It has often occurred to me that the followers of Abrahamic religions, especially our Christian sisters and brothers, make much ado about the idea of hope, seemingly to good effect. As a good Buddhist, I have known for some time that hope is yet another forum of tanha, craving, and have necessarily viewed it with suspicion. And yet, given my own somewhat morose character, for much of my adolescence and early adulthood I was a card carrying nihilistic materialist so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I yet possess the same perceptual proclivities. As a result, it has long seemed to me that hope or something like it would be a great counter balance to the darkness that otherwise clouds my perception. And, I believe I may have found something that actually does better than foolish optimism and it has been staring me in the face for as long as I have known about Buddhism in this life.
Now, to give a philosophically satisfying account of hope and its Buddhist alternative would require a lengthy definition of terms so let me just get that out of the way at once: this will not be a philosophically satisfying blog post. What is ultimately satisfying, to yours truly, is the fact that every situation, every happiness and every pain is workable and presents us with the possibility of learning and growth in the Dhamma. This lion’s roar of the upasika/aka is the counter balance to the samvega and may be more aptly described by the Pali term passadha (have to check my spelling there since I’m worrying this on my phone on the R train). The fact that we can learn and, even find release, in any situation may just be the reason why a number of Buddhist teachers have come out against over-drugging during palliative care regimens and euthanasia (in addition to the fact that the layer clearly is in breach of the First Precept). Whatever the reason, I know for me that I can take heart that every situation, no matter how dire can be used for my own ultimate happiness and wellbeing. Sukhita hontu!