Samsara is Not a Pleasure Park

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal,1992 (Archive #944)

A teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the 25th Kopan Course in 1992. This is an edited excerpt from Lecture 13, Section Four of the course. Click here to read more of the unedited lecture.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Mende, Nepal, 1978. Photo: Ueli Minder.

The pleasure that these aggregates experience depends on external objects, but in reality our feelings are only in the nature of suffering. When we meet the sense objects, we label this as pleasure, but in reality it is not pure happiness or real pleasure.

We see samsara as a pleasant park. For example, when poor people—who either work very hard or don’t have a home and a job—look at rich people, they think it is pleasant. They see the cars, TVs, swimming pools, and companies, factories and businesses of the rich and from the outside the poor people don’t see any suffering. They feel attracted to the lives of the rich people who have many material objects, friends and people surrounding them. The wealthy people have power and reputation, and the poor people find a lot of attraction, because from the outside it seems there’s no problem or suffering, and the rich people seem to have a happy and successful life. However, the reality is not like that. Materially they may be successful, but they don’t have success in regards to happiness and freedom from problems. The reality is completely different and they have so much suffering.

Even in India, many wealthy people have a lot of problems at home. They look very nice when they go to parties or go out, when we don’t talk to them—when we just see them and say a few words, “Hello” and this and that. We don’t see their problems, but if we talk a little bit more, then we see more and more suffering. The more we talk to them and become closer to them, and the more we spend time with them, the more and more suffering we can see in their lives. Many of them are like this outside, but inside the home there are huge problems. The wife externally looks rich, with expensive cars and many things, but in reality her mind is living in great sorrow, with a husband who is a complete alcoholic. In the mind of the husband there’s also a lot of worry and fear, and there are so many problems, such as losing power and reputation. There is so much concern and expectation, and so much fear and worry about losing wealth and becoming poor. These people worry that they will go down and become weaker or poorer than other wealthy people, the competition. There is so much worry and fear, and there are so many problems in their mind and in their lives.

To suppress this and to get some rest from all these worries and fears, they start taking drugs or drinking alcohol. When they drink alcohol, they don’t feel these problems and they suppress the problems. The problems are there, but the power of alcohol affects the body and the mind, which is possessed by the effects of the alcohol, and they become insensitive to the problems. However, then they beat their wives, so their wives live in great fear all the time and they have no freedom at all. They have great fear of being beaten and killed by their husbands. So, like that, there are so many problems and no happiness in their lives. From the outside they look successful, as if there are no problems, but if we meet them and they express their own mind and tell us about their lives, then we see only suffering. Like this, we look at samsara as a pleasant park.

Also, I read an article in a magazine about a man who is regarded as the most successful in the world. The article described his success in material terms—his business, how many companies he has, how much money he has made and so forth. However, the article also described his personal life as a complete disaster, filled with problems—he couldn’t manage anything.

The wealthy and powerful people—the leaders of the country and the people who have many businesses or companies and so forth, the people who have power and reputation—have so much suffering and so many problems. This is basically because of not practicing Dharma and living the life with anger, jealousy, the dissatisfied mind of attachment and so forth. Living the life with these attitudes creates a lot of discrimination and many unnecessary problems.

When there is disharmony and many other people don’t like us and criticize us, besides experiencing the problems of past lives and our past karma, we live our life with the attitudes of jealousy, anger, attachment and so forth. The methods that come out of these attitudes are wrong and they always create problems. We want happiness and success, but because our attitude is ignorance, anger, attachment, jealousy, pride and so forth, the method that comes out of this is always something that harms ourselves and others. So, this is the nature of work that is done with a negative attitude.

As well as experiencing the result of past negative karma, there are additional problems in our life, such as separating from desirable objects, meeting undesirable objects, not finding satisfaction, all these things. When we can’t handle it, the thought to commit suicide comes, and we even find attraction to a bird. We think, “Oh the bird has no responsibility, it flies around, so free.” So, we feel happiness seeing the bird and again, we look at samsara as a pleasant park. We don’t realize how others’ lives have so much suffering and because of our own problems, we see others’ lives as pleasant and happy.

We look at beggars just seeking their own food—they don’t have all this responsibility and worry about their families or reputation, power, competition and all these things. We see the happy life that beggars have and we think they are free from problems. Again there’s a hallucination, a projection that sees samsara as a pleasant park, but those beggars, the poor people, also have their own sufferings and problems.

As long as we are in samsara, wherever we look and whatever different lifestyle we have—even if we live in the city, it is suffering; even if we live in the countryside, it’s suffering; even if we travel to see the whole world it is suffering; even if we don’t travel, it is suffering; even if we become a farmer, and think, “Oh how lovely, how beautiful it is to become a farmer, to have my own farm with vegetables and fruit growing in my field or garden.” However, again, it is only suffering.

Even if we live alone or live in a community, it is suffering. If somebody tells us about a community outside the city, somewhere on the mountain—a community where we can raise animals, we think, “Oh, how wonderful it is.” But after we join the community, it’s full of problems and so many things, then again we escape from that.

If we become a waiter in a restaurant, or if we become a beggar, then there is suffering. Even if we become the president or the leader of the country, the king, there is suffering. Even if we become a singer or a very famous musician, again there is suffering. There are similar problems, like the wealthy people, the famous singers and musicians—they have so much worry and fear about losing their reputation and power, or not being successful and better than others. There are so many worries and fears, and so many problems. The person who makes jokes for many hours—the comedian—I heard that this person who constantly makes us laugh and tells jokes has a lot of worry and fear about not being successful, or he worries that people are not laughing each time he makes a joke.

As long as we are in samsara, whatever our lifestyle in the world, it is only suffering. Before we enter that lifestyle, we see samsara as a beautiful park, a pleasant park, but once we are involved in that lifestyle, we experience so many problems.