I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations recently around expectation. I’m written on expectations before for a variety of reasons. Expectations can be a cause of suffering and a barrier to awakening. Yet they are also required for life and the fullness of enlightenment. The key, as with all things, is in our relationship with expectations rather than the expectations themselves.
As my friend put it: “it’s impossible to not have positive expectations. Otherwise why would people even go out on a second date?” Another friend had spouted the “Buddhist” teaching that desire has to end for enlightenment. (I don’t think that’s what Buddha meant)
In order to act and live in the world, there has to be an impetus or desire. In fact, the world itself exists because of desire. It has to be wanted. In order to want it, we have to know its value. Parents spend years teaching their children the value of one thing over another.
Put another way, to want it, we have to have positive expectations of its value. To have good expectations, we have to have knowledge. Thus, knowledge is necessary for expectations, expectations for desire, and desire for action. For best action, we want best knowledge.
This relates all the way from the desire for a cookie to the desire for full enlightenment. In fact, as Vasistha notes in the 7th Mandala of the Rk Veda, we have to want the fullness of enlightenment for it to unfold. So many teachers are suggesting that Self Realization is it. So it’s very important to understand it’s not – that’s the knowledge part. 😉
The trouble and suffering part come with identification. When we relate to those desires as MY desires. They are my desires and I want them, I expect them. Indeed, we live in a culture that fosters a sense of entitlement, telling us of all the material goods we deserve and offering us credit to get it before we’ve earned it. (Why you’re not rich)
In fact, it’s the basis of the recent financial meltdown. Some people knowingly selling toxic financial products because they feel entitled to make lots of money. And other people who feel entitled to buy things they can’t afford. We may just say greed, but what is the driver?
It all serves to illustrate writ large how suffering works. This is not to say we shouldn’t desire big. But it’s necessary to act to get results and act in a rightful manner.
What confuses us a little is that sometimes, things just land in our lap. Through no apparent effort, the least attention yields fulfillment. In the east, they teach us that this is actually an example of karma; our past action has now borne fruit. In the west, we say “What you sew, so shall you reap“. This is lesson we seem to have forgotten in the west.
Another term they have in the east is tapas or warming. The idea is that we perform actions toward a goal, warming up the possibilities for it to unfold. We cannot predict when or how it will gel. Mainly because the field of karma is inclusive of everything, making it unfathomable. But we can know that what goes around comes around. No effort is wasted.
So expect the best. But don’t be too attached to the form it shows up in. Sometimes, nature has an even better idea.