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Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Hope and Hopelessness

A sangha sister of mine e-mailed the following to our "on-line sangha" this morning:

"A longtime friend of mine, of great compassion and keen intelligence, left a message on my answering machine saying she was feeling 'hopeless about the state of the world' and wondered if I might have a perspective that represented some hope."

She was e-mailing asking for any responses to this query she had recieved, and I offer the following response I sent to her as I am sure her friend is not alone in this feeling of hopelessness. Perhaps it will encourage you to try becoming more at ease with abiding in the wisdom of insecurity.

Dear Sister:
You asked, so let me offer some thoughts that have been incredibly liberating to me. I would first like to direct you to Thay's teaching (I think it is in Peace Is Every Step) on hopelessness as it is understood in the teachings of the Buddha.

Then, if you have access to Shambhala Sun, please read Margaret Wheatley's lovely essay, "Finding Hope in Hopelessness" that continues this teaching (March 2003 issue).

I have long made it a practice to let go of hope when I first realized how fear-based it is. Hope can also take us out of clear seeing. Yet, as Wheatley notes, she wondered, "If I have no belief that my vision can become real, where will I find the strength to persevere?" The question shows the seed of the answer. If you need assurances that the outcome will be secured before you take action, it is not selfless action (karma yoga) and thus egoic by definition!

She writes, "I've read about groundlessness -- especially in Buddhism -- and have experienced it quite a bit recently. I haven't liked it at all. But as my culture dies, could I give up seeking ground on which to stand?" She then quotes Vaclav Havel who, speaking of hope says, "It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out."

She rightly sees that this is the definition of "hopelessness" as taught by the Buddha! Hopelessness is "being liberated from results, giving up outcomes, doing what feels right rather than effective." This is why we demonstrate for peace even though it may indeed be "futile" if viewed merely from the perspective of results.

As the Buddha taught, hopelessness is not the opposite of hope. Fear is! Any time we hope for a certain outcome, then we also have fear -- fear of failing! Hopelessness is free of fear and thus, as I mentioned above, is exhilaratingly liberating! Again, as Wheatley writes, those who have understood this "describe the miraculous appearance of clarity and energy."

Thomas Merton wrote: "Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything."

How poignantly this echoes Krishna's teaching to Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita: "The wise let go of all results, whether good or bad, and is focused on the action alone," and "It is better to do your own duty (your dharma) badly, than to perfectly do another's." To truly act in this selfless way one must be free of hope!

Remember Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that our very notions of what we need to be happy can be the greatest obstacles to our happiness. Wheatley tells of how as she came to see this truth of "hopelessness" in her work, along with others, for the victims of Zimbabwe's dictator's atrocious "policies," when they together touched joy, not from the circumstances, but from the relationships formed. "As long as we're together, as long as we feel others supporting us, we persevere," she writes. She quotes a Zimbabwean who wrote in her darkest moment, "In my grief I saw myself being held, all of us holding one another in this incredible web of loving-kindness. Grief and love in the same place. I felt as if my heart would burst with holding it all."

We don't need specific outcomes in order to do our work. We need each other. This is why Sangha is not just an idea. It is a practice! Remember the Buddha corrected Ananda when Ananda told a young monk that community is half the spiritual life. "No, Ananda. Community is the whole of the spiritual life," said the Buddha.

Wheatley concludes, "As I abandon the pursuit of effectiveness and watch my anxiety fade, patience appears.... This is how I want to journey through this time of increasing uncertainty. Groundless, hopeless, insecure, patient, clear. And together."

May this be of some solace and aid to you, your friend and all who care to listen.

yours in hopelessness and love,
frank jude


.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 9:53 AM


Monday, February 10, 2003

Hope and Hopelessness

A sangha sister of mine e-mailed the following to our "on-line sangha" this morning:

"A longtime friend of mine, of great compassion and keen intelligence, left a message on my answering machine saying she was feeling 'hopeless about the state of the world' and wondered if I might have a perspective that represented some hope."

She was e-mailing asking for any responses to this query she had recieved, and I offer the following response I sent to her as I am sure her friend is not alone in this feeling of hopelessness. Perhaps it will encourage you to try becoming more at ease with abiding in the wisdom of insecurity.

Dear Sister:
You asked, so let me offer some thoughts that have been incredibly liberating to me. I would first like to direct you to Thay's teaching (I think it is in Peace Is Every Step) on hopelessness as it is understood in the teachings of the Buddha.

Then, if you have access to Shambhala Sun, please read Margaret Wheatley's lovely essay, "Finding Hope in Hopelessness" that continues this teaching.

I have long made it a practice to let go of hope when I first realized how fear-based it is. Hope can also take us out of clear seeing. Yet, as Wheatley notes, she wondered, "If I have no belief that my vision can become real, where will I find the strength to persevere?" The question shows the seed of the answer. If you need assurances that the outcome will be secured before you take action, it is not selfless action (karma yoga) and thus egoic by definition!

She writes, "I've read about groundlessness -- especially in Buddhism -- and have experienced it quite a bit recently. I haven't liked it at all. But as my culture dies, could I give up seeking ground on which to stand?" She then quotes Vaclav Havel who, speaking of hope says, "It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out."

She rightly sees that this is the definition of "hopelessness" as taught by the Buddha! Hopelessness is "being liberated from results, giving up outcomes, doing what feels right rather than effective." This is why we demonstrate for peace even though it may indeed be "futile" if viewed merely from the perspective of results.

As the Buddha taught, hopelessness is not the opposite of hope. Fear is! Any time we hope for a certain outcome, then we also have fear -- fear of failing! Hopelessness is free of fear and thus, as I mentioned above, is exhilaratingly liberating! Again, as Wheatley writes, those who have understood this "describe the miraculous appearance of clarity and energy."

Thomas Merton wrote: "Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything."

How poignantly this echoes Krishna's teaching to Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita: "The wise let go of all results, whether good or bad, and is focused on the action alone," and "It is better to do your own duty (your dharma) badly, than to perfectly do another's." To truly act in this selfless way one must be free of hope!

Remember Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that our very notions of what we need to be happy can be the greatest obstacles to our happiness. Wheatley tells of how as she came to see this truth of "hopelessness" in her work, along with others, for the victims of Zimbabwe's dictator's atrocious "policies," when they together touched joy, not from the circumstances, but from the relationships formed. "As long as we're together, as long as we feel others supporting us, we persevere," she writes. She quotes a Zimbabwean who wrote in her darkest moment, "In my grief I saw myself being held, all of us holding one another in this incredible web of loving-kindness. Grief and love in the same place. I felt as if my heart would burst with holding it all."

We don't need specific outcomes in order to do our work. We need each other. This is why Sangha is not just an idea. It is a practice! Remember the Buddha corrected Ananda when Ananda told a young monk that community is half the spiritual life. "No, Ananda. Community is the whole of the spiritual life," said the Buddha.

Wheatley concludes, "As I abandon the pursuit of effectiveness and watch my anxiety fade, patience appears.... This is how I want to journey through this time of increasing uncertainty. Groundless, hopeless, insecure, patient, clear. And together."

May this be of some solace and aid to you, your friend and all who care to listen.

yours in hopelessness and love,
frank jude

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 6:32 PM


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