The Self Essay, Research Paper
In a recent exercise in my small group class, my TA asked us to remain silent for a minute and a half and find and search for what makes us, us. I did my best to drown out my classmates, and the noise, and probed deep into my thoughts. I came up with a discouraging answer as to what makes me, me. It was an endless circle of my attributes, characteristics, and ancestry, and not very satisfying at all. So now I turn to what this class has taught me, at least in the past few months, to find out what self is, and to put it on paper. So now I will use my knowledge gained from the ancient cultures and religions to compare and contrast the idea of self. First I will look at the Hindu and Buddhist religions to see what they thought of the self and its importance. I will continue by comparing their ideas to those of the Hebrews and the Greeks. Finally I will conclude with a discussion of the life suggested by the previous, and my own views of self.
I believe that after this class I have a decent idea and grasp on the ideas of the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Their idea of self impresses and fascinates me, it gets my mind going. In the Hindu religion we get the first impression that self is not important. It is taught that everyday life and self are illusions and impale religious enlightenment. But at a second glance we see the importance of the deep self, the true way to achieve Brahman. The true self is called Atman, and when this is reached, you have achieved Brahman. You must sacrifice your ego to fulfill your darmha, or purpose in life. So we see the deep true self has the utmost importance in this religion. In Buddhism, we see a different approach. The Buddhist believe that the self is a combination of ever-changing physical and mental forces and energies. The self is also said to be an aggregate, or fits into the five characteristics of the third aspect of Dukkha, or suffering. In essence, the self is a form or origin of the suffering that a Buddhist must escape. It is also taught that to think of everything in the form of self is a bad characteristic to hold. In the Buddha s fire sermon, he states that one can get burnt by desires especially from grasping to self. We see that the Buddhist find great suffering and much suffering stemming from the idea of self, and idea which one must liberate themselves from.
We see very different ideas from other religions and beliefs. The Hebrews follow the teachings of their god, and later Jesus. In these teachings it is shown that the self, each self is important and worthy of love and respect. Each person has something to offer and is a valuable and important being. It is also believed that each person has a soul, a deep self that must be kept pure and clean, apart from sin. With sin we find the teachings of Jesus and his Golden Rule, declaring that everyone treat others, as they would want to be treated, exalting the idea of self as the utmost important part of life. Their beliefs claim importance in both the everyday self and the deep self. The Greeks followed a similar view of self. The Greeks idea of excellence centered on the idea of Arete. This idea basically says that every person has a duty to be the best they can be at which they are and what they do. While the idea of excellence is good and shows respect and for the self and others, it takes away from individuality and the idea of self. It is important to be your best, but to do that with the idea of self and something that sets you apart from others. The Greeks believed that if you were doing the best you could, that meant doing it for your polis, and community. We see that the idea of self is important to them, but in a lighter sense than that of the Hebrews.
In the previous cases we see the idea of self, thrown in all directions. The Hebrews having respect for both forms of self. The Hindu religion holding only deep self-important. The Greeks held the everyday self important, but with a lesser idea of self. And the Buddhist believes that the self is the beginning of suffering. All of these ideas contrast in some way. It seems as though all but Buddhist hold the idea of self-sacred to some extent, on different levels. In the sense of all we see that the idea of self cannot be neglected or dismissed if the goal at hand is to be attained. In the life lead by a Hindu we see that they would try to free themselves from the everyday self and concentrate on that which is deep inside. This is great, but there are too many factors surrounding and affecting the self to be dismissed as unimportant. The Buddhist say that the self fills a sort of suffering and that one must release themselves from this to attain enlightenment. To me this suggests that one must almost give up their identity and history. The Greeks had a good handle on what it meant to be excellent but lack the sense of individuality that makes a person significant. Finally the Hebrews took both forms of self into consideration, along with others and the world. However too much involvement in self and righteousness makes one forget some of the basic important little things in life.
In conclusion I think that it is important to take a little bit of knowledge from each of the above ideas to try and understand the self. I believe that it is important to know whom you are, starting with where you came from in a sense of ancestry and heritage. From there one must decide what they believe in, their passions and desires, dreams and goals for themselves. I believe it is also important to consider the world as a whole and from individual to individual. There are too many factors in our vast great world to be dismissed as occurrences and hindering desires. When I find myself I want to find happiness. This feeling will come from what I have done to better my world and myself. I find true happiness when I use my gifts, talents and knowledge to better the world around me, helping others and myself. This happiness in self will come from a realization of what I have become and what I will be. The gratification in success and lessons learned in failing. The respect for myself in spiritual and physical sense, and respect in the same sense for others and the world. Myself will fill the void that nothing and no one else can fill, a void that cannot be described in words, that cannot be found in a book, and cannot be reached in prayer. My life is an adventure, a belief and a passion. I am in control, and I know what I need to do to be me.