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: August, 2014

If You Let Go of the Past

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It’s interesting that in focusing on breathing, you realise that breathing is something objective, it is a fact. Having thoughts which are related to the past and the future can generate unpleasant emotions, but with the help of focusing on breathing you can learn to let go of the past and let go of the future and experience the joy and the bliss of the present moment.

This reminds me of an incident which is recorded in the Buddhists texts, in the Buddha’s time – a non-Buddhist visits a monastery where meditating monks are living, and this person was very impressed, very inspired by the serenity of the monks, by the way they were relaxed and joyful in their behaviour. So he goes to the Buddha and asks him: Pray tell me what you teach your disciples?.

Then the Buddha said: I teach them not to worry about the past, because it is gone; and not to be anxious about the future because it is yet to come – rather to experience the joy of the present moment. And with that they have been able to exude this joy, peace and compassion in their behaviour.

Now living in the present can raise a question: is it possible always to live in the present? What about planning? What about using the past? If you let go of the past you will not be able to find your homes, you will not be able to use language, you will not be able to recognize anything. So what is meant here, what one has to experience, is that with this process of recalling and anticipating you do it now. This is a very important point for one to experience and realise, that what is considered as the past is just a thought in the present, and what is considered the future is also just a thought in the present. So when you realise this, when you experience this, you will be able to relate to the past and the future in an entirely different way, where you can use the past and the future functionally and not allow the past and the future, in this process of recalling and anticipating to generate unpleasant emotions which create our suffering.

To Learn About Pain

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To look at our minds is to see how our perceptions give rise to our
conceptions – and how our conceptions can alter our perceptions also! Also we have to look
at our bodies and sensations, how we relate to that, and what is the connection between the
body and the mind.

Take, for example, the question of physical pain. Normally what do we do if there is
physical pain? If we are sitting on the benches here and after a time pain arises, we move.
Why? Because we don’t like it. But by that response do we ever learn anything about pain?
We just react in a very conditioned way. Now in meditation one tries to learn about pain, we
try not to have that immediate, habitual, reaction. We might learn that physical pain gives
rise to various psychological states – dislike, fear, anxiety, and so forth. So then we might try
to see if it possible to have this physical pain without having the psychological reaction.

A Beautiful Sunset

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There is a section in the Buddhist texts where monks and nuns who have become enlightened describe the beauty in nature. And these descriptions are recounted in such a creative, perfect way that it really shows how you can develop this passion for the things that you hear and the things you feel and the things that you see.

And it’s interesting that the same thing will happen in relation to noticing things within oneself. Certain aspects, certain areas in our personality which we might have taken for granted, which we have not noticed before, we are bound to notice them very sharply, very clearly. You develop a motivation both for things external and for things internal.

Now what about things like eating? With meditation, would you become indifferent to what you are eating? Would you not enjoy what you are eating? In this connection, there is an interesting quotation from Ajahn Chah – I am sure some of you are familiar with his books. He had said that when there is good food you can really enjoy it and when there is not so good food, you can also enjoy that. So what can happen is that you learn to enjoy life, but in a different way from identifying with such things.

In the Centre where I live in Sri Lanka, in the evening when it is clear, there is a beautiful sunset and watching the sunset is part of the schedule. You are encouraged to appreciate beauty without necessarily identifying yourself with such beautiful things. So please remember that not identifying yourself with them doesn’t mean that you have lost the motivation for them.

Just a Thought

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A thought you can have in the morning is: Today may I get an opportunity to practice loving-kindness to someone else, may I get the opportunity to show kindness to someone this day. Just to have that thought, just to have that kind of aspiration, is a wonderful way of beginning the day.

Someone else said something very simple and significant, something similar to what the Buddha said, she said: we do not have to do a big thing to show loving-kindness. But little actions, small acts of loving-kindness are enough. So if you can have this openness, and if you can have this motivation, then in everyday life you are bound to find situations when you can smile at a person, smile at a child, showing some kindness. These small things, little things, are in a way acts of loving-kindness.

Losing Motivation

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I will try to touch on a few points where with meditation you might lose the motivation for some things. 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.

Another thing which will happen is that with practice you become more peaceful; the need to be violent with others, the need to have unnecessary quarrels with others, becomes less. So you might even deliberately avoid such situations because there is no motivation to confront others and unnecessarily create suffering for ourselves and suffering for others.

So I just touched on some aspects where with the practice we can develop motivation for some things and then we’ll be losing motivation for other things.

Integrating Meditation

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It is interesting that when we do working meditation there could be thoughts in the mind, but if your attention is only on the work that you are doing then it creates space in the mind. And once that space is created then one can really, use that space for feeling things, for hearing things very sharply and very clearly. So in everyday life when we work also, can we see work as working meditation?

In whatever work you do in everyday life, maybe related to your job, it is possible at the time of doing something to be completely present in doing that. This is a very practical way of integrating meditation with the way we are living. To see work as not something different from meditation.

This is Only the First Noble Truth

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The whole idea of Buddhism is to develop more joy and freedom from suffering, so I’m very sorry to see that Buddhism is used to create more and more suffering. Just to give an example, when I was in Hong Kong I met a woman, a very good woman, a very kind-hearted woman. A Buddhist teacher had told her that there was a devil inside her and this teacher had said: I can see it in your face. So when I met her she was really suffering from what she had heard from this Buddhist teacher.

So this brings up something about the tradition, that we have to be clear what is taught in the culture and what is really taught in the teachings. It’s interesting how to some extent even in Sri Lanka I meet Buddhists who seem to emphasise more the suffering aspect, so I tell them: Please, that is only the first Noble Truth, what about the other Noble Truths? So this is one area I would like you to reflect on, and as I have been emphasising, please use loving-kindness, gentleness, learning to be your best friend, seeing your worth, seeing your potentialities, seeing that you have the Buddha-nature in you.

Self-Destructive

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The self-destructive force in us can be so strong that it is difficult to be friendly to ourselves. The self-destructive feelings can really overwhelm us. This is why awareness is so important in the practice of meditation. When you realise that you have this self-destructive tendency, and this aspect arises together with the minuses, you should immediately catch it. You realise that it is a very strong tendency, a strong conditioning, a habit. It is important to realise that it is only a habit, it is only a conditioning. It is not representing something real. When you see it as a habit you don’t give it such a power and energy as when you take it as real.

A very interesting exercise is to ask yourself every day: “How many minuses have I given myself today?” Then try and see also the differences in the minuses you are giving yourself: big ones and small ones. Finally, rather than feeling bad about it, you can laugh at it. Then there is a lightness and even a joy. In the practice of meditation I think it is very important that we work with ourselves in a light-hearted way, even with our shortcomings, rather than be heavy, beat ourselves, or be very serious and intense.

Torture

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Once I met a Tibetan monk and I asked him: Did you suffer when you were tortured? According to the Dhamma, how do you see that? And he said: I knew that it was because these people were torturing me that I was suffering. But as a meditator I had been practising very hard with physical pain, sitting for two or three hours at a stretch. So when they were torturing me, I was trying to see how far I could work with the pain rather than hate the person torturing me. I tried my best to use the Buddha’s medicine when I was suffering. Sometimes I was very successful and I had real gratitude for the Buddha’s teaching for I saw that the medicine was working. And when the medicine was not working and I was suffering, I thought: May I be able to practise more.

The Other Person Sometimes Doesn’t Know

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We create our own problems without realising it by the way we are making demands, without ever posing the question: “How realistic are my demands?”

When we see someone behaving in a way that we think he or she should not behave, we assume that the other person is acting with full responsibility and knows what he or she is doing. This is just a belief on our part. The other person sometimes doesn’t know why he or she is behaving in that particular way. Often we don’t know ourselves why we are acting in a particular way. Yet we assume that others always know what they are doing.

When we come across such a situation, rather than immediately giving a plus or minus to the other person, rather than getting angry and reacting to the other person, we can have a dialogue to find out why that person is behaving in a particular way. If you can do this with other people in such situations, you’ll be really helpful to them. Maybe for the first time they are encouraged to reflect on what they are doing. In relation to your own actions, rather then giving yourself a minus, try to have a dialogue with yourself about why you’re behaving in this particular way. This is a very important skill that we need to learn in relationships.