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.

Month: April, 2014

Fantasies

Godwin-Icon

This is a story from the Buddhist literature. So there was a young monk who wanted to give up his robes. He hadn’t told his chief monk about his plans but one day the chief monk was having a headache, so he told this young monk to give him a massage, to rub some oil on his head. So while massaging his head the young monk was thinking: Now, maybe in a month or two I will be giving up my robes. And after I give up my robes, maybe I will find a job, and when I find a job I will get some money, and when I find enough money maybe I will find a girl and get married to this girl. But sometimes these wives can be impossible people and if my wife becomes difficult or impossible, I’ll give her a good beating. And he beat the old monk on his head!

We are laughing, but this is what we also do with our thoughts. So it shows that these thoughts can be so compelling, and that they can create fantasies for us and we take the fantasy as real. So there is a connection, a relationship, between the stories and emotions. In the Dhamma there is a very interesting Pali word to describe this process which takes place in our mind: papanca. What it means is constructing, manufacturing, concocting, projecting, all these things we do with our thoughts, and it is said there is a direct relationship between concepts and suffering. This is how our suffering is created.

So this is why it is very important to learn to work with our thoughts, to understand the thoughts, to really understand the nature and construction of thoughts. As I said earlier, if we can learn to have a very spacious mind, allowing these thoughts and emotions to come and go, allowing sensations to arise and pass away, and we are in that spaciousness, not reacting to anything then at that moment there is freedom.

Advertisements

They Just Pop Up

Godwin-Icon

I will touch on some aspects of how we can work with our thoughts in the context of meditation.

One thing we can discover is that our thoughts arise mechanically. They just pop up. Take what is happening now. You are listening to me but you are absorbed in the thoughts that are going through your mind. You don’t want these thoughts to arise but they just pop up; and then we do something very interesting: some thoughts we allow just to arise and pass away, while others, we get hold of them, we identify ourselves with them. They can overwhelm us, they can control us. So this is one of the things that we can discover with awareness, that when thoughts arise, without getting hold of them, if you can just allow them to go away then there is no problem. This is one aspect for us to learn about and explore.

Another is the connection, the relationship, between thoughts and our state of mind. So as I said, when we get hold of our thoughts, when we identify ourselves with the thoughts, then our state of mind changes. That is why I have been suggesting that we learn not to react when thoughts come.

Lose Motivation

Godwin-Icon

One of the biggest problems modern man has is this tendency to be victims of consumerism. We are not clear what we really need and what comes from our greed, so what happens is that society can manipulate us, society can bring up situations where attachments, this tendency to own things, to possess things whether they are necessary or not, can arise.

So with more and more meditation, you lose the motivation for just consuming things for the sake of consuming things. There is a beautiful word in Pali, the word is santutthi, a beautiful sounding word, it means that we learn to be contented. So our lives become very, very simple and we can be really contented with just simple things. As I said, the motivation for consuming things will not be there.

My Way

Godwin-Icon

What happens is because of this sense of self, we have images, models, of how things should be according to my way. It is always my way. Naturally in everyday life things don’t always happen according to my way. That is how suffering is created in everyday life, with this idea of my way. So whenever you are suffering in everyday life, you can try to find out: what has been my idea, what has been my view of how things should be? Then you’ll realise how this sense of self is directly related to the suffering that you are experiencing. In this simple, practical way you can work with this idea of my way and then when that my way is not there, when there is emptiness, notice how there is an absence of suffering.

Another way of saying the same thing is that with this sense of self that we have we feel that we are Somebody. Here again suffering and unpleasant emotions arise with this idea, with this concept that you are Somebody. With this feeling of Somebody we would like others to behave according to the idea this Somebody has. And then naturally when others don’t behave in this way this is why we get angry. So you see the direct connection between this idea of Somebody, this sense of self, and getting angry.

And how does this feeling of Somebody cause fear to arise? What is the connection? When Somebody is threatened, when this Somebody feels that something might happen to me, that I am in danger, that is how fear comes.

How does this feeling of Somebody generate anxiety in the future? With this feeling of Somebody, you feel that in the future everything should go according to the idea this Somebody has. And if you are uncertain about that, then this is how anxieties arise.

So these are some simple, practical examples, how this idea of Somebody is related to self, how suffering and these negative emotions arise. No-self or emptiness is when this feeling of Somebody becomes a Nobody!

Just not Possible

Godwin-Icon

However much you try to be with the breath, it is just not possible? I can really understand that. One suggestion I would like to offer is that when these thoughts come during your meditation, try to focus attention not on the thoughts but on your state of mind. Can you at least have a non-reactive mind for some time with these thoughts coming and going?

So the emphasis is more on the non-reactive mind. And you are just being with that, thoughts coming and going. Does that make sense? This is why I have been speaking a lot about thoughts, because we all have thoughts from morning till night, so it is very important to learn to work with our thoughts.

Like Machines

Godwin-Icon

In this modern world one of the things that is happening because of mechanisation and industrialisation is that human beings are also becoming more and more machine-like, automatic. So in this connection meditation offers very important solutions.

One point is that as human beings are becoming more and more like machines, they also, like machines, don’t seem to have feelings. One aspect of this lack of feelings is that people are becoming more and more violent: more and more violent towards themselves and towards others, and also even becoming violent towards the environment, the surroundings that we are living in. This is why the problem of environment and ecology has also become a very serious problem in the present world. In this connection meditation of loving-kindness is extremely helpful in working with this aspect of having a lack of feelings, a lack of warmth.A phrase that I often like to use is that meditation of loving-kindness helps us to be our best friend.

If you can be your best friend then naturally your behaviour will not be something unskilful, unwholesome to you, and you will create more and more happiness for yourself and for others. So meditation on loving-kindness helps us to open our hearts to ourselves and to others.

Why do we Meditate?

Godwin-Icon

What is the purpose of meditation? I’d like to say the idea of meditation is to free ourselves from the suffering that we create ourselves. The Buddha often said: I teach one thing – suffering and the way out of suffering. So meditation can be seen as the medicine for our sickness.

One very important aspect of meditation is learning to be aware, learning to be mindful, learning to be conscious. Otherwise we are becoming more and more like machines. Machines can function very well, but a machine doesn’t know how it is functioning, why it is functioning. Awareness is the complete opposite of that: just knowing, just being conscious, being aware of what is happening.

For example, what is happening right now? You may be physically present here but mentally you may be quite elsewhere. So where are you? With the help of awareness, come back here, to be present, to be conscious of what is happening right here and now. This is one very important aspect of meditation, learning to experience the present moment and also learning to be aware of and to work with the past and the future.

Peaceful Sleep

Godwin-Icon

There are three benefits to doing meditation of loving-kindness before you go to sleep: you sleep peacefully, you wake up peacefully, and you do not see nightmares. So when you go to bed – everyone has to go to bed every night – just for a few seconds say: May I be well, may I be happy, may I sleep peacefully, just have these thoughts of loving-kindness until you fall asleep.

The Nature of Existence

Godwin-Icon

Be open to any change that may arise physically and mentally and even externally. If we insist that change should take place according to our own idea, then when there is change which does not correspond to that idea it leads to suffering. But by realising that this is the nature of existence, that it changes and that we have no control over change, then if you can be open to change in whatever form it arises, internally or externally, this will result in freedom.

And according to the Buddha, this fact of change and impermanence and this idea of no-self are very well inter-connected, inter-related. He has a very interesting argument. If we own things, if there really is an ego, a self, then we should be able to order things: Now things should happen in this way, according to my ideas. But as there is no self, no ego, we cannot do that. So therefore we have to see from the fact of change, that there is no self-identity, no agent, only the process of change itself.

It is interesting that whenever there is suffering, there is suffering because you want things your way, and this your way or my way is the result of the feeling that you are Somebody. So whenever we are suffering, just find out what is the idea, what is the model that you are holding on to which is now being challenged. It is always some idea of how it should be, how it must be according to the ideas the self has.

Who is Having this Emotion?

Godwin-Icon

While working with emotions you can sometimes ask the question: “Who is having this emotion? Who is having this joy? Who is having this sadness?” When you explore this question your attention goes to something other then the emotion. You might realise that there is no-one having the emotion, but only emotions that come and go: there is no owner.