“We are self-centred human beings. Our activities are centred in ourselves, and we act from there”.
Public Talk 6 in Madras (Chennai), 6 January 1980
We don’t deny the truth of this because our behavior is an ongoing demonstration of it. One may take comfort in knowing that others are more self-absorbed than oneself, but that’s cold comfort when the fact is face that being self-centered is putting yourself first and foremost, above all, including whatever you solemnly believe in and swear by. Your good deeds and humble service are all about you, regardless of who or what God or Principle you are devoted to. Whether you chose your purpose in life or it seemed to have chosen you, it defines and identifies you because it is our conditioning is be someone, for better or for worse.
This is how we evolved. Our capacity for complex thought is the advantage we have had over other forms of life, but it has also made us vulnerable to confusion and delusion, and the effect of this vulnerability is to have made victims of every living thing on our planet…including us. Does this mean that egocentricity has reached the peak of its power to delude and derange human minds? One can only hope so.
But in the meantime, what can one do to address this human condition? Are we too deeply conditioned to question our inclinations and tendencies, not to mention our actual behavior? Do we justify and rationalize what we do, or do we submit it to scrutiny? How confident are we? Why are we confident at all considering how mistaken we have been and will continue to be? Who do we think we are? Why does one need to be someone?
To ‘stand out’… Anonymity is not something that is ‘prized’ in my culture. As children we are taught that it should be our goal to ‘become someone’. The ‘someones’ get the perks. The ‘no-ones’ get kicked around. We see clearly what this drive for ‘success’, wealth, power, ambition has wrought. The inequality of wealth is staggering, obscene. It seems that if it goes on as it is, there will be armed conclaves of the ‘rich’ and hordes of ‘have-nots’ everywhere. Much blood shed. No one knows of course, but the future looked very ‘dystopian’ (if that’s the word) to me, this morning, for humanity.
Our ‘egocenticity’ is based, is it not, on the belief that we are ‘something’. K. comes along and says “no”. that we are ‘nothing’. Not understanding that, the self continues, the suffering continues. Believing that we are ‘something’, the specter of our ‘death’ haunts us…Saying that we are ‘nothing’ (not-a-thing) puts us in essence out of the world of ‘matter’, doesn’t it?
Not exactly. Egocentricity is the belief that one must become something respectable, admirable, or at least, not guilty. It’s social conditioning. To function as members of society we have to establish an acceptable identity and strive to bring honor to it, lest we be despised, loathed, persecuted and punished. It’s a life or death matter.
Conditioning is not a special case. It is affecting nearly everyone. I am not free of conditioning just because I know about it, or I am ignorant of it. There might be an ordinary humble, compassionate, person, who has no need to listen to anyone’s teachings, and can live a good life, but so what?