Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hope is Lazy

Over at Zendotstudio, Carole has a good post on hope and Buddhist practice. She writes:

The Oxford dictionary defines hope as "expectation combined with desire." Hmm, from a Buddhist point of view, we're not starting with the best recipe ingredients, are we? Hope implies something we want in the future. It may be something perfectly wonderful, like world peace or a new subaru station wagon. And baked into that hope are the seeds of suffering, if we don't get what we want.

Pema Chodron says something like, "we bounce back and forth between hope and fear", this is the common human state. When we hope we may also feel afraid that we won't get what we hope for. And then there is the disappointment when we don't get what we hope for, which inevitably happens if we're filling our shopping backs with a list of hopes. And after a while we feel the bruise of all this bouncing back and forth. In fact we may feel like a human bruise.

Lately, I've been noticing that hoping seems to come out of a kind of laziness. When I'm lost in hope, I actually am trying to conjure up a future reality, and the hang on to that picture, regardless of what's actually happening. I'm not willing to put in some work, take some risks, and let go of results. It's just "I hope this will happen or that won't happen" and then, usually, some perseveration on possible outcomes I don't want to happen.

In fact, what I have also noticed is that when I'm actively putting in some effort towards something, and/or living without attachment to a particular outcome, hope doesn't really enter into the equation. It's entrance into such a place would be just extra, like adding sugar to already naturally sweet enough apple juice.


Was Once said...

There is no hope, just an idea or dream.

Robyn said...

Here is a very provocative essay by Derrick Jensen, primarily about environmental action and hope (or lack thereof) but it could apply more generally.

Nathan said...

What a great essay! I love how fierce that guy gets - even when I don't agree with him, the energy and power of his writing is so attractive.

Robyn said...

Isn't it great? This dude ain't messing around!

He has an inspiring book about education/teaching as well - Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution. Like you say, even when you don't agree with him, you have to respect his passion.

Chris said...

There is a podcast from the SF zen center that features a dialogue between Br. David Steindl Rast (a Catholic monk) and the abbot Paul Haller. Br. David explores the virtue of hope. He does make a distinction between hopes and hope, hopes are that which we can imagine and are generated by our little ego. Hope is openness to surprise. Very intriguing talk which transformed many misconceptions I had about the Christian virtues of faith (trust in life not to be confused with belief), hope, and love (saying yes to limitless belonging). Anyway, another perspective on hope as distinct from hopes.

Mid City Zendo said...

What is that pod cast titled? Gives me goose bumps just thinking about hearing a dialogue between those two.

Also, so glad someone mentioned DJ here. My Zen teacher actually gave me that same essay after hearing a dharma talk on hope.

I also think there is a knee jerk reaction to words like "faith," "hope" and "ethics" when it comes to Buddhist practice. Reb Anderson uses the terms faith and ethics quite often, and quite often, I agree with his use of those words.

P.S Great blog here!, Nathan! I have so much catching up to do.

Nathan said...

"I also think there is a knee jerk reaction to words like "faith," "hope" and "ethics" when it comes to Buddhist practice. Reb Anderson uses the terms faith and ethics quite often, and quite often, I agree with his use of those words."

This is a good point. I write a lot about ethics, and I have also written about faith, both of which are pretty central in my Zen practice.

This little post about hope comes from watching it in my life for awhile now, and seeing how hope's various forms really don't seem to serve or support liberation. I could be wrong, but I have found that faith and deep trust are much more powerful, and beneficial.