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: May, 2019

Loving-Kindness in Little Acts

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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.

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Beauty in Nature

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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.

Self-Confidence

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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.

The 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.

A Mind 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.

Open to Change

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Be open to any change that may arise physically and mentally and even externally. If we insist that change should take place according to our own idea, then when there is change which does not correspond to that idea it leads to suffering. But by realising that this is the nature of existence, that it changes and that we have no control over change, then if you can be open to change in whatever form it arises, internally or externally, this will result in freedom.

And according to the Buddha, this fact of change and impermanence and this idea of no-self are very well inter-connected, inter-related. He has a very interesting argument. If we own things, if there really is an ego, a self, then we should be able to order things: Now things should happen in this way, according to my ideas. But as there is no self, no ego, we cannot do that. So therefore we have to see from the fact of change, that there is no self-identity, no agent, only the process of change itself.

It is interesting that whenever there is suffering, there is suffering because you want things your way, and this your way or my way is the result of the feeling that you are Somebody. So whenever we are suffering, just find out what is the idea, what is the model that you are holding on to which is now being challenged. It is always some idea of how it should be, how it must be according to the ideas the self has.

 

This Sense of Self

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What happens is because of this sense of self, we have images, models, of how things should be according to my way. It is always my way. Naturally in everyday life things don’t always happen according to my way. That is how suffering is created in everyday life, with this idea of my way. So whenever you are suffering in everyday life, you can try to find out: what has been my idea, what has been my view of how things should be? Then you’ll realise how this sense of self is directly related to the suffering that you are experiencing. In this simple, practical way you can work with this idea of my way and then when that my way is not there, when there is emptiness, notice how there is an absence of suffering.

Another way of saying the same thing is that with this sense of self that we have we feel that we are Somebody. Here again suffering and unpleasant emotions arise with this idea, with this concept that you are Somebody. With this feeling of Somebody we would like others to behave according to the idea this Somebody has. And then naturally when others don’t behave in this way this is why we get angry. So you see the direct connection between this idea of Somebody, this sense of self, and getting angry.

And how does this feeling of Somebody cause fear to arise? What is the connection? When Somebody is threatened, when this Somebody feels that something might happen to me, that I am in danger, that is how fear comes.

How does this feeling of Somebody generate anxiety in the future? With this feeling of Somebody, you feel that in the future everything should go according to the idea this Somebody has. And if you are uncertain about that, then this is how anxieties arise.

So these are some simple, practical examples, how this idea of Somebody is related to self, how suffering and these negative emotions arise. No-self or emptiness is when this feeling of Somebody becomes a Nobody!

Greed, Hatred and Delusion

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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.

Sensitive to Suffering

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An area where you can develop motivation with the practice is that you can really become sensitive to the suffering of others, and you can also develop a sensitivity to your own suffering. What normally happens with people who are not meditators is that when they experience suffering, they have no method of working with it, they just wallow in that suffering and they continue to suffer in this way. And when they see suffering in others, they don’t have the space, they don’t have the time even to take notice of the suffering of others. So there is a beautiful quality that you develop, where you learn to have compassion for your own suffering and also to have compassion for the suffering of others. And when that happens, in certain situations where you have to act, you will be acting very sharply, very clearly, doing what is necessary in such situations.

So I would suggest that you develop a real motivation for relieving your own suffering and the suffering of others. And you will translate that compassion into action. Please realize that with meditation one does not become inactive, one does not become passive; rather you’ll be acting, but again the quality of acting will be different.

There are two interesting English words which highlight the difference: responding and reacting. So with meditation you learn to develop this quality of responding to situations, acting without reacting. Reaction is an emotional state: when you see suffering in others, you can’t handle it. But here I suggest you learn to develop this beautiful quality of responding, and therefore react less. As we are still human, in certain situations we might be reacting also, but that in itself can be a learning experience – to find out, to enquire, why did I react in that situation?

 

Learn to Let Go

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We all have selective memories. If someone has a very strong self-destructive aspect he or she will be carrying only the minuses, only the failures. Only the wrong things others have done. It is natural, as we are human, that some of our past experiences have had a deep effect, so unlike the mirror we hold on to them and do not let them go.

We have to learn to let go of things that we are holding onto, that arise from our memories. When they arise from our memory we start judging them, especially by giving minuses, and then we push them away. In the technique of the mirror-like mind we are there with all these things, allowing anything we are holding onto in our memory to come up. We are just being a passive observer, allowing these things to come and allowing them to go. Things that arise can be in the form of emotions, they can be in the form of memories, they can even be sensations in the body. We don’t realise what we carry in our body, but we carry all our past experiences in our body. Tensions and unpleasant sensations sometimes are related to repressed emotions. When pain and unpleasant sensations arise in the body, just like the mirror you learn to observe them, just to create space for them, just to make friends with them.