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Lions Roar : September 2014
Abandon Hope What! Don’t we want to be hopeful? Don’t we want to hope that tomorrow will be better than today? That our spiritual endeavors will pay off? That our anger will transform? In a word, no, we don’t. If you investigate hope, you’ll see how counterproductive it can be. To hope usually means to reject the experience of this moment, and, therefore, hope can be a kind of cowardice. Rather than face what’s going on right now, we focus our attention on later, when things will hope- fully be much more pleasant than they are at the moment. In the case of anger, maybe we have some hope that, inter- nally, the anger will somehow dissolve or that, externally, the person we are angry at will see the error of his or her ways and finally apologize and make amends. Or maybe we are hoping that if we do our Buddhist practice, everything will some- how turn out all right. But wishing won’t make anger go away, so such hope is actually an obstacle. The truth is, anger is very hard to over- come, and the job of seeing through it takes a lot longer than you think. Even when you believe you are finally finished with anger, subsequent events will prove that you’re not. Hope can breed laziness and even impatience. Yet patience, which requires an active courage, is what you need the most. So, internally, you really do need to have the commitment to go on working with your anger. You even need to take some delight in this work, because if you view anger as an entirely negative thing that a nice per- son like you shouldn’t be feeling, and you’re hoping that your spiritual practice will swiftly purify it from your heart, then the shock and disappointment you’ll feel when this turns out not to be the case will be a major impediment. Working on your anger in the hope that this good work will somehow cause the other person to be different will also likely not pan out. Of course it does sometimes happen that when we soften, the other person does too. On the other hand, it’s very probable that this other person has a life larger than simply their interactions with us, and that the causes of this person’s anger are deeper and more extensive than our interactions with him or her. So we have to abandon hope and simply be willing to go on working with our anger, with- out expectation that others will become nicer to us if we do so. In fact, our efforts will probably pay off—but only when we stop hoping they will! Don’t Poison Yourself Poison in this case means self-centeredness. Although this is changing, it’s taken as a virtue in our culture to look out exclu- sively for yourself and compete against the many others who are vying with you for a place in the sun. Of course each of us does have to be responsible for ourselves and not expect others to take care of us. But, at the same time, it’s clear that excessive self-concern is counterproductive. It leads to paranoia, greed, and negative personal and social consequences. The antidote to this poison is a wise concern for others that will balance self-concern. This balance is not a mathemati- SOURCEPHOTO:jOHANNAGOODYEAR/ISTOCK.COMSOURCEPHOTOS:AURINKOANDCHRISHOWEY/DREAMSTIME.COM 56 shambhala sun