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

A Dog with a Bone

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Most people believe that material things are important, that happiness lies in material things. In fact, the more material things you get, the more dissatisfied you are; and the more dissatisfied you are, the more material things you want to get! Buddha has given a very powerful simile to describe this condition. He compared it to a dog with a bone. So the dog won’t let go of the bone and is just holding on to it, and is still hungry and still dissatisfied, and still suffers from fear of losing that bone.

Related to this serious problem of materialism is another aspect, another manifestation of this, called consumerism. It’s a real challenge for people to live in consumer societies and yet not be affected by the consumerism around them. Consumerism has many aspects, but I see two dangerous aspects in consumerism. One is that people are not clear about what they actually need and what is just their greed. According to the Dhamma we need certain things: food, clothing, shelter, and medicine – they are called the four requisites. The four necessary things are things that human beings really need. So there’s a place for material things, but then when they become our goals and when we are confused between greed and need, this is where they can lead to dissatisfaction and suffering.

Another dangerous aspect of consumerism is that the society that you live in starts manipulating you, and the danger is that you don’t know that you are being manipulated. So you become like puppets, puppets in the hands of a society that creates desire, creates greed, and this all leads to more and more frustration. So isn’t this a sad situation when human beings have the potentiality of becoming free, of becoming enlightened? We have the Buddha-nature in us, but this aspect is not recognised and instead we become victims of the society that we live in.

Wholeheartedly

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Let me touch on the aspect of how meditation develops motivation for some things. I think there is a belief that with this emphasis on being detached, being aloof, you lose your motivation for life. But I think with meditation you learn to find and develop an interest in life. Especially with the emphasis on the practice of awareness, you learn to live wholeheartedly. So whatever you do in life, you’ll be doing that wholeheartedly, with complete and full attention on what is being done. By developing this skill, your quality of living will change.

Related to this is that with the practice of meditation you are bound to see things, to hear things, to feel things wholeheartedly, so it can really awaken your senses. With this aspect of awakening your senses, you are bound to see certain things external to you which you have failed to see before. Small things, little things which we normally take for granted, you are bound to notice them very sharply and very clearly. This can enable us to really appreciate the beauty around us. 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.

We can Learn from Anything

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Another aspect of awareness is that 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.

Just Not Possible?

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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.