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From The Serpent's Pass:

Aang: I don't know. The monks used to say that hope was just a distraction, so maybe we do need to abandon it.

Katara: What are you talking about?

Aang: Hope is not going to get us into Ba Sing Se and it's not going to help find Appa. We need to focus on what we're doing right now and that's getting across this path.

I've never understood this. Why exactly were the Air Nomads against the concept of hope? How would hope distract them? Wouldn't hope for a specific goal help them achieve that goal?

Additionally, Aang seems pretty hopeful for most of the series. The Air Nomads also seemed to have hope for lots of things. For example, they hoped that Aang would help deal with the Fire Nation's aggression.

Later Aang abandons this ideal and it's never brought up again.

Aang: [Sheds some tears.] I've been going through a really hard time lately. But you've made me ... hopeful again.

Are there any in-universe or out-of-universe explanations for this aspect of Air Nomad culture?

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    There's a lot of discussion amongst Buddhists about whether hope is a positive or negative idea. Seems like they're just following the idea of the negative connotation.
    – phantom42
    Apr 28, 2016 at 3:44
  • Just my interpretation, but I think it's similar to Jedi in the original trilogy: the Air Nomads view focusing on the past or future to be a distraction from focusing on the moment, which is the only time over which you have true control. Simply "hoping" for something won't make it come to be.
    – Liesmith
    Apr 28, 2016 at 7:45

2 Answers 2

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The Air Nomad beliefs and culture are based on real world Buddhism. You can see this multiple times. The Air Nomads dress and act like Shaolin monks, and the Avatar's reincarnation into the Air Nomads is selected in the same way the Dali Lama is selected in Tibetan Buddhism where the possible incarnation selects from childhood toys and cherished objects of previous incarnations.

The goal of Buddhism is for practitioners to attain Nirvana, which is a state of peace. In order to do that, one must realize that all suffering is caused by earthly attachments, so Buddhism is all about trying to understand and accept that all things are temporary and one should not become attached to them. In this context, feelings of "hope" are based on some desire and material attachment to the world. This is the context in which Aang is quoting the Air Nomad teachings.

The Avatar is bound to the world, to help maintain balance, while the Air Nomads sought to become detached. Throughout the series, Aang struggles with the Air Nomad teachings and his own feelings and duties as the Avatar. For example, Guru Pathik tried to teach Aang about how to detach himself in order to unlock chakras and attain control of the Avatar state. In the last episodes Aang consults with the spirits of past Avatars and one chides him that he cannot allow his personal Air Nomad beliefs get in the way of his duties as the Avatar.

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The nomads did believe in hope like the nomads in our world but they all believe that hope should not come with laziness and that you shouldn’t just hope without a way to fulfill your hope because if don’t have a way of fulfilling it then it becomes a distraction so they teach there children to not believe in hope so they won’t be driven by it and by time they teach them how to use it properly and Ang didn’t get to that age

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    Hi, welcome to the site. Though what you say here may be correct, could you edit this answer to cite some supporting evidence, such as any relevant quotes? Answers that are backed up by evidence carry a lot more weight than ones that aren't. Feb 25, 2022 at 17:04

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