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: October, 2014

Your Best Friend

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An important aspect where we need to use loving-kindness is learning to relate to our shortcomings, our weaknesses. When we make a mistake, how do we relate to that using loving-kindness? Because we are all human – and it is very nice that we are all human – but as we are human, we are bound to make mistakes. And when we make mistakes, how can we use loving-kindness is such a situation? What do we do when we make a mistake? Immediately give a big minus?

So hereafter, when you make a mistake, please don’t give yourself a minus, and without giving yourself a minus, you can start to reflect. This reflection is a very, very important aspect of meditation. I will emphasise that, introducing it as we go along in this retreat.

Relating to yourself as your best friend, you have a dialogue with yourself: Now what happened to you? What made you do that? What made you say that word? You must ask this question in a very friendly, gentle, kind way so as to just come to understand yourself. Then you learn to see different aspects, different accents to your actions. So in this way it is something very beautiful that, rather than suffer, rather than beat ourselves, rather than feel guilty, we will learn from our mistakes.

So please realise this: that this is not a matter of giving into that mistake. But rather understanding our mistakes and then learning from them, and then effecting a kind of natural transformation from that. If you can relate to your mistakes in this way, you will never carry them as wounds, which can be something very destructive, to hold on to these wounds, hold on to what has happened in the past.

In this way, when you see the mistakes of other people, when you see the faults of other people, then you can relate to them in this way with understanding, with loving-kindness, and this can also give a lot of understanding: without getting angry, without developing hatred, we develop more and more understanding about human nature, in whichever way it arises: whether in relation to ourselves, or in relation to others. So in this way we learn to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. This is a powerful way of healing those wounds that we carry in relation to our mistakes, and in relation to the mistakes of others.

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Demands

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We want to see things the way they should be, as they must be according to our way, my way.

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.

Allow the Mind to do What it Likes

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You can sit in a comfortable position, because the posture is not really important. What is important is to have your spine erect but relaxed. And you may have your eyes open or closed.

Now just allow the mind to do whatever it likes.

If thoughts are arising, let thoughts arise – thoughts about the past, thoughts about the future…

There is no need to repress thoughts, no need to control thoughts. See how far you can be aware of each thought that arises. You need to have moment-to-moment awareness.

Just know how you relate to each thought that arises. Are you judging them? Are you getting involved with them? Or can you allow them to just arise and pass away?

You have enough space in your mind for every thought to arise. See how far you relate to each thought that arises. Learning to make friends with your thoughts.

Make your own discoveries. Are the thoughts mostly about the past? Are they mostly about the future? Are the thoughts racing one after another? Are they slowing down? Is there space between two thoughts? Do you get involved in some thoughts? Do you judge your thoughts? Make your own discoveries about the different aspects, about the different dimensions, about the structure of your thoughts.

Have moment-to-moment awareness of the way you are relating to each thought that arises.

Now can you do the same in relation to emotions? Can you allow emotions to arise? Especially the emotions that you don’t like, that you resist, deny, repress and control?

Emotions like sadness, fear, anxiety, guilt. Can you just allow such emotions to arise if they need to arise? Can you make friends with them? Can you make enough space for them? Can you just allow them to come? Letting them be without repressing them, without controlling them, without resisting them?

Thoughts and emotions: Learning to see them as they are, not as they should be or ought to be. Learning just to allow them to be. Just letting them be.

Can you make friends with the emotions that you don’t like, that you resist, that you control? Can you create space for them?

Can you do the same in relation to sensations in your body? Tensions, pressure, unpleasant sensations. Can you allow any sensation to arise in your body and just let it be? Just allowing it to be?

Thoughts, emotions, sensations, sounds. Learning to see them as they are. Learning to have a mirror-like mind, just reflecting things as they are. Not resisting anything, not grasping anything. Not liking anything, not disliking anything. Not accepting anything, not rejecting anything. Just being, just allowing. Surrendering to what is.

Be alert and awake from moment to moment.

A Wound

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A mirror-like mind is that it does not retain anything. What happens in our own experience, what happens in our everyday life? We retain in our memory certain experiences which have affected us. Someone has made us angry, hurt us and we are really holding onto this in our memory. This is what I call a wound. And sometimes we can retain these memories throughout our lives. And I would suggest that as we are still human, it is natural that we retain certain experiences which have happened to us. So what we can do in our practice is to realize that and sometimes to bring the memories up and try to heal them so that what we are retaining, what we are holding onto is released. Otherwise such wounds can affect us in many ways.

Scanning

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When we learn to meditate with an object it becomes very easy to come back to that object. But I think it is very important also to slowly, slowly learn to forget about having any object, and to allow the mind to do what it likes, just watching, just observing what the mind is doing.

In a way, what the mind is doing can be seen as an object. Let me take an example: When you allow the mind to do what it likes, then you realise that you are thinking. So thinking at that time becomes the object. The difference is, you do not get fixed, you do not focus on that thinking, but in a very loose, natural, relaxed way you allow the mind to do what it likes. Then from the thoughts it might move to a sound. When it moves to the sound, then you know: Now you are with that object; and then after a few seconds you come to the body, some sensations in the knee. So this is allowing the mind to scan, like in computer language: scanning.

So this can be done very easily in everyday life. For example you go to the office in the morning and you just sit there for a few minutes, you just allow the mind to do what it likes. Then you realise that you are seeing things, hearing things, just knowing what the mind is doing. So you can do it anywhere. In Sri Lanka sometimes I tell Sri Lankans, you can practice this waiting for a bus, getting in the bus, travelling in the bus, and even if you miss the bus! This is really objectless meditation.

Aren’t we Funny?

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Sometimes we can be very creative in a destructive way with our thoughts. So it is very important to know when we are using thoughts destructively and how to use thoughts constructively. As an example of a story that we create:

At the breakfast table someone is sitting next to us and the person is making a very unpleasant noise. Why is this person sitting next to me? And why is she making this noise? I have been eating now for 20 minutes, but she is continuing to make the same noise. I think she is doing this to agitate me!

We are laughing. But this is exactly what we do. In this story, you see how many monsters can come at the same time – with just this woman sitting there. We can have anger, and because of anger we can have guilt, and because of anger and guilt we can be confused, and because we are confused we can feel jealous when we look around and see other people sitting so calmly. You see how from this little noise, four or five monsters can come within a few minutes. Aren’t we funny? See how we can be so destructive with our thoughts!

Who is Having this Emotion?

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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.

Breaking Plates

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When you see someone doing something wrong in a spiritual relationship, do you say: May you be well, may you be happy, may you be peaceful? Do you say: These minuses are only concepts, I do not use minuses? What will a spiritual friend do in such a situation? He will speak with the other person. He will want him to grow. He will engage in some kind of a dialogue, because a spiritual friend would try to get the other person to understand his behaviour. Sometimes we just assume that the other person understands why he is behaving in this way. So it is very useful to get that person to understand or reflect on his behaviour.

And then the spiritual friend does something very creative too. When the other person does not do anything wrong, the spiritual friend points that out too! It is extremely destructive to point out only the minuses, and only when the other person does something wrong. It is extremely important to tell the other person when they are doing something good, something skilful, something wholesome. This is a quality we need to cultivate. The other quality you do not have to cultivate, it is there naturally!

So it takes some effort to see these positive qualities, to say this with your whole heart and to really show your deep appreciation for these things. This can be very touching. There can be a beautiful communication when such a thing happens. And the spiritual friend does the same to you. It is simply sharing with each other, and not taking up a position that one is better or more superior than the other. But really just sharing together, learning together, and growing together.

Sometimes it is also important to know when it is necessary to be assertive. That is, you should know when to be gentle and when to be assertive. I will share with you what a woman in Sri Lanka told me about regarding this aspect. This happened when I was in a very remote village speaking to a group of meditators. One of the women shared this experience with the group. She revealed that her husband would come home drunk and would start breaking the pots, plates, cups and so on. She tried so many things – practising loving-kindness, speaking to him in a very kind, gentle way when he was sober. She even spoke to his other friends, and through those friends tried to influence him to change. She would collect all that he had broken and keep the pieces in a place where he could see them. All these tools did not work. At last, one day when he came home drunk she said: If you break one plate, I will break ten! And that ended his days of breaking plates!

So as a spiritual friend you have to use these methods in a skilful way, and not merely always be passive. Some people understand only this language. This is a point to remember.

Not Very Easy

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The second noble truth is not so easy and clear. Because here you are told that the cause of suffering is your own models, your own expectations, your own ideas, your own assumptions, your own desires, your own wanting things to be only your own way. This is the cause of suffering.

I feel that the second noble truth is extremely important because it is only when you realise it that the third and the fourth noble truths can follow.

One point is that when you see this, you have to take responsibility for what is happening inside yourself. This is not an easy teaching. To have complete self-reliance and to say: I create my own suffering and therefore only I can free myself. This is because there are some easier teachings where you are told: I will help you, you have only to trust or surrender to me and everything will be all right. You do not have to do anything, only have trust, faith, belief and so on. Hence this second noble truth is an extremely radical teaching. It is not an easy teaching.

What is also difficult and subtle is for you to fully realise this truth. Take the example I gave this morning. Someone had stolen from you what you consider as extremely precious, something that is more precious than your own life. And when you were sad and suffering, someone asked you: Why are you sad? Why are you suffering? So you said: That person took my most precious possession. When we are angry and are sometimes asked: Why are you angry? we answer: This person hurt me. He did such and such to me, that is why I am angry.

So you see the second noble truth is something very subtle to realise. When a person’s precious possession has been stolen, he says he feels sad because this man stole it. But can the person respond differently with something other than that reaction? Can he let go of his identification with what he considers as something very precious? If he can do that, then he will realise there is no suffering. So this is a very hard medicine. In fact, some medicines are not very pleasant, and not very sweet. So this medicine that is presented is also not very easy.

Learning to be Aware

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It is interesting that in the Noble Eightfold Path which the Buddha presented as a way of experiencing freedom from suffering, mindfulness comes before samadhi. So it shows very clearly that what is important is learning to be mindful, learning to be aware, just knowing what is happening from moment to moment. From that the samadhi can come naturally. So in practical terms, when we are trying to learn to be aware of our breath, what we can try to do is to be aware of whatever is happening in our mind and body. Even if you realize that your mind is not concentrated, that your mind is not calm, just knowing it, just accepting it can make such a difference.