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: December, 2014

Just Consuming Things

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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.

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Associated with Loving-Kindness.

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In the Tibetan tradition, they use the breath to develop compassion: You breathe in the suffering of the world, you breathe out compassion for other beings. Breathing in friendliness to yourself; breathing out friendliness to others. Breathing in – forgiving yourself; breathing out – forgiving others. Please try this. Because if you can develop this association, if you can make such a connection, then the breath will always be associated with loving-kindness.

That can be another very positive aspect of our friend the breath: whenever you think of your friend, loving-kindness arises. You can have loving-kindness for yourself, and you can have loving-kindness for others. See how the polarity can again be used functionally.

Laugh at Life

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In traditional Buddhist countries one is encouraged to reflect on death. I think it is a very important reflection. Otherwise we forget about the most certain thing in life and we assume that we are going to live forever. So when you encounter death it can really give you a shock, you will be taken by surprise.

There are some interesting stories about people who have been able to laugh at life, and they were able to laugh at death in the same way. At present I am reading a book about how people met their death. It is fascinating how many of them have been able to really laugh at death and dying. There is a Zen story that comes to my mind, about a meditation master who was dying. When he realised he was dying he called all his students and asked them: “In what posture have you seen people dying?” His students replied: “In so many different postures.” The Zen master continued: “I am going to die in a most unusual posture.” After that he stood on his head and then he died! It shows that one can be playful about life and even about death.

Poor thoughts!

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An important reason why the breath is used as a meditation object is that it helps us to develop awareness. This kind of meditation is called in Pali anapanasati. It is awareness or mindfulness or attention in relation to the in-breath and the out-breath. A problem meditators have is that they try to exclude other things, they try to exclude sounds, for instance. When they hear sounds they become a problem. When they have thoughts they also hate the thoughts. Poor thoughts!

Any sensations in the body, they think this is a disturbance or a distraction in the meditation. But it is very simple: the first emphasis must be on awareness. Just being aware of whatever is happening. This gives us a very interesting experience: you hear sounds, so you are aware of the sounds, and then see with the sounds what happens to you. We see we can convert sounds into noise, which is then disturbing us. It can be a very deep realisation, that the problem arises because of the way we relate to things.

When I talk about sounds, I sometimes speak about an experience we have in the meditation centre at Nilambe. There is a bell to wake you up at 4:45 in the morning. Thus you can just imagine what association the sound of the bell has! But it is the same sound which is heard to indicate lunch. No difference. Where is the problem? It rests in its meaning, the associations we make. So it is not the sound, not what you hear, but how you relate to it.

Like Machines

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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.

Change is the Nature of Existence

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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.

Sleep

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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.

We are All Crazy

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There is a very interesting perspective, a Buddhist analysis of human nature. That our shortcomings – it can be hatred, it can be violence, in whatever form they arise – are due to three reasons.

And the three reasons are greed, hatred and delusion. So as long as we have these three characteristics, we will behave sometimes violently, sometimes irrationally, in all the ways human beings are behaving in this world. There is a very interesting perspective, a Buddhist analysis of human nature. That our shortcomings – it can be hatred, it can be violence, in whatever form they arise – are due to three reasons.

And the three reasons are greed, hatred and delusion. So as long as we have these three characteristics, we will behave sometimes violently, sometimes irrationally, in all the ways human beings are behaving in this world.

When you see behaviour arising from greed, hatred and delusion – in other words, when you see such actions coming from imperfect human beings – should we be surprised? We should be surprised if people don’t live in this way!

According to Buddhism we are living in a crazy world. In that sense we are all crazy. Only when we are enlightened do we become completely sane. Why do I say we are crazy? Because we have created a subjective world and we live in this subjective world which does not correspond to reality. Who can say that you always see things just as they are? The problem with us is we take this crazy world too seriously. So when we see crazy behaviour please don’t be surprised.

When you see behaviour arising from greed, hatred and delusion – in other words, when you see such actions coming from imperfect human beings – should we be surprised? We should be surprised if people don’t live in this way!

According to Buddhism we are living in a crazy world. In that sense we are all crazy. Only when we are enlightened do we become completely sane. Why do I say we are crazy? Because we have created a subjective world and we live in this subjective world which does not correspond to reality. Who can say here that you always see things just as they are? The problem with us is we take this crazy world too seriously. So when we see crazy behaviour please don’t be surprised.

What Can be changed

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Whenever we have a problem, it’s a very interesting exercise to try to find out what is the model, what is the expectation, what is the image that I’m having which I am resisting now. So you realize that what you call a problem is, in a way, not the problem; but rather the problem is the idea, the image you have of how things should be different.

Sometimes it’s also good to reflect very consciously: this is the problem I have; now in what way can I find a solution, in what way can I respond to that problem, what I call a problem? Sometimes we have problems which cannot be solved. Take a practical example: sometimes in Sri Lanka a mother would come to me with a deformed child, or a mentally retarded child, and for such conditions there is no cure. So what can she do?

It is very important to know what can be changed in our lives, and what cannot be changed in our lives. If something can be changed, you can try to reflect about it clearly, and if things cannot be changed, you have to accept that. We have to have the wisdom to see the difference very clearly, what can be changed and what cannot be changed.

The Quality of Feeling Grateful

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One aspect of loving-kindness is a quality that we take for granted, the quality of feeling grateful. I was in Bodhgaya, the place where the Buddha was enlightened. Now according to the story of what the Buddha did after he became enlightened, one thing was to spend 7 days looking at the Bodhi tree which had given him shade, which had helped him to get enlightened. And he showed his gratitude by standing and gazing at the tree for 7 days.

Do we ever feel grateful for things like a tree, or for something which has helped us? But when we develop this quality of loving-kindness, we learn to appreciate and feel grateful for things, for little things, for small things, which we normally take for granted.

In a way one of the things in meditation, in the spiritual life, is to realise this: to see that we have all these qualities within us, just to see them, just to realise them, and this can make such a difference to our self-perception, it can make such a shift of attitude in us. So in this way, as with rejoicing, we can find so many reasons why we feel grateful.