Is being a hero being a bodhisattva?

Oct 24, 2022

Venerable Robina,

It is my hope that you are well.

Through my study and meditation practice, I am starting to see in my mind a kind of hero or savior complex. Specifically, the desire/need to help others even if to my own detriment. 

It is my understanding that this might be behavior attributable to a Bodhisattva, but I am not a bodhisattva. Therefore, I am wondering if the teachings have anything to say about those experiencing hero/savior complexes. Specifically, if there is insight into how this is tied to ego and perhaps a way to develop a healthier relationship with the desire to be of benefit to others. I am finding myself becoming “burnt out” in my efforts to be of benefit. I presume this is the result of ego and an attachment for a specific outcome, but additional insight would be appreciated. 

Thank you for your teachings; you make a positive impact on my daily life.

N: good to hear your thoughts.

Well, if you can detect the feeling of wanting to be a hero in there, then that’s good — that you see it, I mean! That sounds a bit like attachment getting carried away!

The key thing with our training in the bodhisattva path is to cultivate the thought to want to be of use to others.

The first level of practice, as expressed in the vows of individual liberation, is to protect ourselves from harming others.

The bodhisattva level is more to do with trying to do what is best for others; it’s more expansive.

Attachment in the sense we’re discussing here is attachment to a view of ourself as a helping person. It’s perfect to help people, but if it’s driven by this view of ourselves, it becomes quite self-centered.

And the deeper attachment that’s there as well is the attachment to being seen as a helpful person: that causes us to be misused by others, to become a doormat. Not healthy at all!

Valid helping is when there’s less attachment and more wisdom. We do what we can without too much expectation of any results.

Bodhisattvas are heroes – but it’s genuinely altruistic: no thought of oneself at all. And that’s advanced, so it’s one step at a time!

All the best,

More Q & A

How to help my deceased partner and start my Buddhist path

QUESTION Dear Venerable, I hope this email finds you well and that you don’t mind me emailing you. I attended the talk you did yesterday on Zoom about grief. Thank you for this, it gave me clarity around what I have been experiencing. My partner passed away recently....

How to decide what’s best?

QUESTION Dear Venerable Robina, I had the pleasure of watching several of your teachings and have, of course, been watching your discussions and Q&As on YouTube. My family have been listening to you and your straightforward manner has put them at ease that I’m not...

Help your father be peaceful, that’s all that matters in his old age

QUESTION Dear Venerable Robina, Hoping this finds you well. I’m having a hard time dealing with something. My mother passed recently. We’ve just discovered that she gambled away all the family money in bad investments. My father is old and refuses to acknowledge this....

We don’t know who anyone is, so don’t judge

  QUESTION Dear Venerable,   I hope that you are well.   I know that sometimes my mind has a tendency to kind of lean toward being distrustful, so I'm working on that.   There has been a couple of times in the last year or so when I have heard a...

Share this article