There is this book called Words from the Heart in which the Dalai Lama says something like: “Be kind to others, because they will respect you more, and that will benefit you. Even if you are an egoist, you should at least be an intelligent egoist, and be kind to others.”
I read an article the other day in a Dutch newspaper called NRC about altruism. I was written by a psychiatrist and it argued that altruism is a façade. It doesn’t exist. Charity, health care, family. In the end, we always benefit. She quotes Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene and the above quote from the Dalai Lama. It made me think.
If an act benefits us, is automatically a selfish act? I have wondered about this before, a few months ago, I pondered the question: Is the search for enlightenment a selfish quest?
I believe firmly in the Rule of Three: whatever you put out into the world, be it positive or negative, it will return to you, threefold. This one is similar to the idea of karma, or the advice of Confucius to only do onto others what you would have them do to you. Basically, what they’re saying is: be a good person, and you will be rewarded.
Is it selfish to be rewarded? To enjoy the fruits of your labour and the gifts given freely to you? Or is it simply wrong of us to feel guilty about being selfish? Why is selfish a bad word, when it implies taking good care of ourselves? Do other people not benefit when we take good care of ourselves? Is altruism really about destroying oneself for the benefit of others? Because if that’s the case, I prefer to be an intelligent egoist.