Selfless deeds don’t matter

Memorial plaque dedicated to Mother Teresa by ...
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A few weeks earlier when I was having a conversation with my nephew this topic came up. He said there is ni deed as selfless deed. We all see people around us praisung selflessness and any selfish acts are seen with disgust. The big question is do people know of an act is selfish or not? And is there a deed that can truly be defined as selfless?

Selfish deed can be defined as a deed that has been done for self interest or happiness. Ones selfishness leads one to do things that are directed for their own benefit. Any selfish deed will only mean their own benefit.

A selfless deed can be defined as a deed that has been dine without any self interest and only for the benefit of the others. A true selfless deed should not bring any benefit to the one who is performing the deed.

Now that we have the definitions out of the way, lets think abiyt his would you judge a deed to be selfish or selfless. Okay, did the definition not cover it? I think it did, but lets see that I be again. A deed that has been acted upon without any self interest will be considered as selfless only if there are alternatives that exist and are more profitable for the person acting upon it. However, a true or an absolute selfless deed would mean that the action has absolutely no benefits irrespective of the options available. I. Other words, if there are more profitable options availabe, the deed performed should bit have any benefits even if they are lesser. Anything else is selfish (phew that was easy).

The next big question is – how are the benefits quantified? The can be material or emotional. Lets say, if I was to do charity for an organization run by a friend or a colleague, and in return I expect to bb benefited in a contract or job than that is material benefit. But, if I do charity for an independent organization where I know no one and I don’t expect any returns, I am doing it for my internal peace and happiness. So now, if we take this argument and apply it all deeds and say that every deed is for self-hapiness then it implies that big deed cna be selfless. Everything that is done is don’t for an emotional or internal benefit. Every person has some interior motive to do it.

The last part may be philosiphical, but it is interesting and eventually leaves no room for any other discussions. I do nit know if I have an answer for it yet, but I do feel it very intriguing. Why? Simply because if thus is true, then all the praise that goes in for selfless deeds is nothing but a hypocritical, the praise itself would imply that the person who has done a deed with openness had an interior motive of getting praise out of it and hence getting benefit in the society of being a “better person”.

Now, having said all that, I think of Saint Mother Teresa and all the good she has done, and it breaks my heart to call her selfish. However, if I apply the same rule to her then she was very selfish. Now that simply can’t be true. But, the logic takes me there.

And makes me sad to think that it is these so called “selfless and great” people who get the most out of it and other who have motives of salvation and happiness are left behind. Ever heard of “neki kar kuain main daal” (do good and forget about it, don’t tell it). That is something which is a rare commodity today.

Thinking all this, I have come to a conclusion that it don’t matter if a deed is categorized as selfless or selfish, as long it is a good deed. If the society can go past the selfless act and praise all good deeds, the world would be a better place to live in.

Brutal Reality Great Conflicts Murky Philosophy

Kapil Viren Ahuja View All →

Christened Kapil Ahuja at birth, I took my middle name in year 2001 (dont ask why)

I am Kapil Viren Ahuja who is a "Son to Narendera and Saroj", "Brother to Aparna and Manisha (Neelu)", "Husband to Preeti" and "Dad to Aabhya".

Who is Kapil?
Christened Kapil Ahuja at birth, I took my middle name in year 2001 (dont ask why)

I am Kapil Viren Ahuja who is a

~ Son to Narendera and Saroj
~ Brother to Aparna and Manisha (Neelu)
~ Husband to Preeti
~ Dad to Aabhya

My family defines most of who I am. But, I am not just that. I am also a Technical Evangelist at heart working in IT industry for last 10 years.

8 Comments Leave a comment

  1. The problem is that more-or-less any deed is made for selfish reasons, including those who distribute money in what seems like a selfless manner—but where the redistribution is done e.g. to silence a nagging guilt or a sorrow over someone elses poverty. Poke deep enough and a selfish (or possible more accurately, a non-selfless) reason is hard to avoid.

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  2. I discussed about this with a few people yesterday, I wanted some examples to prove my view wrong which is “Selfless Good deeds don’t exist”…. Fortunately I have been proven wrong… Will write the complete story on my blog 🙂

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  3. Well pardon me.. I beg to differ here, by encompassing every personality under the periphery of article is bit confusing here. Gautam Budh, Mahavir Jain, The Great Ashok they brought paradigm shift in life of individuals living in the world. Sometimes a person does a good deed in his conscious state of mind. Then your assumption could be valid that there could be a slight percentage of self. But what if he’s or she in his subconscious(super natural) state. Great Mother Teresa did a lot of good deeds to poor. She cared leprosy patients like mother and did her best to pacify their pain. Later post an article about it.. Take care

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    • Hi Anil – I can not grant you pardon because you have done nothing wrong. I appreciate you took the time to read the article and shared your thoughts.

      You mentioned names like Gautam Budh, Mahavir Jain, The Great Ashok – I am not sure about the history on Manavir Jain, but from what I recall about Gautam Budh and Ashoka, I remember that they did things they did for their inner peace; thats how it all started. About mother Teresa she did all the good after 36 years of her early life and her words as I gather from history were – “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.” She also had a reason – self-reason to do what she did and she continued to do things because she didnt want to break the faith and move away from God.

      However, the key to my article is not to debate on existence of selfless deeds, but to ask the question to society “why is it important for people to have selfless deeds”. Why can we not be happy about some good deeds. If a rich person was to donate a millions of rupees to various charitable institution over his life time even if those donations was to benefit his organization in society and a marketing gimmick. Would that be a bad thing? And how would that be a lesser deed that what some of the others did – essentially helping people.

      Also, I am not sure of your last comment “Later post an article about it…” – I am not sure if you are going to write one or you are asking me to do so. If it is later, then I have summarized my thoughts in this comment. And, I will put more thinking into this especially around people doing things in sub-conscious or super-conscious state of mind. Thank you for providing me with this chain of thought.

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  4. I went to visit my Aunt – Dolly Bhua weekend of July 4 and we discussed about this in detail. She happened to mention a deed that can be classified as a selfless deed:

    My uncle Mukund suffered a cardiac arrest while he was working out at the Valparaiso YMCA on July 12, 2007. Death can occur within minutes of a cardiac arrest if no treatment is received. Brain damage can start to occur in just 4 to 6 minutes after the heart stops pumping blood. Thanks to quick action by a nurse who was exercising at the same time and the availability of an automatic external defibrillator, Mukund lived, and remained mentally and physically intact.

    My first reaction to this is that this indeed is a selfless deed. I can not find a reason why this nurse would have done what she did. This indeed is a great thing to do and helped someone live and give their family members another chance.

    When I compare this with some of the other people who just stand and watch a road accident and dont do anything and let thing take its toll and even lead to someone dying this is a great deed.

    This does brings me to think about all those people who are looking forward to save someone either as a part of their job or just to do it because they have specialized skills to help someone. And once again, I come around to the same point – why does it matter. I saw my Bhua and she was so grateful to that nurse who helped her (my uncle expired in 2009) and she was so grateful for the additional 2 years they got with him – and again I ask why is it important for a deed to be selfless – why cant we let it go – why cant we just be happy for someone doing good deeds.

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