Are you unselfish? That is the question.
If you are, you will be perfect without reading a single religious book, without going into a single church, mosque or temple.
The words above are of Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk who became globally renowned for bringing the concepts of Vedanta to the West in the 1890s. He was also responsible for the revival of Hinduism and Indian nationalism, in a colonial India battered by years of foreign tyranny. Today is his 153rd birth anniversary and the internet is replete with his quotes and articles on why, now more than ever, India needs him and his words.
Being a student of Ramakrishna Mission (an organization founded by the Swami in 1897), I was force-fed with his quotes when I was a little kid. His words were like the rancorous medicines which I was used to gobbling with flinched eyed. But medicines they were indeed and I didn’t know that then, but I was being ‘healed’ into becoming a much better individual. Some of those quotes have now become guiding principles of my life and the one mentioned above about religion and lack of selfishness is definitely one of them.
If someone is not selfish, he doesn’t need religion for redemption, because he won’t desire redemption. If someone is not selfish, he won’t need religion for realization, because he would already be realized. This thought has always stayed with me and now that I have ‘force-fed’ it to you, I would urge you to read the below Needull, a 2012 article by TIME that I have selected for you today.
Selfishness is always taken for granted and the competition for ‘survival of the fittest’ is considered a necessity for evolution. But what if we exist today just because somewhere deep down we were unselfish. While a 2013 published research in Michigan State University prophesied that selfishness will gradually disappear as a personality trait, today’s Needull discusses how we have actually evolved solely because of unselfish acts of our ancestors.
Maia Szalavitz, a renowned Science Journalist for Time, writes about selfishness and evolution in this article – Is Human Nature Fundamentally Selfish or Altruistic? One of the articles she refers to is a classic one by Eric Michael Johnson, and worth a read too – Ayn Rand vs. The Pygmies.