We can get attached to anything, from our heirloom china to our comic books. Things are not meant to be loved but to be used wisely. People are to be loved, but there, too, we must be careful not to come to see people as possessions – which is quite different from loving them. Though the practice of meditation, we can learn to recall all our selfish desires and slip free of the fetters that bind us to a limited way of life. For it is then, when you are not selfishly attached to anything, when you are living for the welfare of everybody around you, that you are likely to be given a long life, health, and plenty of energy to go on contributing to the peace of the world in whatever way you can.
It is not a well-formed idea in my mind, but there’s something I’ve been thinking about that runs a bit parallel to what Eknath is writing about here.
I’ve believed that to live a good life I had to figure something out, do something important, make smart decisions and work hard along the way so that I got to the right place to actually achieve something worthwhile and meaningful.
But from more recent experience, and from reading about the experiences of others such as James Orbinski (past MSF president), I’ve started to realize what Eknath is talking about here.
Of first importance isn’t to figure anything out, but it’s to get rid of my selfish attachments to things and people. Start with this and anything that follows—work, service, or whatever else—can’t help but bring about good effects. But work in the opposite direction, that is, work without first getting free from my selfish attachments, and I’m sure to ruin things. Because even the most promising of pursuits can easily get tied up and weighed down by selfishness.
This idea simplifies things for me. “Work to get rid of my selfish attachments.” Pretty straightforward. It takes away the exhausting work of selfishly scanning the world around me for the best opportunity to showcase me and my ego and my selfishness. The world doesn’t need that. What it needs is for me to slow down and quit being so selfish.
I’m convinced that if I can do this the world won’t have a problem putting me to good use.