By Chet Yarbrough
What is your self-interest? The Dalai Lama suggests self-interest is the path to enlightenment. The Dalai Lama notes that most do not understand the true meaning of self-interest.
Buddhism’s teaching is not new but understanding and practicing what the Dalai Lama explains seems monumentally difficult in western economics founded on a precept of “what have you done for me lately”. It becomes less difficult as one begins to understand what the Dalai Lama means by self-interest.
The Dali Lama argues that believing in happiness and “freedom from pain in others” is in one’s self interest, just as Socrates believed a Philosopher King’s self interest is in beneficent rule . However, selflessness in the Dali Lama’s lexicon requires abandonment of materialism, a fundamental tenet of capitalism and most western cultures.
A follower of Buddhism accepts belief of living many lives which is not a common tenant of western culture. Living many lives makes the Dalai Llama’s non-materialist beliefs more logical but not more believable. It seems reasonable to discount, if not abandon, materialism if one believes in living many lives. However, what if there is only one life? One suspects the Dalai Llama would still argue that selflessness is the route to earthly happiness.
The Dalai Lama believes stories told of previous lives by people living today is scientific evidence of the truth that all people have lived past lives. Considering the faultiness of human cognition, apocryphal stories are a slender thread to base one’s belief on. (Of course, all religions generally rely on similar stories. ) On the other hand, it is estimated that 75% to as much as 85% of the mass and energy of the universe is unknown. Maybe that unknown is the essence of many lives, waiting in a queue to be re-born.
Becoming Enlightened is a distinct path of life that requires selflessness and an obligation to cherish others because relationship with others (past, present, and future) defines you. In light of a Buddhist belief system, treating others well is in your self-interest. As the Dalai Lama says you are impermanent, ephemeral, and only real as others see and understand you. Cherish others because they are the essence of you in the past, in the present, and in the future.