Potential Causes Our Greatest Disappointments

Potential Causes Our Greatest Disappointments February 8, 2016

It’s interesting to notice that if we had no expectations for the future then we would never be disappointed.

I wonder if enlightened people living purely in the present moment experience bliss in part because there is nothing for them to feel disappointment over. I also wonder if it even makes sense for that to be a goal.

It seems rather inhuman to not place expectation and hope in the future. For example I think death of a loved one wouldn’t be upsetting if we weren’t thinking about everything they are missing out on in their future and what we would be missing out on in sharing that future with them. Miscarriage wouldn’t be upsetting if it wasn’t taking away our expectation of what this child’s future life was going to be and what our future life was going to be with him or her.

On the positive side, if we didn’t have expectations for our children’s futures then if they were born with a severe disability it wouldn’t be devastating to parents because we wouldn’t be planning out what their future looked like and they could create their own future.

But I can’t imagine life without the delicious feeling of anticipation of something good coming in our future.

Perhaps, as with most things, there is a balance to be found. We can enjoy our hope for the future while also being aware that things may not go as planned and one can learn to go with the flow rather than being devastated when things don’t go as we expect.


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  • Ambā

    You would have to ask your Swāmīji about that. I’m not qualified to post a view one way or another about this, but do remember that disappointment, anticipation, joy, sadness, etc. is an expression of the mind. Ātmā Bodha, a text about the Self, shows that you are not the world, not the body, not the mind, nor even the knowledge, experiences, memory, etc., nor even the sacchidānanda (ānandamayakoṣa), but the Self that uses the mind to navigate this world that you are in. It is a tool, like a car you drive to get where you’re going. Sure, the mind, being a part of the material world, is going to react the way it does to stimuli around it based upon experiences and even epigenetics, but you can work to gain more control over the mind through Self-Knowledge and learn to separate the ātmā from the mind. Upon reaching that, you realize that you are a witness to events around you, and a witness to what happens to your body. Nothing happens to you, only your body. You are unchanging, but your body is not.

    Praṇāma…

    • Ambaa

      Great points. I need to remember to step back and observe the experiences rather than identifying with them.

  • Throwaway

    I guess what is really the issue is what you mean by “something good coming in our future”. If that “something good” is spiritual then we will never be disappointed. However, if it is anything else then disappointment is guaranteed at some stage. This world is a world of duality and opposites. Happiness has no meaning without sadness. Expectation has no meaning without disappointment. All great teachers say that to be absorbed in this duality is not a recipe for success.

    You spoke about even-mindedness, and even-mindedness is the goal of discrimination. However, sages say that once it is reached, neither happiness or sadness would be able to affect one’s mind, which would mean that one would not even want to “enjoy expectation”. From all that I have read (and from some of what I have experienced) it seems that this detachment comes naturally from being even-minded, so I think it only doesn’t make sense for as long as we don’t reach it ourselves.

    • Ambaa

      Yeah, I guess I feel torn because I enjoy that feeling of anticipation even knowing that it’s setting myself up for disappointment and it’s not the “right” way to have a balanced mind!

      • Throwaway

        Sathya Sai Baba says that sadness is our greatest friend, because it is sadness far more than happiness that leads us to understand detachment.

        • Ambaa

          So true! I remember being in a very dark place in my life about seven years ago and I said to my mom, “I think I understand what the Buddhists mean about suffering.”

    • Neocommunist

      I agree with you completely,spiritual world and materialistic world are two different worlds,so when we pray to satisfy materialistic desires,we are bound for disappointment.God does not interfere in materialistic world.

      In fact,pleasure is always accompanied by pain and that is why sages said we should detach ourselves from desires.As Lord Krishna said that a steadfast(in his devotion) person feels no pain,no joy,no sorrow,no spring no autumn.