Q30. When we help others we get such a great feeling….is this just us patting oneself on the back, or is it because that we are all one and by helping others we truly are helping our self?

A. If you get a great feeling, as most people do, it is likely to be a kind of sense of accomplishment. We have been taught and told to help others in need since our kindergarten days. However, we usually feel that we have not helped others as much as we think we should, and we always feel guilty or burdened unconsciously, for it as though we didn’t do our homework. When we help others, we get a kind of accomplishment we would feel when no one but I in the class did the homework in our school days and, enjoying secret pride, we pat ourselves on the back just like our teachers did to us.

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Let me ask you a question. Do you happen to get such a great feeling when you feed yourself? In fact, if you had helped others because you felt oneness with them, you would have felt it natural rather than great. The Bible says, “When you help others, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does.” However, Zen books say, “When you help others, don’t let even your right hand know what your right hand does.” This is a saying that shows the essence of Zen. You should not have even the idea that you helped someone. You should feel as natural as if you buy yourself lunch, when you serve a nice lunch to a hungry man. That is, to love your neighbours as yourself – just like the Bible says.

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway.

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