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.

Repressed Emotions


Another aspect in relation to loving-kindness is learning to heal our psychological wounds by forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. These wounds may have been created in childhood or in subsequent relationships. If we do not really heal our wounds, one thing that might happen is that this may create problems in our relationships which cause suffering for ourselves and for others. They can create certain destructive patterns in our relationships. They can also affect our bodies. They may create tensions in our bodies that are related to these repressed emotions or wounds. They can also create illnesses in us. They can also affect our sleep and dreams, so that we might get angry in our sleep, or we might cry in our sleep, or have frightful dreams. These things can be related to the unhealed wounds that we carry. Or we can have sudden emotions, and we can’t find a reason for them. Suddenly we feel like crying, suddenly we experience fear or we feel panic.

Another way that these wounds can affect us is when we are dying. A big problem when a person is dying can be the wounds which they have not healed. They may surface in a very strong way. While we are living we can suppress them, we can push them away and not look at them, but when we are dying our mind and body become weak, then these wounds can surface. Unless we heal these wounds we cannot live peacefully and we cannot die peacefully. The meditation on loving-kindness can help us to heal these wounds by forgiving ourselves and by forgiving others, although both may be difficult.

Grateful for the Challenges


Another aspect of loving-kindness that I emphasise is the importance of feeling grateful. I think we take this very important spiritual quality for granted. When I was in Bodhgaya, the place where the Buddha is said to have become enlightened, I was reflecting on what is known about what the Buddha did after he had attained enlightenment. One of the things which is recorded is that he contemplated for seven long days the Bodhi tree which had given him shelter. Without closing his eyes to sleep, he stayed looking at the tree, showing his gratitude. Often we take the good fortune we have for granted. We take for granted that we have eyes to see, ears to hear and food to eat.

When this was mentioned in Nilambe, the meditation centre where I live, there was a nun from Thailand who made a very interesting point. She said that not only should we feel grateful for the positive things, but we should also feel grateful for the challenges, for the opportunities in life to work with ourselves. So for instance, when we get angry we can feel grateful that we have an opportunity to study anger. Sometimes when we have physical pain we start hating the pain and the body, but it is possible instead to feel grateful. We can make it an object of our meditation. In this way we learn to be grateful for positive things, the blessings we have; and we can also be grateful for the difficult situations we face, because they can be very valuable learning experiences.

The Good in Ourselves


Seeing the good in ourselves can create a lot of joy and happiness. I feel that this is very important in the spiritual path. This is the first step of loving-kindness, using meditation of loving-kindness in order to generate a lot of joy and happiness. And of course, when you are happy this can also be infectious, it can affect other people. But the first step is to have this joy, happiness and lightness. The next step is to see your feelings as impermanent, because when you hold on to them they can cause suffering. It is important to realize that they don’t belong to us. In Buddhist terms, you see anicca, impermanence and anatta, the absence of a seperate self.

Our Own Enemy


A very important way of being our own enemy is this habit we all have of giving ourselves minuses in different situations. To put it in another way, we have this inclination to see only the negative aspect of ourselves. Related to that is that we imagine that others are giving us minuses as well. In this way we are like our own enemy, creating a lot of suffering for ourselves and others. One of the meditation masters, Thich Naht Hanh, put it very well; he said we always look for what is wrong in us, never for what is right. It is with the help of awareness and loving-kindness that we can work with this very strong destructive aspect in ourselves.

Meditation on loving-kindness can also help us to learn to see the positive in ourselves. For that we need to consciously bring up and reflect on our own goodness and the positive qualities we have. When we see the positives we develop self-respect, whereby we see more and more of our own goodness and the kind things that we do. I think it is very important to develop self-esteem or self-confidence, because with the self-destructive aspect in us we lose this ability to appreciate ourselves.

Our Own Best Friend


An interesting psychological point is that one is asked first to practice loving-kindness towards oneself. It shows that it is important to make a connection with oneself. It also shows that for different reasons we may not like ourselves or we may even hate ourselves. We can have this self-destructive aspect, and in a way we are acting like our own enemy. Instead of being our own worst enemy, loving-kindness can help us to be our own best friend.

Importance of Metta.


In Buddhism, meditation on loving-kindness has a very important place. The words loving-kindness are a translation of the Pali word metta, which means friendliness. There is an interesting quotation from the Buddha about the importance of metta. He was talking to a group of monks and he told them that if they could practice loving-kindness even for the time that it would take to snap their fingers, they would be worthy of being monks.

To my mind this has two important implications or two meanings. One is that even if you practice loving-kindness for just a few moments, that is good enough. The other is that it shows the importance of developing loving-kindness.

Childhood Wounds


One thing which I try to communicate to people who carry childhood wounds is: you might have had problems in childhood, but what are you going to do about it now? It’s a very easy thing to continue to blame your past and your parents. But by blaming your parents, you don’t take responsibility for what is happening now. So anything might have happened in the past, but now you are in the position to take responsibility and to work with it in the present moment.

Another thing you can do is to reflect on three questions in a very meditative situation. The first one is: “What are the good things your parents have done for you?” It is interesting that we have a selective memory. We have a tendency to remember only the minuses. The memory can change when one recalls the good things. The other questions are: “What are the good things you have done for your parents?” and: “Do you know what difficulties you created for your parents?”

When you reflect very deeply on these questions, a sense of appreciation arises. It’s also possible that a sense of guilt will arise because of the wrongs you did to your parents, and if that happens then practising meditation of loving-kindness might help.

But I realise it takes a lot of time for a person with deep wounds to come from being a nobody to being a somebody. The work has to take place on a psychological level, on an emotional level, and also on a physical level.



Parents might also have been victims who have had a lot of difficulties. In this connection I heard a very moving story from a woman I was working with. She told me she had had a very difficult childhood. Especially from her mother there were physical and psychological wounds. It was terrible what she had had to go through as a child, and as an adult she completely lost contact with her mother. She told me that what had happened in childhood had really affected her personality and her behaviour.

When this woman was about fifty years old she thought: “Maybe I should try to contact my mother.” She made inquiries and heard that her mother was living in a home for old people. She made contact and she met her mother. When she saw her mother for the first time after fifteen years, she hugged her and said: “I love you, Mother.” The mother didn’t say anything but broke into a lot of tears, she was really crying. Then the daughter asked her mother: “Why can’t you say that you love me also?” Her mother replied: “How can I say that? I have never known what love is.” When the daughter heard those words, the wound she had been carrying for fifty years immediately healed. So sometimes, you see, we don’t realise what our parents have been through.

Bring Up that Anger


Some people in the West are hurt very much in their youth. They have never been able to develop their own self-esteem. They feel a coldness and indifference inside. This wound can be so deep that it is difficult to heal even with loving-kindness. It’s a kind of vicious circle they are in. The question is: how can they foster this little germ of self-esteem and self-love?

Sri Lankan people don’t have this problem. It is possible that they might have had a difficult childhood, but they do not suffer from it so much. Sri Lankan people are raised with the idea that they should be grateful to their parents. They never see a connection between their parents and the difficulties experienced in childhood, and their present problems. It means they never blame the parents for their upbringing and for what they are experiencing.

In Sri Lanka children are brought up within extended families, so children get enough attention, and they have many sources for experiencing affection. Their diet of affection and love is very rich and they have a lot of opportunities to find comfort and support if they need it, therefore the wounds described above don’t develop.

When I started to be with Westerners, I learned about these very serious and deep wounds which have happened to them in childhood. Usually these people carry a lot of anger and resentment against their parents. In the beginning I made the mistake of saying: “Just forgive your parents, have loving-kindness.” I realised this did not work because they would come and tell me: “How can I have loving-kindness? I feel like hitting my mother, I feel like beating my father.” Sometimes they had so much anger that I got afraid.

Now what I say is: “Please bring up that anger. If you like to, you can verbalise that anger, speak to your parents in your imagination, wholeheartedly experience that anger.” I think as children they did not have an opportunity to really express the anger they had towards their parents. They’re holding onto it, and it’s sometimes good to bring it out.

Open to Uncertainty


In my own life my best teacher has only four letters: L-I-F-E. Life is my best teacher. If you can really open up to life situations this teacher can tell you some very interesting things, but if you come to the conclusion that you know, that is the end of learning. This is why we need to have what is called a beginner’s mind. With a beginner’s mind, with a don’t-know mind, we can really learn from life situations. Any situation can be a meditative situation and this is a beautiful way to live.

In our spiritual practice we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Trying to do the right thing, acting very cautiously and trying too much to know what is going to happen in the future all give rise to a false sense of security. According to the Buddha’s teaching, real security comes if you can be open to insecurity. We never know what is going to happen next. It is always something uncertain. The real practice is learning to be open to uncertainty in whatever form uncertainty comes. This is especially true when we interact with people.