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, 2019

Crazy

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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.

Food

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How can we use eating as a meditation? You can learn to eat slowly, when you have enough time for that. Just will see the difference when you eat slowly. Another thing is, try to chew your food consciously. And when you taste the food, just know that you are tasting the food; and when you are swallowing the food, just know that you are swallowing the food. So chewing, tasting, swallowing consciously.

Also when we eat our food, we make judgments, we give plusses and minuses. So please be aware, that you are making these judgments. And when you are not making these judgments, know that you are not making the judgments.

And all this you’ll be able to do only if you eat in silence, so please make an effort to eat in silence and with awareness and you may make some very interesting discoveries about eating. After you finish eating, feel grateful that you have this opportunity to eat in silence and with awareness. It’s a very important practice to remember to feel grateful, either before or after eating.

 

A Lot of Lightness

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It is interesting psychologically that meditation of loving-kindness begins with oneself. Now a question arises: Does it show that we are not friendly to ourselves? If you reflect on this question, you will realise that we are indeed unfriendly to ourselves, we indeed sometimes dislike ourselves, hate ourselves.

So let us find out how we become unfriendly to ourselves, how we hate ourselves. In what way do we develop these things? Maybe a common way is that we have expectations about ourselves and then, when we cannot achieve these expectations, we feel bad, we feel guilty, we feel disappointed, we start to hate ourselves. So this is one common aspect, where this not liking ourselves may arise.

And maybe another way we do this is – there is a term that I like to use – we learn to give ourselves minuses. So those who are unfriendly to themselves are very good in giving only minuses to themselves. There are very good reasons to give themselves plusses, but because they are not friendly to themselves, they can create a hell where only minuses exist, and such people generally like to give minuses to other people also.

So they live in this world where only minuses exist. And sometimes they can be very, creative. They can be very creative in a destructive way. They are so creative, they can look for reasons, look for situations, sometimes even imagine situations and then give big minuses. And in this way we start disliking ourselves, we start hating ourselves, we see ourselves as worthless, unsuccessful, useless. People who like to play the victim, that is, I think, the modern way to describe them. I learnt this word from someone in the West.

I think we are all familiar with how we become our own enemy in different ways, sometimes very gross, sometimes very subtle. So you see the importance of loving-kindness and the aspect of learning to be friendly to oneself. There has to be a shift, slowly, maybe minute by minute, second by second as the Buddha said: from seeing yourself as your own worst enemy, you have to learn to be your best friend. When you can learn to be your best friend, then you can learn to be a friend to others. And then this can generate a lot of joy, a lot of happiness, a lot of lightness.

No Discrimination

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n the Buddhist tradition there are two aspects to meditation: one is called calm, tranquillity, and the other is Vipassana or developing insight and wisdom. In developing calmness and tranquillity, I would say that this is like polishing the dust off the mirror. This is what we do by practising with an object like breathing, where with the help of our friend the breath we learn to develop some calmness, some tranquillity, some space, clarity and awareness. And when the dust is not there the mirror reflects things just as they are.

I would like to share with you some aspects of a mirror-like mind for you to apply to your own experience and your own situation in life. A mirror reflects what is considered beautiful just as something that is beautiful. For example, a flower comes before a mirror and the mirror would reflect the flower just as it is. Something that we consider not so beautiful, or not so pleasant, say a spider, would be reflected just as a spider. No discrimination between the flower and the spider.

So you can see how we are trying to apply this in our meditation. When we have a pleasant experience, we are aware of the pleasant experience just as it is. When we have an unpleasant experience, or what we consider as an unpleasant experience, we reflect it as it is. That is why I have been reminding you many times, if there is a pleasant sensation, just know that there is a pleasant sensation. And if there is an unpleasant sensation, can we make friends with it? Can we relate to it without resisting it? Can we be really open to what we consider unpleasant sensations?

The Self-Destructive Force

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The self-destructive force in us can be so strong that it is difficult to be friendly to ourselves. The self-destructive feelings can really overwhelm us. This is why awareness is so important in the practice of meditation. When you realise that you have this self-destructive tendency, and this aspect arises together with the minuses, you should immediately catch it. You realise that it is a very strong tendency, a strong conditioning, a habit. It is important to realise that it is only a habit, it is only a conditioning. It is not representing something real. When you see it as a habit you don’t give it such a power and energy as when you take it as real.

A very interesting exercise is to ask yourself every day: “How many minuses have I given myself today?” Then try and see also the differences in the minuses you are giving yourself: big ones and small ones. Finally, rather than feeling bad about it, you can laugh at it. Then there is a lightness and even a joy. In the practice of meditation I think it is very important that we work with ourselves in a light-hearted way, even with our shortcomings, rather than be heavy, beat ourselves, or be very serious and intense.

Laugh at Death

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In traditional Buddhist countries one is encouraged to reflect on death. I think it is a very important reflection. Otherwise we forget about the most certain thing in life and we assume that we are going to live forever. So when you encounter death it can really give you a shock, you will be taken by surprise.

There are some interesting stories about people who have been able to laugh at life, and they were able to laugh at death in the same way. At present I am reading a book about how people met their death. It is fascinating how many of them have been able to really laugh at death and dying. There is a Zen story that comes to my mind, about a meditation master who was dying. When he realised he was dying he called all his students and asked them: “In what posture have you seen people dying?” His students replied: “In so many different postures.” The Zen master continued: “I am going to die in a most unusual posture.” After that he stood on his head and then he died! It shows that one can be playful about life and even about death.

 

A Beautiful Thing

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Another beautiful thing is rejoicing in the happiness of others. When you see other people happy that makes you yourself very happy. When you are happy, you are happy about that, and when you see others happy, you are happy about the happiness of others. It is called mudita, sympathetic joy.

Thoughts can be Compelling

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This is a story from the Buddhist literature. So there was a young monk who wanted to give up his robes. He hadn’t told his chief monk about his plans but one day the chief monk was having a headache, so he told this young monk to give him a massage, to rub some oil on his head. So while massaging his head the young monk was thinking: Now, maybe in a month or two I will be giving up my robes. And after I give up my robes, maybe I will find a job, and when I find a job I will get some money, and when I find enough money maybe I will find a girl and get married to this girl. But sometimes these wives can be impossible people and if my wife becomes difficult or impossible, I’ll give her a good beating. And he beat the old monk on his head!

We are laughing, but this is what we also do with our thoughts. So it shows that these thoughts can be so compelling, and that they can create fantasies for us and we take the fantasy as real. So there is a connection, a relationship, between the stories and emotions. In the Dhamma there is a very interesting Pali word to describe this process which takes place in our mind: papanca. What it means is constructing, manufacturing, concocting, projecting, all these things we do with our thoughts, and it is said there is a direct relationship between concepts and suffering. This is how our suffering is created.

So this is why it is very important to learn to work with our thoughts, to understand the thoughts, to really understand the nature and construction of thoughts. As I said earlier, if we can learn to have a very spacious mind, allowing these thoughts and emotions to come and go, allowing sensations to arise and pass away, and we are in that spaciousness, not reacting to anything then at that moment there is freedom.

No Duality

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An important aspect of the mirror-like mind is that there is no difference between what is reflected in the mirror and the mirror itself: there is no duality. There is no thinker apart from the thoughts; there is no hearer apart from the hearing, there is only hearing. With this meditation technique you can have a glimpse of the fact that there is only the hearing, not the idea that ‘I am hearing’; that there is only the thinking, and that there is no thinker apart from the thoughts that are arising and passing away; that there is only the feeling and that there is no-one feeling.

It is like an orchestra, with the sounds, the thoughts, the emotions, the sensations; but the difference is there is no conductor. It is the conductor, the controller, who directs, who wants, who judges. When the conductor is absent there is only the orchestra; there is only the thought, there is only the sound, there is only the feeling.

It sounds very simple, but this is what the model is, and this meditation technique I find is very powerful, it has a lot of very profound and deep aspects. What I like in it is that you can really practice it in your everyday life. With certain meditation techniques you have to close your eyes or you have to sit in a particular posture. For this meditation you don’t have to close your eyes and you don’t have to sit in a particular posture. In any situation it is just having the awareness to know what is happening in your body and mind.

Changing from Moment to Moment

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In relation to insight, according to the Buddha’s teachings, there are three characteristics, three important aspects which we have to develop if we are developing insight. That is to develop, to realize, to understand the change how things are impermanent, how things are changing from moment to moment. So while we are sitting, your thoughts are changing from moment to moment; there is one thought, then another thought arises so there is this continuous change taking place in relation to your thoughts. Sensations in your body are also changing from moment to moment. Your state of mind is also changing from moment to moment, sometimes you may feel happy, sometimes you might feel restless, sometimes you may feel calm; so whatever your state of mind, that is also changing.

It is a very important insight to be open to the change that you are experiencing internally and then whatever change that takes place in your mind and body, if you learn not to resist it and if you learn to be open to change and realize the change, there can be any changes taking place but there is no suffering.

In the same way, externally, the world out there, the life out there is also always changing from moment to moment; sometimes good things happen to us, sometimes bad things happen to us, sometimes unexpected things happen to us; but here again whatever is happening externally, if you can realize the fact of change, impermanence, and be open to it, any changes can take place but then you can still be free; because we have no control. Now I am told that very soon a typhoon will come here. Can you prevent that typhoon from coming? But what we can do is to understand it, to be open to it and as it is said in the Buddha’s teachings, to see it just as it is. I know it sounds very simple but this is the teaching.