Dalai Lama

“We can also approach the importance of compassion through intelligent reasoning. If I help another person, and show concerns for him or her, then I myself will benefit from that. However, if I harm others, eventually I will be in trouble. I often joke, half sincerely and half seriously, saying that if we wish to be truly selfish, we should be wisely selfish rather than foolishly selfish. Our intelligence can help to adjust our attitude in this respect. If we use it well, we can gain insight as to how we can fulfill our own self-interest by leading a compassionate way of life.”

  • matt


  • reed

    good shit. i remember reading aristotle where he talked about this same concept. about how when we help others, it makes us feel good. therefore, in a way, it’s a selfish act. we indirectly better our own self-worth in expanding someone else’s self-worth. so, eventhough it’s selfishly motivated (consciously or subconsciously) it is still improving everyone involved and possibly even others (for an example, see: “pay it forward,” haha). the only thing he really said wasn’t a selfish act was true friendship or love; where people are constantly giving and receiving equally.

  • Max

    reed took the words from my mouth. I think the Dalai Lama is touching on the idea of karma as it relates to our daily activities. Good deeds breed good deeds while bad ones breed bad outcomes. It’s crazy how we believe in the law of gravity, and the laws of science, but we so often overlook the law of attraction.

  • B. Williams

    I think this also brings into question our modern, individualist conception of the self. The fact is that we are not isolated, abstracted individuals, but rather part of a community in many senses of the word. In a very direct sense, our happiness and our moods are heavily influenced by interactions with others around us. If we have healthy, functional and reciprocating relationships with those people, we will be happy.

    In a larger sense, most would agree that we owe it to those around us to help make the world a better place for them, simply out of a conception of common humanity. If it is our belief that others are important to us, than the self cannot be fully happy or satisfied while others are suffering. The concrete realization of that being guilt or remorse when we do something to hurt others. To be “wisely selfish” then may translate, ironically enough, into responding to the altruistic or compassionate tendencies already hard-wired into us.