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: February, 2017

Beginner’s Mind


One thing I have been encouraging meditators to do is to experiment, to explore, to discover and find out for themselves. Learn to be your own teacher, especially in daily life. Make your own discoveries about unpleasant experiences like physical and mental pain, and also about positive experiences like joy and bliss.

A point related to this is to have what is called “a beginner’s mind”, or “a don’t-know mind.” This is about having a mind that is humble. With that humility we have the openness to learn from anything and anyone. We can learn from a tree, a bird, an animal or a child. When you have this openness they also can be our teachers.

In this connection I would like to share an incident that happened to me some years ago. I was giving a retreat and it was the last day of the retreat. There was an elderly woman there, and in our final discussion she told the group that whatever she had learned from the retreat she had already learned from her dog! So I asked her: “Please tell me something more about your dog.” She said: “Well, you told us to be in the present moment, and that’s how my dog is; you told us to feel grateful for things, and that’s what my dog is; you did something in the retreat called yoga, and that is what my dog does.” In desperation I asked her: “Is there no difference between your dog and me?” “Yes”, she said, “there is one difference. You talk a lot, but my dog doesn’t!”

I was very much impressed with her, the way she was really learning from a dog. In our everyday life, to have this quality is something very important and beautiful.

A Fascinating Adventure.


As you are still human you might get annoyed, you might get irritated, you might get angry, you might want to fight with the boss or whoever. If that happens, don’t give yourself a minus; make friends with these unpleasant things, try to say okay to them, try to make them the object of your of meditation. You can use the same principle in relating to other people. If you can see the practice in this way your spiritual practice, your meditation becomes so interesting: a really fascinating adventure. You don’t fear to make mistakes, you are ready to learn from everything.

A Guru


We can see the people we have problems with as our gurus, as our teachers. A teacher or a guru indicates to a person what is going through that person’s mind. This is exactly what this guru, the boss or someone else, is doing to you, indicating to you what is happening in your mind: your minuses, your irritations. What a good guru you have in such people! Rather than focus on what the other person is doing you can look at yourself in the mirror the guru is showing you.

A Different Approach.


But some people don’t understand this language of understanding, and for such people you need a different approach. The best way to show you this is to relate the story of the cobra. This story comes from the Indian tradition:

Once there was a snake, a cobra that was meditating in a forest. This cobra was meditating on loving-kindness and he was really practising hard, saying: “May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful.” He was having a beautiful metta meditation and he had such a nice gentle smile on his face.

Then an old woman came along carrying a bundle of firewood. This old woman couldn’t see very well, she didn’t recognise the cobra and she thought he was an old rope. She used the cobra to tie the bundle of firewood, and as the cobra was practising metta meditation he just allowed the woman to do that. “May you be well, may you be happy, may you be peaceful”, the cobra thought. When the woman had taken the bundle back to her home the cobra escaped after many difficulties. He was in a lot of pain, bearing many bruises and wounds.

So then the cobra went straight to his meditation teacher and said: “I want an interview.” The teacher asked: “What is the problem?” “What is the problem!” the cobra replied. “I was practising your meditation of loving-kindness and see what has happened to me!” In response the teacher said very calmly, “You were not practising loving-kindness, you were practising idiotic compassion. You should have shown her that you were a cobra, you should have hissed!” Sometimes we also have to show people that we are cobras. There are times where you have to assert yourself, otherwise people can start exploiting you. They can take advantage of your so-called loving-kindness. But you have to know when to hiss.

Other People



Sometimes there are people with whom we have problems, it may be the boss or some of our colleagues at work. At home it may be your partner or your neighbours. We all have situations like that in our everyday life. The greatest challenge we have is to relate to people in whom we see shortcomings and faults. In such a situation one important thing is to remember not to be surprised. Why should we be surprised? According to Buddhism, human beings behave in this way due to the three drives of greed, hatred and delusion, meaning ignorance, not knowing or ignoring reality. We all have these three drives in us.

When you see it in other people you realise: “What I’m having, I see in this other person as well.” If you can really penetrate this realisation you can feel compassionate for people who display their frailties, their humanness, without getting angry, without creating a wound. The normal reaction we have is that we immediately give them a big minus. This is a very strong habit that we have, and we do exactly the same with ourselves. We don’t see the Buddha-nature in us, we almost refuse to see the good qualities, so we need to make a special effort in this direction. In the Buddhist texts the Buddha often mentions the importance of reflecting on the good things that we have done. This can give tremendous confidence, tremendous joy and considerable lightness and encouragement as well. With this perspective you relate to the human frailties in yourself and others in an entirely different way.

But this perspective can create difficulties as well, because you may use it as an excuse for being reluctant to act when people misbehave. You may say to yourself: “Well, it is due to ignorance”, and you don’t do anything. If parents are practising meditation they might get the idea that their children can behave in any way they like; or if the boss is a meditator then the people working under him or her may be excused anything, because it is simply due to their greed, hatred and delusion. If the husband is a meditator the wife can get away with anything. But this is not reality.

The question is then: how are we to bring these two perspectives together? One way is that without getting angry, without immediately giving a minus, we might get the person to reflect and to understand why he or she is behaving in a particular way. You’ll be surprised to learn that most human beings whom you meet don’t know why they are behaving as they are. Their behaviour is simply a habit, it has become a conditioning, and so they behave according to certain patterns; or they may carry unhealed wounds. People are just behaving in a certain way and they don’t know why. To give a person a minus and to show your anger and resentment to a person such as this is like taking a crazy man seriously and threatening him just as though he was a sane person.

Learn to Forget


I think that in our spiritual practice we also have to learn what we should forget. People often remember only their minuses and they tend to forget their plusses. That way we are using our selective memory to create more suffering for ourselves. This is a very interesting, a very fascinating area to work with. Someone who is self-destructive will remember only the minuses, only the failures, only the mistakes that he or she has made.

A Connection with Nature


I remember an old gardener we had working in the Centre. I considered him as one of my teachers. Although he was teaching he was not conscious that he was a teacher. He was teaching with his being, with his openness, with his gentleness, which is the real teaching. He would speak to the plants, he would speak to the trees, he would speak to nature. It was fascinating to watch because he had a personal connection with nature. One day we were talking and he told me that even in his dreams he sees nature. I asked him to meditate, and after a while I asked him what was happening in his meditation. He said: “I see plants, I see trees!”

Connection with Material Things


Another thing is learning to have a caring connection with the material things you use in your daily activities, like computers. It is a way of making a human connection with the computer, even though it is a machine. A very good friend of mine in Sri Lanka talks with his car, he touches the car, he has got a very special connection with his car. And of course now with the progress in technology cars and computers are talking back to you. These are interesting things I hear about when I travel in the West. A car can speak to you and now we are learning to speak back to the car or to the computer! If you try this, you’ll realise that you make an entirely different relationship with the machine, as though with something that has life.

Not to React


A helpful tool in everyday life can be to develop a non-reactive mind. If you are in a situation where you are getting anxious or unhappy, try telling yourself not to react. In most of these situations it is reacting to the things that happen that makes the problem worse. We don’t like something and we start resisting it. Naturally it becomes a battle, a tiresome struggle.

In the Toilet


You will be surprised that in the main Buddhist text that spells out the development of mindfulness and awareness, which is called the Satipatthana Sutta, it is said that even when you are in the toilet you can practise mindfulness and awareness! Going to the toilet is a very powerful way of preventing stress and anxiety building up. It is a very nice posture, and I don’t know any place where there are restrictions about the time that you can spend in the toilet. Just relax, just use the breath, then if people actually do notice you, they will think: “It is one person who entered the toilet, it is another person who is leaving the toilet!”