'sometimes i sits and thinks, but most of the time i just sits.'
- a texas cowboy saying.'
old english self, seolf, sylf "one's own person, -self; own, same," from proto-germanic *selbaz (cognates: old norse sjalfr, old frisian self, dutch zelf, old high german selb, german selb, selbst, gothic silba), proto-germanic *selbaz "self," from pie *sel-bho-, suffixed form of root *s(w)e-, pronoun of the third person and reflexive (referring back to the subject of a sentence), also used in forms denoting the speaker's social group, "(we our-)selves.
selfless (adjective) "devoted to others' welfare and not one's own," 1825, from self + -less, first attested in coleridge: selflessly; selflessness.
in the dictionary form itself there is the conflict of meanings between the pronoun and adjective. the pronoun: self does not mean anything more than pointing to the subject of the reference. so in its adjective form it should be nothing more than the absence of the subject.
in asian perception, a language remains just a medium of communication, and as such though it may be used by the religious people, their religions do not change the meaning of the words of the conventional language. the english language is heavily affected by the christian religion. thus monks and nuns, though heavily steeped in the self identity are considered to be selfless persons who are "devoted to others' welfare and not one's own." but the fact remains, that they are acting out of their beliefs that these meritorious acts brings them closer to their concept of god.
all creatures except those who are made to act for another, like the human employees and their employers, need no concept of self. so theirs are the acts that are symbiotically related with their very nature of being. for instance, blinking or breastfeeding an infant is a selfless act. the moistening of eyes and the milk feeding the infant are both cause and effect of a natural act that happens outside of the thought created acts. one cannot not blink eyes, nor can a woman without a new born infant generate milk.
the selfless acts are not performed absent mindedly. rather, they are acutely aware acts minded with all one's physical and mental faculties engaged in the act. as for the urban humans, whether employer or employed, there is the split between what they are made to act and their not experiencing any direct link between their biological motions while performing those acts and personal need for doing it. it leaves their perceptive senses unengaged. this activates idle thinking about what they would like to be doing instead. the professional typists and editors of books type and edit the writings for the clarity of the written language, but without getting involved in the content expressed in the language they type of edit. having done the same work for so long that people whose works are routine, that their physical limbs function robotically in tune with the motions of the tools and machines.
any physically involving mental act or mentally involving physical act is devoid of the sense of the self as the doer. the self is the professional doer who has honed his singular skill and has developed an expertise earning him an identity within a particular field. and the modern urban way of life is crisscrossed with the isolated physical or mental motions of the professionals in all walks of life, ranging between the planned parenthood and the last rites of death and beyond.
but as these are the self created acts, whether physical or mental, they all arise from the absence of the mindful state of being in the now. it is this now, that one's state of being finds creating the split between what one is and what one is made to act, whether as an employee or an employer. if left alone, one would not experience the need to act as an employee or even as an employer. both these states of actors arise from the culture induced fear of not finding one's place in the society or not being able to retaining it by strengthening it. there is also the culture induced fear of displeasing the heavens, which induces one to become a do good-er while retaining doubts about such acts. mother teresa had expressed such doubts in her journals. and the current pope francis has elected to move out of the papal palace and living in a no less comfortable apartment in vatican premises.
logically, one feels compelled to take vows of poverty only when one is not poor like the millions who are kept in abject poverty. these poor people would welcome even half as comfortable dwelling of pope and even just one square meal a day instead of two the siamese buddhist monks receive in begging, or three meals like the zen buddhist monks eat, or the christian monks and nuns receive while under the spell of the vow of poverty.
everybody is born selfless. and dies selfless. in between towards the early life one finds oneself thrust in the middle of an arena of performing artists. and as an actor performing the role of the buddha has not experienced enlightenment, or acting as jesus does not really get crucified, these professionals of the various field, too, are unaware of the effects their actions beyond their desired rewards. any selfless act, by its symbiotic nature is devoid of the self gratification. it is thus also outside the realm of the commerce created human interactions. there is no material or mental price as the cause for doing anything. there, things just happen as the motions in the cosmic dance of elements, each one's every step is in consort with everyone else's, creating a graceful flow.
it is this perfect harmony of the elemental motions of life that the humans caught up in the rehearsed performances find desirous; and when seeing someone doing something unexpected and unplanned, people admire it. it is thus the heroes and saints are created in the minds of the unmindful people; the beatifications of the long dead persons are proclaimed. these recognitions are posthumous, after the acts that the state or the religious authority use to induce people to give more of themselves in work and charity. but nobody can create a hero by training or a saint with the lure of rewards in this world or the next.
since such acts are not the products of any planning, the thinking minds put the carrots before the cart to make the oxen run for it; fabricate persons and events or embellish the acts with imagined ingredients that people find impressive. it is thus that the cutting down of the cherry tree by the boy george washington was created later on to implant the need for the truthfulness in the subjects of the state and the church, but not in their leaders.
even though no lure of rewards or threat of punishments can produce selfless acts of selfless beings, it is most certainly possible to delete the need for creation of the self and the lifelong preoccupation with the fear of losing the face of this acquired self. the longer and harder the training and efforts are made for acquiring a self identity, the more difficult it is to admit its short comings. and then their factual little professional selves start thinking further how to hide their weaknesses and put on makeup on their physical persona and projected profiles that become larger than life. and with the passage of time, such stories whether created by the persons themselves, or the people hanging on the coat tails of the dead leaders, enter the realm of beliefs mistaken for facts. thus moses parted waters to lead his followers which would have been ferrying them via ship and boats; or memory of the elephant recognized the buddha and did not hurt him, which became a miraculous performance of the buddha rather than the memory of the elephant.
it may be difficult to break the learnt and long used habits, but it takes no efforts to not induce anything unwanted. what seems impossible is to overcome the fear of what if. it is thus that the forbidden fruit tastes better, for it comes with the awareness of having overcome the fear of what if implanted in adults. some of these people who have overcome this fear, but yet not have freed themselves from the habitual way of life become outlaws, and get things one deem necessary in the unfettered now.
there is no what if in a child's senses of perception or an untamed creature's and an outlaw's perceptive senses. both of them just act upon the impulse. impulses arise from the symbiotic link between the within and without. in the realm outside of the legalese of the law, both a sage and an outlaw do things that the law abiding population would wish they, too, could act in a like manner. people's impulses are suppressed by the fear of the authority. it is this suppressed impulse that makes people admire the ability of the sage and the outlaw to go beyond the norm. it is thus the crucified jesus becomes people's hero, or gautama's change from being a king to a beggar has become an impressive act rather than of simply leaving out the unnecessary.
the difference between persons acting selflessly and a selfishly lies in motivation. in the first instance, the person's sole concern is to seeing what needs to be done, and doing it. in the second instance, the very concern of the person is to maintain one's acquired self-identity, and therefore thinking the best possible course of action befitting that image of the self. a frightened person's sole concern is to escape. and not responding to even a clearly perceived course of action is an escape. so too, despite knowing, that what is expected of one's acquired self-identity is a wrongful act, one commits such act to escape the fear of harm to one's acquired self. it is thus, that every "good christian" soldier or his commander in chief could maim and kill untold number of people.
an undefined, unidentifiable being has no fear of losing the face, having not acquired one. self- identity is a masked person, who, like an actor puts on upon entering the area of action required of one. now, even an actor playing the role of a villain knows that what he is expected to act out is wrong. so does a soldier or his commanding chief engage in murderous act considering "nothing personal" in it. in this, the actor knows, and wishes to be known as an actor who could act as a "bad guy", for it offers him the place in the arena of actors. the commander in chief and his mercenaries do not wish it to be known, that they, too, act out for the sole purpose of retaining their acquired self identity.
ever ask yourself whether what you have learnt to do and are asked to do is also what you would do, acting on impulse like a child or like a creature, in the wild?