In love with myself, that is, not with people of opposite sex or, God forbid, Krishna.
I actually don’t always see it that way but there was some story I’ve seen on TV that made me pause and think about it.
It was a story of a woman in love, she didn’t mind that she was a mistress and her lover was married. She didn’t mind when she was told that he uses her position at the bank to launder money, she didn’t mind when she saw the proof that the money was financing terrorist activities. She didn’t mind when her love offered her to run away with him as a fugitive, hunted by CIA. She was still in love with him.
Turns out he lured her from CIA protection not to elope but to kill her. He almost strangled her when CIA operatives shot him dead. She didn’t mind, she caught her breath and hold tight to his dead body, crying tears of separation.
Great love story, on the surface, but what struck me there was that she was not in love with the man, she was in love with her own image of herself as being in love.
When she looked at herself in the mirror she saw this devoted woman, loyal to her lover with all her heart, all her being. When she saw this image in the mirror she loved it. The actual man didn’t matter anymore, she was maintaining and protecting her own perception of herself, her own ego.
When I thought about it that way I realized that this problem is far more common than I thought. Typical example is rich, middle aged women dabbling in philanthropy. They don’t care about starving African kids, they wouldn’t touch one with rubber gloves, but the image of themselves being so charitable is irresistible. They do it to boost their own ego.
Over the years I’ve collected enough little experiences here and there to convince myself that a frighteningly large number of people do good things not for others but because they’ve been told it would make them feel better themselves.
A man opens a door for a woman because he is a gentleman. Right, he doesn’t actually open it for a woman, he opens it because HE wants to look like a gentleman.
Someone finds a wallet on the street and decides to return it to the owner. How many times it is because he wants to look good in front of his friends and family, or because his consciousness told him it was the right thing to do? Either way, it’s not because the person who has lost the wallet might actually need it back, desperately. Let’s not discount the number of people who’d return the wallet only for a small reward, too.
All this makes me even more suspicious of modern concept of compassion, I suspect there’s a large doze of self interest in it, but I think I’ll write about it again later.
I don’t know if things have always been this way, probably yes, but popularization of ancient Chinese “Art of war” by Sun Tsu might have raised it to the whole new level of duplicity. Hardly anyone has read the whole book themselves, though, but its ideas made its way into Business Administration courses and so influenced the basic, fundamental moral principles and values of thousands if not millions business and political leaders. Its reach is truly frightening when you consider that these ideas are applied to billions of consumers around the world who happily play along and don’t even realize that they’ve been pwned.
The main idea, the essence of what I’m complaining about, is manipulating people’s self interest in such a way that they agree to accept your terms because they think it’s good for them. The offered deal might be fair and square, that’s not my concern, it’s the part where self interest has been made the main guiding force in people’s decision making and in their lives in general that I find abhorring.
Don’t we have enough selfishness going around already? Doesn’t the world provide more than enough as it is?
In vedic concept of life the whole society was operating to reduce self interest, reduce one’s attachment to one’s illusory self. From arranged marriages to burning bodies to accepting a spiritual master – the false ego must always be under pressure, always in check.
Let’s not forget the impersonalism, too. We might be determined to fight it tooth and nail but renunciation it preached for centuries also made people value their self interest a lot less conducive to spiritual practice. Looks like the only place to escape the pressure of pandering to self interest is prison. There one could finally be free.
I mean, the ability to renounce everything is one of the powers ascribed to Bhagavan Himself. You can’t really claim success in your own life if you can’t renounce it when the time comes.
Whatever your self interest is, you always have to put dharma above it, that’s the rule.
It was more or less the same before Sun Tsu in the western world, too, and Sun Tsu can’t be held personally responsible, but proliferation of these views has certainly made the world a lot less.
Didn’t Krishna and Balarama study these same things things themselves, btw? Srimad Bhagavatam says they learned military science and politics but in Krishna Book Srila Prabhupada specifically mentions “practical psychology” – how to influence another’s mind and thus induce another to act according to one’s desire. Prabupada also says that sometimes it’s referred as hypnotism. I don’t know about that, maybe there’s a doze in hypnotism involved in modern practice, too, that’s not really the point.
The point is that having grown up in this society I don’t even realize the actions of my self interest anymore. I love being a devotee, I love writing a blog, I love doing this and that, and I love being unattached to things, too. I love all these nice images of myself.
I chant so that at the end of the day I can see myself as a better devotee, more dedicated, more detached. It elevates my image, even if only in my own eyes. Actually, it’s only my own eyes that really matter. I don’t care what others think of me as long as I see myself as perfect.
Sometimes I catch myself watching my own actions and commenting and commending myself, too. Sometimes, not always. Last week I’ve learned to shoot down these thoughts as soon as they register but I’m not doing a very good job of it yet, also there might be some other manifestations of my love for myself I’m not aware of yet, I’ll keep looking.
There must be some offence against the Holy Names here, I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but I think this is one of the things that I should be conscientious about and purge from my mind if I were to achieve success in purifying my heart.
Good luck to me!
Oh, and I’ve read once that MBA courses are adopting Bhagavat Gita, too, for the times when motivating people’s self interest doesn’t work anymore, for when they need to bring the “big guns”. It’s a fascinating subject, I suppose, but I’m not qualified to comment on it.