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: December, 2019

Seeing Something Beautiful

Godwin-Icon

Most of the time we use only one sense, that is thinking. According to Buddhist psychology this is the sixth sense, but we have other senses which we sometimes neglect. So we can awaken the sense of seeing by looking at things, looking at flowers, looking at little objects, looking at the sky, the clouds. In fact we can develop concentration in this way. I know some meditators who find it easier to concentrate in this way rather than concentrate on the breath, where they can have complete awareness of what they are seeing, and they are fully experiencing the present moment in that situation. And when we see something beautiful we have joy.

In fact in the Buddhist texts there are many references to seeing something beautiful. On one occasion the Buddha was walking with Ananda, his attendant, and at some point he said: Look back, what beautiful scenery we are passing through! There is a section in the Pali texts where it describes how monks and nuns became enlightened, and in that section some of them describe how the beauty of nature was very inspiring, because most of these monks and nuns were living in forests. And sometimes, as we are living in towns, big towns, where we don’t see nature very often, we are losing this sensitivity for appreciating something beautiful, for learning to relate to nature in this way.

Just Know

Godwin-Icon

If you are having thoughts you just know that thoughts are there. If the breathing goes fast you know now the breathing is fast. If you have unpleasant sensations in the body, you know there are unpleasant sensations in the body. So as I have been emphasising, the whole focus of the technique is just knowing what is happening from moment to moment. If your mind is calm, you know the mind is calm. If the mind is not calm, you know the mind is not calm.

If we are meditating to achieve a mind that is calm, then when calm comes we will hold onto the calm. This is how suffering is created. And so if there is calm there is also suffering. So what this meditation aims at is something very simple, knowing what is happening, and as I have been saying very often, just being friendly and saying okay to whatever is happening. And if you can meditate in this way, at the time you are meditating you are free from suffering.

And what is also important is to use the breath not only when we are sitting. This is why I have been saying, please make a connection with your breath. So in everyday life at different moments you can just come back to your breath. The breath is our friend, it will help us to experience the present moment, the here and the now. The idea is to sit and develop awareness, and then to use that awareness at other times. I would consider that to be more important than what is happening only when you are sitting, because it is in everyday life that suffering is created, problems are created, you have to face challenges.

Some meditators ask me: Am I doing it right? How do I know whether I am progressing in my practice? So I tell them the progress is not what is happening when you are sitting but how you relate it to everyday life. In Sri Lanka we have very rich people who are sometimes very unkind to their servants. So when they are learning meditation I tell them the way to know their progress is to see the way they are treating their servants at home. They are not very happy to hear such things!

So please realise our progress is in how we are relating in everyday life. It is a way of living. It is an art of living. It is a way of thinking. It is a matter of having a certain attitude towards life, like the story I related about the wise old Chinese man. So please see this clearly, please realise this. Perhaps after I go over the techniques I might go over with you that aspect of everyday living. Please don’t associate meditation only with a particular posture, a particular time, a particular technique.

Suffering

Godwin-Icon

Why did the Buddha call suffering a noble truth? How does suffering become a noble truth? What is so noble about suffering?

It’s because we have to experience suffering to feel the need to be free of it. Unless we know that we are sick, the need to take medicine will not arise. There are people who are sick, but they do not know that they are sick. Hence the need to find and use the medicine does not arise. We deserve a big plus that we know there is a sickness and that we are trying to discover the medicine and use it. A big plus!

To be Aware

Godwin-Icon

It is interesting that in the Noble Eightfold Path which the Buddha presented as a way of experiencing freedom from suffering, mindfulness comes before samadhi. So it shows very clearly that what is important is learning to be mindful, learning to be aware, just knowing what is happening from moment to moment. From that the samadhi can come naturally. So in practical terms, when we are trying to learn to be aware of our breath, what we can try to do is to be aware of whatever is happening in our mind and body. Even if you realize that your mind is not concentrated, that your mind is not calm, just knowing it, just accepting it can make such a difference.

Objects of Meditation

Godwin-Icon

The real challenge we have in everyday life is when facing anxiety, stress, anger, and all the other monsters. This is why I have been emphasising very much that they should be your objects of meditation.

They should be precious learning experiences for you, and they should be your teachers. So the practice is not to suppress them. This is a very important point to remember. It is not to get rid of them. But rather just to see them as our compost, using them for our growth when they are there. This is another very interesting perspective to have in relation to meditation in daily life.

A Good Gardener

Godwin-Icon

One suggestion I would like to offer is not to be concerned and preoccupied about progress and results in your meditation, but rather to see what you are doing as interesting. One of the teachers gave a very beautiful simile on this. He said: It is like a gardener who is planting things. If he is a good gardener, he should enjoy what he is doing. This means he simply enjoys the process of learning to take care of the plants. He finds it interesting, and maybe even challenging sometimes. So when a gardener plants something, he can never know when the flowers will come, or when the fruits will arrive. This is the type of relationship we might try to cultivate with meditation.

Priorities

Godwin-Icon

We have to be clear in our minds about our priorities in life. What is the most important priority you have in life? And then you have to find out, if you have a list of priorities, where meditation fits in that list. If the commitment for meditation is amongst the first few priorities, ranking maybe first, second or third among those priorities, then that in itself will look after meditation. This is because if you know clearly your commitment to it, then you will never say: I do not have time for meditation.

Here what might be helpful is to find out whether you really like meditation, whether you find it interesting, whether you can develop a curiosity about it, and whether you have clearly developed a taste for it. Otherwise how can you have a commitment to meditation, be motivated towards it, if you find that it is such a big battle, very unpleasant and requiring a great effort when you are practising?

Feeling Light

Godwin-Icon

We take life so seriously. I always stress the importance of feeling light, of being playful and having the ability to laugh at life and ourselves. That is a really important spiritual quality!

One day I was talking to a very wise monk in Sri Lanka who lives in a forest hermitage. Suddenly he told me: “Sometimes I see life as a big joke. Sometimes it can be a very bad joke! But still it’s a joke.” Our problem is that we take this joke too seriously. We take this life as something that should be perfect. With that we loose this lightness and playfulness in our attitude to life and in our attitude to practice.

This idea about playfulness came to me one day when in Sri Lanka I was asked to teach meditation to a group of young Buddhist monks. They were around fifteen years old, wearing robes and living in a temple. Before we talked about meditation I had a friendly chat with them and I asked them: “What is it that you don’t like in this temple, and in the schedule?” They said: “Getting up in the morning for meditation.” I said: “I’m very happy, it is a very honest answer! Now tell me, what is it that you enjoy in this temple?” Everyone gave big smiles and they said: “Playing with the dogs!” Then I said immediately: “Well, you see, meditation is playing with your mind!” They liked this very much. I met some of them later on and they said that the meditation had become very light, especially focusing on breathing. They said that it was like playing with the breath: sometimes it is there, sometimes it is not there. So then there was a lightness to the practice.

What Cannot be Changed

Godwin-Icon

You should be clear what you can change and what cannot be changed. One area where change is possible is ourselves. Beginning from there, we can also see what can be changed outside. And to be realistic as far as possible as to what cannot be changed. We have a saying in this connection displayed at the Nilambe Meditation Centre: May I have the courage to change what can be changed, the patience to bear what cannot be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

The Breath

Godwin-Icon

An important reason why the breath is used as a meditation object is that it helps us to develop awareness. This kind of meditation is called in Pali anapanasati. It is awareness or mindfulness or attention in relation to the in-breath and the out-breath. A problem meditators have is that they try to exclude other things, they try to exclude sounds, for instance. When they hear sounds they become a problem. When they have thoughts they also hate the thoughts. Poor thoughts!

Any sensations in the body, they think this is a disturbance or a distraction in the meditation. But it is very simple: the first emphasis must be on awareness. Just being aware of whatever is happening. This gives us a very interesting experience: you hear sounds, so you are aware of the sounds, and then see with the sounds what happens to you. We see we can convert sounds into noise, which is then disturbing us. It can be a very deep realisation, that the problem arises because of the way we relate to things.

When I talk about sounds, I sometimes speak about an experience we have in the meditation centre at Nilambe. There is a bell to wake you up at 4:45 in the morning. Thus you can just imagine what association the sound of the bell has! But it is the same sound which is heard to indicate lunch. No difference. Where is the problem? It rests in its meaning, the associations we make. So it is not the sound, not what you hear, but how you relate to it.