Why a lot of Emotional Investment behind Hope is not Wise

The wise one lives without hope.

He has no attachment to his children, wife or anyone.

Pleasure means nothing to him.

His life is glorious.

(Ashtavakra Gita)

Consider the idea behind Hope. A lot of weight is given to hope in the western world and now on a global basis. It is said that people with chronic pain, mental illnesses, cancer and such health issues get cured faster with better hope. In the post colonial age, a lot of economies have grown and established themselves with the power of hope. Then, why is the Ashtavakra Gita saying “The wise lives without hope”?


(Image Credit: Steve Snodgrass)

How to view hope

To view hope rather naively can be compared to watching a game on TV. The supporters of both teams invest hope heavily on their respective teams. So if a team wins, it shows that hope of one side was better than hope of the other side. There is a flaw in that argument. Or consider for instance the expectation of a super speciality mental hospital with capacity for 1000 patients. With the intellectual, financial and personnel investment behind such a venture, the hospital officials are not hoping that there should not be depressed and dejected people in society. Their very existence is based on people being sick. So, two people may hope very earnestly for their individual goals – which may be against each other in many respects. How are results viewed in such cases?

It is quite necessary to derive the right intelligence behind hope. A lot of people do talk about “emotional investment” behind some result – be it personal or professional ideas. With a lot of mental weightage behind these ideas, there are often cases of losing peace and happiness over the outcome behind these results. This is not a wise thing to do. Consider a student who is very passionate to study at Harvard. She/he prepares so much that at one point, a decision is made that no other university will do. In this day and age, it is not uncommon to see such ambitions result in depression and rage resulting from failure. So, “hope” creates difficulties here. On the other hand, a love for the subject and learning would have created a positive outcome for that student in today’s world of options. That would be wisdom.

Purpose and Pleasure

We are passionate about purpose these days. A parent, spouse, sibling or teacher cannot decide the life purpose of another person. It is dependent on samskara or tendencies of that individual from experiences of life. Consciously or otherwise, people act according to their life purposes. It is a matter of luck and effort that they identify the purpose and tune life towards it. So, a wise man is not bothered about attaching too much importance to thoughts and decisions of people around him. Sensual pleasure or ideological pleasure is not very important for the wise. This is a very evolved level of freedom that is quite rare in the modern world. Though free to act and move about in this material world, we see that a good majority of people are not happy. What can cause this happiness? It is the ultimate sense of freedom that really results in this level of happiness.

The Ashtavakra Gita is a beautiful poem that talks about this sense of Freedom from the viewpoint of Vedanta. A lot of wisdom from India is reflected in this poetry. There will be a lot of articles in this website from the Ashtavakra Gita in the future.

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