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: October, 2022

Playing with your Mind

Another aspect of this model of perfection is that 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.


I think that in Western culture one internalises the idea of perfection. I am surprised to meet so many people on meditation retreats who suffer from guilt. We project this model of perfection onto ourselves, onto other people and onto life. Please be open to your imperfection, please let go of your models of perfection and stay open to your humanness. Learn to see your imperfection and your humanness as learning experiences, then you will learn to relate to yourselves and to others in a much easier way. You will have fewer difficulties in your relationships because you know in what type of world we live.

Awareness with Loving-Kindness

I feel it is very, very important to combine awareness with loving-kindness. In this connection there is a very beautiful Mahayana statement where it says: Can you develop awareness like a mother watching her only child? Can we watch ourselves in the same way as a mother watching her child? You have to watch yourself in the same way when you are distracted, disturbed by what other people are doing, and when you are disturbed, distracted by what is happening outside yourself. Now how does one use both awareness and loving-kindness in relation to that?

For instance here, when you want to be silent, if someone is speaking, then what you can learn to do is to observe the anger, to be aware of that anger. Your tension, your anger is in relation to what is happening inside you, and not what the person is doing. It is because of your sensitivity that you developed that anger.

So this is where loving-kindness comes in. So you say to yourself: I am angry, I am annoyed, I am a meditator, but it is okay to get annoyed. It is okay to get irritated, because that person is giving me an opportunity to work with this situation now. So let me feel grateful to that person because he is creating this situation for me, so that I can learn to work with my anger: May that person be well, happy, and peaceful as I work with this anger.

In this way we are learning something very valuable, we are learning from our own mistakes, we are learning from our own reactions. So the emphasis is not on the person or the situation that is creating the reaction, but you learn to make that reaction the object of meditation.

The Last Chance

One other benefit of loving-kindness that is mentioned is that you can die with complete awareness. Why is dying consciously so important? One reason is that it is the last chance you have to become enlightened. So if you have missed it during your life, it is the last chance when you are dying.

So you can live peacefully, you can sleep peacefully, and you can die peacefully if you practice loving-kindness.

Another Benefit

Another benefit that is mentioned among the benefits of loving-kindness is that your mind becomes one-pointed – I am not happy with the word “concentrated”, which is the normal translation, the Pali word that is used is samadhi. So for meditation loving-kindness is very, very helpful. It is through friendliness and acceptance that one can really meditate. Otherwise, by hating and by fighting and by controlling we can never relax and we can never feel peaceful. This is why I have very often been mentioning that you should just be friendly to what is happening around you, without resisting, without disliking.

Benefits of Loving-Kindness

I would like to talk about some of the benefits of loving-kindness meditation which are mentioned in a particular text. The first three are very interesting, very practical:

You sleep very peacefully. This is why we do meditation on loving-kindness before we go to sleep because then we can sleep peacefully.

And if you sleep peacefully you can wake up peacefully. That is the second benefit. In this world, how many people sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully? In Sri Lanka I try to help people with psychological problems, and amongst other problems, I try to help people who cannot sleep, people who suffer from insomnia, and this loving-kindness meditation invariably helps them to sleep.

The third benefit that is mentioned is you don’t see unpleasant dreams or nightmares, and because of that you sleep peacefully and awaken peacefully.

With loving-kindness when other people like you, they are friendly to you; because you are friendly to them, in the same way they are friendly to you. So this is a very simple practical way of improving problems of relationships.

Another interesting benefit that is mentioned is that not only human beings, but also non-humans start to like you. Who are these non-humans? They can be trees, plants, animals. And if there are beings which we cannot see – who knows? – even they might be affected by the vibrations that we generate in our mind and body.

Psychosomatic Illnesses

An interesting benefit of Loving-Kindness is that your face becomes serene. Your face becomes like the face of babies. So you don’t have to spend money for cosmetics. You can save the money and practice loving-kindness. But it is a very interesting benefit, because it shows that loving-kindness can even affect your face.

And if it can affect your face it can affect your body. There are what are called psychosomatic illnesses. I hear that there are special clinics only for psychosomatic illnesses. So if you can make your body sick with your minds, you can also heal your bodies to a great extent by loving-kindness. So in psychosomatic illness what is suggested is to examine the way you relate to yourself. The way you are relating to yourself is bringing up these illnesses, in other words find out how you are creating your own illnesses.

Only Emotions

While working with emotions you can sometimes ask the question: “Who is having this emotion? Who is having this joy? Who is having this sadness?” When you explore this question your attention goes to something other then the emotion. You might realise that there is no-one having the emotion, but only emotions that come and go: there is no owner.

I am suggesting many tools to you, because if you can learn to play with these different tools you can alternate them and use them skilfully. Sometimes one may work, sometimes another may work. If you can see it as a play, then sometimes the monsters win and sometimes the tools might work and you win. In a game you can’t always win. Situations become learning experiences, and our so-called failures help us in our spiritual growth. I think this is a very important perspective to have.

Having a certain lightness can make such a big difference. What is important when we experiment with these tools is that we see that we have a tendency to look for pleasant, positive experiences, and we don’t like unpleasant experiences. Our spiritual path can become a battle. If you can really be open to both what is considered as pleasant and what is considered as unpleasant, then you can see the spiritual practice as a going beyond this division, this duality that we have created.

Our Guests

Our emotions don’t really belong to us. Because we have a strong sense of ownership, we think we own things, we also think that we own these emotions. This is my anger, this is my fear. Of course, what you own, what you think you own, you don’t want to give up.

The Buddhist perspective here is that emotions are empty of a separate self. There is no real owner. All things arise due to causes and conditions and all things pass away due to causes and conditions. This idea is also presented in the Buddha’s teaching in another way, which I like very much. One can treat these monsters, or even pleasant emotions, as our visitors, our guests. We are the host, and as a good host we should be open to any visitor who comes. When visitors come, as a good host we are not surprised, rather we are friendly and we welcome the visitors. When they leave we just say, “Bye-bye, please come back again”. This sounds very simple. When the visitor comes, when the visitor stays, when the visitor goes, the host remains the same: no problem. Just visitors coming, visitors going. This brings up the Buddhist perspective of impermanence: everything changes, there is coming and going, going and coming.

Aren’t We Funny?

I like this very simple quotation from Thich Nhat Hanh, a meditation master from Vietnam. He says that when we have a toothache we suffer from the toothache, but when we don’t have a toothache do we ever say: “Wow, I don’t have a toothache today!” Even when we don’t have a toothache we are thinking: “Maybe I will get one tomorrow”. Aren’t we funny?

I really like to emphasise this aspect very much. When negative emotions are absent really to know that they are absent. There is an interesting Zen story in this connection. Someone went to a Zen master and said: “I have a big problem.” The Zen master asked: “Well, what is your big problem?” “My big problem is that I get angry”. “So”, the Zen master replied, “where is your anger now?” Of course, the anger was not there. The Zen master continued: “If it is your anger, you should be able to produce it!”