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, 2015

Relationships

No human being can avoid relationships. Even if someone is living as a hermit in the forest he or she has relationships. A person has a relationship with his food, with his surroundings and, of course, with himself. This shows that we cannot avoid relationships. It is a very important theme that we have to be clear about. When we use the word relationship usually what comes into our mind is a relationship with another person, but what is most important is to find out how we relate to ourselves.

The way we relate to others will depend on the way we relate to ourselves. If you are very critical of yourself, you will be very critical of others. If you do not trust yourself, it will be very difficult for you to trust others. If you feel insecure, other people will generate a lot of insecurity in you. Therefore it is very important when we discuss relationships to find out how we relate to ourselves. This is why meditation of loving-kindness is so important. With this meditation we can really learn to be our own best friend, and our dependencies on other people can become less.

Sometimes what happens is that we use other people to cover up our own sense of inadequacy. This is how we give so much power and so much energy to other people. We allow our own happiness or unhappiness to be dependent on other people. Though we are grown up, we still have our toys in the form of external things that we have become dependent on for our amusement and our happiness. Like children, we keep on changing toys. When we have one toy we think: “Now this is going to make me happy”, but very soon we are unhappy with that particular toy and we start looking for other toys. Our whole lives we are looking for toys, and at the end of it we are still dissatisfied.

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What You Are

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As children we have been asked, or we have been told in various ways, to be different from what we are. We have been given models, ideals, images of how we should be. So naturally there is a split between what you are and what you should become. We begin with this and then people take it into their spiritual lives too. They attend certain meditation retreats, and the meditation teacher says: You must be calm, you must have loving-kindness, you must have this or that, and so on. Naturally you cannot always achieve this. Then there is more self-hatred, more feeling oneself as worthless, as being a failure. So what do you do with such meditation teachers?

This is why I now emphasise as a first step – mind you, as a first step – to accept who you are honestly and very sincerely. To accept our humanness. To accept the fact that you are still imperfect, and to work from that fact by having loving-kindness towards what you are. This does not mean that you give in to what you are, but you work with these areas with friendliness, gentleness and tenderness. This is another aspect in developing loving-kindness.

Like an Orchestra

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An important aspect of the mirror-like mind is that there is no difference between what is reflected in the mirror and the mirror itself: there is no duality. There is no thinker apart from the thoughts; there is no hearer apart from the hearing, there is only hearing. With this meditation technique you can have a glimpse of the fact that there is only the hearing, not the idea that ‘I am hearing’; that there is only the thinking, and that there is no thinker apart from the thoughts that are arising and passing away; that there is only the feeling and that there is no-one feeling.

It is like an orchestra, with the sounds, the thoughts, the emotions, the sensations; but the difference is there is no conductor. It is the conductor, the controller, who directs, who wants, who judges. When the conductor is absent there is only the orchestra; there is only the thought, there is only the sound, there is only the feeling.

It sounds very simple, but this is what the model is, and this meditation technique I find is very powerful, it has a lot of very profound and deep aspects. What I like in it is that you can really practice it in your everyday life. With certain meditation techniques you have to close your eyes or you have to sit in a particular posture. For this meditation you don’t have to close your eyes and you don’t have to sit in a particular posture. In any situation it is just having the awareness to know what is happening in your body and mind.

Non-Reactive Mind

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However much you try to be with the breath, it is just not possible? I can really understand that. One suggestion I would like to offer is that when these thoughts come during your meditation, try to focus attention not on the thoughts but on your state of mind. Can you at least have a non-reactive mind for some time with these thoughts coming and going?

So the emphasis is more on the non-reactive mind. And you are just being with that, thoughts coming and going. Does that make sense? This is why I have been speaking a lot about thoughts, because we all have thoughts from morning till night, so it is very important to learn to work with our thoughts.

Calm and Wisdom

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In the Buddhist tradition there are two aspects to meditation: one is called calm, tranquillity, and the other is Vipassana or developing insight and wisdom. In developing calmness and tranquillity, I would say that this is like polishing the dust off the mirror. This is what we do by practising with an object like breathing, where with the help of our friend the breath we learn to develop some calmness, some tranquillity, some space, clarity and awareness. And when the dust is not there the mirror reflects things just as they are.

I would like to share with you some aspects of a mirror-like mind for you to apply to your own experience and your own situation in life. A mirror reflects what is considered beautiful just as something that is beautiful. For example, a flower comes before a mirror and the mirror would reflect the flower just as it is. Something that we consider not so beautiful, or not so pleasant, say a spider, would be reflected just as a spider. No discrimination between the flower and the spider.

So you can see how we are trying to apply this in our meditation. When we have a pleasant experience, we are aware of the pleasant experience just as it is. When we have an unpleasant experience, or what we consider as an unpleasant experience, we reflect it as it is. That is why I have been reminding you many times, if there is a pleasant sensation, just know that there is a pleasant sensation. And if there is an unpleasant sensation, can we make friends with it? Can we relate to it without resisting it? Can we be really open to what we consider unpleasant sensations?

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.

Experience Joy and Freedom

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There is this idea among meditators which is quite common that meditation is only developing concentration. In fact, in Sri Lanka when meditators come to the centre, I ask them what are you trying to achieve in meditation and the invariable answer is that they want to develop concentration.

Certainly concentration has a place in meditation but there is another important aspect in meditation which is equally or more important. That is what is called Vipassana or developing insight. With this emphasis only of concentration I know that some meditators have even given up meditation and when you ask for the reason, they say they are unable to concentrate. And I know that many meditators sometimes are struggling with this idea of developing concentration. So in this way, meditation can be a battle and sometimes this can even create more suffering; the idea of meditation is to experience joy and freedom. And then even the word concentration may not be the right word because the word concentration has many meanings, many connotations.

When you use the word concentration, one thing it implies exclusion. Another is trying very hard to maintain and sustain that concentration. So this can create a lot of tension and restlessness in one’s practice. The Pali word Samadhi which is translated as concentration gives an entirely different meaning. For Samadhi to be there, the mind and the body has to be completely relaxed. And by trying too hard, one can never experience Samadhi because there again, with trying too hard and having strong expectations, this can also create problems. It’s interesting that according to the Buddhist texts, before one experiences Samadhi, you have to feel gentle, friendly, and also have an element of joy and bliss in one’s practice.

A Challenge

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A challenge can arise in relationships when we see the shortcomings of other people. Whatever the relationship, sometimes we see the other person behaving differently from how we think they should behave. Normally what we do when we see other people’s weaknesses is that we become very judgmental. We want them to be different and we get angry with them. We give them a minus and try to correct them. This shows that we are demanding how other people should behave.

It is funny how in life we make demands on ourselves, how we should behave. We demand from ourselves that we behave according to our own model of perfection. In the same way we project our model of perfection onto others. Consequently we demand that their behaviour should correspond to the model of perfection that we hold in relation to them.

But do we stop at that? No, we even demand from life how it should be. Take for example the weather. When there is Dutch weather we demand that we should have Sri Lankan weather! When there is Sri Lankan weather we are very happy and when there is Dutch weather we are very unhappy.

It is really funny how we make demands upon life, how we make demands upon ourselves, how we make demands upon others. Naturally you cannot meet all the demands you are making of yourself, and naturally others can’t meet the demands you are making of them; and again quite naturally, life can’t meet the demands you are making of it.

Here we see in a very simple, direct way how we create our own suffering. 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?”

Unpleasant Situations

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I feel that actually we can learn a great deal from what we consider as unpleasant experiences. So 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, I feel that it is very important for us to learn how to handle them.