Is meditation selfish?

The question is good, but the answers provided by Zoë Pollock on The Dish aren’t all that informative. First, they seem to equate meditation with Buddhism, which is less than half the story. Second, they don’t really talk so much about meditation as about Buddhist philosophy. And, disappointingly for an otherwise interesting blog, it doesn’t even do that very well.

While you’re meditating, you are of course (in most cases) closing your eyes to what’s going on around you. Without invoking Buddhist or other philosophy, I can think of the following reasons why doing so is not selfish, but rather the opposite: 1) it gives you more energy to care about the world around you; 2) it helps working through some of your less mature and more selfish psychological traits; 3) it widens your perspective, making you see yourself within a larger totality; 4) it helps you relinquish some of your excessive identification with your own narrow self. I guess one could find other points.

This doesn’t preclude cases of people using meditation for selfish reasons, whether it’s because they get hooked on specific “states” (blisslike or otherwise), or because they use their renewed contact inwards to argue for solutions that “feel” good rather than ones that do good. I don’t know if this can be blamed on meditation, though. Anybody can make anything into a tool of their own egocentricity. Basically, I think meditation works against selfishness.

7 Comments

  1. Karan Sewani

    I totally agree with you, it do works against selfishness both conscious and subconscious.

  2. Smn

    Interesting reflection, Halvor. I think that you are right.
    Maybe this hasn’t anything to do with selfishness or not (judge for yourself), but earlier today I stumbled upon a clip on Youtube where John Cleese talks about creativity. What he was saying sounded a lot like what you could say about the “rules” and effects of meditation. Once again – judge for yourself.

  3. Carinah

    I also think meditation is one of the less selfish things I do. It is much nicer to be with me when I have meditated than when I haven’t, my boyfriend can certainly confirm that;)

  4. Josefina

    I think the practice of meditation may instead encourage a more generous and detached behavior.

    We learn not to cling to what comes through our senses, not to stick to our thoughts, etc … This translated into daily life seems the opposite of selfish behavior.

  5. Kaif

    Interesting discussion! Perhaps meditation is as selfish or selfless as playing music or anything else we do, and from an existential perspective, what matters is the attitude we take towards it rather than the act in itself. I am reminded of the ancient Indian poem, the Bhagavad Gita, where even killing is thought of as a selfless act if performed with a particular existential attitude.

  6. Bede

    My personal belief is meditation makes you selfish. It makes you focus only on you and you would not bother what is happening around the world. You would tend to contribute less to your society and to the world.

    • Halvor

      I think you’re wrong, at least in the cases I know. People tend to be less self-centered after they’ve meditated, and it makes them more empathic. I can easily imagine cases where people use meditation for selfish goals too, but that goes for almost any activity. I don’t think you become any less selfish by avoiding all kinds of self-reflection.

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