Another aspect of the practice which can be quite confusing is that the more determined you are to do something good, the more challenged you may become. Let’s say that you determine to do something wholesome. You will notice that, not long after that, Ma ̄ra (the Buddhist personification of evil) will come along and test you.
One year, when I was a novice, I resolved to refrain from eating any chocolate for a certain period during the three month ‘rains retreat’. We didn’t have much, maybe a few squares from time to time, so it was not a massive renunciation – but I decided to give it up anyway.
From the day I took this decision, about a week before the rains retreat began, what arose in my mind was: ‘Will I be safe? Won’t I murder somebody? Will I become violent and start beating people up?’ It was Māra telling me that if I give up that piece of chocolate, my world would collapse – an illustration of the power of the forces we have to deal with!
Our good fortune is knowing that the more we practise and gain insight into this experience of suffering, the more we become confident in observing our experiences as they really are – seeing them as impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and ‘not self’ (anatta).
This reflection by Ajahn Sundara is from the book, Awakening Presence, (pdf) pp. 48-49.