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Avoid Future Disappointment and Regret

I love watching television. I find it both entertaining and educational. Just the other day I was watching a commercial for gold-plated faux $50 coins and learned that by buying today I could “avoid disappointment and future regret.” Now that is something worth knowing!

Disappoint happens when I desire one outcome and receive another, less desirable outcome. Regret is when I engage in an action designed to bring me (or someone else) pleasure, and which ends up bringing me (or someone else) pain. I can eliminate both by purchasing a gold-plated faux $50 coin for about 10 bucks plus shipping and handling. It sounds like a good deal. But is it true?

The only way to test the truth of this commercial is to buy a coin and see if, from the moment it arrives, I avoid disappointment and regret. This would, by definition, take me the rest of my life, so buying this coin to test the truth of the advertisers’ claims is one long-term commitment I am not eager to make. Hence I cannot comment meaningfully on the claims.

What I can do, however, is think a bit more about disappointment and regret. Just a bit more—after all, this is only $10 worth of worry.

It seems to me that when it comes to disappointment, the Hsin Hsin Ming (On the Faith Mind) by the seventh century Chinese Ch’an master Chien-chih Seng-ts’an, offers the best advice: “If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions.” If you want to avoid disappointment, simply accept reality as it is.

Future regret is similar. Future regret is a karmic ripening that happens when your intent, while acting in this moment, doesn’t match the result of that action at a later moment. Karma yogis tell us that we should relinquish the results of our actions, doing what is right and good now, and knowing that we have no control over the outcome. But does that do away with regret?

It does if you hold to the notion of holding no opinions. If you have no opinions, no preferences, then whatever happens is simply reality and you deal with it without any extraneous emotions such as disappointment and regret.

The challenge is achieving the mindset of Chien-chih Seng-ts’an. The very desire to do so sets in motion the very things you desire to avoid, so you are screwed as soon as you begin. And because this is so, it will take you a lifetime filled with disappointment and regret to achieve your goal, if you achieve it at all.

So in the end it may be a lot easier just to buy the gold plated faux $50 coin. Which is why I watch so much television in the first place—you learn lots of stuff.

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. In the print version of our magazine, he has an advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addressing reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art. Rabbi Rami hosts our podcast, “Essential Conversations.”

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