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: January, 2015

Work with Thoughts

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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.

Awareness to enjoy Things

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When we see something, immediately our past associations arise, and from our past associations our likes, our dislikes, and our identifications arise: all our desires will arise, and our ego will arise, and similarly our prejudices and our biases arise. All these things arise, and this prevents us from seeing things just as they are, without distortion. This is a very important and interesting area to watch in relation to the working of perception.

Take food for example: it is very interesting to find out at what point we taste our food. In a way, it is when we first see the food; and then we start eating with all our past associations, with our likes and dislikes. Even before we start eating we have tasted our food mentally. This is an example of how perceptions give rise to concepts, or how our prejudices arise.

We need awareness to really enjoy things. If we have awareness we can start enjoying even small things like a flower, a leaf, an ant, the sound of a bird drinking something. It can make such a difference if your awareness, your attention is there while you are seeing, tasting, hearing and so on. You might be able to see something as if for the first time. This is a beautiful quality one can develop with awareness. If you can see things as if for the first time you really become alive when that happens.

Between Greed and Need

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Most people believe that material things are important, that happiness lies in material things. In fact, the more material things you get, the more dissatisfied you are; and the more dissatisfied you are, the more material things you want to get! Buddha has given a very powerful simile to describe this condition. He compared it to a dog with a bone. So the dog won’t let go of the bone and is just holding on to it, and is still hungry and still dissatisfied, and still suffers from fear of losing that bone.

Related to this serious problem of materialism is another aspect, another manifestation of this, called consumerism. It’s a real challenge for people to live in consumer societies and yet not be affected by the consumerism around them. Consumerism has many aspects, but I see two dangerous aspects in consumerism. One is that people are not clear about what they actually need and what is just their greed. According to the Dhamma we need certain things: food, clothing, shelter, and medicine – they are called the four requisites. The four necessary things are things that human beings really need. So there’s a place for material things, but then when they become our goals and when we are confused between greed and need, this is where they can lead to dissatisfaction and suffering.

Another dangerous aspect of consumerism is that the society that you live in starts manipulating you, and the danger is that you don’t know that you are being manipulated. So you become like puppets, puppets in the hands of a society that creates desire, creates greed, and this all leads to more and more frustration. So isn’t this a sad situation when human beings have the potentiality of becoming free, of becoming enlightened? We have the Buddha-nature in us, but this aspect is not recognised and instead we become victims of the society that we live in.

Whatever Work You Do

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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.

Sexually Abused

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I have been trying to help some people who have been sexually abused, and people who have been raped. So I will share very briefly how the medicine can be given in this situation.

One thing I realised from the victims was that they were very angry at the person who was responsible for that incident. When I worked with them, I did not tell them about the second noble truth. I told them: Yes, you are suffering. All this has been created by the other person. I can understand your anger. I would tell them: Please go somewhere and show your anger, express it and bring it out.

Another thing I experienced with them was that often they felt guilty. They felt responsible for what the other person did to them. Here again I would tell them: It is natural that you feel guilty. But let us work slowly, gradually, gently to find out how far you can let go of the guilt. I did not tell them that the guilt is their own creation. I said: It is okay that you feel guilty, but see how far you can forgive yourself. It is not easy and it takes some time, but slowly, slowly the medicine may start to help.

Another thing I realised was the way they related to their body. Because of what had happened to their body they hated their body. Sometimes they felt alienated from their body, as if it was someone else’s body. So when they told me: Well, I feel as if this body is not mine, I did not say to them: This is the Buddha’s teaching, this body is not yours. I told them: It is natural that you should feel this way.

Psychological Wounds

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One aspect in relation to loving-kindness is learning to heal our psychological wounds by forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. These wounds may have been created in childhood or in subsequent relationships.

If we do not really heal our wounds, one thing that might happen is that this may create problems in our relationships which cause suffering for ourselves and for others. They can create certain destructive patterns in our relationships. They can also affect our bodies. They may create tensions in our bodies that are related to these repressed emotions or wounds. They can also create illnesses in us. They can also affect our sleep and dreams, so that we might get angry in our sleep, or we might cry in our sleep, or have frightful dreams.

These things can be related to the unhealed wounds that we carry. Or we can have sudden emotions, and we can’t find a reason for them. Suddenly we feel like crying, suddenly we experience fear or we feel panic.

Bound to make Mistakes

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One 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.

Likes and Dislikes can Distort

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In our relationships in everyday life, we relate in two different ways to pleasant and unpleasant experiences. When we like someone we really don’t see that person just as he or she is. We will be seeing mostly only the positive and pleasant aspects of that person. And if we don’t like someone, then again we’ll be seeing mostly the negative in that person and we will not see the positive in such a person.

There is a very interesting statement by the Buddha in this connection. Some monks told him that there were people who were criticizing his teaching. Then the Buddha said something very fascinating. He told them that when you hear someone criticizing my teaching, if you don’t like that, if you resist that, you will not really hear what is being said. And when you hear someone praising my teachings, if you are very happy and elated by that, you will not be able to really hear what is being said. So it shows very clearly, both in our meditation and in our everyday life, how these strong likes and strong dislikes can distort the picture.

Brush your Teeth with Awareness

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Try to be aware of the small things and routine things we do, like brushing our teeth: this is just a very simple suggestion. You can make a little effort to brush your teeth with awareness. We all know that when we brush our teeth we do it mechanically, habitually, while mentally we are elsewhere. This simple exercise in the morning, brushing our teeth in a very caring way, will help us to develop awareness, and as an extra benefit your teeth will shine in the darkness! Another simple exercise is that when taking a shower in the morning, you can just stand there for two or three minutes simply feeling the water on the body, just being with the feeling. It is a beautiful way to start the day.

Work with our Thoughts

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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.