Some thoughts on Yoga
Interesting what you can end up learning by allowing yourself to get distracted by something . . . interesting. I was researching the papacy, which led me to the Council of Nicea and then Arianism, then to Aryanism where I cam across the fact that Himmler had sought relief from the guilt he felt from implementing the Holocaust by carrying (and presumably reading) a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. This book, a sacred Hindu text, contains the following instruction attributed to the divine Krishna:
“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.”
The Wikipedia article summarizes this accurately as the idealization of selfless action.
So there we have a real life example of what the practice of selflessness leads to – mass murder, genocide, the Holocaust.
Contrary to the many misguided Christians who believe Christ taught selflessness, he did not. “Love thy neighbour as thyself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are not exhortations to disregard both self and others but to value others as well as self. The direction to love your neighbour is premised on first loving yourself.
What Christ taught was that by expanding our ability to love to include not just ourselves but others allows us to experience the happiness of others as our own happiness. Love is the emotion we feel when we are aware of the identity between the interests of others and our own interests. The extent of the awareness and/or the degree of identity determines the strength of the emotion. “I love my wife” means that I am aware that if she experiences something good, it is as if I too experienced it.
We choose our values (although the choice can be correct or incorrect as determined by reference to our common standard of value – but that is another topic). The point here is that we choose our values. The choice to identify my interests with those of my wife is mine to make. The experience of sharing in her happiness when she experiences something good results from my choice – my choice to love her. If I expand the number of people I love, I expand my capacity for joy as I am able to experience the joy of those I love as my own. The more Christlike I become, the greater is my capacity to experience joy.
In what sense then, is this selfless? None – how can maximizing one”s joy be considered selfless?
I acknowledge that the efficacy of this strategy is premised upon the world having a net greater capacity for joyful experiences than painful ones. I also think that the truth of this premise is so obvious that questioning it is a better subject for psychiatry than philosophy.