“The Art of Selflessness” by one of our highly esteemed writers, Ishaq Ibrahim :
” If your love is only a will to possess, it is not love.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist
The idea of selflessness is not a contemporary one. It has existed ever since mankind has and persisted to this day. Simply put, selflessness is to be concerned about someone else’s needs or wishes rather than one’s own.
There is no dearth of stories that we get to listen to from various sources that highlight the virtues and the nobility of being selfless. We have many examples around us, of people who have spent their lives for the service of humanity, and it is from them that we can draw motivation and wisdom.
We take pride in the fact that a man named Abdul Sattar Edhi lived in Pakistan. Edhi, over the span of several decades, set up the Edhi foundation and the Bilquis Edhi Trust (named after his wife) under which runs an approximately 1500 vehicle-strong ambulance network, ready to show up at your doorstep in an instant. The Edhi foundation has rescued around 20,000 abandoned infants, rehabilitated over 50,000 orphans and trained over 40,000 nurses. The numbers are staggering, and the list is endless. What is the one thing that drove Edhi to achieve all of this? To live an incredibly humble life despite being at the helm of this massive humanitarian organization?
Selflessness. The unconditional love for humanity.
It feels almost impossible for such a feat to have been accomplished. To do something even remotely similar to what Edhi did looks like a distant dream. Yet, we fail to realize that Edhi did not start out like this. More than five decades ago, when Karachi was plagued with an Asian flu epidemic, Edhi made the most crucial decision of his life: he decided to be selfess. In his own words:
“I saw people lying on the pavement … The flu had spread in Karachi, and there was no one to treat them. So I set up benches and got medical students to volunteer. I was penniless and begged for donations on the street. And people gave. I bought this 8-by-8 room to start my work.”
The one piece of wisdom that we can extract from Edhi’s life is that it takes just one human being, full of selfless love for his fellows, to make a critical difference. Equipped with this basic quality, every one of us can make that difference in the life of even a single person, if not thousands: a friend, a relative, or even a total stranger.