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.

Just an Opinion

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I feel it is very important in life to understand our limitations. This doesn’t mean that we justify our limitations, but that it is a fact: I’m doing my very best but my very best does not correspond to what others think of as best, so what can I do? Actually, these are the real challenges we have in life: how to face them?

Another aspect of such situations – I don’t know if what I’m going to say makes sense to you – some of these setbacks, some of these difficulties, some of these problems you have in such situations can later on prove to be a blessing. This is also very interesting.

I’m reminded of a Chinese tale that I would like to share with you; perhaps you already know the story. In a particular village there was a very wise old man and he had some beautiful horses. So one day one of the beautiful horses was missing, it had run away. So the whole village came to this man and said: Oh, how unfortunate it is that your best horse has run away. It seems you are very unlucky. Maybe in Buddhist terms we would say it is bad kamma, and so on. He said: No, it is merely that my horse has run away. What you are saying is an opinion, a judgement, about what has happened. My horse has run away, that’s all, no need to give a minus about this.

Then after some days this horse came back with another beautiful horse. Then the same villagers came and said: Oh, you’re very lucky, you’re very fortunate, you lost one horse, now you have two horses. He said: Stop all this, I now have two horses, that is all, no need to give a plus.

This old man had a son, and the son was trying to train this new horse, and in training the new horse he fell from the horse and broke his leg. So his friends came and said: Bad kamma again. And then there was a war and so soldiers came to the village to take away all the young people in the village to fight in the war, only the old man’s son was saved from this because of his broken leg!

This is a very good story to learn to see things just as they are, hopefully without plusses and without minuses. I suppose the wise old man did not have any image of what should happen and what shouldn’t happen.

 

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All We Can Try to Do

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One thing we have to learn is how to act with responsibility but without the pressure. So you are doing your best but doing your best is done in a relaxed way, not with tension, not with stress. This is one thing we need to learn. And then when you do your best and still you have made a mistake, then you can be very clear and honest in your own mind: I did my best, but my best was not good enough for the other person, so what can I do? At least it makes your mind very clear, it makes your conscience very clear, so that it will not give rise to any inner conflicts.

This is all we can try to do; and when we have tried, if it succeeds, it is good. If it fails, it is also good. And then in such a situation, if you have made a mistake and then some problem arises, what is also important for us to learn is that when a wound has been created, to heal that wound as quickly as possible rather than just hold onto the wound and suffer for your whole life because you have made some mistakes.

Still Human

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In cultures and in countries where things work perfectly, without any problems, this gives a kind of sense of security because everything is happening perfectly, no problems, everything is under control. Living in countries like India or Sri Lanka, you have to be open to uncertainties.

I will give a practical example which I experienced myself. When I was in Europe I was on a train and they made an announcement in the language of that country and people were very anxious, looking at their leaflets and there was lots of talk about it, lots of disappointment, so I asked them what the announcement was about. They said the train was going to be seven minutes late. In Sri Lanka, if there is a train at all you’ll be very fortunate!

So this is a very good training. Most of the time unexpected things happen. You go to the bus stand and then they say: No bus today. You want to go by train, they say: Now there is no train, it is one hour late.

So living in cultures where things work perfectly, naturally you tend to be conditioned to do things perfectly. You fear to make mistakes because no mistakes should happen! So with this idea of perfection, this is why you like other people to accept that you are perfect, this is why you fear maybe they are giving you minuses, because your model of perfection is affected.

This is why I often emphasise this being open to our humanness, open to our imperfections, so that when we become more and more open to our humanness, our imperfections, then if you are getting minuses from other people then you are not surprised. You realise, well, that’s part of our conditioning. I’m still human, so it’s okay.

No Control

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What we are doing is making demands about how we should behave, we are making demands about how others should behave, we are making demands about how life should be. If these demands are met life is okay, life is wonderful, it is beautiful. If these demands are not met there is suffering, frustration, disappointment, hurt; most of these emotions can arise as a result of that. So I would suggest that an enlightened human being goes through life without any images, and because of that he or she can never suffer.

Another aspect related to this is, if you can really understand the nature of life, then you realise it is not possible to form any conclusion about how life should be. In the Dhamma there is something very deep, which is to be open to the uncertainty of life. But we hold onto this idea of certainty because we assume things can be controlled. But when we think deeply we realise that in actual fact we have no control.

 

My Way

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How do we get angry? Why do we get angry? We have an idea of how the other person should behave and when the other person’s behaviour does not conform to the image we have we get angry. Then we have an image of our usual behaviour, and when our behaviour does not correspond to that image then we feel guilty, we get angry, we get disappointed, we get hurt because our behaviour does not correspond to the image we have formed of ourselves.

A very interesting practice in everyday life is, whenever you suffer, whenever you are disappointed, whenever you are frustrated, at that moment can you see for yourself that the image which you have is now clashing with what is actually happening. This is why the Buddha emphasised learning to see things as they are. But what we are doing is, we want to see things the way they should be, as they must be according to our way, my way.

Images

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With our thoughts, with our identifications, we all have images of who we are, the type of persons we are. Each person has a model, has an image of himself or herself. So I think what we are doing is that when other people accept our image then we feel comfortable with them, we feel at ease with them. And then we make it a point to always, or most of the time, impose this particular image on other people. Then we also have images of other people. A Western psychologist has said that when two people meet, there are six people. Can you work out how two people become six people?

There are two real people, and four imaginary people: who you think you are, and who you think the other person is; who the other person thinks he is, and who he thinks you are!

It is a very interesting point for us to reflect on. Sometimes when there are conflicts actually it is the images that are in conflict, but what the people really are is another question. So with meditation, with awareness, you understand this process, that whenever there is a conflict, the conflict is the result of the image you have of the other person.

The Power of Thoughts

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As we all know, from the time that we wake up in the morning up to the time that we go to sleep there are continuous thoughts going through our mind which never stop. If you become aware, if you become mindful of the thoughts that go through your mind, then you’ll realise that most of the time the way we use thoughts is in this habit of giving plusses and minuses. So when you see this clearly, then the power that we have given to them may become less.

Then you realise that sometimes it is just an innocent thought that comes: Maybe the other person doesn’t like me; maybe the other person is giving me minuses; maybe the other person thinks that I’m silly or ridiculous, and so on. So if you are mindful you’ll realise it is just a thought that you’re having; who knows whether that thought corresponds to any reality? There is a strong imaginary aspect in our thoughts. This imaginary aspect and the reality are two different things. With awareness, with mindfulness, exploring, investigating, this may become clear to us and this will help us to work with and handle such thoughts, and their power will become less.

A Real Challenge

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Emotions arise in connection with the way you relate to yourself, the way you relate to others, and the way you relate to your surroundings. So it shows relationship is a real challenge we have in life.

Many persons have problems relating to other people. Their problem is that they are concerned about what others are thinking of them. Especially fearing minuses.

So the question arises: Why have we given such power to other people that our happiness and unhappiness is dependent on them?

Because we lack self-confidence, because we don’t practise what is necessary for this, we depend on other people for it.

I think everywhere in this world this is a real problem human beings have to face. Let us see how meditation helps us to work with these problems.

I feel this is why meditation of loving-kindness is so important, in the sense that you learn to be your own best friend and if you can really make that connection with yourself, actually feel it, then I think your dependency on what others think of you becomes less, because whatever you need from others you get it from yourself. You will become self-contained within yourself.

Another way meditation helps us to work with this situation is through understanding the nature of plusses and minuses. It is very interesting that human beings have this very strong conditioning to give plusses or to give minuses in any situation, but we never pause to question whether these plusses or minuses are valid, on what basis are we doing this.

It is funny, we really become victims of this mechanism but we never inquire into the way these plusses and minuses operate, under what condition they arise, what is really creating them, what is contributing to them. So when we explore this question we realise that these are really related to thoughts, concepts, which have come due to various reasons from the society that you have been brought up into. Then you see them as part of your conditioning, you see them as a strong habit that we have got used to.

The Good Things

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I would suggest that it is important for us also sometimes to think of the good things we have done. This can give us lots of joy, lots of happiness, lots of lightness, and it will also be an incentive to do more and more such actions of love. In Sri Lanka we used to have a custom – now it is no longer there – to keep what is called a book of merits. The idea is that you note down the good things you have done, the skilful things you have done, and at the time you are dying someone reads from the book. Because usually we give more power, more energy to our mistakes, so I think this is very important. In fact it is mentioned in the Dhamma, to deliberately and consciously acknowledge our goodness, so when these memories come up you should acknowledge those positive emotions.

When a Wound has been Created

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Let’s take a practical situation where a wound has been created in relation to what you have done to another person; you have acted incorrectly and then you suffer from guilt. The first point is to realise how the wound was created in the first place. So when you enquire into that question you realise the wound has been created by your idea: This is how I should have behaved. You realise the problem is with your model of how you should behave. It is helpful to understand this because this can help us to heal the wound. This is the first point.

The second point is to realise that we are still human, we are still imperfect, so therefore, as I have been saying very often, we need to learn to forgive our humanness, to forgive our imperfections.

Another suggestion is to realise that these things happened in the past. I cannot change the past, so why I am holding onto something that has happened in the past?

The last point – I hope I can communicate this – is that we carry the wounds in our memory. And as they are related to memories, the more we try to forget them the more they come. We have no control over our memory. The control we have is not in relation to the memory itself but how we respond to the memory. This is where meditation comes in. This is where we can work with it in practical terms. So when the memory comes in relation to what you have done, what you can observe is your reaction to the memory: guilt.

Now this is where awareness is relevant: with awareness we learn that there is guilt, and as we have also been practising, we learn to say okay to that guilt, we learn to feel friendly with that guilt, just to allow that guilt. Then after some time you might remember that incident again and then again guilt will come, so again we create space for that guilt to be there. It can also be interesting sometimes to deliberately and consciously bring the memory up and see how we are relating to it. Then one day you have the experience, the memory comes but there is no guilt, and when that happens it shows that the wound is healed. Then the memory might come but the corresponding emotion will not be there. We might even deliberately and consciously bring up the memory and the corresponding emotion will not be there.

One last suggestion is to realise that holding onto such wounds is something very self-destructive. So these are ways and means of healing such wounds. Whether it is guilt, whether it is grief, whether it is hatred, the tools are the same.