necessary step
towards freedom from the opposites. Goodness is the
means of the soul to annihilate its own ignorance.
From the good the soul passes on to God.
Selflessness is merged into Universal Selfhood, which
is beyond good and bad, virtue and vice and all the
other dual aspects of Maya. The
height of selflessness is beginning of
the feeling of oneness with all. In the state of liberation
there is neither selfishness nor selflessness in the ordinary
sense; but both of these are taken up and merged into the
feeling of selfness for all. Realization of the unity of all life is
accompanied by peace and unfathomable bliss. It does not,
in any way, lead either to spiritual stagnation or to the
obliteration of relative values. Selfness for all brings about
undisturbed harmony without loss of discrimination and
unshakeable peace without indifference to the
surroundings. And this selfness for all is not an outcome of
merely subjective synthesis. It is a result of an actual
attainment of union with the Ultimate Reality which includes
Open your heart by weeding out all desires and by
harbouring only one longing—the longing for union with the
Ultimate Reality. The Ultimate Reality is not to be sought in
the changing things of external
environment, but in one's own being.
Every time your soul intends entering
your human heart, it finds the doors locked and the inside
too full of desires. Do not keep the doors of your hearts
closed. Everywhere there is the source of abiding bliss, and
yet all are miserable
because of desires born of ignorance. The goal of lasting
happiness shines forth fully only when the limited ego, with
all its desires, finds its complete and final extinction.
Renunciation of desires does not mean asceticism
or a merely negative attitude to life. Any such negation of
life would make man inhuman. Divinity is not devoid of
humanity. Spirituality must make man more human. It is a
positive attitude of releasing all that is good and noble and
beautiful in man. It also contributes to all that is gracious
and lovely in the environment. It does
not require the external renunciation
of worldly activities or the avoiding of
duties and responsibilities. It only
requires that, while performing the worldly activities or
discharging the responsibilities arising from the specific
place and position of the individual, the inner spirit should
remain free from the burden of desires. Perfection consists
in remaining free from the entanglements of duality. Such
freedom from entanglements is the most essential requirement
of unhindered creativity. But this freedom cannot be
attained by running away from life for fear of entanglement.
This would mean denial of life. Perfection does not consist
in shrinking from the dual expressions of nature. The
attempt to escape from entanglement implies fear of life.
But spirituality consists in meeting life adequately and fully
without being overpowered by the opposites. It must assert
its dominion over all illusions—however attractive or
powerful. Without avoiding contact with the different forms
of life, a perfect man functions with complete detachment in
the midst of intense activity.