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, 2022

Thoughts Control Us

It is also important when there is not awareness just to know: Now I’m not in the present but I’m thinking about what has happened or what is going to happen. Normally these things happen unconsciously without our knowledge, and then in this process we don’t realise how they can create suffering for us, how they can create certain emotions in our minds. So with this type of practice we can develop mastery over our mind. Usually thoughts control us, but with this type of practice we will be able to develop mastery over our minds.

The Present Moment

Another aspect of awareness is to experience the present moment. Though we are physically here, mentally we can be elsewhere. Even while listening to me, physically you are present but mentally you can be back in Hong Kong. So it’s only if we experience the present moment with the help of awareness that mentally and physically we can be present, we can be really in the here and the now, that we can really experience the present moment fully and completely.

See Both Sides

Observing the intention can really enable us to discover our real motives for our actions. So in this way we can really understand ourselves, know who we are, the type of person we are. It will enable us to see the positive sides in ourselves and the negative sides also. It is very important to see both sides.

The Purpose of a Mirror

Before we act, if we can pause and try to see the intention why we want to do a particular thing, there there can be a natural transformation in our action. On one occasion the Buddha was speaking to his son Rahula. The Buddha asked his son: What is the purpose of a mirror? And the little boy said the purpose of a mirror is to reflect. So the Buddha said that in the same way we should reflect about our speech and about our actions before doing them. But to exercise this reflection there has to be awareness and there has to be a pause.


One thing which we can discover with more and more awareness and slowing down is the intention that arises before doing something. We do things so quickly, so fast, that we hardly catch ourselves intending to do it. And with more and more observing the intention, you will realise that there is more and more awareness, so there is a connection between observing the intention and the practice of awareness.

And catching our intention has very important implications, so that we will not rush into things, especially in everyday life. Before we speak, if we can catch ourselves with whatever we were going to say, I think we will not hurt others and we will not be using our speech in an unwholesome or unskilful way.

Slowing Down

You can sustain awareness just by slowing down. As you know, when we move in a very fast vehicle we are not able to notice the things that are around us. If you want to see your surroundings very sharply, very clearly, then the vehicle has to go very slowly. So it’s only when we can really slow down that we can see very sharply, very clearly, what is happening in our mind and body from moment to moment. In the same way, we can notice external things very sharply and clearly.

A Different Approach

But some people don’t understand this language of understanding, and for such people you need a different approach. The best way to show you this is to relate the story of the cobra. This story comes from the Indian tradition:

Once there was a snake, a cobra that was meditating in a forest. This cobra was meditating on loving-kindness and he was really practising hard, saying: “May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful.” He was having a beautiful metta meditation and he had such a nice gentle smile on his face.

Then an old woman came along carrying a bundle of firewood. This old woman couldn’t see very well, she didn’t recognise the cobra and she thought he was an old rope. She used the cobra to tie the bundle of firewood, and as the cobra was practising metta meditation he just allowed the woman to do that. “May you be well, may you be happy, may you be peaceful”, the cobra thought. When the woman had taken the bundle back to her home the cobra escaped after many difficulties. He was in a lot of pain, bearing many bruises and wounds.

So then the cobra went straight to his meditation teacher and said: “I want an interview.” The teacher asked: “What is the problem?” “What is the problem!” the cobra replied. “I was practising your meditation of loving-kindness and see what has happened to me!” In response the teacher said very calmly, “You were not practising loving-kindness, you were practising idiotic compassion. You should have shown her that you were a cobra, you should have hissed!” Sometimes we also have to show people that we are cobras. There are times where you have to assert yourself, otherwise people can start exploiting you. They can take advantage of your so-called loving-kindness. But you have to know when to hiss.

A Beginner’s Mind

One thing I have been encouraging meditators to do is to experiment, to explore, to discover and find out for themselves. Learn to be your own teacher, especially in daily life. Make your own discoveries about unpleasant experiences like physical and mental pain, and also about positive experiences like joy and bliss.

A point related to this is to have what is called “a beginner’s mind”, or “a don’t-know mind.” This is about having a mind that is humble. With that humility we have the openness to learn from anything and anyone. We can learn from a tree, a bird, an animal or a child. When you have this openness they also can be our teachers.

In this connection I would like to share an incident that happened to me some years ago. I was giving a retreat and it was the last day of the retreat. There was an elderly woman there, and in our final discussion she told the group that whatever she had learned from the retreat she had already learned from her dog! So I asked her: “Please tell me something more about your dog.” She said: “Well, you told us to be in the present moment, and that’s how my dog is; you told us to feel grateful for things, and that’s what my dog is; you did something in the retreat called yoga, and that is what my dog does.” In desperation I asked her: “Is there no difference between your dog and me?” “Yes”, she said, “there is one difference. You talk a lot, but my dog doesn’t!”

I was very much impressed with her, the way she was really learning from a dog. In our everyday life, to have this quality is something very important and beautiful.

Ready to Learn

As you are still human you might get annoyed, you might get irritated, you might get angry, you might want to fight with the boss or whoever. If that happens, don’t give yourself a minus; make friends with these unpleasant things, try to say okay to them, try to make them the object of your of meditation. You can use the same principle in relating to other people. If you can see the practice in this way your spiritual practice, your meditation becomes so interesting: a really fascinating adventure. You don’t fear to make mistakes, you are ready to learn from everything.

Our Gurus

We can see the people we have problems with as our gurus, as our teachers. A teacher or a guru indicates to a person what is going through that person’s mind. This is exactly what this guru, the boss or someone else, is doing to you, indicating to you what is happening in your mind: your minuses, your irritations. What a good guru you have in such people! Rather than focus on what the other person is doing you can look at yourself in the mirror the guru is showing you.