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.

Not a Source of Suffering

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When there is physical pain, accepting it, working with it as a sensation and so on, you’ll realise the physical pain is there but it is not a source of suffering. You can have mental suffering, certain defilements like maybe greed, maybe anger, maybe fear, and all these things. So as with physical pain, if you can learn not to identify yourself with that mental pain, if you can really use the idea of no-self, that there is no-one really owning that state of mind, then those defilements or those negative things will be there but you’ll be relating to them in an entirely different way.

In the Buddhist tradition normally it is understood that it is only when these things are completely absent that we can be truly free from suffering. That seems to be a goal that is not easy to reach, but if you can see mental pain and physical pain in this way then it is within the reach of all of us. So this again shows it is not what is happening but how we relate to it that makes all the difference. Maybe that is why in the same tradition it is said the ordinary mind is the enlightened mind.

So I hope that in everyday life when you have physical pain and mental pain, if you have discovered the tools, if you have discovered the medicine, to a great extent you may be experiencing the pain but not suffering as much.

And what is important is that when you have such experiences you develop self-confidence. It also means having trust and confidence in the medicine and the Buddha who discovered the medicine. So when you have this self-confidence, when you have this trust, when you have this self-reliance, then anything can arise but you know what to do about it.

Preparing our Minds

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A friend of mine was a Professor in a University. He said: I’m always happy, I don’t have to practise anything. He had money; he had good health; he had a good family. So in a way he was very happy and contented. Suddenly he had a heart attack and he fell sick. What a difference it made to him! He became so sad, so depressed. He had lots of fear of death and dying. It was so sad, tragic to see that man in that condition. So it’s only when one encounters such suffering that one can really see suffering and all its implications.

In such a situation if someone were to go to him and say: Would you like to find a way out of your suffering? naturally he would say: Please, please tell me. So we can be living in a world that we have created which does not correspond to reality, a kind of dream world, and then in real life when that world is shattered, that is when you see reality. And when that happens, sometimes it is too late. So this is the importance of the practice. When we start practising, one aspect of the practice is that we are preparing our minds for any situation in life. Then we will never be taken unawares. So this is my response to people who follow that philosophy.

Open to Suffering

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Why do we find it difficult to bear suffering? Why aren’t we more open to suffering? A simple response is that we are surprised when there is suffering. But we should not be surprised, because we are still not enlightened, and naturally as we are not enlightened we are bound to suffer. We should be surprised if there was no suffering! And when we are surprised what happens? We give it a big minus. Only I suffer. No one else suffers in the way that I am suffering, and I know in my life I will continue to suffer. So we can create a big story out of the suffering that we are having. In this situation how can we be open, how can we not be affected when there is suffering? So this is the beauty of the Buddha’s teaching if you can see suffering as a Noble Truth.

I’d like to offer a very interesting tool. You should wait with an open mind thinking: Let me experience the First NobleTruth of the Buddha. So unlike in the past, not being closed to suffering, but waiting for suffering to arise. One thing is, as we found out, that when we are really open to suffering it doesn’t arise!

The second point is: when we are being open to suffering, waiting for it to arise, then we are not surprised by it. And when suffering does arise if you can say: Very interesting; I’m very grateful because now that it has come I can work with it. Please try this tool and see what a difference it makes when suffering comes. To put it in another way, now we see it as something extremely negative, but in the way that I am suggesting it is something very positive. And if you can, at that moment ask yourself the question: What can I learn from this suffering? In what way can I use the Buddha’s tools? In what way can I use the Buddha’s medicine in working with this situation?

And this brings up, as I said, the Second NobleTruth. Here you will see very clearly that suffering is due to this idea you have that something that is happening should not happen. So if you can develop this positive attitude you will be really open to suffering. And then you can really make use of suffering to find a way out of suffering. So it is simply changing your attitude towards suffering. When you change the attitude you see suffering in an entirely different way.

Accepting Things

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In talking about the Four Noble Truths sometimes I like to use the medical model: sickness, cause of the sickness, cure and the medicine. In a way meditation can be seen as discovering the medicine for the sickness that we create ourselves. So to use it in a practical way, when you are meditating or whatever you are doing, whenever there is suffering don’t give it a minus, don’t feel bad about it but see: I am experiencing what the Buddha called the First NobleTruth. He called it noble because it is only when we suffer that we can find a way out of suffering. It is only when we are sick that we feel the need to find the medicine. So in any situation where there is suffering just see it as the First NobleTruth. And I think this is a very interesting way of relating to suffering because we are learning to see the Dhamma in the suffering.

But the Second NobleTruth is more difficult than the First NobleTruth, where you have to see that you are creating the suffering yourself by the images you have, by the models you have, by the expectations you have. This is where one has to see very clearly, to see your own expectations, to see your own models, to see your own images. To see what it is that you are resisting in relation to what is happening. Even while we are meditating we can use this. So when you are meditating and when you are suffering for some reason, then you can investigate immediately what you are expecting, what you are wanting, what you are demanding.

And I would like to suggest a positive way of using the Four Noble Truths, especially the last two. So if you constantly observe what is happening then you will realise: at this moment there is no suffering, there is no reaction, there is nothing that I am resisting. Then it would also be interesting to find out, why is there no suffering now? Then you will realise: Ah, I am accepting things just as they are now and therefore there is no suffering.

The Most Certain Thing

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Death is the most certain thing in life, and what is unfortunate is that we forget the most certain thing in life and get involved in other things that are uncertain. But if you can be with this most certain thing in life, then when we encounter it, either in ourselves or in others, it doesn’t affect us in the same way.

In Buddhist meditation this reflection on death plays a very important role in the practice. In Sri Lanka, in forest meditation centres, when you visit such places you see skeletons being used by meditating monks to remind them of the fact of impermanence and the fact of death.

In nature you get death and life existing together. They are not separate. They are inter-related, inter-connected. This is how we should see life and death. Not to see them as separate but to see how they are connected, inter-related. Then ideally, whether you live or die it makes no difference. Then you know the way to live and you know the way to die.

No Particular Posture

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You don’t have to have a particular posture, you don’t have to close your eyes. You are merely aware of what is happening in your mind and body. Then in such situations in everyday life, if you are reacting, if you are having emotions, physical pain or mental pain you realise it and you see it just as it is, no minus. And in everyday life we can also have pleasant experiences and when we have pleasant experiences, positive experiences, just know it with awareness and reflect it just as it is.

Reflect Things Like a Mirror

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A meditation master said something very interesting. He said we look for only what is wrong in us, we never look for what is right in us. So we should learn to be more and more positive and to be aware of our positive states of mind rather than only be concerned about negative states of mind.

Ideally, we can then go beyond the positive and the negative, which means we are open to both states of mind. This is related to the meditation technique which can be described as having a mirror-like mind, where we learn to reflect things just as they are. When something that is considered beautiful comes before a mirror it reflects that beautiful object just as it is. When something that is considered ugly comes before the mirror, again the mirror reflects it just as it is.

Vipassana meditation, that is insight or wisdom meditation, is developing such a mind where you learn to reflect things just as they are; and meditation of Samatha, calm and tranquillity, can be seen as polishing away the dust that is on the mirror. So when the mirror is polished very clear, applying this simile to our mind, then we can see very sharply and very clearly what arises in our mind, and hopefully learn to see things just as they are.

A Very Important Realisation.

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This is one of the very interesting and important tools for working with unpleasant emotions, or even pleasant emotions: Not to fear them, but sometimes to wait for them to arise. And when you are waiting, preparing for them to come, they don’t come. On the other hand, if we fear that they will come then they are bound to come. But here when you are waiting for them to come, or even invite them, they don’t come. That’s a very important realisation.

Even in the Toilet

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It is interesting that the Buddha said in one text, called the Satipatthana Sutta, the sutta which describes how one should develop awareness, that even when we are in the toilet we should make an effort to be mindful, to be aware. So it’s interesting that in whatever you do, even when you are in the toilet, you can use meditation.

Smile

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There is a famous meditation master from Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh, who emphasises very much that when you are sitting. just to smile while sitting. He says that when you have a Buddha-like smile the face can relax and the meditation can be relaxed, there can be a lightness to the practice. And he also emphasises very much the need to smile at others. The only thing is that it must come naturally.