No matter what’s going on in our lives and in the world, the situation is never hopeless, says Abbey abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron.

In the video below, responding to a student’s question about maintaining hope, Ven. Chodron exhorts us to carry on with courage. “When you throw in the towel and give up,” she says, “that is my definition of cowardice. No matter what you’re facing, to say ‘It’s too much, I can’t handle it’ and give up—that is betraying our own Buddha nature. And it betrays our Dharma wisdom.”

The Question 

A Dharma student wrote the following question, seeking Ven. Chodron’s advice: “I am a social worker and therapist,” he wrote. “I have worked with the Peace Corp in Africa with AIDS orphans and volunteered with refugees, victims of war and torture. I currently work with U.S. Marines who have experienced the trauma of war over and over. I tell you this because, in all my experience, in spite of the horrid levels of suffering I’ve witnessed, I’ve never felt hopeless.”

Recent events, however, have challenged this student and his clients. “I am experiencing a pall of darkness and resignation that seems to be hovering over my therapy work and my practice,” he said. “The marginalized, the oppressed, the voiceless and the victims, the elderly and the young, the powerless and yes, even our powerful Marines are lamenting their rage and fear, sadness and worry, and confusion about the humanity of those running our government.”

“How do the ones who have always offered hope continue to do so during what appears to be a very dark and difficult — but hopefully not hopeless — road ahead in this country and perhaps in the world”

The Reply

Watch Ven. Chodron’s full reply in the video above. Here’s how she begins:

“First of all,” she asks, “are we expecting a perfect world? If we are, banish that idea. We have to realize we are in samsara. Samsara in never going to be perfect. So we’ve got to get used to that fact and accept that fact.”

“However,” she continues, “accepting that fact does not mean we become hopeless, because in addition to samsara, there’s liberation from samsara. Throughout the centuries, many people have attained that liberation and have attained full awakening. Why did the Buddha appear here? Not so people could feel hopeless and discouraged but so people could be active and work for their own benefit and work for the benefit of others.”

Her advice for maintaining hope continues. May this video inspire you to strengthen your own hope, deepen your practice, and work continually for the benefit of others as you create the causes for full awakening.