Selflessness

Question: What life lesson had the most profound influence on your development?

Robert Thurman: Well I wouldn’t say that there was a greatest lesson like one single aphorism that you could say that’s the thing, you know, not really.  I think that the discovery of what it’s called, selflessness, the idea that the sense of absolute self is illusionary and what is only relational self, and the sort of understanding that philosophically, resolved my philosophical quests, which is what I had been on, and had really presented answers.  So the concept of selflessness, or emptiness, is the one that I would say made me feel most released and wonderful, and I would say it fit with a concept that I had naturally had from youth, which I had, for which I had defended myself, intellectually, from being boxed into various dogmas, which was the concept of infinity, I was very fond of the concept of infinity, as a, as a youth, before I really knew much about it.  But emptiness and selflessness is really in that same category, and it’s sort of a releasing concept where, you know, really leading to a real experience of true relativity, not only a partial relativity like Einstein’s but a complete relativity.

Question: How is selflessness taught?

Robert Thurman: How does one encounter it?  Well, they say that you can only understand selflessness yourself, and they say you can only really understand it when you encounter someone else who understands it.  They have this funny double bind sort of thing in the tradition, and I think that does work out kind of in a certain way.  Of course, people will only understand selflessness in the West, including many Western Buddhists, as meaning somehow that you don’t exist, that your real nature is that you don’t exist.  And that it’s a big discovery, like a big sense of disappearing that makes you feel better, you know.  But that is not the case, it’s much more subtle, it is a gradual melting down of the rigid sense of the – separate, absolute self apart from the world into become a relational interconnected self that is more aware of its relativity and therefore more responsible for its shaping of itself.  Constant shaping and reshaping, and aware of influences that also shape it, and guarding against negative ones and cultivating positive ones because of the fact of you having become, having recognized that you are, know what’s happening, you know, totally relational, and there’s no non-relational component of us and so that’s a gradual thing that sort of dawns in a slow and steady way, and there are little leaps and little moments like epiphanies, but the idea that there’s going to be this sudden poof experience –

Because you sort of disappear, and that disappearance is your real being of no self, or something, that’s the way people understand it, but that’s not correct.

Recorded on: 6/1/07

Thurman talks about meditating on and teaching selflessness.

Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Scientists just voted to change the definition of a kilogram

The definition of a kilogram will now be fixed to Planck's constant, a fundamental part of quantum physics.

Greg L via Wikipedia
Surprising Science
  • The new definition of a kilogram is based on a physical constant in quantum physics.
  • Unlike the current definition of a kilogram, this measurement will never change.
  • Scientists also voted to update the definitions of several other measurements in physics.
Keep reading Show less