We can have our cake and eat it too

Apr 15, 2024

 

QUESTION

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.

 

K

 

ANSWER

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!

 

The key is to understand attachment and how it functions to cause suffering. The problem isn’t all the marvelous things in the world, it’s our attachment to them. When there’s huge attachment, no matter how glorious the art or music, we will only suffer.

 

When we live our life driven by compassion and wisdom, not attachment, we can have our cake and eat it too!

 

These words are easy to say, but to get to this level takes a lot of thinking and meditating. 

 

The methods are all there.

 

Much love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Venerable,

 

Thank you so much, I understand. 

 

All of my prayers for your health and happiness!

 

K

 

ANSWER

Good!

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