I (along with what seemed like about everyone else on Earth) was watching the US Presidential inauguration on Tuesday and Twittering about it at the same time. I was being a bit negative, or perhaps overly realistic, when I asked something along the lines of, “Are we expecting too much? Can he actually DO all this? Can ANYONE?” during the new President’s inaugural speech. As always on Twitter, someone called me on that statement, asking “What does Buddha say about expectations?” Touche.
All right then, what is the Buddhist perspective on expectations?
We’ve looked at being “in the present” a few times here already. Buddhists are supposed to live in the present moment, but it would be unrealistic not to have expectations and plans about the future. The real problem, as you can probably guess, comes from being overly involved with those expectations. Think about the greatest disappointments or the greatest sadness you have ever personally had to face in your life. I think, at least in my own experience, that broken expectations and disappointment in things that I had built-up in my own mind have been the worst.
If it comes right down to it, you can exchange the word “expectation” to “attachment” in most cases. If you do this, you can already see where I’m heading. As Buddhists, we already know that being overly attached to anything is bad, and being attached to expectations may be the worst of all. Being Buddhists, we need to try to look at things as they really are by stripping away the illusions imposed by our minds. Take things as they come, good or bad. Prepare for the future, but make every effort not to be too attached to the outcome.
It sounds so easy sometimes, doesn’t it?