Friends of Godwin Samararatne

Learn to be your best friend and also to be a friend of others. Learn to forgive yourself and others and then heal any wounds that you are carrying.

Mudita

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Is it possible for us to really be happy and joyful that others are experiencing happiness and joy?

Mudita is being happy because others are happy. This is sometimes not easy because the opposite of this quality of Mudita is jealousy and envy, especially when you see others doing better than yourself.

Another aspect of Mudita is making an effort to make others happy. In a way one can relate it to Karuna because when you see others suffering you try to do something about it and to get them to experience some joy and lightness, freed from their suffering.

Now sympathetic joy or Mudita has another interesting aspect, which is learning to rejoice, learning to be happy about your own happiness. Though again this sounds simple, in practice sometimes for some people it is not easy. I know some people who when they experience happiness and joy say: I don’t deserve this, I’m such a bad person, I don’t deserve to be happy. And I know others who say: How can I feel happy? I feel guilty because there is such a lot of suffering around me so how can I experience joy? When I experience joy I feel guilty about it. Therefore it is extremely important to learn to develop this quality. To rejoice in your own happiness, to rejoice in your own goodness, to rejoice in seeing more and more the positive in yourself; and when you see more and more the positive in yourself, then you are bound to see more and more the positive in others.

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Karuna

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Karuna is when you see suffering in yourself and when you see suffering in others, doing something to overcome your own suffering and doing something to overcome the suffering of others. This is developing the quality of Karuna, compassion.

In this modern world, where there is a lot of suffering, and the suffering manifests itself in many different ways, it is extremely important to develop this quality of Karuna in relation to others and in relation to your own suffering. In this connection the Buddha has said: Helping others is helping yourself; helping yourself is helping others. And eventually you see no difference between yourself and others.

Living Like a Dog

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I would like to share with you an experience I had on one of the retreats I gave in a foreign country. So on the last day I was having a talk with the meditators and one of them told the group that whatever she has learnt from me on the course she has already learnt from her dog. So I became curious about her dog. I told her, please tell something more about your dog, and she said: Well, you tell us to just live in the present and this is what my dog does; you tell us to feel grateful, and my dog is always grateful. And she went on to describe the behaviour of the dog and what happens in the retreat. Then I asked her: Is there no difference between your dog and me? She said, Yes, you talk a lot, but my dog can’t talk at all! I like that story very much.

Life Itself Becomes the Teacher

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Make your own discoveries about your thoughts, make your own discoveries about your emotions, make your own discoveries about how suffering is created. We are so fortunate to have this mind and body. Sometimes I tell meditators that we can be our own laboratories and we can make experiments, we can make discoveries, we can learn from them.

Without taking anything for granted our whole life becomes learning; and we should develop a taste for it, we should develop a curiosity for it, we should find this very interesting, entertaining, sometimes amusing.  Then we have this openness that we can learn from anything, we can learn from anyone, not only from the so-called teachers, but life itself becomes the teacher, our mind and body become our teacher, and I think it is a beautiful way to live.

Words and Pictures

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Thoughts are really words. Words and pictures, and they give rise to feelings. Let us think of breakfast tomorrow. Let us close our eyes and see what happens to our mind when we think of breakfast tomorrow.

We see bread, we see coffee, whatever is usually there we see. Actually these are pictures that come, and then with the pictures some feelings will come depending on our likes and our dislikes. So actually our thoughts come in the form of images, words and feelings. It sounds so simple. And then what happens to us is that with these things, these pictures, films, we create our suffering.

What is interesting is that with techniques like focusing on breathing, when there are no thoughts none of these things are present, pictures, words, but we are just dealing with the sensations. Words and pictures are always from the past. We can never see pictures and images which we have not experienced before. So only when they are absent can something new happen. This is the beauty of some of the meditation techniques that they help us to have no pictures.

 

Another Big Fight

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When there’s friendliness, when there’s gentleness, when there’s openness, then the mind may start co-operating with us. Otherwise we tell the mind to behave in one way and it is going the other way and we get angry about it. So it becomes a battle and becomes another big fight. Meditation for most people is a fight. Fighting the mind. I often tell meditators, you have enough battles in life, please do not make meditation another battle! So with friendliness we need to understand how our mind and body works, and then through that understanding, developing mastery is the next thing. When I spoke on loving-kindness I mentioned that one of the benefits is that when there is loving-kindness the mind becomes calm naturally.

The Mind Acting in Opposition

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When we don’t want thoughts to arise they arise, and when we want thoughts to arise they don’t arise. When we don’t want emotions they arise and when we want emotions they don’t arise. Why is the mind acting in opposition to us? This is a very important question to reflect on. Is this the nature of the mind? Or have we conditioned the mind in this way?

I think what it shows is that we cannot tell the mind: Have thoughts, have no thoughts. It doesn’t work that way. It’s like telling a child: Do this, don’t do that. And the child likes to do what you don’t want him to do. So this is why I emphasize friendliness such a lot. If you want to understand a child you have to be very friendly and see what the child wants, so in the same way if we want to understand our mind we cannot be telling the mind to do this and don’t do that, but rather, with friendliness, try to understand it.

Images

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In a way we need to have images, even to have expectations. What is important for us to realise is in what ways we are using them destructively.

So that if we don’t have these qualities in us, if instead of loving-kindness we have hatred, hatred towards ourselves, hatred towards others, then it is very important to bring about a shift within ourselves by learning to be our best friend, learning to be a friend to others. In this way it is no harm having an image: I want to be a person who is friendly and tries to practise. Or you can still practise without an image but just developing these qualities and allow your behaviour to emerge from that.

So one can really practise at two levels: if you like to have an image, you can have it, but otherwise you can just practise without an image and allow your behaviour to arise from whatever spiritual qualities you have developed. What is important is to see whether that image corresponds to reality. This is what we have to work with. Images create problems sometimes if the images are unrealistic. When you have an image of how things should be and then what happens in reality is another thing, this is how suffering is created.

When a Thought Disappears

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There is a very interesting quotation by the Buddha himself in relation to his own thoughts: I would like to relate the details. One of his disciples told the Buddha: You have so many powers, you have so many miraculous powers. And the Buddha said: My greatest miracle is that when a thought arises, I know a thought has arisen; when a thought continues, I know that a thought continues when the thought disappears, I know the thought disappears.

This shows it is not the absence of thought which is important. I like that very much. So we can try to work on the third aspect: when a thought disappears. For someone to have that type of mind they have to have a very calm mind, an alert mind, just to know when a thought disappears.

Suffering

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The First Noble Truth is the fact of suffering. How is suffering considered a Noble Truth? What is noble in suffering?

It is noble because when we suffer we can reflect on what is causing the suffering. So when you suffer don’t see it as something negative, see it as a Noble Truth.

But what is more important is the Second Noble Truth. It leads one to find out what is causing the suffering, or who is causing the suffering. Now this is a very difficult teaching for us to realise: that we are creating the suffering. It is very easy for us to hold others responsible for our suffering. Then we don’t have to do anything about our suffering, the others have to do something about it. So if you can see the Second Noble Truth very clearly, the Third and the Fourth just follow from that.

Sometimes I define meditation as discovering the medicine for the sickness we have created ourselves.