The PM’s announcement that the ending of lock-down on the 21st June was going to be postponed for four weeks brought up, I am sure, an emotional reaction in many of us. Quite a few members of the Ipswich Sangha had been working very hard to get the Centre ready for opening on Monday the 21st June. It seemed like all our collective efforts mental and physical had this one date in mind and now those efforts were wasted. But of course that is not the case. Our efforts will bear fruit, but just a few weeks later. The Centre will fully re-open on the 19th July, following the Government’s advice.
Often we fantasise about the future, making plans, sometimes very grand plans, that will never come to pass, that maybe even have no hope of being realised. We continually create a vision of the future that serves our purpose. That confirms that I am in control of this world and that I have a dominant part in it. As those plans are very much tied up with our sense of self, when they fail we can get very upset and strong reactive emotions can surface.
This fantasised future, in Buddhism, is called papañca, for which a simple definition could be mental proliferation, the spreading out of our ideas.
So instead of just experiencing the current time and activity, we try to experience this fantasized version. It’s a bit like my car’s SatNav. For quite a while it won’t accept that I have deviated from the route it had planned for me, it tells me to ‘turn around when possible’.
It can feel like a strong emotion of grief. We have lost something precious to us. We have lost our rosy and accepted version of the future, and we must face up to the hard reality that the world has now revealed to us, and we have no choice but to accept.
This vision we create of the future is a view that tries to fly-in-the-face of conditioned co-production, or as we might say Prattitya-samutpada.
So, instinctively, we know that it is doomed to failure. We hope our dreams will all come true, whilst knowing full well that they won’t. Even with this nagging doubt in the back of our minds that it won’t all happen as WE would like, WE can get very upset when it all fails. Sometimes it is that failure of our plans that helps to create our sense of self, then we can define ourselves as a ‘failure’. At least WE are something definite, or so we would like to believe.
So, just to make it clear, this papañca is a negative quality, something we should work on, something to avoid, something not to grasp. We naturally plan; a human quality that enables us to get things done. So we need to hang loose to our precious plans, our vision of the future. Because the future will come, whether we have planned it in meticulous detail or not. We can influence the future, but it will be as it will be.