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, 2016

Likes and Dislikes

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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.

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The Most Certain Thing in 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.

Breathe Out Compassion

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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.

A Simple Suggestion

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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.

Open Your Heart

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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.

Full of Thoughts

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When we have strong pre-occupations, when our mind is full of thoughts, we can hardly see anything externally. You might be passing through the most beautiful place but you hardly notice the beauty because your mind is full of these pre-occupations and thoughts.

In the same way we can’t see what is in our own mind because there is no space, there is no clarity. This is why I also gave an exercise of learning to awaken the senses by seeing things very sharply, hearing things very clearly. Then that can create space in your mind. And then you can learn to see things very sharply, very clearly. You’ll be able to hear things sharply and clearly. You’ll be able to feel things very clearly, and also there’ll be clarity and space in our mind. However much these things are told, they may not make any sense until you have a glimpse, a small experience of these matters. So this is the beauty of meditation, that you can see for yourself, not because someone says so, or because something is mentioned in the books. So the whole emphasis in meditation is for you to see it, for you to experience it for yourself.

The Problem is the Idea

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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.

Just Accepting

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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.

The Sickness of Humanity

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Meditation can be seen as the medicine that the Buddha presented for the sickness of humanity. Sometimes, as you know, the medicine can be very, very unpleasant; medicine is not always sweet. But if you want to find a way out of the sickness, whether the medicine is pleasant or unpleasant, you have to take it.

In everyday life, due to different reasons we eat very fast and are not even conscious of what we are eating. There is a difference when you eat with awareness, when you eat consciously. It shows that anything in life can be a meditation. Not only when you are doing sitting or walking meditation but in all different situations, just see how you can apply meditation in any situation.

To give a practical example, when you have to go to the toilet and when you find that someone is occupying the toilet, how do you relate to that situation? So in that situation we can learn to develop the very important quality of patience. We can either suffer as a result of it or learn to accept it as it is and to let go of any suffering. Maybe a similar situation is when we are meditating; sometimes unpleasant experiences may arise. Physical pain or mental pain may arise. When they arise, please don’t see them as disturbances or distractions, but please learn to see them as very important objects of meditation.

When there is a change in oneself, this is bound to help the people around you in the family. It’ll also help the people around you in the place where you are working. So with these changes, with possibly a new direction that will emerge, may you experience more joy, more lightness in yourself, and through that may you also be able to help others around you.

Subjective World

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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.

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.