Buddhist teachers say things like

Do not expect anything from anyone,

and also:

Do everything with good heart and expect nothing in return and you will never be disappointed.

Such a wonderful lines to get peace and never get disappointed. But as a human, it becomes very tough for us to follow this. Can someone throw light on this please? How we can remove the greedy nature?

When we do a lot for someone, we at least expect basic thing in return. It is hard to accept disagreements or carelessness in return from whom where you have done/thought a lot for him in past.


When you expect something, it's because it seems to you that you know that something is supposed to happen that way. For example you know that if you help someone they should be nice to you. It seems like you know for sure this is how it works, and based on this knowledge you set your expectation. But this knowledge may be wrong. Maybe the person has different goals, or he has some other problems that keep him distracted. Because of being distracted he doesn't notice that he is not being nice. If your knowledge is incomplete then your expectations can be wrong. So before you expect something you should say to yourself: "my knowledge about this may be wrong. Maybe it will happen this way and maybe it won't". If you think like this, your expectation will remain flexible. And when it doesn't go the way you wanted, you can adjust quickly.

In general every one of us only sees part of the picture. The other person sees a different part. Based on the part that you see each of you create your expectations, your actions, and your judgements. Then these expectations, actions, and judgments clash against each other. It's not your fault or his fault, it is the nature of the world, each person only sees one small part and acts based on that.

But what you can do when you know this principle, you can talk to each other and combine your parts, get them together and create one common picture, then you will be on the same page and there will be no conflict of mismatched expectations anymore.

The second problem is greedy nature, like you said. Sometimes when we are helping someone we begin to imagine the nice things we will get in return. As we keep thinking about these nice things, our mind gets excited. It wants to get something nice and it gets used to that imaginary future in which it already has those nice things. Again the problem is, the mind imagines something (in this case getting nice things in the future) and then it gets attached to that idea.

In general, the mind creates all kinds of pictures based on some information, but these pictures are only guesses. What you should learn is to never confuse these pictures as actual reality. Mind-made models are only models, and reality is reality.

If you are always aware that everything in your mind is a model, and that troubles and suffering arises when this model is wrong (and it is often wrong because it is simplified or partial) - then you can keep your mind open for new information, and when something different happens that is not in your model, you can re-adjust and get in sync with reality quickly without getting upset or angry.

If you learn to stay open (keep all your models open without conclusively completing them based on guesses) and learn to adjust your model within several milliseconds of receiving new information, then you will never be out of sync with reality - and never in trouble.

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In short,
helping others is about your own karma;
how others react is about their own karma.

For example,
if you feed a hungry dog in the street, it may shake its tail and appreciate you.
But, it is possible that it barks or even bites you after eating your food.

You feed it and it accepts. That's enough. Then, forget what you've just done.

You feed it and it refuses. You've already done your own work. Same here, forget what you've just done.

Your work is to improve your own karma only.

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  • Simple and effective!! Thanks – Deepak Jul 27 at 9:03
  • 1
    You're welcome. – 6techjart6 Jul 28 at 13:45

There are several things going on in your nice question, & can also be so when people suggest such things: more than one concept may be being addressed.

The thing about 'dont expect anything from anyone' etc may sound a bit stark/harsh if taken out from context, which it sometimes is. Expectations of others may involve some amount of evaluation, which is reasonable, but it may also be about having preconceptions about activities or behaviours etc of others, and hence having a less than completely open mind about things, people, environment, many things: which although maybe very pleasant and nice, if done attachedly could perhaps be a small fetter in some way etc. So that may be what such a statement might sometimes be having to do with, rather than being an admonition to cynicism etc.

And yes that is true in a worldly existence where there is uncertainty and difficulty. But by trying to follow The Noble Eightfold Path, Beings may gradually more see Reality, and become less fettered, gradually clingingness dissipating, and gradually realising that there isNo greedynature, and that illusions such as greed etc simply are no longer mistaken for reality!

Receiving poor treatment or observing it being received by others isn't good. And being notnice is dismeritorious. Such things arenot easy. some things are very difficult. But try be kindly, and to notlose hope, and try do the best one can! Sort of like the Anecdote of the Scorpion and the Monk!, but hopefully more painless.

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The following may be helpful, from the essay "Giving in the Pali Canon" by Lily de Silva. Although it's about donations, the same principle applies to non-material donations like helping or teaching, based on Iti 100.

The meaning of "adorning the mind" can be found in this answer. It simply means "making the mind virtuous".

The Motivation for Giving

The suttas record various motives for exercising generosity. The Anguttara Nikaya (A.iv,236) enumerates the following eight motives:

  1. Asajja danam deti: one gives with annoyance, or as a way of offending the recipient, or with the idea of insulting him.
  2. Bhaya danam deti: fear also can motivate a person to make an offering.
  3. Adasi me ti danam deti: one gives in return for a favor done to oneself in the past.
  4. Dassati me ti danam deti: one also may give with the hope of getting a similar favor for oneself in the future.
  5. Sadhu danan ti danam deti: one gives because giving is considered good.
  6. Aham pacami, ime ne pacanti, na arahami pacanto apacantanam adatun ti danam deti: "I cook, they do not cook. It is not proper for me who cooks not to give to those who do not cook." Some give urged by such altruistic motives.
  7. Imam me danam dadato kalyano kittisaddo abbhuggacchati ti danam deti: some give alms to gain a good reputation.
  8. Cittalankara-cittaparikkarattham danam deti: still others give alms to adorn and beautify the mind.

Favoritism (chanda), ill will (dosa) and delusion (moha) are also listed as motives for giving. Sometimes alms are given for the sake of maintaining a long-standing family tradition. Desire to be reborn in heaven after death is another dominant motive. Giving pleases some and they give with the idea of winning a happy frame of mind (A.iv, 236).

But it is maintained in the suttas (A.iv,62) that alms should be given without any expectations (na sapekho danam deti). Nor should alms be given with attachment to the recipient. If one gives with the idea of accumulating things for later use, that is an inferior act of giving. If one gives with the hope of enjoying the result thereof after death, that is also an inferior act of giving. The only valid motive for giving should be the motive of adorning the mind, to rid the mind of the ugliness of greed and selfishness.

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