By Chirag Dangarwala
Selfish is described in the dictionary as –adjective
1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives.
From the above definition, one can understand that generally Selfish people are not liked and this quality is considered not a very good quality to possess. It indeed is not a very good quality from material point of view. However from the spiritual point of you this quality can become one of the steps in realizing the Reality of one’s existence.
In order to understand what selfishness is, let us first of all examine what the self is, generally speaking people consider the body which is seen with the naked eye to be the self and selfishness in this regard is the tendency to please the body or the senses, i.e sense gratification. Some consider the mind as the self and engage themselves in mental speculation and excessive thinking and selfishness in this regard is the tendency to please the mind at the cost of others. Some others consider the intelligence as the self and they are engaged in philosophical discussions and debates, and selfishness in this regard is the tendency to establish one’s ideas as true amongst the others.
From the Vedic point of view we can understand that the self is neither the body, nor the mind or the intelligence. In the eighth chapter of Bhagavad Gita Arjuna asks Lord Krishna about what is the self
kiḿ tad brahma kim adhyātmaḿ
kiḿ karma puruṣottama
adhibhūtaḿ ca kiḿ proktam
adhidaivaḿ kim ucyate [ B.g. 8.1]
” Arjuna inquired: O my Lord, O Supreme Person, what is Brahman? What is the self? What are fruitive activities? What is this material manifestation? And what are the demigods? Please explain this to me.”
In answer to this question Lord Krsna replied
akṣaraḿ brahma paramaḿ
svabhāvo ‘dhyātmam ucyate
visargaḥ karma-saḿjñitaḥ [ B.g. 8.3]
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called adhyātma, the self. Action pertaining to the development of the material bodies of the living entities is called karma, or fruitive activities.”
It is evident that eternal nature of the transcendental living entity is called the self. In another place Lord Sri Krsna explains the hierarchy of the senses, mind and intelligence with respect to the soul or the living entity
indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur
indriyebhyaḥ paraḿ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir
yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ [ B.g. 3.42]
“The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.”
So if we consider the above statements we can understand the soul is higher than the intelligence which is higher than the mind which is in turn higher than the senses, as mentioned before self is the eternal nature of the soul. In many places in the Vedic literature it is mentioned that the eternal constitutional position of a soul is that of being a servant of the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna
jévera ‘svarüpa’ haya—kåñëera ‘nitya-däsa’ [ C.c. Madhya 20.108]
“It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna”
So if the nature of the living entity i.e the self is to become servant of Krsna, then as per the dictionary meaning of Selfish, for a living entity the most welfare will take place when he becomes greedy for service of Krsna, hence becoming “self “ish will become a quality which should be acquired inorder to become advanced in Krsna Consciouness.
The point is, if one really identifies oneself with the material elements like the senses, mind and intelligence one’s selfishness will be limited and unbeneficial or harmful for him and others, on the other hand if one identifies oneself as an eternal loving servant of the Lord , his selfishness will make the living entity more advanced in spiritual life and make him realize his relation with the Supreme Lord which will benefit himself and inspire others. The easiest way to attain this Spiritual Selfishness in this dark age of Kali is to Chant the Holy names of the Lord Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare