It is so easy for us to think of our duties to ourselves and also of our rights. It is quite true that we have duties to ourselves and we also have rights. But if we allow ourselves to center our thoughts on self, then we have overlooked something that is very important in the Buddhist way of life, and that is our duty to others.
No one can ever be truly happy who thinks only of himself, of his own needs and wants, his own likes and dislikes and his own pleasures. Each of us has duties towards our family, friends, associates, and to all living beings everywhere.
In modern times, we hear a great deal about cooperation. The Chinese have a very expressive way of stating the idea of cooperation. It is “pulling together.” To be self-centered is to pull away from others. Most of the good things in life can be had more easily by all of us if there is more and more pulling together.
Our Buddhist religion teaches us that selfishness is a poison. If we seek only our own personal happiness, then we are pulling against ourselves. A man may gain riches, power and fame, but they are not sure guarantees of happiness. There is a very beautiful word, which is the same in both Sanskrit and Pali, Mudita, meaning the joy we find in the joy of others. A person who is glad that others are happy has an unselfish heart and such a person, whether child or grown up is good at “pulling together.” Envy at the sight of others’ happiness is a sure sign of selfishness.
While we are still young, we ought to start learning the importance of group-effort, of “pulling together,” in order to bring about the well being and happiness of all. We must never make the mistake of believing that anyone who thinks only of himself and keeps to himself can find real happiness.
This is based on Buddhist Sunday School Lessons, by the Venerable Sumangalo