Buddhism: selfless or selfish?

Life in Taprobane

I've been busy last few days - had to attend a friend's mom's funeral.

So it was a Christian funeral. I'm a Buddhist. I usually do not argue on religion and/or relationships; but the point I'm going to make here is going to piss some people off.

I am going to say that the most important reason for Sri Lanka to be in the current mess is, its primary belief: Buddhism. If Sri Lanka were a Christian or Muslim country, we wouldn't have had this prolonging war and the country would have been out of this mess much sooner.

Why do I say that?

Two reasons:

One, Buddhism trains us to be tolerant.

We keep our mouths shut and take it up our a** - not once, not twice, all the time. No one ever complains about anything in this country. No one points out a mistake. No one fights for their basic rights. We eat tasteless crap from restaurants, pay, and leave without uttering a word. If the food sucks, complain to the manager - at least the next person would benefit. If you don't get the service you deserve, just command for it. After all, you are paying, aren't you?

This kind of behaviour is everywhere you look. What a submissive nation. We are afraid of the system, we are afraid of the cops, we are afraid of - for God's sake - even the bus-conductors and three-wheeler drivers..!

Tolerance is a virtue. Patience is a virtue. But, aren't we getting screwed from all possible sides because of our tolerance and patience?

Two, Buddhism does not deliver what today's Sri Lankan society requires.

Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion. Buddhism is all about developing one's self so that he or she would be able to let go of the worldly desires and attain the eternal bliss - nibbana.

Buddhism focuses on one's self, teaches one how to become less and less attached.

As a result, we have become selfish to a greater extent as a nation. Our parent's generation does not think of the country; they only think of themselves and how to redeem themselves from the sins they have accumulated. They offer a great deal of money, resources and time to temples in their old age, and "wish" for eternal bliss for themselves (and peace for the family).

But how much of their good wishes actually turn in to good deeds? We all know the answer. Very little.

Buddhism today is breeding a bunch of selfish individuals who only think of their redemption. They must learn to extend their kindness to the world. They must learn to show how much we care for each other. For example, don't pay Rs 5,000 to an orphanage for a meal, go give your neighbour a big manly hug and say that you care. Learn to show the world you care - period.

Buddhism is a selfish script. Listening to the funeral service, I realised that the spirit of Christianity is focussing on family, unity, and peace amongst us while Buddhism is talking about me, me, me and the eternal bliss.

The irony of Buddhism is that, the very "religion" that teaches us to escape from the "me, me, me concept" is teaching us to become more and more selfish with every single step we take further in to the "religion".

In this Paradise Isle, what we need today is peace amongst us. We need to learn to think of "us" and learn to become more selfless. Let's find peace today before finding the eternal bliss tomorrow.


  1. Nice argument. Especially about the crap food! I think your point regarding religion is flawed though. How about other predominantly Buddhist countries that are thriving? Japan? China? How would you go about explaining their success?

    I still think our inherent rubbishness is due more to a lack of national identity than anything else.

  2. Oh boy...this entry is like all I wanted to hear. I don't know (I don't think) that the reason we stomach all the shit is because of Buddhism, but I blame it on pure ignorance and selfishness.

    I have been trying to grasp Buddhism and Hinduism the past coupla months, but I still don't see the connection or how it would help quench our thirst for the ultimate truth. Em teachings are nice, but something is missing...something big is missing.

    How can one NATURALLY desire to be attached to the world and yet achieve eternal life by detachment. Are we created for eternal mental torment and striving? It sorta made me feel that detachment is something contrary to the ORIGINAL creational system...Hmmmm.....

    Just my 2 cents

  3. ah nice..glad u made the amendment!! :)

    ok to start with, buddhism is first and foremost NOT a religion, it is a philosophy that has a few simple steps on how to live life...sadly buddhism(maybe due to lack of education of the majority or just selfish ignorance)has become a very misunderstood philosophy thanks to our elders...

    The tolerance that buddhism preaches is not tolerating bad customer service or an ethnice conflict,the tolerance that buddhism talks about is the psychological development to not be shaken or stirred by outside influences.

    To be honest, I rarely see true buddhist detachment happening in SL, even the temples seem to be getting more and more elaborate by the day,no-one I know in SL wants to let go of their possessions, all I hear is "I want more, more and more.." In buddhism, detachment is about letting go of all material comforts, its about developing psychologically to achieve a higher metal status so we dont have any attachments...

    The monks who are in politics are not true buddhists and our economic situation has NOTHING to do with the fact that we are a so called buddhist nation...do u honestly think that we would even have an ethnic conflict in the first place if Sri Lanka practised true buddhist governance?

  4. Thanks guys for your comments.

    Curious yellow: Yes, there are countries like China and Japan that are predominantly Buddhist, and have gone far ahead, compared to us. Buddhism in Japan has become commercial today - the monks "go to work" in the temples. In China, the communism has over-powered the Buddhist ideologies. I think the trouble is not with the philosophy or its principles; its the interpretation. It is the packaging and presentation that has gone wrong here, not the content.

    savi: We both agree Buddhism is a philosophy, not a "religion." (Note the quotes.)

    My point is that as a result of what is practiced here as Buddhism today (the current interpretations), the nation has become extremely patient, tolerant and even submissive to a certain degree. So much so, we don't even open our mouth to voice our concerns in an unfair situation; we don't fight for our basic rights - doesn't matter how big or small the issue is.

    The second point is, a religion that is "on the ground" is better suited to diffuse the current ethnic tension in Sri Lanka, than a self-centric philosophy like Buddhism. We need a religion/philosophy that demonstrates peace and harmony amongst us, out on the streets, far away in the villages. Harmony that is taught in Buddhism is only in our heads, it needs to come out, it needs to be shown, it needs to be seen.

    Like I said, just give someone a big hug and you say you care. That means a lot more than just saying that you care.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Patience and tolerance are just words in SL. It's evident from the way we drive that we have none. As for tolerance, people are still in the dark ages when it comes to mixed race relationships, sexual practices etc.

    I believe the fault lies with our so called leaders due to their pandering to the majority and by trying to enforce unfeasible economic practices. Like subsidising diesel, free vehicles and liquor licenses for MPs etc. I mean, this is a country where politics is a family industry!

    While you have some valid points regarding our faults, I think you're laying the blame for them at the wrong door. We tolerate sloppy service and retarded politics cos we don't know that things get better, not because a majority Patience and tolerance are just words in SL. It's evident from the way we drive that we have none. As for tolerance, people are still in the dark ages when it comes to mixed race relationships, sexual practices etc.

    I believe the fault lies with our so called leaders due to their pandering to the majority and by trying to enforce unfeasible economic practices. Like subsidising diesel, free vehicles and liquor licenses for MPs etc. I mean, this is a country where politics is a family industry!

    While you have some valid points regarding our faults, I think you're laying the blame for them at the wrong door. We tolerate sloppy service and retarded politics cos we don't know that things get better, not because a majority of us are Buddhists, because by that reasoning the Hindus, Muslims and Christians would have rioted a long time ago!

    of us are Buddhists, because by that reasoning the Hindus, Muslims and Christians would have rioted a long time ago!

  7. I think curious yellow voiced my opinion more appropriately worded and interpreted than me...so I dont think I need to say it again....

    To be honest serendib, I think u have gotten the wrong end of buddhism here,alot of us have, esp. if u are buddhist by birthright like a majority of SriLankans...maybe if u actually study buddhism to a certain extent, u'd realise what I'm rather crudely trying to say..and You'd also realise that a majority of the SriLankan Buddhists are by NO means true buddhists......

    ps:Buddhism does advocate peace,harmony and charity,to be fair all religions, philosophies and whatever else that fall into that category do..people just dont live by all that...esp. Sri Lankans..

  8. buddhism is a religion like any other bc it like other religions try to differentiate good from bad . this is only possible by resorting to some sort of irrational belief like god, or reincarnation. and all religions are intolerant of others..
    trouble with buddhism as practiced in sri lanka is that its practitioners takes it seriously. more commercialism the better i say.

  9. I am Buddhist and Sri Lankan - however I find that there is a deep seated irony within the people who practice the religion in SL. The monks - who are to be the symbol of detachment - are in parliament. Fuelling a fire that has been raging for far too long in anyone's opinion. So where can we, as lay people, look to as examples of the ideal Buddhist life?
    I have found that the underlying ideology of Buddhism is making more sense as time is going by - its far easier not to be in an emotional turmoil when you are not attached to anything. However, I think here we have to discern between selfishness and disattachment. When we look at our purpose in this life, it is said in all religions, it is to serve humanity. So if we can become disattached from the rewards of our actions and serve humanity - voila - we can attain Nirvana.

  10. Buddhism is not a religion unless someone blindly follows it without knowing what it is. For example, praying to Buddha to earn them a fortune instead of try to follow the middle path which eventually takes your interest off from accumulating material wealth.

    If anyone wants to understand what Buddhism is the best way is to study it and experience it. Not possible to explain a philosophy from a blog. Can anyone practice Yoga online?

  11. I suppose this argument has been done to death but I want to make my point here.

    I think you've confused the basic cause and effect rule. Ok Sri Lanka is predominantly a Buddhist nation. Ok Sri Lanka has had a long long pointless war. But does that mean Buddhism has caused the war? I think not.

    I think by making the arguments you make, you insult the philosophy/religion that is Buddhism. By making sweeping statements such as this and also by saying that if Sri Lanka were a Muslim or Hindu nation, it would be all hunky-dory, you project your innocence/ignorance in a way that is endearing, yet, very dangerous. It is so easy to blame Buddhism when it is really the practice of Buddhism in Sri Lanka that has been partly responsible for the problems it is had.

    When religion becomes politicized nothing good can come out of it. Political actions masqueraded as religious teachings lie at the root of what has corrupted our society. The traditional practice of Theraveda Buddhism propagates a link, and a link only, between the Sangha and the the Government, but when Government and Sangha integrate, what is religion but just another weak barrier against the glories of wealth that involvement in politics will bring?

    Our tolerance of the adverse circumstances we live in is again a sweeping statement you make. It is completely unfounded. How can you make such a statement based on what you experience yourself or what you see with your eyes. Basing your opinion on what you have experienced is inherently limited. You might feel you are tolerating it out of no good reason; go ahead, don't tolerate it if you really don't like it. no one will force you to like something you don't.

    So many people go about their daily lives in Sri Lanka enjoying what they do. Eating at restaurants, going to parties, doing work they love (ok maybe not love love, but liking) and just basically experiencing life in Sri Lanka. It is only when people like you don't like it, wonder why everyone is tolerating it. there is nothing to tolerate for these people, they are just living thier lives as they see fit. Maybe you've seen 'better' societies outside Sri Lanka than these people but if that exposure brings you nothing but anger and boredom and a continuous sense of wonderment at the delusions that the Sri Lanka populace lives through, then I guess their ignorance is their bliss.

  12. I think if we are to finish this war, we have to keep Buddhism aside and then deal with the subject first.

    These LTTE terrorists are barbaric murderers. We have to deal with terrorists in a language that they can understand. It’s meaningless to explain things and to explain solutions in human manner.
    For example, talk to any dog trainer, he will say that you have to train your dog when it is around 6 months to 1 years young.
    That is just an example and I will be insulting dogs if I compare them with LTTE terrorists who recently blew a pregnant suicide bomber with her unborn child.
    So let us try not to mix Buddhism with this LTTE terrorist headache.

  13. Buddhism is a philosophy, and also an empirical science. if you have the guts to try it, it actually works! how do I know? That is another question.
    But do go and see for yourself. The specimen is you yourself. The laboratory is you. The scientist is also you! Eventually you are the one who will split the atom that is you!....is it nobler in the heart...to take up arms against it, and end it. (Shakespear).This cyclical occurence of sorrow!
    No other has proclaimed it as sucinctly as the Lord Buddha! (and the solution to this malady). Simple when you know how. buddhism is not flavour fot the jaded palate. It has only one taste. the taste of deliverence from sorrow! no I am not a religious nut...i do not give a rats...(only my respect for humanity prevents me breaking out into expletives) whether you think buddhism is selfless or selfish. one thing i know. one has to be brave to discover your own knowledge and wisdom. clucking around the edges '...ain't gonna do it!' as they say in the vernacular. jayaswal UK.
    Happy Landings. I mean when you get to nibbana. Don't bother to send us a 'wish you were here'postcard because you will then know the true meaning of equanimity, compassion and kindness. jayaswal UK

  14. I am an athiest, and I think my arguments against religion could be summed up in your last sentence. I am currently studying buddhism in school in my home town of Glasgow, and though I find some of it's philosophies to be correct, the core beliefs on how to overcome these 'problems' are flawed. I think all religions dwell too much on achieving 'bliss' through an afterlife or an enlightenment, none of them focus on providing people with peace and mental and phsyical satisfaction. It is my opinion that the majority of Western Religions (Christianity, Judaism) have SOME decent morals, they are mainly focussed on controlling the masses. Preaching fear of death, fear of hell and god because he is all-knowing and all-powerful is in my opinion wrong. I think it is wrong for these sort of ideas to be unleashed on a child too. Children arent allowed to vote until adulthood and a party can't force them to vote for them, so why should they be inducted into a religion they dont even agree with?
    Why should we focus on personal enlightenment while thousands suffer every day? Why should I divulge my secrets with my local priest, the 'spokesperson' to god? I'm not an intellectual and I'm not good at presenting points, I tend to wander as you have probably noticed, but I hope you understand the piont I'm trying to get across. Why do we need a god or enlightenment to provide us with peace and 'bliss'. We have evolved a brain that is more advanced than any other that we know of, which is capable of asking these questions. Why should we rely on higher beings to provide the answer?

  15. question to all fellow buddhist: im confused, please help..... if there is no such thing as God/personal creator, when it comes to karma "who" set that law in motion and "who" determines/judges our actions and places us in the appropriate next life?what is the standard to base our good or bad on? and if desire is only a distraction, what about enlightenment, should i not be motivated/desire that, even though thats our goal??also, reincarnation....why is the human population growing strong if reincarnation leaves room for animal/insect rebirth. shouldnt the worlds population number stay the same if not decrease??? help!

  16. mm...well, buddhsm has a LOT about family, society, relationships and unity. its just not openly talked about by the priests, as much as they do about the fraility of life so on.

    If you read up on buddhism, its such a peaceful philosophy. Peace of mind. And it's very personal. In SL what we do is, taint it with culture. (Like the whole poruwa ceremonies as wedding - not taint, but it's not a buddhist 'custom' really)

    I agree with savi.

    on the last post - Karma is not 'set' by anyone, its the universal way. Maybe i'm not the right person to answer this, but you can always ask anyone. Nothing is close ended in buddhism. Also perhaps there are many human births, but are all as fortunate as ours? So many wars, famines, dwindling natural resources...To be born in a unsafe place is karma too.

  17. Actually was it not Christ who taught do not judge? To take the branch from our own eye before concerning ourselves with the toothpick in the eye of another. Buddhist practice forbearance and not just patience and tolerance and do so by understanding of ignorance. Was it not Adam and Eve who covered their seolves with a fig leaf when they realized they were naked and felt fear and shame..you dont experience those things without the arising of a concept of self and arising of an ego, and therefore seperation from GOD. So if we all would clean out our own backtyard rather than worry about the backyard s of others what a wonderful place it could be...from Mark Bint