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A Hope of Two Kinds

Updated: Oct 27, 2018

At its core, hope is the desire for happiness. This desire is basic for all beings. We want to be happy. Going out from there, we seek various external pleasures, or wish for different circumstances, because we believe this will make us happy. If I get a new job, I will be happy. If I find the right relationship, I will be happy. If my favorite candidate gets elected, I will be happy. Yet, if I attain one of these, I might be happy for a while, but then I find that I want something else, something more. It’s never quite enough. This dynamic leads us astray. We look for happiness in the wrong place: in the temporary, external world. Hope is important and necessary, but we must point our hopes in the right direction, and be clear about what we actually want. So, let’s keep it simple: May I hope for happiness. May this happiness arise from deep inside, from a wellspring that never dries up.

A few years ago, the Indian mystic Sri M walked the whole length of India with a group of devotees. This journey was called “Walk of Hope.”[1] On the surface, this group walked to rekindle the harmony and common spirit of a people: that, despite differences in creed, class, caste, and race, humanity is ultimately one. It was a long, arduous journey, involving many hardships for the participants. While their outward journey could easily be traced on a map, the more significant journey was within. We can certainly hope for a better world, for everyone to be well fed and healthy, for violence to cease. These are important ambitions, but if we try to tackle these problems in the usual ways, through politics, foundations, and campaigns, we will very likely end up near the same place. The problem is that we seek solutions outside of ourselves, hoping that external circumstances will miraculously change. We may even try to change the circumstances, but in the process, we create more problems. Instead, if we each redirect our hope inward, like an arrow, toward our innate happiness, we might realize that we don’t actually need very much from the world. If we each did this, following our inward journeys to the core, I think many of the problems of the world would simply dry up, and our efforts to make meaningful change would be much more effective.

Maybe it would be useful to think of hope in two ways: 1) Hope with a capital “H,” and 2) the more common, self-centered hopes with a small “h.” When we feel a longing or desire, let us ask ourselves: What am I looking for, and where can I find it? Maybe I want to be rich, or maybe I want to know God. At the core, all desires can be reduced to the same thing: we want to be happy. I may pray to God to grace me with all kinds of gifts, material or spiritual. Like a child sitting on Santa’s lap, I will beg: “please, please, please…” If I hope for little things, I may get exactly what I deserve: perhaps a winning lottery ticket that may bring a little joy, but for only as long as the bank account is full. We are all waiting for our time. We don’t know when it will arrive: death. If we are going to hope, why don’t we fix our desire on the infinite wellspring, at the very core of our being? Let us go for broke, surrendering our desire for all petty, temporary things. Let us dare to merge with the essential peace, bliss and happiness within our very center, no matter what else is going on in the world around us.

[1]Sri M, Walk of Hope, walkofhope.in.

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