No Expectations

Disappointment, frustration, anger; these are a few of the emotions we feel when people and events do not meet our expectations. Our ego driven outlook on the world makes us think that everything should turn out according to our desires. Buddhism teaches that this type of outlook is a result of our ignorance. Only when we overcome our ignorance will we be able to overcome our suffering.

One of the first steps in overcoming our ignorance is to realize the idea of karma. A common misconception is that there is “good karma” and “bad karma.” Karma is neither good nor bad. Karma is simply the effect on life today of everything that has gone before. Karma is universal, it is not limited to any one person or event. Because of this universal nature of karma, we can never know all aspects of any issue. However, we continue to base our expectations on our limited viewpoint. This, too often, leads to our suffering.

Another cause of suffering is the belief that we know what is right for others. We expect others to believe as we do. Morally, socially, economically, if only others would accept our truth they would be saved. When they resist or fail to respond to our self proclaimed help we experience negative emotions. Again, we are the cause of our suffering.

A third cause of suffering is the perceived insults we receive from others. We expect others to treat us with courtesy and respect, yet we are sometimes criticized and demeaned. As a result we become hurt or angry and often lash out with anger or insults of our own. In his book The Center Within, Rev. Gyomay Kubose expresses a Buddhist approach to insults. He says, “Abuse and criticism are not bad in themselves. You can profit by them if you learn from them by taking a serious look into yourself. If the criticism is true, accept it as fertilizer for growth. If the criticism is false, then it has nothing to do with you.”

Shakyamuni Buddha taught that we must look at ourselves rather than judge the actions of others. During the six years between when he left the castle and his attaining enlightenment he tried various practices. However, having mastered these practices he did not overcome the cause of his suffering. Abandoning these practices, he vowed to sit beneath the pippal tree until he either discovered the cause of his suffering or he died. On the seventh day, as the sun rose, he realized the cause of his suffering lay within. The world is perfect as it is. Failure to fulfill his expectations was a cause of his suffering.

A life of no expectations is not a life without hopes or dreams. It is a life of striving to attain these goals while constantly remaining aware that for all we think we know there is far more that we don’t.

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