The advantages of community life lie in our ability to be sensitive and caring, to be considerate and thoughtful of other human beings. A life without generosity, respect and giving to others is a joyless life. Nothing is more joyless than selfishness.
If I think of myself first, what I want and what I can get out of this place, that means I might live here, but I will not have any joy living here. I might because of my seniority be able to intimidate, and because of my size be able to push my weight around and get my way, but I am not going to be joyful by doing that. Just asserting myself and getting my way is not the way to peacefulness, equanimity and serenity of the heart.
As we gain seniority in the Sangha, we have to think more about other people. We need to consider how to train and look after the juniors and how to help the seniors. Nothing is more depressing than to be in a community of bhikkhus who don’t really bother and just want to do what they want. They are so blind or self-centred they don’t look and see, they don’t ask, they don’t notice – you have to tell them everything. It is very frustrating to have to live with people who are not willing to put forth the effort to try to notice and to take on responsibility…
To offer one’s services and be eager to help is really praiseworthy. It is something I appreciate very much. It is not always what one wants to do, but it is a very lovely gesture and very important.
This reflection by Luang Por Sumedho is from the book, Peace is a Simple Step (Ajahn Sumedho Anthology, Volume 1), (pdf) pp.168, 172.