Sakyong Miphan writes “Even though our patience may not be completely free of self-interest, nonetheless acting with virtue takes us towards the mind of enlightenment.” – From Turning the Mind Into an Ally
A good act does not have to be entirely selfless. Indeed, I get the impression that complete altruism is almost too much to ask of anyone less than a bodhisattva or a Buddha. That does not mean we should not aspire to it. Nor I think, should we use it as an excuse to act as we wish and congratulate ourselves later because we incidentally helped someone. Instead I think the knowledge that we can act with virtue even if our motivation is imperfect is meant to steady us.
Shambhala teachings talk a lot about basic goodness, which is the true nature of all people. To act with virtue, to show compassion, patience, or love, to help someone, is an expression of our basic goodness. Even if we know our actions benefit ourselves as well as others, and we sometimes act with that in mind, our actions can still be virtuous. I think, as long as self-benefit is not our sole motivation, hopefully not even our primary motivation, our actions can be good. I think a good deed done only for one’s own benefit, is not really a good dead at all, since it is wholly selfish. But a good deed done for the benefit of both other and self at least sets one’s feet on the path of the bodhisattva. In time, true altruism can be cultivated.
It is reassuring to hear (or read) it.