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: July, 2015

Responsibility

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A very important aspect of awareness is that we learn to develop self-confidence because we learn that with awareness and with our own effort we can do a great deal about ourselves. We develop self-confidence and self-reliance. Then we take responsibility for our own actions. We take responsibility for what is happening to us without blaming others and without blaming the surroundings. You take full responsibility for your own actions, for your own thoughts, for your own ways. This is an aspect that the Buddha emphasised very much.

I studied in a Buddhist school in Kandy and in the school we had a motto which was written in Pali. It means: “Self-help is the best help”. So in this regard awareness is the key to the practice. This is why the Buddha called it the only way.

In Small Ways

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We can practise loving-kindness when we are eating. It is learning to take into account the persons with whom you are eating. As far as possible, whenever you get an opportunity give a helping hand to someone who might need it. It is a very important quality that we can develop, and we can develop this quality in silence and even in relation to eating. So it’s interesting that we can practise loving-kindness in little acts, small acts, not just with big acts of love; but even with these small things we’ll be developing the qualities of our heart. Actually I’m sometimes touched by the attention that I get from so many people when I eat. I feel as if I am pampered. I feel as if I’m treated as a child. I like it sometimes. But we should also learn to have the same concern for others in small ways, in little ways.

I Am Somebody

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According to the Buddha, the main cause of suffering is this idea we have that there is an “I” or a “me” in all this: that there is an ego. So the ego wants things his way or her way. The best way, I feel, to understand how the ego works is that we have this idea that I am Somebody. So it is really funny that the Somebody wants things his or her own way. The Somebody is such an important person. And when we have this idea, that we are a Somebody, it is very easy to be wounded, to be hurt.

Actually if you analyse the emotions, the emotions are created by this feeling of suffering. Take anger. If Somebody wants others to behave in his way, and then sees that others are not behaving according to his feeling of being Somebody, he gets angry, thinking: they should have behaved according to what this Somebody says.

We are amused. We think it is funny. But when we are Somebody, we do not feel it in that way. We are really hurt, we are really wounded, we are really despondent. Take fear. Fear is related to this. This Somebody might loose something and so Somebody has fear. What about anxiety? This is very important. Somebody might make mistakes. So you are anxious. And if Somebody wants only plusses from others – how can others give minuses to this Somebody? It is impossible. You see, when you analyse it this way, how absurd our behaviour is.

So to see this leads us maybe to develop this sense of absurdity, to see the absurdity of our self-importance. So this is very powerful, when you see the second Noble Truth in this way, how you are creating suffering for yourself; if you can see this clearly, then the way out of suffering also becomes clear to you.

Learn to Enjoy Life

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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. So 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.

Relation to Pain

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I would like to offer some suggestions on how to work with pain in meditation. One way is not to see the pain as a disturbance or as a distraction to meditation. So the pain becomes the object of meditation. When the pain is there, you can try to explore, investigate and find out about the pain. In everyday life, when we have pain what we do is try to get rid of the pain, but by doing that we never learn about pain. So here when pain comes you should consider it a blessing for it gives you an opportunity to work with pain and to understand it. You can explore when there is physical pain whether you can observe and work with the reaction to the pain. Sometimes it is the reaction that is creating the suffering in relation to the pain – by your not wanting the pain, considering the pain as a disturbance, and hating the pain. Having these reactions can create more suffering on top of the pain.

I have discovered that sometimes the pain can have a physical reason, and sometimes certain pains and tensions can be due to a psychological reason. If it has a physical reason, you can work with the pain in this way for some time and then change the posture.

However, in relation to pain you should avoid two extremes. One extreme is pampering the body, for example whenever there is pain you change the posture immediately or try to get rid of the pain. The other extreme is being very hard and severe on yourself, so that you continue to sit without changing the posture at all even when it is very painful indeed. I would suggest therefore discovering a middle way where you learn to be friendly and gentle to the body, to the pain, avoiding being hard and severe towards it, but at the same time not pampering the body. In practical terms, this means to work with the pain when you are sitting and then if necessary to change the posture as I have explained earlier.

If the pain does not have a physical reason, we may have to explore the emotion behind the pain that is creating the pain. Thus in meditation what we are trying to do is not to get rid of the pain but to learn to see even when pain is there, how far we can relate to the pain without necessarily suffering as a result of the pain.

From Moment to Moment

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In relation to insight, according to the Buddha’s teachings, there are three characteristics, three important aspects which we have to develop if we are developing insight. That is to develop, to realize, to understand the change how things are impermanent, how things are changing from moment to moment. So while we are sitting, your thoughts are changing from moment to moment; there is one thought, then another thought arises so there is this continuous change taking place in relation to your thoughts. Sensations in your body are also changing from moment to moment. Your state of mind is also changing from moment to moment, sometimes you may feel happy, sometimes you might feel restless, sometimes you may feel calm; so whatever your state of mind, that is also changing.

It is a very important insight to be open to the change that you are experiencing internally and then whatever change that takes place in your mind and body, if you learn not to resist it and if you learn to be open to change and realize the change, there can be any changes taking place but there is no suffering.

In the same way, externally, the world out there, the life out there is also always changing from moment to moment; sometimes good things happen to us, sometimes bad things happen to us, sometimes unexpected things happen to us; but here again whatever is happening externally, if you can realize the fact of change, impermanence, and be open to it, any changes can take place but then you can still be free; because we have no control. Now I am told that very soon a typhoon will come here. Can you prevent that typhoon from coming? But what we can do is to understand it, to be open to it and as it is said in the Buddha’s teachings, to see it just as it is. I know it sounds very simple but this is the teaching.

When the Moment Comes

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Sometimes reflecting on death, the inevitability of death, helps us to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. It emphasises the need to heal the wounds we are carrying. This idea of death can be something very useful to cultivate and it can be very useful for our practice.

We can reflect on what are the things that we might miss when we die. This will help us to recognise our identifications, it will help us to recognise the things that we think we own. Things we consider “our” things; things we don’t like to leave. These identifications can be divided into three categories: the first is identification with ourselves, with our mind and body; the second is identification with other people; the third is identification with our possessions. While reflecting on them we realise that in an absolute sense we really don’t own them, and we can die to our identifications.

Another aspect of dying to reflect on is that when we die we have to face it all by ourselves. We may have spiritual friends, we may have other people, but at that moment we are alone. This is why I encourage you as meditators to spend some time alone, to spend some time with yourself and to make a connection with yourself. In a way this can be seen as learning to live with yourself, to be happy on your own and enjoy your own company. Then when the moment comes for you to leave you can face that situation in a different way. Because you have made a connection with yourself, your dependencies may be less.

Ego

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According to the Buddha, the main cause of suffering is this idea we have that there is an “I” or a “me” in all this: that there is an ego. So the ego wants things his way or her way. The best way, I feel, to understand how the ego works is that we have this idea that I am Somebody. So it is really funny that the Somebody wants things his or her own way. The Somebody is such an important person. And when we have this idea, that we are a Somebody, it is very easy to be wounded, to be hurt.

Actually if you analyse the emotions, the emotions are created by this feeling of suffering. Take anger. If Somebody wants others to behave in his way, and then sees that others are not behaving according to his feeling of being Somebody, he gets angry, thinking: they should have behaved according to what this Somebody says.

We are amused. We think it is funny. But when we are Somebody, we do not feel it in that way. We are really hurt, we are really wounded, we are really despondent. Take fear. Fear is related to this. This Somebody might loose something and so Somebody has fear. What about anxiety? This is very important. Somebody might make mistakes. So you are anxious. And if Somebody wants only plusses from others – how can others give minuses to this Somebody? It is impossible. You see, when you analyse it this way, how absurd our behaviour is.

So to see this leads us maybe to develop this sense of absurdity, to see the absurdity of our self-importance. So this is very powerful, when you see the second Noble Truth in this way, how you are creating suffering for yourself; if you can see this clearly, then the way out of suffering also becomes clear to you.

Work

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We can learn so many qualities by working. It’s about giving and it’s about being generous. You learn patience in working with others. And if you can see work as not something different from meditation, then it is a very useful way of integrating meditation with daily life.

Pleasant and Unpleasant

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What happens in our meditation is that we like and want only pleasant, positive experiences and then we start disliking, resisting what we consider as unpleasant experiences. These two are reactions and these reactions can create suffering in meditation. Because when we want only pleasant experiences, positive experiences in our practice, then when we have unpleasant and negative experiences, we don’t like them. I feel that in our practice, in meditation, it is extremely important to relate to experiences which we consider both pleasant and unpleasant.

I feel that actually we can learn a great deal from what we consider as unpleasant experiences. In meditation, if we can learn to relate to these unpleasant experiences in a positive way, then in everyday life we can learn to relate to unpleasant situations in whatever form they arise. Because it is natural that in our daily life, in everyday situations, unpleasant experiences will arise just as in our meditation. So in everyday life, if we can see such experiences also as objects of meditation, then we can really learn something very important, how to handle these unpleasant situations in everyday life, especially learning to relate to unpleasant emotions. It can be fear, it can be anger, it can be sadness, it can be guilt; in whatever way they arise, it is very important for us to learn how to handle them.

And again both in meditation and everyday life, when we have pleasant experiences, when we have positive experiences, we like those experiences to continue. Here again, we have no control and if we identify ourselves with only pleasant experiences, calm experiences, when they change what happens is that we suffer in reacting to such situations.

And in our relationships in everyday life, we also relate in two different ways to these 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.