OTHER THOUGHTS

The Trouble with Hope

  When I first became attracted to Buddhism, I wanted to know what the earliest texts could tell me 'about' the subject. After all, these texts were written closer to the time of the perfectly enlightened teacher than any others, and might most faithfully reflect what he actually said. I was directed to the Sutta-nipâta, the Group of Discourses. Textual analysis has shown that here are to be found, among slightly later texts, some of the oldest writings preserved. Surprise. These texts are poetry with powerful metaphors and a rhythm that even comes across a little in English if the text is recited, as it was meant to be. I found these poems very terse and condensed, not 'about' Buddhism in the way I had hoped. Much later it dawned on me that these lines were Buddhism, just as poetry is first of all just itself.

In a short poem titled Before the Dissolution (SN V.10) a disciple, on a first-name basis with the Buddha in those days, asks

'Having what vision and what virtuous conduct is one called "calmed"? Tell me this, Gotama, when you are asked about the supreme man.'

The Buddha answers with a list of statements having to do with non-attachment in various contexts. To keep with the question of hope I quote just this.

'Having no attachment to the future, he does not grieve over the past.'

  We all know that the Buddha taught that grasping (or attachment, or craving) is the root of all mental suffering. However, when one starts to apply this law, things get pretty radical. Many early accounts show that the teaching was seen as radical as well by contemporary Brahmins, the best educated people of the day.

  It is a commonplace that ours is a future-oriented culture. The belief is that we need hope, and its first cousin faith, to save us from despair, to give us "something to live for", to motivate us to strive harder. Hope may do all these things, but at a price most people do not consider.

  The trouble with hope comes with grasping. Thoughts and plans for the future do not cause suffering in themselves; it is holding tightly that inevitably does. It is natural that hope will arise. The task is to learn how not to take it too seriously. Hope leads to the construction of scenarios. These consist of yearning, facts, fears, beliefs which may or may not turn out to be correct, and often fantasy as well. We take the future hostage and discount all the things that do not fit our requirements.

  It almost goes without saying that the spectrum of grasping hope stretches from some of mankind's most sublime expressions to the downright stupid.

"He loves me, but he doesn't know it"
  Barbara Streisand

"You've got to have a dream,
if you don't have a dream,
how' you going to have a dream come true?"
  Junita Hall, South Pacific

"Come you sweet hour of death
As my soul
On honey dines
From the lion's mouth;
Makes my parting sweet,
Regret not
The last light
That I may kiss my Savior."
  Cantata BWV 161. Salomo Frank.

"We're gonna' get 'em (pause) because they're out there. It's just a matter of time."
  G.W. Bush

  There is anxiety and the need to frequently renew hope or faith. While insisting on something we cannot base in fact, we become defensive, angry, or worried when someone challenges our view. Questioning hope can be terribly painful. It is not unheard of to annihilate the opposition.

  He who does not cling to hope is not going to fall into despair. He has lost nothing. Anyone who must have hope in order to have something to live for is in deep trouble. Life needs no justification. Great effort can be expended because of a conviction that the aim is good, not knowing the outcome for sure. Once you experience letting hope just be, no longer your possession, you will experience great relief and a release of energy.

  A Zen master used to tell his students, "JUST DON'T KNOW!".

  A brief word about becoming free of the past. In this post-Freudian age we tend to assume that memories contain unacknowledged, or repressed emotions. This is certainly the case on occasion, but may not be as common as is usually believed. Through meditation you may find that the memories, however triggered, are not attached to buried emotions. The emotions are a current reaction to the past. Look closely.

  FAXES (1994)
Why is it that that offspring,
now grown adults,
regress to being children
when you do something
nice for them ?
Gregory wanted a fax machine.
Wouldn't it be neat for Grandma
to receive Lauren's drawings?
I sent him one and waited for him to call
I didn't hear "I love it, Mom"
instead I heard, "It needs another line, Mom"
Have you read the directions?
Well, no, I haven't had the time.

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I now see how the astrological and consulting work I do
touches those around me. I can be (and have been) a channel for healing,
and for the Light to touch others. I say this not out of pride, but out of
awe for the Divine.

I believe that one of the goals of the Great Work is to build a bridge to
one's Higher and Perfected Self - the part that rests with the Divine. If
I was to turn away now - to close that part down for someone else's will, I
would be turning away from Light and into Darkness.

Maybe that's what the rule is for others --not for our own sake, but for the
sake of the people who come into our lives. We are all just lessons for each
other, and our purpose for being is not in and of ourselves, but we're here
to be in each other's lives. Simply put, perhaps sympathy is the Law for you
to live by because people are attracted to you because of your compassionate
nature.

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Mid-life Reflections - 1987
Is it possible that mid-life is concentrated upon for the soul purpose of learning from varied positive and negative experiences of early life? sitting on them
  squeezing them
  rolling them into a ball
  analyzing and reanalyzing
  thinking and rethinking
only to discover that the very crisis so dreaded is an opportunity to take stock
to plan for the ending of a life
  A time for reflection and hope
  A time to see myself as I might truly become
  An event of simple magnitude,
  the advantage of chafing the good from the past
  combing it with present knowledge and experience
  and planning for the inner personhood of tomorrow
I am that I am
The answer lying in
that act of acceptance,
perceiving myself
as I want to be
with the tolerance of grace
Discarding those things
that cannot be changed
Concentrating on that simplicity
of being and doing
To know that elimination
is more important to the central core
of my existance
than that of addition

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