How to reject samsara but not reject enthusiasm for life

A student writes:

I feel a gap or a sense being stuck between trying to see the delusion – Samsara – for what it is, and trying to maintain or cultivate enthusiasm for life.

Lama Shenpen responds:

I hope that as you work through the Discovering the Heart of Buddhism course and the Living the Awakened Heart Training you will gradually find a way of working with this.  The point is that we are already in touch with our non-deluded nature – it is the source of our being – including our deluded way of being – which is just a distorted or covered over version of our true being.

Our body, speech, mind, heart, environment and all our connections with others are a mandala of openness, clarity and sensitivity and that is why we know in our hearts that life matters, other beings matter, happiness, love, compassion, beauty and enjoyment all matter deeply.

So letting go of delusion is about cultivating enthusiasm for life – for heart connections, love and delight. It is delusion that cuts us off from that and that is why it is important to see samsara as delusion. Samsara isn’t our life – it’s actually what kills life.  When samsara is said to be ‘the world’, it doesn’t mean life – it means the world of suffering, birth, death, pain and distress – we give up the ‘world’ in that sense – not in the sense of giving up on life itself!


I do find myself a bit more stable in my daily life but at the same time there is a subtle sense of detachment for things that are very important to me…

Lama Shenpen:

You need to keep coming back to look more carefully at what you mean by detachment – is it cutting off connection with life or is it letting go of delusion and attachments that are just the cause of suffering?

In the Definitive Vinaya Sutra, Utpali is told by the Buddha that it is all right to be a bit too attached to others through love and compassion, because it’s very hard to be completely free of attachment. It is better at first to err on the side of being a bit too attached than on the side of being too cut off and aloof from life.


…It makes feel a bit lost and worried that I could compromise by role as a father, husband, provider etc. Is this common?

Lama Shenpen:

Meeting your responsibilities as a father, husband and provider are your Dharma practice of shila (often translated as morality or discipline). It actually means keeping your word and delivering on your responsibilities and commitments.

Your personal mandala is supported by those close to you and you support them – that is your first responsibility – included in that is taking care of yourself so that you have the energy and capacity to meet those responsibilities for the sake of others.  If that is all working well then the boundaries of your mandala can extend out more and more until ultimately they reach all beings – in the meantime you keep all beings in your heart with the wish one day to be able to benefit them all excluding none. 

You are training yourself to do all that from love without attachment.  Love brings happiness, attachment brings suffering – that is why life is a constant play between happiness and suffering – it is not life that brings suffering – it is attachment to wrong views that lead to attachment that bring suffering. So you see, your question is a very important one for all of us.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

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