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: June, 2019

Experiences

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What happens in our meditation is that we like and want only pleasant, positive experiences and then we start disliking, resisting what we consider as unpleasant experiences. These two are reactions and these reactions can create suffering in meditation. Because when we want only pleasant experiences, positive experiences in our practice, then when we have unpleasant and negative experiences, we don’t like them. I feel that in our practice, in meditation, it is extremely important to relate to experiences which we consider both pleasant and unpleasant.

I feel that actually we can learn a great deal from what we consider as unpleasant experiences. In meditation, if we can learn to relate to these unpleasant experiences in a positive way, then in everyday life we can learn to relate to unpleasant situations in whatever form they arise. Because it is natural that in our daily life, in everyday situations, unpleasant experiences will arise just as in our meditation. So in everyday life, if we can see such experiences also as objects of meditation, then we can really learn something very important, how to handle these unpleasant situations in everyday life, especially learning to relate to unpleasant emotions. It can be fear, it can be anger, it can be sadness, it can be guilt; in whatever way they arise, it is very important for us to learn how to handle them.

And again both in meditation and everyday life, when we have pleasant experiences, when we have positive experiences, we like those experiences to continue. Here again, we have no control and if we identify ourselves with only pleasant experiences, calm experiences, when they change what happens is that we suffer in reacting to such situations.

And in our relationships in everyday life, we also relate in two different ways to these 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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Joy and Freedom

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The whole idea of Buddhism is to develop more joy and freedom from suffering, so I’m very sorry to see that Buddhism is used to create more and more suffering. Just to give an example, when I was in Hong Kong I met a woman, a very good woman, a very kind-hearted woman. A Buddhist teacher had told her that there was a devil inside her and this teacher had said: I can see it in your face. So when I met her she was really suffering from what she had heard from this Buddhist teacher.

So this brings up something about the tradition, that we have to be clear what is taught in the culture and what is really taught in the teachings. It’s interesting how to some extent even in Sri Lanka I meet Buddhists who seem to emphasise more the suffering aspect, so I tell them: Please, that is only the first Noble Truth, what about the other Noble Truths? So this is one area I would like you to reflect on, and as I have been emphasising, please use loving-kindness, gentleness, learning to be your best friend, seeing your worth, seeing your potentialities, seeing that you have the Buddha-nature in you.

More and More Like Machines

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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.

Physical Pain

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To look at our minds is to see how our perceptions give rise to our
conceptions – and how our conceptions can alter our perceptions also! Also we have to look
at our bodies and sensations, how we relate to that, and what is the connection between the
body and the mind.

Take, for example, the question of physical pain. Normally what do we do if there is
physical pain? If we are sitting on the benches here and after a time pain arises, we move.
Why? Because we don’t like it. But by that response do we ever learn anything about pain?
We just react in a very conditioned way. Now in meditation one tries to learn about pain, we
try not to have that immediate, habitual, reaction. We might learn that physical pain gives
rise to various psychological states – dislike, fear, anxiety, and so forth. So then we might try
to see if it possible to have this physical pain without having the psychological reaction.

 

Breathing Friendliness

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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 Mind Like a Mirror,

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Have a mind like the spacious sky and let the thoughts be like clouds: the clouds do not affect the sky, the sky does not affect the clouds. In our practice we can try to be like this. Allow any thought to arise without judging it. I am putting it in a very simple way. I know judging is a very strong conditioning that we need to work with, but this is what the practice is: not reacting to thoughts when they come. In the same way that they come, they will go again when you are having this spacious abiding in a non-reactive mind.

This technique can be seen as developing a mind like a mirror, just reflecting things as they are. This simile, the mirror-like mind, I have come across in many spiritual traditions. When something that is considered beautiful comes before a mirror, it is reflected just as it is, and the same thing happens with something that is considered ugly. Applying this to our everyday lives, when a positive emotion comes we just allow that positive emotion to be there as it is. When joy is there, just be with the joy. And when monsters come, just reflect the monster as it is. Sadness, just the sadness; fear, just the fear. Just reflecting it as it is. No plus to the joy, no minus to the sadness, both simply reflected as they are.

In everyday life we may be able to do this. If you are reacting to your emotions, you can explore and investigate your reactions. It does not matter if you react. This is one aspect of what can be described as having a mirror- like mind.

The Bliss of Harmlessness

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Something important in the practice of meditation is living a virtuous life, having a moral perspective. Now because of this need to lead a virtuous life, it is possible that one can sometimes do that in a very puritanical way, and this can generate a lot of conflict, a lot of suffering, considerable guilt. So here with the practice of awareness you will be able to develop a kind of sensitivity, and from this a kind of natural morality will emerge.

And in this connection there is a beautiful phrase which is used in Buddhism, and in Pali it is anavajja sukha, the bliss that comes from harmlessness.

So that by leading a virtuous life, by being moral, what happens is, as I said, that one develops this kind of sensitivity. And then in daily life you are not inflicting any suffering on yourself and you are not inflicting any suffering on others. And this enables you to lead what is described in the Dhamma as a blameless life. And when one leads this blameless life, this can give rise to considerable bliss – the bliss of blamelessness, the bliss of harmlessness.

My Best Teacher is Life

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This ability to laugh at ourselves, to develop this humour towards life, to have this lightness, is something really beautiful. In life we are bound to have difficulties, we are bound to have problems, however much we meditate, however much we follow a spiritual path. We cannot avoid problems, we cannot avoid difficult situations. When you read the life of the Buddha it is surprising the problems and difficulties he had. He had problems with his relatives, his disciples gave him difficulties, followers of other religions gave him difficulties. Even though they were great people religious teachers like the Buddha and Jesus had difficulties, so who are we to expect to have no difficulties? Jesus Christ was crucified. Look what they did to a great man like Socrates. Problems will be there and we should be grateful for such situations, it is an opportunity to learn how to deal with our difficulties.

A good question in such a difficult situation is: “What can I learn from this?” In my own life, life has been my best teacher. I have met gurus, I have met enlightened people, I have met masters, but my present position is: “My best teacher is life.” And what is interesting about life is you can never come to a conclusion about it. You can’t say: “Now I’m sure that in the rest of my life I will not have any problems.”

 

Chatter

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We all know that meditation is connected with our minds. If you are aware of your mind, the way it works, and of your thoughts, what can you learn? I would like you to reflect on your own experiences. When you observe your thoughts, what can you learn from them? You will be able to discover one thing: the endless chatter of the mind, sometimes we can’t even identify what kind of thoughts are passing through our minds. Or after experiencing a stream of thoughts you will realise that you are hardly in the present moment.

You will be able to discover something else about this inner chatter: that from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep, we never experience a break from this inner chatter. Even while we are eating, dressing or bathing there’s no end to this inner chatter. Even at this moment, if you focus your attention on your mind you will experience the same thing.

If you can try to find out about your dreams, you will realise that there is a close connection between our dreams and this chattering mind. It shows that whether we are awake or asleep the mind continues to work. That may be the reason why we can feel tired even after a long sleep.

Alone with Ourselves

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We hardly get an opportunity to spend some time alone with ourselves. So it’s sometimes useful to spend some time completely alone with yourself, and see how you relate to yourself. Some people don’t seem to enjoy their own company! They can’t stand it for more than a few minutes. It shows that they don’t find themselves interesting people, they are boring people. So it’s very important to make a connection with yourself and in that situation to see whether you can relate to yourself as your best friend.

We have become so dependent on external things for our joy and happiness. I call them toys. Though we are grown up we have our toys, and without these toys we are completely lost. Sometimes our whole life is just changing one toy for another, like children, thinking that maybe this toy will give us pleasure and then finding that it doesn’t give us pleasure at all, so that our whole life is spent changing one toy for another. I would like to suggest that meditation is learning to be your own toy, so that you can find yourself interesting and amusing. We can enjoy the dramas that go on in our own minds. We don’t have to watch a television, we can amuse ourselves watching our own television in this way. We have so many channels! So this is one aspect of individual and outdoor meditation.