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.

Category: Meditation and Mindfulness

A Mind Like a Mirror,

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Have a mind like the spacious sky and let the thoughts be like clouds: the clouds do not affect the sky, the sky does not affect the clouds. In our practice we can try to be like this. Allow any thought to arise without judging it. I am putting it in a very simple way. I know judging is a very strong conditioning that we need to work with, but this is what the practice is: not reacting to thoughts when they come. In the same way that they come, they will go again when you are having this spacious abiding in a non-reactive mind.

This technique can be seen as developing a mind like a mirror, just reflecting things as they are. This simile, the mirror-like mind, I have come across in many spiritual traditions. When something that is considered beautiful comes before a mirror, it is reflected just as it is, and the same thing happens with something that is considered ugly. Applying this to our everyday lives, when a positive emotion comes we just allow that positive emotion to be there as it is. When joy is there, just be with the joy. And when monsters come, just reflect the monster as it is. Sadness, just the sadness; fear, just the fear. Just reflecting it as it is. No plus to the joy, no minus to the sadness, both simply reflected as they are.

In everyday life we may be able to do this. If you are reacting to your emotions, you can explore and investigate your reactions. It does not matter if you react. This is one aspect of what can be described as having a mirror- like mind.

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The Bliss of Harmlessness

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Something important in the practice of meditation is living a virtuous life, having a moral perspective. Now because of this need to lead a virtuous life, it is possible that one can sometimes do that in a very puritanical way, and this can generate a lot of conflict, a lot of suffering, considerable guilt. So here with the practice of awareness you will be able to develop a kind of sensitivity, and from this a kind of natural morality will emerge.

And in this connection there is a beautiful phrase which is used in Buddhism, and in Pali it is anavajja sukha, the bliss that comes from harmlessness.

So that by leading a virtuous life, by being moral, what happens is, as I said, that one develops this kind of sensitivity. And then in daily life you are not inflicting any suffering on yourself and you are not inflicting any suffering on others. And this enables you to lead what is described in the Dhamma as a blameless life. And when one leads this blameless life, this can give rise to considerable bliss – the bliss of blamelessness, the bliss of harmlessness.

My Best Teacher is Life

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This ability to laugh at ourselves, to develop this humour towards life, to have this lightness, is something really beautiful. In life we are bound to have difficulties, we are bound to have problems, however much we meditate, however much we follow a spiritual path. We cannot avoid problems, we cannot avoid difficult situations. When you read the life of the Buddha it is surprising the problems and difficulties he had. He had problems with his relatives, his disciples gave him difficulties, followers of other religions gave him difficulties. Even though they were great people religious teachers like the Buddha and Jesus had difficulties, so who are we to expect to have no difficulties? Jesus Christ was crucified. Look what they did to a great man like Socrates. Problems will be there and we should be grateful for such situations, it is an opportunity to learn how to deal with our difficulties.

A good question in such a difficult situation is: “What can I learn from this?” In my own life, life has been my best teacher. I have met gurus, I have met enlightened people, I have met masters, but my present position is: “My best teacher is life.” And what is interesting about life is you can never come to a conclusion about it. You can’t say: “Now I’m sure that in the rest of my life I will not have any problems.”

 

Chatter

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We all know that meditation is connected with our minds. If you are aware of your mind, the way it works, and of your thoughts, what can you learn? I would like you to reflect on your own experiences. When you observe your thoughts, what can you learn from them? You will be able to discover one thing: the endless chatter of the mind, sometimes we can’t even identify what kind of thoughts are passing through our minds. Or after experiencing a stream of thoughts you will realise that you are hardly in the present moment.

You will be able to discover something else about this inner chatter: that from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep, we never experience a break from this inner chatter. Even while we are eating, dressing or bathing there’s no end to this inner chatter. Even at this moment, if you focus your attention on your mind you will experience the same thing.

If you can try to find out about your dreams, you will realise that there is a close connection between our dreams and this chattering mind. It shows that whether we are awake or asleep the mind continues to work. That may be the reason why we can feel tired even after a long sleep.

Alone with Ourselves

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We hardly get an opportunity to spend some time alone with ourselves. So it’s sometimes useful to spend some time completely alone with yourself, and see how you relate to yourself. Some people don’t seem to enjoy their own company! They can’t stand it for more than a few minutes. It shows that they don’t find themselves interesting people, they are boring people. So it’s very important to make a connection with yourself and in that situation to see whether you can relate to yourself as your best friend.

We have become so dependent on external things for our joy and happiness. I call them toys. Though we are grown up we have our toys, and without these toys we are completely lost. Sometimes our whole life is just changing one toy for another, like children, thinking that maybe this toy will give us pleasure and then finding that it doesn’t give us pleasure at all, so that our whole life is spent changing one toy for another. I would like to suggest that meditation is learning to be your own toy, so that you can find yourself interesting and amusing. We can enjoy the dramas that go on in our own minds. We don’t have to watch a television, we can amuse ourselves watching our own television in this way. We have so many channels! So this is one aspect of individual and outdoor meditation.

With Friendliness

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As children we have been asked, or we have been told in various ways, to be different from what we are. We have been given models, ideals, images of how we should be. So naturally there is a split between what you are and what you should become. We begin with this and then people take it into their spiritual lives too. They attend certain meditation retreats, and the meditation teacher says: You must be calm, you must have loving-kindness, you must have this or that, and so on. Naturally you cannot always achieve this. Then there is more self-hatred, more feeling oneself as worthless, as being a failure. So what do you do with such meditation teachers?

This is why I now emphasise as a first step – mind you, as a first step – to accept who you are honestly and very sincerely. To accept our humanness. To accept the fact that you are still imperfect, and to work from that fact by having loving-kindness towards what you are. This does not mean that you give in to what you are, but you work with these areas with friendliness, gentleness and tenderness. This is another aspect in developing loving-kindness.

Demands Upon Life

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A challenge can arise in relationships when we see the shortcomings of other people. Whatever the relationship, sometimes we see the other person behaving differently from how we think they should behave. Normally what we do when we see other people’s weaknesses is that we become very judgmental. We want them to be different and we get angry with them. We give them a minus and try to correct them. This shows that we are demanding how other people should behave.

It is funny how in life we make demands on ourselves, how we should behave. We demand from ourselves that we behave according to our own model of perfection. In the same way we project our model of perfection onto others. Consequently we demand that their behaviour should correspond to the model of perfection that we hold in relation to them.

But do we stop at that? No, we even demand from life how it should be. Take for example the weather. When there is Dutch weather we demand that we should have Sri Lankan weather! When there is Sri Lankan weather we are very happy and when there is Dutch weather we are very unhappy.

It is really funny how we make demands upon life, how we make demands upon ourselves, how we make demands upon others. Naturally you cannot meet all the demands you are making of yourself, and naturally others can’t meet the demands you are making of them; and again quite naturally, life can’t meet the demands you are making of it.

Here we see in a very simple, direct way how we create our own suffering. We create our own problems without realising it by the way we are making demands, without ever posing the question: “How realistic are my demands?”

“I”

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According to the Buddha, the main cause of suffering is this idea we have that there is an “I” or a “me” in all this: that there is an ego. So the ego wants things his way or her way. The best way, I feel, to understand how the ego works is that we have this idea that I am Somebody. So it is really funny that the Somebody wants things his or her own way. The Somebody is such an important person. And when we have this idea, that we are a Somebody, it is very easy to be wounded, to be hurt.

Actually if you analyse the emotions, the emotions are created by this feeling of suffering. Take anger. If Somebody wants others to behave in his way, and then sees that others are not behaving according to his feeling of being Somebody, he gets angry, thinking: they should have behaved according to what this Somebody says.

We are amused. We think it is funny. But when we are Somebody, we do not feel it in that way. We are really hurt, we are really wounded, we are really despondent. Take fear. Fear is related to this. This Somebody might loose something and so Somebody has fear. What about anxiety? This is very important. Somebody might make mistakes. So you are anxious. And if Somebody wants only plusses from others – how can others give minuses to this Somebody? It is impossible. You see, when you analyse it this way, how absurd our behaviour is.

So to see this leads us maybe to develop this sense of absurdity, to see the absurdity of our self-importance. So this is very powerful, when you see the second Noble Truth in this way, how you are creating suffering for yourself; if you can see this clearly, then the way out of suffering also becomes clear to you.

Loving-Kindness in Little Acts

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We can practise loving-kindness when we are eating. It is learning to take into account the persons with whom you are eating. As far as possible, whenever you get an opportunity give a helping hand to someone who might need it. It is a very important quality that we can develop, and we can develop this quality in silence and even in relation to eating.

So it’s interesting that we can practise loving-kindness in little acts, small acts, not just with big acts of love; but even with these small things we’ll be developing the qualities of our heart. Actually I’m sometimes touched by the attention that I get from so many people when I eat. I feel as if I am pampered. I feel as if I’m treated as a child. I like it sometimes. But we should also learn to have the same concern for others in small ways, in little ways.

Beauty in Nature

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There is a section in the Buddhist texts where monks and nuns who have become enlightened describe the beauty in nature. And these descriptions are recounted in such a creative, perfect way that it really shows how you can develop this passion for the things that you hear and the things you feel and the things that you see.

And it’s interesting that the same thing will happen in relation to noticing things within oneself. Certain aspects, certain areas in our personality which we might have taken for granted, which we have not noticed before, we are bound to notice them very sharply, very clearly. So you develop a motivation both for things external and for things internal.

Now what about things like eating? With meditation, would you become indifferent to what you are eating? Would you not enjoy what you are eating? In this connection, there is an interesting quotation from Ajahn Chah – I am sure some of you are familiar with his books. He had said that when there is good food you can really enjoy it and when there is not so good food, you can also enjoy that. So what can happen is that you learn to enjoy life, but in a different way from identifying with such things.

In the Centre where I live in Sri Lanka, in the evening when it is clear, there is a beautiful sunset and watching the sunset is part of the schedule. You are encouraged to appreciate beauty without necessarily identifying yourself with such beautiful things. So please remember that not identifying yourself with them doesn’t mean that you have lost the motivation for them.