SELFISHNESSO my mind! The kindreds, friends and brothers that (you) see in the world,
all meet (you - seek your company or association) for their own selfish
ends (self-interests or purposes). The day, when their self-interests are not served,
on that day, they will not come near you (sggs 860).
Selfishness (I-am-ness, self-hood, ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ, ਸੁਆਰਥ...) is the source of evil in the world. The Gurbani (SGGS) declares that whosoever has belly is Maya stricken - ignorant, illusioned, deluded, enveloped in material consciousness, greed, etc. In turn, whosoever is Maya stricken is afflicted with the disease of false ego-sense (Haume). In turn, false ego-sense begets Bikaars like selfishness. Thus, selfishness is nothing but one of the perverted children of the man's physical ego (Haumai). In truth, the majority of us are selfish. Under the spell of this ignoble or demon-mind quality, one is concerned excessively or exclusively with himself - seeking or concentrating on one's own selfish ideas and agenda. The Gurbani urges us not to associate with selfishness or selfish individuals.
- ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵ ਨ ਕੀਤੀਆ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਲਗੋ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਵਣਾ ਅਤਿ ਦੀਰਘੁ ਬਹੁ ਸੁਆਉ ॥ : Satigur kee sev na keeteeyaa shabadi na laggo bhaayu. Haumai rog kamaavanaa ati deeraghu bahu suyaayu: Who does not serve the Satigur, and who does not love the Shabad, earns the very painful disease of egotism; (he) is so very selfish (sggs 850).
- ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਸੰਗਿ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਕੀਚਈ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਨਾ ਆਪਣਾ ਸੁਆਉ ॥੨॥: Tinh sangi sangu n keechee Nanak jinaa aapanaa suaaou ||2||: Do not associate with those, O Nanak, who look out only for their own interests (i.e., who are selfish). ||2|| (sggs520).
- ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਿਸੁ ਉਦਰੁ ਤਿਸੁ ਮਾਇਆ ॥ : Kahi Kabeer jisu udaru tisu maya: Kabeer, one who has belly is Maya stricken (sggs 1160).
- ਹਉ ਹਉ ਕਰਤ ਨਹੀ ਸਚੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ : Hau Hau karat nahee sachu paayeeyai: By practicing egotism (I-am-ness...), the Truth not realized (sggs 226).
While attached to Maya, the majority of us in this world are selfish. This is the edict of not only the Gurbani, but also other holy texts. Worldly love or emotional attachment to mother, father, sibling, children, spouse, friends, body, material possessions, and so on, is based on selfishness or self-interests (I-am-ness, etc.); which is all just an illusion or deception.
- ਜੋ ਸੰਸਾਰੈ ਕੇ ਕੁਟੰਬ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਭਾਈ ਦੀਸਹਿ ਮਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਤੇ ਸਭਿ ਅਪਨੈ ਸੁਆਇ ਮਿਲਾਸਾ ॥ ਜਿਤੁ ਦਿਨਿ ਉਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਕਾ ਸੁਆਉ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਤਿਤੁ ਦਿਨਿ ਨੇੜੈ ਕੋ ਨ ਢੁਕਾਸਾ ॥: Jo sansaarai ke kuttanb mitr bhaaee deesahi man mere te sabhi apanai suaai milaasaa. Jitu dini ounh kaa suaaou hoi n aavai titu dini nerrai ko n dhukaasaa: O my mind! The kindreds, friends and brothers that (you) see in the world, all meet (you - seek your company or association) for their own selfish ends (self-interests or purposes). The day, when their self-interests are not served, on that day, they will not come near you (sggs 860).
All types of selfish feelings can be summed up in two groups as follows:
- Material Selfishness/LI>
- Spiritual Selfishness
The root of man's suffering is his selfishness (worldly love or attachment - love of Maya or hunger for Maya). Man's selfish desires originate from ignorance of his True Nature (Joti-Svaroopa). Fulfillment of each desire leads to further greed, and non-fulfillment to anger. Hence, actions performed in material bondage do not result in purifying the mind at all. In other words, neither selfish nor ritualistic actions (Karamkaands) are cure to the man's mental diseases or suffering.
- ਬਹੁ ਪਰਪੰਚ ਕਰਿ ਪਰ ਧਨੁ ਲਿਆਵੈ ॥ ਸੁਤ ਦਾਰਾ ਪਹਿ ਆਨਿ ਲੁਟਾਵੈ ॥੧॥: Bahu parpanch kar par dhanu liyaavai. Sut daaraa pahi aani lutaavai ||1||: Practicing so many deceptions (tricks, fraud...), (man) brings the wealth of others. (Returning home, he) He squanders it on (his) wife and children (sggs 656).
According to the Gurbani, this is one of the greatest lies on the earth. The Gurbani roars that under the spell of deceptive Maya (illusion), nobody does anything for anybody else's happiness! The reality of the matter is that whatever a person claims to do for the happiness of others is in fact for his own happiness! Behind every act, thought, and word there is his or her own selfishness disguised! Our false ego-sense (Haume) may not admit this fact, but that does not change the Gurbabi's truth. The Gurbani and other scriptures thunder forth the following declarations:
- ਜਗਤ ਮੈ ਝੂਠੀ ਦੇਖੀ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ॥ ਅਪਨੇ ਹੀ ਸੁਖ ਸਿਉ ਸਭ ਲਾਗੇ ਕਿਆ ਦਾਰਾ ਕਿਆ ਮੀਤ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਮੇਰਉ ਮੇਰਉ ਸਭੈ ਕਹਤ ਹੈ ਹਿਤ ਸਿਉ ਬਾਧਿਓ ਚੀਤ ॥ ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਸੰਗੀ ਨਹ ਕੋਊ ਇਹ ਅਚਰਜ ਹੈ ਰੀਤਿ ॥੧॥ ਮਨ ਮੂਰਖ ਅਜਹੂ ਨਹ ਸਮਝਤ ਸਿਖ ਦੈ ਹਾਰਿਓ ਨੀਤ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਉਜਲੁ ਪਾਰਿ ਪਰੈ ਜਉ ਗਾਵੈ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੇ ਗੀਤ ॥੨॥੩॥੬॥੩੮॥੪੭॥: Jagat mai jhoothee dekhee preeti ...: In this world, I have seen love to be false. Whether they are spouses or friends, all are concerned only with their own happiness. ||1||Pause|| All say, "Mine, mine", and attach their consciousness to you with love. But at the very last moment, none will go along with you. How strange are the ways of the world! ||1|| The foolish mind has not yet reformed itself, although I have grown weary of continually instructing it. O Nanak! (One) crosses over the terrifying world-ocean, singing the Songs of God ||2||3||6||38||47|| (sggs 536).
- Na vaa are patyuh kaamaaya patih priyo bhavatyaatmanastu kaamaaya pateeh priyobhavti ..: No worldly husband, wife, father, son, etc., can love one another for the sake of the other's happiness. Each one loves for the sake of his or her own happiness (Veda).
A little story may help to soak this truth in. The name of sage Vaalmeeki repeatedly appears in the Gurbani. Before he became a sage, he was a cold blooded murderer known as Daakoo (bandit) Ratnaakar. His daily routine was to hide in the nearby jungle, round off any travelers passing through that area, strip them off their belongings, and then kill them right there. This unenlightened existence of Ratnaakar brought terror and panic in the hearts of people living in the region.
In illusion, Ratnaakar also thought he was doing it for the happiness of his family. In this ignorance he believed that, in return, all his family members would do anything for his happiness as well. It so happened that one day a saint fell into his hands. Before he killed him, the saint asked Ratnaakar as to why he was committing such horrible sins everyday. "For my family", replied the Daakoo (bandit). "Sir, but would they share in the sins you commit everyday?", quizzed the saint. "Off course they will; for I do all this for their happiness!", said Ratnaakar.
The saint roars: "You fool, this is your illusion to think that people love and do things for the sake of other's happiness. Your wife and family cannot partake of your sins; your Soul alone will have to answer for its account. If you do not believe me, go and ask them."
- ਅਹਿ ਕਰੁ ਕਰੇ ਸੁ ਅਹਿ ਕਰੁ ਪਾਏ ਕੋਈ ਨ ਪਕੜੀਐ ਕਿਸੈ ਥਾਇ ॥੩॥ :Ahi karu kare su ahi karu paaye koee na pakarreeai kisai thaai||3||: As we act, so are the rewards we receive; no one can take the place of another ||3|| (sggs 406).
Ratnaakar took the challenge. To make sure the saint does not escape, he tied him down and then left for home. He asked his wife, children, parents and other family member if they would partake of the sins he daily commits for the sake of their happiness. "Are you crazy? We cannot share your sins. Your Soul alone has to atone for your sinful ways", replied each family member and instead asked him to provide for them within the confines of virtuous living. To cut the long story short, Ratnaakar's ears could not believe when he heard all this from his family members.
- ਮਰਤੀ ਬਾਰ ਇਕਸਰ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੨॥ : Martee baar iksar dukh paaiaa ||2||: But at the time of death, you will have to endure the agony all alone ||2|| (sggs 792).
- ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕੇਰੀ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਦਝਿ ਮਰੰਨਿ ॥ ਜਮ ਪੁਰਿ ਬਧੇ ਮਾਰੀਅਹਿ ਵੇਲਾ ਨ ਲਾਹੰਨਿ ॥੨॥: Duneeaa keree dosatee manmukh dajhi maranni ...: Making worldly friendships (the love of Maya), the Manmukhs (self-willed ...) burn and die (destroy their spiritual life - ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਸਾੜ ਕੇ ਸੁਆਹ ਕਰ ਲੈਂਦੇ ਹਨ). At the door of death, they suffer; this opportunity (human life) will never come again ||2|| (sggs 755).
- ਭਾਈ ਬੰਧੀ ਹੇਤੁ ਚੁਕਾਇਆ ॥: Bhaaee bandhee het chukaaiaa: There is no love, even among brothers and relatives (sggs 1410).
- ਮਿਥਨ ਮੋਹਰੀਆ ॥ ਅਨ ਕਉ ਮੇਰੀਆ ॥: Mithan mohareeaa. An ko mereeaa: False is the love of the many emotional attachments (sggs 537).
- ਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਕਲਤ੍ਰ ਲੋਕ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਬਨਿਤਾ ਮਾਇਆ ਸਨਬੰਧੇਹੀ ॥ ਅੰਤ ਕੀ ਬਾਰ ਕੋ ਖਰਾ ਨ ਹੋਸੀ ਸਭ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਅਸਨੇਹੀ ॥: Putra kalatra lok grih banitaa Maya sanabandhehee. Ant kee baar ko kharaa na hosee sabh mithiaa asanehee: Children, spouses, men and women in one's household, are all bound by Maya. At the very last moment, none of them will stand by you; their love is totally false (sggs 609).
- ਦਾਰਾ ਮੀਤ ਪੂਤ ਸਨਬੰਧੀ ਸਗਰੇ ਧਨ ਸਿਉ ਲਾਗੇ ॥: Daaraa meet poot sanabandhee sagare dhann siou laage: Wives, friends, children and relatives - all are attached to wealth (sggs 633).
He was disillusioned. His mind was awakened. This was the turning point in his life. Thereafter he gave up Mayaic efforts and embraced the Spiritual Life. He subsequently became the Rishee Vaalmeeki and authored the famous Ramaayana. The Gurbani asks us to learn lesson from his life.
- ਰੇ ਚਿਤ ਚੇਤਿ ਚੇਤ ਅਚੇਤ ॥ ਕਾਹੇ ਨ ਬਾਲਮੀਕਹਿ ਦੇਖ ॥: Re chit chet chet achet. Kaahe na Baalmeekahi dekh: Be conscious, be conscious, be conscious, O my unconscious mind. Why do you not look at Baalmeeki? (sggs 1124).
For his own selfish motives, man forms all sorts alliances, factions, or conflicts in the world. Instigated by his inner enemies (lust, anger, greed, attachment, self-conceit, stubborn mindedness, and enviousness), he forms alliances with friends, children, siblings, relatives, chiefs, leaders, groups, organizations, and so on. As repeatedly indicated in the Gurbani, all these alliances, factions, or conflicts are false because all of them are mere extensions of the love of Maya, falsehood or selfishness.
- ਮਿਥਿਆ ਦੂਜਾ ਭਾਉ ਧੜੇ ਬਹਿ ਪਾਵੈ ॥: Mithiyaa doojaa bhaayu dharhe bahi paavai: In the false love of duality, people sit and form alliances (sggs 366).
- ਮਨਮੁਖ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵਣੇ ਹਉਮੈ ਜਲੈ ਜਲਾਇ ॥: Manmukh karam kamaavane haumai jalai jalaai: By engaging in Manmukh activities (materiallistic, self-centered, ਮਨਮੁਖਤਾ ਵਾਲੇ ਕਰਮ, etc.), (one) only burns in Haumai (egotism) (sggs 68).
Everyone in his life is either a servant of Maya or a servant of Parameshar. Simply put: Those who serve Maya are called Manmukhs. The Gurbani has provided us with numerous symptoms of Manmukhs. By using the Touchstone of the Gurbani, one can read the barometer of his own selfishness or Manmukhtaa. Because of selfishness, a Manmukh's life is dominated by his strong bondage to material consciousness, far and far away from Spiritual Path (Aatam-Maarag).
A life full of material selfishness means a lifestyle void of humility, contentment, compassion, and spiritual wisdom (Shabad-Vichaar). Such lifestyle exhibits nothing but undesirable qualities in a person. Consequently, the friendship of such person is Kusang (bad association). To make us aware, the Gurbani has provided us with numerous other symptoms of such material beings caught in the vertex of unenlightened existence. Some of the other attributes of such person are as follows: egoism, ignorance, selfishness, duality, bondage, evil-mindedness, falsehood, violence, untruthfulness, doubts, superstitions, uncontrolled senses, identification with the feeling of "I, me, mine, your", lust, anger, greed, attachment, self pride, self-conceit; jealousy and enviousness, stubborn mindedness, hatred, fanaticism, conflicts, lack of contentment, material hankering and lamentation, lack of mental control and inner peace, self-centered, full of quarrel and contentions, lack of faith, extrovertedness, ritualistic, unhappy, always interested in taking instead of giving, affinity for bad association, lack of self-discipline, mental agitation, unceasing wandering (rat-race), begging material things from God, complaining, finding faults in others, unable to bear pains and sorrows of life, love for material world instead of the Self within, corruption, fraud, larceny and swindling, bribery, cheating, lying, plundering, stealing, fond of mental speculations and material logic, attachment to material world, deceitful nature, fearful, unceasing desire for sense objects, cynicism, hypocrisy, always wanting to control the world, always wanting to be appreciated, unceasing hunger for name and fame, love for titles and honor, divisiveness, prejudices, cruelty, bigotry, unnatural diet, indulgence in worldly pleasures, illusion, delusion, wrong identity, stupor, obstinate error, love of Maya or worldliness, crookedness, animosity, and so on. Opposite to these are the attributes of Gurmukhs (Spiritual Beings...).
- ਤਜਿ ਮਾਨੁ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਸੁਤ ਦਾਰਾ ਤਜਿ ਪਿਆਸ ਆਸ ਰਾਮ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਵੈ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਾਚਾ ਮਨਿ ਵਸੈ ਸਾਚ ਸਬਦਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਸਮਾਵੈ ॥੨॥: Taji maan abhimaan preet sut daaraa taji piyaas aas Raam liv laavai...: By renouncing pride, if (one) renounces love for (his) children and spouse, and by abandoning thirst (of Maya) and desires and embrace love (for Parmeshar); O Nanak! Eternal (Lord) abides in (his) mind and through the (Gur-) Shabad gets absorbed in the Hari Naam. (sggs 141).
Mayaic efforts bear reactions (rewards, effects or fruits). Accordingly, the Gurbani urges us to detach the Maya from Maya, and attach it to Shabad-Vichaar, whilst the body in work. The implication is that when the mind is attached to Higher Purpose, there will be no reaction to one's Karma, because the mind is detached from it. In other words, when the mind is absorbed in the Love of the Pure Consciousness, it will harbor only immaculate thoughts or actions! As a result, there will be no question of material bondage at all.
- ਹਾਥ ਪਾਉ ਕਰਿ ਕਾਮੁ ਸਭੁ ਚੀਤੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੨੧੩॥: Haath paaou kari kaamu sabhu cheetu niranjan naali ||213|| (sggs 1376).
- ਦੇਹੀ ਮਹਿ ਜੋ ਰਹੈ ਅਲਿਪਤਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਜਨ ਕੀ ਪੂਰਨ ਘਾਲੀਐ ॥੨॥ : Dehee mahi jo rahai alipta tis jan kee pooran ghaaleeyai ||2|| (sggs 1019).
As we can see, practicing true love and devotion to one Mool within and attachment to Maya are the two separate ways. In ignorance we fall in love with world instead of struggling with our deluded mind. In this conditioned state, we tear up our own roots, and become devoid of love and longing for the Shabad-Vichaar. Simply put: Becoming unselfish is transcending Maya (ignorance or false ego).
- ਕਾਇਆ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੇਰਾ ॥ ਜੰਮਣ ਮਰਣੁ ਨ ਚੂਕੈ ਫੇਰਾ ॥: Kaayaa andar hayumai meraa. Jamman maran na chookai pheraa: When the body is filled with egotism (Haumai) and selfishness, the cycle of birth and death does not end (sggs 126).
- ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਮੁਆ ਤਿਥੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਨ ਮਾਇਆ ॥: Vichahu aap muyaa tithai moh na Maya: When self-conceit (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ) are eradicated from within, then there is no attachment to Maya (sggs 121).
- ਮਨੁ ਵਿਛੁੜਿਆ ਹਰਿ ਮੇਲੀਐ ਨਾਨਕ ਏਹੁ ਸੁਆਉ ॥: Manu vishurhiaa har meleeai Nanak ih suaaou: O Lord! Unite the separated mind with Yourself; this is only the Nanak’s object (ਸੁਆਰਥ, ਮਨੋਰਥ). (sggs 137).
- ਜਿਨੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥ ਓਇ ਅੰਦਰਹੁ ਬਾਹਰਹੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੇ ਸਚੇ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥: Jinee gurmukh naam dhiaayaa vichahu aap gavaaye. Oyi andarahu baaharahu nirmale sache sach sammaye: By becoming the Gurmukhs who meditate on the Naam and eradicate sel-conceit (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ) from within, they merge into the Eternal Lord and become pure, inwardly and outwardly (sggs 28).
With the unbroken practice of Shabad-Vichaar (Spiritual Inquiry) arises True Understanding, leading to unselfishness and Sahaj Avasthaa (natural state of Being, Aatm-Giaan, ਗਿਆਨ ਅਵਸਤਾ...). Those engaged in such Shabad-Vichaar always possess Divine Virtues such as real understanding, humility, unselfishness, purity, mercy, fellow-feelings, truth, contentment, Divine Knowledge, etc.
- ਸਬਦਿ ਰਤੇ ਸੇ ਨਿਰਮਲੇ ਤਜਿ ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੁ ॥ : Shabadi ratte te nirmale taj kaam krodh ahankaar: Those who are attuned to the Shabad are pure; they renounce lust, anger, and conceit (sggs 58).
- ਸਤਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਭਾਣਾ ਮੰਨਿ ਲਈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥ ਏਹਾ ਸੇਵਾ ਚਾਕਰੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥: Satgur kaa bhaanaa mann layee vichahu aap gavvayi. Ehaa sevaa chaakree Naam vasai mann aayi: Submit to the Hukam of the Satgur, and eradicate se-conceit from within. By this practice and service (i.e., submitting to the Hukam), Naam comes to dwell in the mind (sggs 34).
- ਸਤਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਗਾਖੜੀ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥: Satgur kee sevaa gaakhrhee sir deejai aap gavaayi (sggs 27).
- ਸਚੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਖੋਇ ॥: Sachee bhagti vichahu aap khoyi: True Bhagti consists of eliminating self-conceit (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ) from within (sggs 159).
- ਭਗਤੀ ਰਤਾ ਸਦਾ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਆਪੁ ਮਾਰਿ ਮਿਲਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੭॥ : Bhagti ratta sadaa bairaagee aapu maari milaavaniyaa ||7||: Imbued in Bhagti (one) ever remains detached (from Maya). Subduing self-conceit (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ), (he) unites with (Parmeshar). ||7|| (sggs 112).
- ਆਪੁ ਨਿਵਾਰਿ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ਸੋਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Aapu nivaari beechaare soyi ||1||Rahaaou||: One who eliminates self-conceit (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ) reflects (on the Divine Virtues, ਆਤਮਕ ਗੁਣ). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 222).
- ਆਪੁ ਗਇਆ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਮਿਲਿ ਸਲਲੈ ਸਲਲ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੨॥: Aap gayaa sukhu paayaa mili salalai salal samaayi ||2||: Giving up self-conceit (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ), Peace (ਆਤਮਕ ਅਨੰਦ) is obtained; (one merges with Parmeshar) like water merging with water ||2|| (sggs 22).
- ਆਪੁ ਗਇਆ ਤਾ ਆਪਹਿ ਭਏ ॥: Aapu gaiaa taa aapahi bhae: When ego (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ) is gone, (one) becomes (the Lord - ਉਹ ਪਰਮਾਤਮਾ ਦਾ ਰੂਪ ਹੀ ਹੋ ਗਇਆ) Himself (sggs 202).
- ਹਿਰਦੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਏ ॥ ਅਨਹਦ ਬਾਣੀ ਸਬਦੁ ਵਜਾਏ ॥੭॥: Hirdai Naamu vichahu aapu gavaaye. Anhad bani shabadu vajaaye||7||: (Who abides) Naam in the Hearts; self-conceit (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ) departs from within. (He) vibrates the unstruck melody of the Shabad (within). ||7|| (sggs 231).
As clearly indicated by the Gurbani here, with our selfishness up and active, we cannot contemplate (Shabad-Vichaar). And without the complete eradication of the selfishness, we cannot become one with our Mool within (Source, Joti-svaroopa...).
— T. Singh