illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
- enrich yourself with the result of doing a lot of good things
- try to protect yourself against doing wrong things
- tame your mind "
This seriously sounds like "spiritual materialism:" enrich yourself? protect yourself? Clearly that is not what the Buddha meant!
Let's assume for a moment it is what he meant.
Please first tell me who you are, really. If you find who you are, you might start thinking of how to enrich or protect it…
Show me what's so fundamental to who you are that, should it change through time or circumstances, you'd irremediably lose yourself.
For example, it is unlikely that your body (as it is now) is who you are... For a start, most cells are constantly renewed through time, and almost no cell in your body is older than 15 years (Oh, and the DNA is only "almost" the same, not "exactly" the same (hence why cancer might appear)). Losing a limb, having organ replacement, would not change your sense of Self... Even in the cortex (where cells do last), you can have serious accidents (be it vascular, a shock or a perforation by some object) and you can learn (i.e. change the cells to create new connections and/or change the weighting of the connections); hence the cortex "as it is now" is not "you."
It is just as unlikely that you'll find "yourself" in habits, beliefs, relationships… Friends and family come and go, and die, but you maintain your sense of self through such life events. Your habits and beliefs evolve, but you maintain your sense of self…
So, please first tell me who you are, really.
If you find who you are, you might start thinking of how to enrich that or protect it… But funnily enough, many people have tried, and guess what? Nobody has found an essence for the Self. The closest thing seems to be consciousness but we well know that we're "reborn" as ourselves after deep sleep or after a coma, so it's not likely to be it either (at least not in a common understanding)…
The Buddha never taught to enrich yourself or protect yourself. He taught that there is no Self, partly because nothing conditioned is permanent. You don't live independently of your environment, so you're not permanent and you evolve with circumstances, so you don't have an essence that stays "you" through such evolution. The sense of self is constantly re-created and gives a sense of continuity, but there is no self to be found. So you cannot improve or protect yourself (or your "self")! You can improve the web of conditions and actions you're part of. So there is a point to spiritual work, but it's not in self-centered self-improvement.