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, 2016

What’s Noble about Suffering?

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Why did the Buddha call suffering a noble truth? How does suffering become a noble truth? What is so noble about suffering?

It’s because we have to experience suffering to feel the need to be free of it. Unless we know that we are sick, the need to take medicine will not arise. There are people who are sick, but they do not know that they are sick. Hence the need to find and use the medicine does not arise. We deserve a big plus that we know there is a sickness and that we are trying to discover the medicine and use it. A big plus!

Just Knowing

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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.

All the Monsters

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The real challenge we have in everyday life is when facing anxiety, stress, anger, and all the other monsters. This is why I have been emphasising very much that they should be your objects of meditation.

They should be precious learning experiences for you, and they should be your teachers. So the practice is not to suppress them. This is a very important point to remember. It is not to get rid of them. But rather just to see them as our compost, using them for our growth when they are there. This is another very interesting perspective to have in relation to meditation in daily life.

I

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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.

Like a Gardener

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One suggestion I would like to offer is not to be concerned and preoccupied about progress and results in your meditation, but rather to see what you are doing as interesting. One of the teachers gave a very beautiful simile on this. He said: It is like a gardener who is planting things. If he is a good gardener, he should enjoy what he is doing. This means he simply enjoys the process of learning to take care of the plants. He finds it interesting, and maybe even challenging sometimes. So when a gardener plants something, he can never know when the flowers will come, or when the fruits will arrive. This is the type of relationship we might try to cultivate with meditation.

Priorities

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We have to be clear in our minds about our priorities in life. What is the most important priority you have in life? And then you have to find out, if you have a list of priorities, where meditation fits in that list. If the commitment for meditation is amongst the first few priorities, ranking maybe first, second or third among those priorities, then that in itself will look after meditation. This is because if you know clearly your commitment to it, then you will never say: I do not have time for meditation.

Here what might be helpful is to find out whether you really like meditation, whether you find it interesting, whether you can develop a curiosity about it, and whether you have clearly developed a taste for it. Otherwise how can you have a commitment to meditation, be motivated towards it, if you find that it is such a big battle, very unpleasant and requiring a great effort when you are practising?

Appreciate Beauty

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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.

We Can Learn from Anything

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We can use awareness to explore, to investigate, to learn, to find out what we are experiencing. So if you are experiencing physical pain, you can use awareness to start exploring the nature of pain. In ordinary life when we experience pain we merely try to get rid of it because it is unpleasant, but by reacting to pain in this way we never learn about pain, a very important part of the human condition. So with awareness, with this investigating faculty, we can make discoveries by ourselves about so many aspects of our mind and body.

What is beautiful is that we can learn from anything, we can learn from anyone. But we should have this openness and humility to try to learn, to try to discover the truth. Then meditation becomes interesting, because anything can be a learning experience, anything can be your teacher.

This Lack of Feelings

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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.

Thoughts Just Pop Up

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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.