Wise Hope vs Ordinary Hope


Hope.  It is a powerful word yet troubling for Buddhists.  We feel we need a glimmer of  positive possibility but the flip side is fear of an outcome we do not want.

Once I learned about the cycle of hope and fear, I started to hesitate before I said or wrote that I hoped something good would happen.  I still use the word, but I think about it each time as if it is wrong.  In Shambhala:  The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote:

In order to overcome fear, it is also necessary to overcome hope.  When you hope for something in your life, if it doesn’t happen, you are disappointed or upset.  If it does happen, you are elated and excited.  You are constantly riding a roller coaster up and down. ” (p. 167)

An article in Lion’s Roar “Yes, We Can Have Hope” by Zen abbot Joan Halifax, on Jan 20, 2021, speaks to the idea that we can have “wise hope”.

After being troubled by the notion of hope, Joan Halifax sees a new shade to hope after reading Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit (2016).  As opposed to “ordinary hope”,

Wise hope is not seeing things unrealistically but rather seeing things as they are, including the truth of suffering—both its existence and our capacity to transform it. It’s when we realize we don’t know what will happen that this kind of hope comes alive; in that spaciousness of uncertainty is the very space we need to act.”

With so many serious troubles every single year, including a pandemic that has fundamentally changed how we relate to one another, we may view all change negatively and feel overwhelmed as if we are not able to make any impact.

But if we can remember impermanence, that the situation will change into another form, we can be cheerful and hope in a wise way.  Then we can “show up”, and do something which, however small, may make a difference in the long run.



Shambhala Vision



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