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Hope and buddhism

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

Something I realised the other day was that hope is in fact a form of desire, you’re wishing for something imperfect from the past to become more perfect in the future. Now desire is one of the three poisons, and this is held not to be a good thing.

Should one then let go of one’s hopes for the future? It feels somewhat scary to live without projecting some achievable good things to aim for. It feels like letting go of a pattern that created some degree of certainty in life.

But on the other hand, hope is something that drags your attention away from the present. It encourages you to spend your time dreaming, rather than living in the here-and-now. It obscures your clarity of vision.

What are your thoughts on how beneficial hope is?

SnakeskinVastmindherberto

Comments

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    At the risk of repeating....

    I once asked my teacher -- Kyudo Nakagawa -- what role hope and belief played in Zen practice. He said, "For the first four or five years [of practice] hope and belief are necessary." "And after that?" I asked. "After that, hope and belief are not so necessary."

    Initially, hope and belief light the fuse of practice. But experience trumps daydreaming, so after a bit of practice, the usefulness of daydreaming diminishes.

    SnakeskinFoibleFullherbertolobster
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    Hope is faith without conviction. Whether it is helpful or a hindrance may well depend on the focus and the intent.

    Not all desire can be bad. What about the desire to get up from the bodhi tree and spread the dharma?

    SnakeskinBunks
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited April 10

    @David -- "Spreading the dharma" has always left me a bit flummoxed: How would anyone go about spreading what they couldn't escape in the first place?

    PS. Reminds me a bit of that Zen scoundrel Ummon who was said to have observed, "When you can't say it, it's there. When you don't say it, it's missing."

    Snakeskinlobster
  • I think @genkaku has it. I would add that hope is replaced by intention. Intention gives us more freedom and is flexible, whereas hope is more clingy and continues the cycle. I guess at a certain point words are just place holders and you would know if what you're doing (hoping v intending) is having a negative impact.

    lobsterSnakeskinkarasti
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    I think different things could be meant by hope. It could be a passing feeling that is not any kind of problem in and of itself. Or it could be a standard of how you want things to be and later you might say "I didn't get what I had hoped for". And in that direction it could be something to contemplate. Say "what do I hope for?" and "why do I hope for that?" and "is it a wise thing to hope for?"

    Snakeskinkarasti
  • Where there's physical or mental pain, I think hope is an expression of goodwill and compassion. As @David noted, it can be a skillful desire, depending on its object, worldly or spiritual. Absent desire and hope, there's really no impetus toward spiritual development and persistence in it.

    As @genkaku pointed out, hope becomes increasingly superfluous with spiritual development. I think you make a good point that "hope is something that drags your attention away from the present." It's an indicator. When there's hope, there's not contentment or renunciation.

    As John Lennon put it, "God Hope is a concept by which we measure our pain."

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited April 10

    I don't like or use the word hope ...as it's another word for wish....and as the old saying goes...'If wishes were horses, poor men would ride'.

    On the other hand....using the concept/word hope seems to keep a lot of people motivated and getting up in the morning when life sucks....almost a catalyst for positive thinking, which I'm all in favor of, so.... overall, I would agree that it doesn't fit in A Buddhist school of thought, per se.

  • NMADDPNMADDP SUN Diego, California Veteran

    From many Buddhist Masters' teachings, it is something like this.
    You do not attach to the past or the future. You live here and now. However, you do "plan" for the future.

    So I guess
    Hope for the future = attach to the future.

    A Mi Tuo Fo

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    'Hope' is despair disguised as an optimistic virtue.

    VastmindpersonKeromekarasti
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited April 10

    @genkaku said:
    @David -- "Spreading the dharma" has always left me a bit flummoxed: How would anyone go about spreading what they couldn't escape in the first place?

    Buddha could not escape his own teachings?

    Is flummoxidation catchy?

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Something I realised the other day was that hope is in fact a form of desire, you’re wishing for something imperfect from the past to become more perfect in the future. Now desire is one of the three poisons, and this is held not to be a good thing.

    Should one then let go of one’s hopes for the future? It feels somewhat scary to live without projecting some achievable good things to aim for. It feels like letting go of a pattern that created some degree of certainty in life.

    But on the other hand, hope is something that drags your attention away from the present. It encourages you to spend your time dreaming, rather than living in the here-and-now. It obscures your clarity of vision.

    What are your thoughts on how beneficial hope is?

    Hope is certainly more beneficial than doom and gloom. For instance, I have faith that each and every one of us has the ability to wake up to the fact of interconnectivity and all it implies. I can only hope that we will though. This hope still allows me to see positivity and seeing positivity, I can help others be more positive just as being negative only projects negativity.

    Hopeful people are probably happier than doom and gloomers.

    lobsterSnakeskinJeffrey
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Should one then let go of one’s hopes for the future?

    If one wants to live in the present then yes....
    Open the present now...don't try to save it for the future ...The future (& the past) are often used to wrap up/disguise/cover the present...

    The wrapping is not the present....

    Every moment (by moment) @Kerome one is building the future and dismantling the past... and this building work can only happen in the present moment...

    Living 'in' Hope from what I gather is just wishful thinking ... But living 'the' Hope is the present :)

    Well something like that....Thus have I heard :)

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Having no hope is not hopeless for the advanced Nowist (which I hope is taken to mean someone in the present) Where does any intention arise? It arises from past experience to instigate future action.
    Live or Be The Hope is a useful way to be. Hope that makes sense ... ;)

    Shoshin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @David said:
    Hope is certainly more beneficial than doom and gloom. For instance, I have faith that each and every one of us has the ability to wake up to the fact of interconnectivity and all it implies. I can only hope that we will though. This hope still allows me to see positivity and seeing positivity, I can help others be more positive just as being negative only projects negativity.

    Hopeful people are probably happier than doom and gloomers.

    I understand, but it seems now to me that striving for positivity also leads you to fill your life with things to be positive about, which takes one away from clarity and the present. In a way the journey of Buddhism becomes at a certain stage clearing out all the things that attract (desires) and all the things that repel (fear & avoidance).

    To what extent do these hopeful people live in dreams? Is doom and gloom necessarily the opposite of being hopeful? It seems to me it is not. Doom and gloom too are dreams displaced into the future, but then shadows of fear. It seems more rational to just clear the stage for the present, let the dreams dissipate, and see what is left as a middle road. It looks more like emptiness than anything else.

    lobsterFosdickShoshin
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited April 11

    @Kerome said:

    @David said:
    Hope is certainly more beneficial than doom and gloom. For instance, I have faith that each and every one of us has the ability to wake up to the fact of interconnectivity and all it implies. I can only hope that we will though. This hope still allows me to see positivity and seeing positivity, I can help others be more positive just as being negative only projects negativity.

    Hopeful people are probably happier than doom and gloomers.

    I understand, but it seems now to me that striving for positivity also leads you to fill your life with things to be positive about, which takes one away from clarity and the present. In a way the journey of Buddhism becomes at a certain stage clearing out all the things that attract (desires) and all the things that repel (fear & avoidance).

    Striving for positivity is a well meaning fool's errand. It's like the pursuit of happiness. When we finally see how we can train the mind thereby changing our thinking pattern, being positive is a choice. There need not be a specific focus or reason.

    However, finding reasons to be positive can only be beneficial. Not only to all involved but it can only happen in the present so I'm not sure what you mean by it taking us away from the present. Perhaps by using positivity like a means to an end when in fact it is the end and the means.

    I think there is a positive beyond he duality of positive and negative.

    To what extent do these hopeful people live in dreams? Is doom and gloom necessarily the opposite of being hopeful? It seems to me it is not. Doom and gloom too are dreams displaced into the future, but then shadows of fear. It seems more rational to just clear the stage for the present, let the dreams dissipate, and see what is left as a middle road. It looks more like emptiness than anything else.

    Lol. Not to piss you off but it seems you found the positive approach after all.

    At any rate, I'm sort of playing the devils advocate here as I've never been a big fan of hope. I do know that some people count on it to help them through their day though. And when we help somebody out, we condone it.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Initially, hope and belief light the fuse of practice. But experience trumps daydreaming, so after a bit of practice, the usefulness of daydreaming diminishes.

    Indeed.

    I think there is a positive beyond the duality of positive and negative.

    This beyond positive is 'right action', right being, effective being, Buddha Nurturing etc. However we like to label or understand the rightly guided ones, Boddhisatvas and above ...

    @Vastmind describes it as 'a catalyst'. Do we wish to improve the situation? Hopefully yes. Can practice improve the situation for ourselves and others? Of course.

    My hope is for more enlightened ones, then they can tell me where to park my fish ... 🤪

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    Should one then let go of one’s hopes for the future?

    It depends entirely on the intentions for the hope. For example, "I hope I become wealthy."

    Yes, let go of that.

    "I hope all beings will be free from suffering"

    No, don't let go of that.

    lobsterperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @seeker242 said:

    Should one then let go of one’s hopes for the future?

    It depends entirely on the intentions for the hope. For example, "I hope I become wealthy."
    Yes, let go of that.

    "I hope all beings will be free from suffering"
    No, don't let go of that.

    I find this interesting. I don’t think there can be any exclusions. One may say, “I wish all beings will be free from suffering”, which is almost the same thing, but it is momentary, it is something you express in the here-and-now. However if you carry within you the hope for all beings to be free from suffering, you still open the door to a form of desire. In a way this bothers me about bodhicitta as well, in the Mahayana tradition.

    Either greed/desire is one of the unwholesome roots, or it is not. Is it possible to desire something, to want something to happen, without falling into the trap of greed or craving? Where does one draw the line?

  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Veteran
    edited April 11

    “And how does a monk remain focused on the mind in & of itself? There is the case where a monk, when the mind has passion, discerns that the mind has passion. When the mind is without passion, he discerns that the mind is without passion. When the mind has aversion, he discerns that the mind has aversion. When the mind is without aversion, he discerns that the mind is without aversion. When the mind has delusion, he discerns that the mind has delusion. When the mind is without delusion, he discerns that the mind is without delusion.” 1

    There are unwholesome and wholesome roots. The unwholesome roots here are translated as passion, aversion and delusion, with the wholesome as non-passion, non-aversion and non-delusion. Action rooted in the former is dark kamma with dark result; in the latter, bright kamma with bright result. 2

    In @seeker242’s examples, hope can be unskillfully rooted in passion, as in desire for wealth, or skillfully rooted in non-aversion, as in desire for the welfare of all living beings. These can be dark or bright or both and each, as you've pointed out, are rooted in some form of desire, wholesome or unwholesome.

    It sounds to me what you’re driving at is the fourth of type of kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result and leads to the ending of kamma. 1 It is rooted, I think, in the ostensibly paradoxical desire for renunciation. It isn't really a paradox because renunciation is it's neither dark nor bright result. I think that type of kamma in relation to the examples is this: one discerns a mind affected by passion, including unskillful hope, or one discerns a mind affected by non-aversion, including skillful hope.

    "In this way he remains focused internally on the mind in & of itself, or externally on the mind in & of itself, or both internally & externally on the mind in & of itself. Or he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the mind, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the mind, or on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to the mind. Or his mindfulness that 'There is a mind' is maintained to the extent of knowledge & remembrance. And he remains independent, unsustained by (not clinging to) anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on the mind in & of itself.” 1

    CromeYellowperson
  • Hope is arising. How is it shaping your practice here and now? Is it a cause for an extrapolating mind, are you lost in a daydream in a future world wherein all beings are free? Has hope now turned to despair? Can't a hopeful thought turn to a disparaged one?

    Why say hope is positive? Why is it better, don't we find enlightenment everywhere, even from the negative?

    Is this a dilemma in your practice? Cause if it is I'd say hope has become a negative idea for you in some ways. Otherwise its just a mindfuck for some readers in which case...

    Hope is arising. So what?

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited April 11

    According to the second chapter of the Jewel Ornament of Liberation three mental qualities and two physical are needed to practice dharma to completion.

    The mental are trust, longing, and clarity. The physical are leisure and endowment. The text further explains these five through the chapter.

    But basically where chapter 1 says that we all have the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas chapter 2 says what additional qualities we need in our life to study Buddhism.

    So if by hope what is meant is trust, longing, and clarity then indeed hope is a good quality. But hope could mean something else. Thus it depends what is meant by hope.

    lobsterSnakeskin
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    To me it comes down to the attachment. I don't think hope or desire are all bad. But our attachment to them and their outcomes is generally not good. I think it can be hard to find the line, but you can feel it if you pay attention. For us to truly move forward in life, we need to envision what it looks like to be in the future somewhere. But envisioning should be expansive and open, always changing and adjusting. I think hope is pretty much the same. A lot of people use hope and faith as excuses not to participate in action. The same people will often say that hope is the opposite of fear and that that are staving off fear by being hopeful. But most often, they are living in their fear and just turning it around, which I don't think is particularly helpful. Not that there are no benefits to positive thinking, but avoiding the negative tends to be the theme there.

    I am more like @Vastmind where to me, hope is like a wish. A desire for things to be other than they are. Some vague idea that there is something we wish were different but we don't really delve into it or know what to do about it. So we have hope that it'll change. I use the word a lot, but it's more a careless use of a word rather than a feeling or a true connection to it. I don't "hope" for much, truly. If something is worth hoping for, then it's worth working on.

    Jeffrey
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited April 12

    The Buddha taught that there's constructive, "virtuous" hope/desire/goal-setting, that helps lead us toward Liberation, and non-constructive desire, that contributes to the cycle of samsara. Seeking to improve oneself, to adhere to the precepts, practice compassion, and develop insight and wisdom, are all worthy goals, that not only help us leave samsara ourselves, they foster a sort of ripple effect, in which our own more Enlightened understanding and behavior help improve the world around us, to some degree alleviating the suffering of other sentient beings.

    What's not to like? ;)

    lobsterJeffreypersonSnakeskin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    ... some very helpful explanations. Many thanks. <3 ... in particular it is worth remembering how in Tantra, emotional states, desires and inclinations are used as transforming principles. In future with sufficient insight, transformed egoic states can be redeployed.

    So for example desire for further suffering/dukkha is replaced with wholesome desires ... polishing routine/practices enable a more profound opening or relaxing into Buddha Nature ...

    Ideally the innate Mind, exhibits a more enlightened quality of being ...

    Desire to be a Bodhisattva? ... now that's a hopeful plan ... 🧘🏼‍♀️

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited April 12

    I will add to my post above because it could easily be mistaken. "Leisure" (see my post) is not free time from work and family etc. rather in the text it means freedom from eight specific negative conditions: hell being, hungry ghost, animal realm, long life god, barbarian, wrong views, no Buddha appeared in world, mute.

    It is an old text though so I think it would require reflection. But the point that lead me to post is that "leisure" conventionally would be mistaken to mean "Oh gosh I never have any free time". That's a separate issue. The first three (animal, hell, hungry ghost) refer to being so overpowered by anger, mental anguish, or ignorance that the dharma cannot be practiced. An animal might not care about creating virtue that could connect to the dharma. House pets might be an exception! Long life Gods first off might not have any conceptual thought so thus are not reflecting on the teachings. Also our suffering pacifies egotism and makes us sympathetic to other beings who are also suffering and it makes us long to be free from samsara. So that's the deal with the God realms. Barbarians have trouble meeting spiritual beings. The specific problematic wrong views are views that you don't care about other beings and you don't care about amassing virtue or being free from negative things. Mute refers to more than cannot talk. In the text I think it means you don't have senses and all around mental qualities to hear and reflect on the dharma. That speech is mentioned is especially of concern to me because I don't know many people offline that I could talk to about spirituality so of any of those eight afflictions that I have I wonder if it would benefit me to be more connected and have experiences talking about the dharma.

    But I posted this because I didn't want it mistaken that 'leisure' means you have no responsibilities that take some time rather it means freedom from affliction of eight things that can make it hard (impossible?) to study the dharma and meet spiritual beings. And if ones work and family responsibilities resemble being an animal or hell being or a barbarian then I am a bit worried!

    Snakeskin
  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    Hello Everyone
    My name is Tsultrim which means discipline
    in Tibetan. I hope I can be of benefit on this forum. As one can see I will first have to tame the technology.
    As for hope in the dharma, at the stage of enlightenment one transcends hope and fear. Up to that point it can be a distraction as well as a benefit. I have found it useful even lifesaving with some problems , but also a strong source of mental cycling that has kept me from here and now.
    My best to all of you on the path. I hope we can progress (or see through the wish to do so) together. Tsultrim

    Jeffrey
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    Hi Tsultrim and welcome. By mental cycling do you mean thoughts that are distracting and just take up your time? I have that in meditation of course where I realize I am thinking about something and I note that and then it happens again and again and each time I might glance how much time left in the meditation. For me that cycling through thoughts takes up quite a bit of time each meditation. I would think that being concerned or hopeful or fearful with something would lead one to get caught up and lead to the cycling.

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Jeffrey said:
    Hi Tsultrim and welcome. By mental cycling do you mean thoughts that are distracting and just take up your time? I have that in meditation of course where I realize I am thinking about something and I note that and then it happens again and again and each time I might glance how much time left in the meditation. For me that cycling through thoughts takes up quite a bit of time each meditation. I would think that being concerned or hopeful or fearful with something would lead one to get caught up and lead to the cycling.

    Hi Jeffrey
    Yes to all you said. Samsara means cycle actually, so we may think of our discursive thinking as samsara although it usually applies to suffering cycling through lifetimes. Yes, we spend a lot of time doing it, and it takes us away from realizing who we are or aren't. When we are stressed the cycling worsens and we can spin down the rabbit hole if not careful
    Everybody has their own kind of meditation, but if I may suggest, label your string of thoughts as thinking as you come back to the present. It's helpful. It will provide leverage for you to recognize you've been rambling and help you not start over again. Say thinking gently just as a little reminder (not out loud). Don't get In a war with your mind over the thinking btw. Mind has boundless energy when riled as we all know from being fried by it.
    It's great you practice. Nice to hear from you.

    Jeffrey
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Kerome

    My understanding of hope's involvement in Buddhism AKA Dharma Practice....

    Originally I had hoped (with all my heart) that Dharma practice would lead to a better understanding of life , but as time went by, (and as understanding developed), I found this hopefulness was becoming increasingly hope less ...

    Thus have I found Dharma practice to be.... hope less :)

    I hope this makes sense :)

    Or in a nutshell...

    "Hope is (so it would seem) the opium of emotions"

    The Stoics were/are really on to something :)

    lobster
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