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: August, 2022


In Buddhism, meditation on loving-kindness has a very important place. The words loving-kindness are a translation of the Pali word metta, which means friendliness. There is an interesting quotation from the Buddha about the importance of metta. He was talking to a group of monks and he told them that if they could practice loving-kindness even for the time that it would take to snap their fingers, they would be worthy of being monks.

To my mind this has two important implications or two meanings. One is that even if you practice loving-kindness for just a few moments, that is good enough. The other is that it shows the importance of developing loving-kindness.

Childhood Wounds

One thing which I try to communicate to people who carry childhood wounds is: you might have had problems in childhood, but what are you going to do about it now? It’s a very easy thing to continue to blame your past and your parents. But by blaming your parents, you don’t take responsibility for what is happening now. So anything might have happened in the past, but now you are in the position to take responsibility and to work with it in the present moment.

Another thing you can do is to reflect on three questions in a very meditative situation. The first one is: “What are the good things your parents have done for you?” It is interesting that we have a selective memory. We have a tendency to remember only the minuses. The memory can change when one recalls the good things. The other questions are: “What are the good things you have done for your parents?” and: “Do you know what difficulties you created for your parents?”

When you reflect very deeply on these questions, a sense of appreciation arises. It’s also possible that a sense of guilt will arise because of the wrongs you did to your parents, and if that happens then practising meditation of loving-kindness might help.

But I realise it takes a lot of time for a person with deep wounds to come from being a nobody to being a somebody. The work has to take place on a psychological level, on an emotional level, and also on a physical level.


Parents might also have been victims who have had a lot of difficulties. In this connection I heard a very moving story from a woman I was working with. She told me she had had a very difficult childhood. Especially from her mother there were physical and psychological wounds. It was terrible what she had had to go through as a child, and as an adult she completely lost contact with her mother. She told me that what had happened in childhood had really affected her personality and her behaviour.

When this woman was about fifty years old she thought: “Maybe I should try to contact my mother.” She made inquiries and heard that her mother was living in a home for old people. She made contact and she met her mother. When she saw her mother for the first time after fifteen years, she hugged her and said: “I love you, Mother.” The mother didn’t say anything but broke into a lot of tears, she was really crying. Then the daughter asked her mother: “Why can’t you say that you love me also?” Her mother replied: “How can I say that? I have never known what love is.” When the daughter heard those words, the wound she had been carrying for fifty years immediately healed. So sometimes, you see, we don’t realise what our parents have been through.

Deep Wounds

Some people in the West are hurt very much in their youth. They have never been able to develop their own self-esteem. They feel a coldness and indifference inside. This wound can be so deep that it is difficult to heal even with loving-kindness. It’s a kind of vicious circle they are in. The question is: how can they foster this little germ of self-esteem and self-love?

Sri Lankan people don’t have this problem. It is possible that they might have had a difficult childhood, but they do not suffer from it so much. Sri Lankan people are raised with the idea that they should be grateful to their parents. They never see a connection between their parents and the difficulties experienced in childhood, and their present problems. It means they never blame the parents for their upbringing and for what they are experiencing.

In Sri Lanka children are brought up within extended families, so children get enough attention, and they have many sources for experiencing affection. Their diet of affection and love is very rich and they have a lot of opportunities to find comfort and support if they need it, therefore the wounds described above don’t develop.

When I started to be with Westerners, I learned about these very serious and deep wounds which have happened to them in childhood. Usually these people carry a lot of anger and resentment against their parents. In the beginning I made the mistake of saying: “Just forgive your parents, have loving-kindness.” I realised this did not work because they would come and tell me: “How can I have loving-kindness? I feel like hitting my mother, I feel like beating my father.” Sometimes they had so much anger that I got afraid.

Now what I say is: “Please bring up that anger. If you like to, you can verbalise that anger, speak to your parents in your imagination, wholeheartedly experience that anger.” I think as children they did not have an opportunity to really express the anger they had towards their parents. They’re holding onto it, and it’s sometimes good to bring it out.


In my own life my best teacher has only four letters: L-I-F-E. Life is my best teacher. If you can really open up to life situations this teacher can tell you some very interesting things, but if you come to the conclusion that you know, that is the end of learning. This is why we need to have what is called a beginner’s mind. With a beginner’s mind, with a don’t-know mind, we can really learn from life situations. Any situation can be a meditative situation and this is a beautiful way to live.

In our spiritual practice we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Trying to do the right thing, acting very cautiously and trying too much to know what is going to happen in the future all give rise to a false sense of security. According to the Buddha’s teaching, real security comes if you can be open to insecurity. We never know what is going to happen next. It is always something uncertain. The real practice is learning to be open to uncertainty in whatever form uncertainty comes. This is especially true when we interact with people.

A Difficult Person

When we find ourselves with a difficult person – it can be your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your neighbour or your boss – it’s a very good practice to see such a person as your teacher, as your guru. They are very powerful gurus, because they are really showing you a mirror. It is useless to try to break the mirror, to get angry with the mirror. It is wiser to look at the reflection in the mirror and see what is happening there.

With meditation a shift is taking place within yourself. When you find yourself in a place where you have to relate to difficult people or situations, rather then getting caught in the external scene you learn to look at your own mind. In everyday life where you have to interact with people you start looking at your own reactions. You look at the emotions that are coming up and the thoughts that arise.

One can feel grateful to these difficult people, because they enable us to see what is happening in our own minds. It really gives us an opportunity to work with our mind. Can you say: “May I have more teachers, more gurus like them?” When in our life we can have this openness to learn from other people, we can learn from any experience. Any experience can be a learning experience, and this is a beautiful way to live.

A Lot of Suffering

In this world people have a lot of difficulties and there is a lot of suffering. It’s a very good practice sometimes to forget all your problems, all the difficulties you are going through, and learn to relate to the suffering of other people, to translate loving-kindness into action. These kinds of actions can generate a lot of joy and a lot of happiness. It can be a very meaningful way to live when you are being your own best friend and you are being a friend to others also.


Now I would like to say something about effort. Here there are two extremes that we need to avoid. One is trying too hard. The other is not trying at all. There are some very beautiful similes used in this connection in the texts. During the Buddha’s time there was a monk who was trying very hard in walking meditation so that even the bottom of his feet were bleeding. When the Buddha spoke to him, the Buddha realised that he was a musician. He used to play a lute, which is a stringed instrument. So the Buddha asked him: Now when playing a musical instrument if the strings are too loose or too tight, the music will not be right. So the Buddha said that effort also should not be too loose and it should not be too tight. This is what is called right effort.

Another simile the Buddha gave is that when you want to catch a small bird, if you grasp the bird too tightly you might kill the bird in the process, and if you grasp it in too loose a way the bird might escape. So in this way right effort can also be called effortless effort.

Now what happens when you try too hard? Naturally there is tension. You might even get a headache, you might feel tired and you might feel restlessness and disappointment because you are trying too hard, and with a strong expectation. Practising in this way you can never achieve what you want, so then you feel bad, you give yourself a minus, you start hating yourself and so on.

And if you do not try at all, what happens? Then you might feel sleepy, drowsy, you might get into a dream-like state. So here again it is by learning, by experimenting, by finding out for yourself that you know whether you are trying too hard or not trying at all. And sometimes we need to exercise more effort, sometimes we need to relax effort. So one thing which will help us is that if we can have a meditative mind, then when we are not meditating awareness becomes natural, it becomes effortless.

Know the Mind

The idea of meditation has been expressed by a writer in these terms: knowing the mind, shaping the mind, and freeing the mind. I would like to repeat the words: Meditation is knowing the mind, shaping the mind, and freeing the mind. So knowing the mind is understanding how the mind is working. If we do not know our mind we are really just like machines. Therefore it is extremely important to know and to understand how our minds work.

And when we know the mind, then we can shape the mind. Shaping the mind is developing mastery over the mind. If we do not develop mastery over the mind what happens is that we become a slave to our own mind. So when we become slaves to our mind then thoughts and emotions control us and that results in more and more suffering. Therefore it is very important to learn to shape the mind, and when you learn to shape the mind then you can achieve a mind that is free. So the importance of meditation is learning to achieve a mind that is free, a mind that is happy, a mind that is peaceful, a mind that has loving-kindness.

Space in the Mind

It is interesting that when we do working meditation there could be thoughts in the mind but if your attention is only on the work that you are doing then it creates space in the mind. And once that space is created then one can really, use that space for feeling things, for hearing things very sharply and very clearly. So in everyday life when we work also, can we see work as working meditation?

In whatever work you do in everyday life, maybe related to your job, it is possible at the time of doing something to be completely present in doing that. This is a very practical way of integrating meditation with the way we are living. To see work as not something different from meditation.