I was on a call with a wonderful person named Rajiv Mehrotra, who is the right hand made of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It was a discussion about Buddhism, and as I learned from Rajiv, Buddhism is based on the 4 principles of interdependence, causality, impermanence, and selflessness. I want to quickly touch on each.
The idea of ‘interdependence’ was popularized in Steven Covey’s book “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”, representing the concept of connectedness. It’s a perspective that all things are impacted by all things.
This then naturally leads into the idea of causality, where due to interdependence, any shift made anywhere ripples to impact everything. Causality suggests that everything has a cause and effect, and when connected with interdependence that effect is felt by everything.
The idea then advances once more into 'impermanence'. Given how dynamic everything is due to the impacts of causality, reality is constantly evolving. This means that one thing in one moment will certainly not be the same the next. From a feeling or thought you have, to the makeup of a brain cell, to the positions electrons take in a metal. This is impermanence, and understanding not only that things never last forever, but that they’re constantly changing, is a tenet to buddhism.
And last, arriving at the most dense of these topics, is selflessness. It’s almost an acknowledgement that we as beings are all interdependent, influencing, and impermanent ourselves. This awareness makes the difficult suggestion to reject the idea of thinking about yourself because it is too narrow-minded to the network of things that are actually happening. This is such a fundamental practice that buddhism relates the idea of suffering as “having thoughts about yourself”, and that the only way to not suffer is to think of others.
Interestingly, Rajiv brought all of this together in a way that connects this more directly to what we practice within our self-improvement. He says that we must “learn the way it is and accept it for the way it is.”
I have no idea what I’m talking about compared to Rajiv... But in my own way I’ve arrived at a similar focus. I define self-improvement as the pursuit of self-awareness and self-acceptance. Becoming more self-aware allows us to gain insight into what we genuinely want and see ourselves for the way we are. Self-acceptance is about allowing ourselves to live in a way that is true to that awareness and honors it.
The encouragement I’ll leave you with, and that Rajiv would want you to leave with, is to try to be less attached to how things are and to see them for simply who they are.