Another good article from the Psychology Today blogs. This is specifically from Six Perfections: Buddhism and the cultivation of character, by Dale Wright.
Read the whole post."Buddhist ethical practices aim at taking the self out of self-cultivation."The second point follows from the first. We have no choice but to begin this quest wherever we happen to be. If, like most people, we attend primarily to our own well-being, then our interest in enlightenment or self-cultivation or anything else extends only so far as the good we think it will do for us as individuals. If the range of our interest and concern doesn't extend far beyond our own lives, then that is where we must begin, imagining our ethical practices of enlightenment as beneficial for us as individuals, which, of course, they are. Nevertheless, ethical practice, Buddhist or otherwise, functions as a system of training to overcome the narrow and myopic sense of self that we all have in immature stages of development.
One common criticism of the topic of self-cultivation is the extent of focus on the "self." The idea of self-cultivation is itself inappropriate because it is essentially self-absorbed and fails to acknowledge the more fundamental communal or social dimension of human life. This is an important criticism, one that Buddhists have faced as directly and as responsibly as anyone in other traditions. The overall Buddhist response to this critique entails two primary points. First, and most important, Buddhists maintain that the beneficiary of your practice of self-cultivation is not just you but others around you, ultimately, the whole of humanity. Early in the career of Mahayana Buddhists who are serious about engagement in self-cultivation, a vow is taken--the bodhisattva vow--in which practitioners vow to seek enlightenment not just for themselves but globally on behalf of everyone. It is the whole of society that needs to be enlightened, not just certain individuals, even if individuals are the catalyst through which such enlightenment might become a reality. In effect, the vow is just to seek enlightenment, at whatever level and to whatever degree that can be accomplished, and not be possessive about it--enlightenment not simply for oneself but on behalf of greater vision for everyone and everything.