A main condition for our selfishness ~ 17th Karmapa

However autonomous we may feel ourselves to be, we could not even begin our lives without two specific people who therefore are not entirely distinct from or ‘other’ to us. Once born, we eat food from others, learn from others, and are clothed and cared for all our lives by others. Just a few steps of analysis show us how dependent we are upon many, many others for our basic existence. Who we are as individuals emerges as a result of those diverse causes and conditions. We can give a separate name to that result and use that name to identify ourselves throughout life, but that does not mean we are utterly separate or separable from those causes and conditions. It is completely valid to bear a name that distinguishes us, but we invest a reality in that name that goes far beyond its function. We slowly come to believe that what our name points to is wholly separable from everything else. This message is communicated to us in many ways — and we repeat it to ourselves — “You are unique in the world. You are special. There is no one else like you.” It is true we are unique, but to the extent that this discourse heightens our sense of ourselves as absolutely distinct and unrelated to others, this perception itself becomes a main condition for our selfishness.

17th Karmapa

from the book Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society

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