"Regret", even the possibility of it, and the noble psyche!


The case for seclusion, renunciation, and withdrawal, is not only made on circumstantial grounds, or those of monastic social organisation and coexistence; there are further purely psychological concerns:

Wisdom and gnosis, at least in Buddhism, are not all or nothing, have it all or have none phenomena. The wisdom that you have today maybe still lacking, and the lack may become transcended tomorrow. We know this because it is something that we observe in our experience, all of us, even in mundane settings. A person whose wisdom never develops, is never wise!

Thus, a position that you take today with a wisdom that you have developed today, may become something that you regret with a wisdom that you will develop further in the future. The same applies to those who, today, trust in you and act upon your wise Dhamma advices, but regret having done so at some point in the future when they will have outgrown their faith in you. This is actually the grounds for the offence of promoting abortion in the vinaya; the origin-story shows a woman abusing the monk (and denouncing the whole tri-ratana while she’s at it) upon whose advice she made an abortion that she later regreted.

Both the Dhamma experts and the followers of them can, and should, outgrow their yet unperfected wisdom. Wisdom is not an ultimate state, it is a process of development. Understanding this, a heart that is exercising its effort in the ennobling path should not promote any kind of position over any kind of issue that may be regretted in the future; especially if that position is one that will have impact on others rather than on strictly one’s own self. For there is no anavajja-sukha without freedom from regret; there can be no bliss and joy in the renunciate life while regret is hovering upon it, even if just as a mere possibility. The freedom from the morbid effect of that mere possibility of regret is worth infinitely more than whatever temporal mundane situation one could get right, for a while, before it dies out into change and oblivion.

To DEATH, is where all mundane things are headed.


What about your own unperfected wisdom? What puts you in a position to decide whose wisdom is perfect, whose wisdom is imperfect, and who stands on various points between those extremes?

If I made a post like this, I would reflect on whay makes me so confident in my own wisdom.

If this is a mundane post, should we wish death upon it, as in accordance with the metric of the OP?


Hello @Dhammarakkhita,

I would consider this possibly under a different angle / light.

Without yesterday incomplete wisdom there would not be today newer wisdom - so why regret it?

Or, another way to say this: the incomplete wisdom of the past may have been the supporting condition for more refined wisdom to arise today.

So again, why regret?


Salut friend Sukha (Je me souviens de vous!)

Of course, you are right; both wisdom and the emancipation which is comprised in it are cumulative and amount to fullness by consequent degrees. An earlier wisdom is not to be regretted, but only celebrated! What the renunciate or devout practitioner will regret is not the imperfect wisdom itself, but rather having in the past promoted or employed it as if it was perfect, and especially when such employment of it led to a certain transformation of some circumstantial or mundane reality, or conditioned or guided the judgement and behaviour of others, and so on (all of which is precisely the very purpose of sociopolitical participation). It is really just like harming others with good intentions (which happens all the time). At a later point in time and further stage of wisdom, one will have to live with the dint of guilt which such past folly creates in the noble conscience. So the problem is not with the imperfect wisdom itself, but in how and why, exactly, should a sincere Buddhist practitioner use it in ways which impact the social or physical environment in any way.

I say it may perhaps be a sound principle, at least for sincere and purposeful Buddhist practitioners, that whatever extent of wisdom has been accomplished, is not to be used in ways or over matters which could give rise to future regret either in oneself or in others. The “could” of course makes the margin of interpretation infinite, and you may argue that regret may always arise later. But an intelligent person will learn, if not conceptually then by experience, that advices given over mundane matters are much “more likely” to result in regret or dissatisfaction than those given over spiritual, psychological or transcendental matters. In other words, you can help someone else recognise, for example, that they are thirsty, and that the solution is to drink. But if their thirst is for the mundane, you don’t go further by telling them “what to drink”! You do that only if their thirst is for the spiritual, and so on. You see what I mean. The line clearly draws itself for you right there, and it is easily definable precisely by the self-evident and glaring distinction between the mundane and the transcendental (which has gone seriously blurred in contemporary eyes; alas!).

Another safety valve sort of method, is to promote a self-reviewing form of wisdom; just like the Buddha did: “This worked for me! Here’s how I did it! There you go; and make sure that it is working for you too!” Here, you are not really promoting a “truism”, moral or psychological or otherwise; you are promoting an “experiencial wisdom”, a possibility that, if didn’t work out for the other, they will not blame you for it. This is so much unlike promoting “positions” based on some ultimate moral standards (the like of which there is none in Dhamma as far as I can tell).

In as much as you are growing in Dhamma you are merely sharing your experience; you are sharing even the information that your wisdom is imperfect and that you may, always, be wrong. You don’t want to see any correct or wise outcome or result manifesting in the world, you are just sharing your experience, and letting the other know that it is their responsibility to take that experience from you and examine and test it. That is good enough. And believe me, if it worked out for them; they will never ever forget what great service you had done to them. But get a new “Buddhist” public policy or law pass today (because you think Buddhism is good for the world and will improve it), and it will be forgotten tomorrow, or worse, cursed and despised!


Thanks for this reply @Dhammarakkhita,

I will just add that the precepts are of great help for us living in this imperfect world (where we will create causes to experience regrets :wink: ).

We are (almost all) still deluded, and we don’t know if we’ll ever let go enough for perfect wisdom to shine through, but knowing that our decisions are based on sound ethical values is of great refuge (pun intended).

For that I bow to the buddha; the dhamma, and the sangha (almost) everyday.


Regret over follies done by an ego that I no longer identify with; that I can bear easily. But regret over acts done in the name of wisdom, and what wisdom; the Buddha’s wisdom; that I cannot easily bear. Better for me, then, to engage in the world like an animal than like a saint! But better still is to not engage at all.

:point_up_2: la poésie! :notes: