What makes us act selfishly?

What makes us act selfishly?

By Radhanath Swami 

What makes us act selfishly? Question: The caring attitude is pleasing to everyone, but generally the default attitude in this world is one always thinks selfishly. So is it an inbuilt script of the mind that makes one think selfishly? 

Radhanath Swami: The false ego misconceives: “I am this body, I am this mind, I am the controller, I am the proprietor, and I am the selfish enjoyer.” This is foundational to all material complications. It impels us to put ourselves above others and act selfishly. And when we continue to act in that way it becomes a habit. According to how we habituate ourselves, by making those wrong choices, we become more and more engrained in that way of thinking. 

That is the way any habit works. For example, if you smoke a lot of cigarettes you become addicted, and the more you smoke the more you become addicted. The habit becomes a craving, and then it is very difficult to do anything without feeding your habit. When you are in the middle of it, you cannot really understand the effect of what you are doing because you are so much a slave of the habit. So that is exactly the way the ego works. Our selfishness, our arrogance, our greed, our selfish passions, our anger, and our envy – as we make choices to feed these habits, they become stronger and stronger and stronger.

But when we associate with saintly people we began to understand what we really want in life and what our condition is. And then we will take the medicine and the way of life by which we can become liberated from these habits of egotism. Chanting of the Holy Names is the simple medicine that will cure one from all the symptoms of ego, ignorance and selfishness.

Text Two Nectar of Instruction

Text Two

atyāhāraḥ prayāsaś ca
prajalpo niyamāgrahaḥ
jana-saṅgaś ca laulyaṁ ca
ṣaḍbhir bhaktir vinaśyati


ati-āhāraḥ — overeating or too much collecting; prayāsaḥ — over-endeavoring; ca — and; prajalpaḥ — idle talking; niyama — rules and regulations; āgrahaḥ – too much attachment to (or agrahaḥ – too much neglect of); jana-saṅgaḥ — association with worldly-minded persons; ca — and; laulyam — ardent longing or greed; ca — and; ṣaḍbhiḥ — by these six; bhaktiḥ — devotional service; vinaśyati — is destroyed.


One’s devotional service is spoiled when he becomes too entangled in the following six activities: (1) eating more than necessary or collecting more funds than required; (2) over-endeavoring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain; (3) talking unnecessarily about mundane subject matters; (4) practicing the scriptural rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement, or rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures and working independently or whimsically; (5) associating with worldly-minded persons who are not interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness; and (6) being greedy for mundane achievements.


Human life is meant for plain living and high thinking. Since all conditioned living beings are under the control of the Lord’s third energy, this material world is designed so that one is obliged to work. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has three primary energies, or potencies. The first is called antaraṅga-śakti, or the internal potency. The second is called taṭastha-śakti, or the marginal potency. The third is called bahiraṅga-śakti, or the external potency. The living entities constitute the marginal potency, and they are situated between the internal and external potencies. Being subordinate as eternal servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the jīvātmās, or atomic living entities, must remain under the control of either the internal or external potency. When they are under the control of the internal potency, they display their natural, constitutional activity – namely, constant engagement in the devotional service of the Lord. This is stated in Bhagavad-gītā (9.13):

mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha
daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
 bhajanty ananya-manaso
jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam
“O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.”

The word mahātmā refers to those who are broad-minded, not cripple-minded. Cripple-minded persons, always engaged in satisfying their senses, sometimes expand their activities in order to do good for others through some “ism” like nationalism, humanitarianism or altruism. They may reject personal sense gratification for the sense gratification of others, like the members of their family, community or society – either national or international. Actually all this is extended sense gratification, from personal to communal to social. This may all be very good from the material point of view, but such activities have no spiritual value. The basis of such activity is sense gratification, either personal or extended. Only when a person gratifies the senses of the Supreme Lord can he be called a mahātmā, or broad-minded person.

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Finding the Nectar in Krishna’s Names

Finding the Nectar in Krishna’s Names

By Bir Krishna Swami

The names of Krishna are the repository of all happiness and the greatest wealth. If we chant properly, we will not experience material miseries, but we may experience what the materialist might mistake as misery: the spiritual joy of intense separation from Krishna.

Since that joy comes from proper chanting, we might wonder how we can chant with attention and concentration, even if we are not yet pure devotees of Krishna. How can we control the mind? How can we keep ourselves from thinking of a million and one other things besides Krishna’s names?

Chanting properly takes practice, and the first point is to approach the practice positively. When we approach the holy names negatively, we often think more about what we should not be doing rather than what we should be doing. It is said, “You can’t do a don’t.” So, instead of thinking: “Now I have to control my mind and not think of other things,” we can think, “Now I will concentrate on Krishna’s names, which are identical to Krishna. By concentrating on Krishna’s names, Krishna will give me full intelligence, and I will love Him more and more.”

Besides a positive way of thinking, there are other ways to stay focused on Krishna’s names. We generally chant in two situations: in kirtana, or group singing, and in japa, or private soft chanting. We can approach each one somewhat differently.

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