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 ten 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 future regret. This would, by definition, take me the rest of my life, so buying this coin to test its truth claims is one long-term commitment I am not eager to make. Hence I cannot comment meaningfully on its truth claim.
What I can do, however, is think a bit more about disappointment and regret. Just a bit more—after all, this is only ten dollars 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 latter 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.