Chan Master Sheng Yen

‘If you always insist on your own views and your own way of doing things, and have a hard time accepting anyone else’s suggestions or advice, or you even hurt people by insisting on your “principles”, then, it’s not a principle but just a personal bias. It’s only your opinion, and it’s not shared by others. You’re not willing to listen to others’ opinions, and you don’t put yourself in their shoes. You only think about yourself. This is attachment to self. Egoism is a severe form of attachment in which you think your ideas, your ways of doing things, and your thoughts are the soundest and most correct. If anyone offers you a suggestion or criticism, you’re unlikely to accept it. This is attachment, not adhering to principles.
The principles we adhere to should be acceptable to others – not only in the present, but in the past and future as well. There are principles of behavior, and principles for conducting affairs. The first principle of behavior is to protect oneself; that’s very important but it doesn’t mean you can hurt others. You should respect others as you respect yourself. While benefiting yourself, you should wish that others benefit too. It’s a correct principle. If your principles mean insisting on your own ides, and methods for your own benefit, or the benefit of the few, or simply your own convenience, then this is not adhering to principles. This is simply bias and attachment.’ (Zen & Inner Peace, Volume One)

This book is a series of transcripts from a Taiwanese TV show a couple of decades ago, and some of Master Sheng Yen’s views strike me as a little simplistic or unrealistic – outside the confines of a monastery. This one, though, in our current climate, felt like a good mic drop moment.

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