We all have to face the truth: samsara is a mess. Everyone who is a practitioner has to face this unpalatable truth and the consequences of it. We live in samsara and samsara is a mess.

I have found that wherever I go in the world Buddhists say “I want to know how to practise in everyday life”, as though that was going to be comparatively easy and the practice of sitting meditation difficult. It is as though there is some kind of trick about practising in everyday life, and that all you need to do is learn it! But if you could truly practise in everyday life you would be Buddha! Everyday life practice is more difficult than sitting meditation, it is actually the most difficult thing there is. That is why you need to practise in meditation sessions, working with a situation which is somewhat contained, gradually developing some awareness that you can begin to apply in everyday life.

Some meditators believe that there is a bundle of tricks that can be pulled out and used in everyday life. They say, “How can I handle my hatred?” Well, let me know when you find out because I would like to know too. It is difficult. Of course, in all difficult situations there are things you can do, but the Dharma isn’t a bundle of tricks and techniques that you can just pull out of a hat like a conjurer’s rabbit. It is important to realise that this is the world of frustration, this is the sahaloka, the world of patient endurance. It is a mess, it is horrible, there is no answer to it. It’s not a puzzle you can solve or even a puzzle to be solved. You can’t live in this world and ask “What is the answer to it all?”, thinking there is some kind of solution that will produce world happiness or personal happiness. There isn’t one. You know, if you are happy in this life you are incredibly lucky; that is all you can say. The most we can hope for is that we might be happy in stretches, now and again.

Living in samsara, the ocean of conditioned existence, is a mess. Hopefully you will develop the insight to pass across that ocean, but the process of passing across it doesn’t mean letting go of it or abandoning it. It means that you have to see the nature of samsara. So you do have to work in it, yes, but you don’t work in it thinking, “Oh I can be cosy in it, I just have to find the trick that will pull it off”. You will not be able to be cosy in it. The insight you develop is going to turn it inside out, and it is going to turn you inside out. The insight process is painful, very painful. So I suppose you have to ask whether that is what you really want.

When you develop your insight far enough, but haven’t reached the point of having completely woken up, it is still some way off – unfortunately you can’t go to sleep again either, so you just become more and more irritated. You know what it is like when you are half-asleep; when you haven’t woken up properly and you can’t actually fall asleep, you feel tremendously irritable. The Dharma is like that. You just have to wake up completely, so that finally you might be in the bracing fresh air at the top of the mountain of spaciousness, and realise it is better out there than it is in your fug. But it is a painful transition all the same.

Scroll to Top