Be in the world but not of the world

Aug 8, 2022


Dear Venerable Robina,

Thank you for reading my message and I hope you are keeping very well. I am struggling with the teaching from Lama Zopa entitled “Samsara is not a pleasure park.”

I understand what he means and I do understand the different types of suffering, and agree that in its nature, samsara is suffering, for every being still stuck within it.

But I am struggling because I still want to experience it! The incredible richness of the human experience, all the amazing achievements in music, art, architecture, and beautiful customs of the different people of the world are fascinatingly attractive to me, and I want to go into the world and experience them.

To me this feels important because human life is so precious, and while I am alive and healthy, I can experience these wonders of the world. This seems to be at odds with many teachings which seem to say that my time would be better spent on a meditation cushion in practice or in retreat.

In several situations I have even chosen not to continue with important practices because I knew that I did not have the ability to remain dedicated in the long term. Yet, in my core, I do know that practice is so important too.

Can you help me reconcile these two seemingly opposing ideas? Thank you, with many prayers for your health, long life, and happiness.



Happy to hear from you, K!

Your points are perfect!

As you well know, there are different levels of teachings for different levels of mind.

The first level, entry level, junior school, if you like, is Buddha’s teachings on the four noble truths: there is suffering, there are causes, there is the possibility to cease suffering and its causes, and then the methods of how to do it.

We need that first!

Then we can go to the more advanced teachings of the bodhisattva path where now, having clearly understood suffering, we can learn to be in the world but not tainted by it.

That’s what you want, so go for it!

But the ability to live life fully, enjoy all the amazing art and music and pleasures, is totally dependent upon our ability to understand and apply the teachings of the first level: that is to say, to enjoy them without attachment. What takes the place of attachment is compassion and wisdom. That’s what brings joy!

Of course, easy to say but insanely difficult to do! Why? Because attachment, which is the source of all the problems – the endless suffering, the ups and downs, the bad things happening, the anger, depression, harming others; all the nightmare of daily life that we can see – is primordially deep in our minds and extremely hard therefore to get rid of. So don’t hold your breath!

And because the levels of compassion that we’re capable of, having given up attachment, are hard to imagine.

It’s when you’re a bodhisattva and have given up attachment and have realized there’s no essence to it whatsoever that you can totally enjoy the world; that’s the irony.

The methods are all there.

Much love,


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