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.

Remember Not to be Surprised

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Sometimes there are people with whom we have problems, it may be the boss or some of our colleagues at work. At home it may be your partner or your neighbours. We all have situations like that in our everyday life. The greatest challenge we have is to relate to people in whom we see shortcomings and faults. In such a situation one important thing is to remember not to be surprised. Why should we be surprised? According to Buddhism, human beings behave in this way due to the three drives of greed, hatred and delusion, meaning ignorance, not knowing or ignoring reality. We all have these three drives in us.

When you see it in other people you realise: “What I’m having, I see in this other person as well.” If you can really penetrate this realisation you can feel compassionate for people who display their frailties, their humanness, without getting angry, without creating a wound. The normal reaction we have is that we immediately give them a big minus. This is a very strong habit that we have, and we do exactly the same with ourselves. We don’t see the Buddha-nature in us, we almost refuse to see the good qualities, so we need to make a special effort in this direction. In the Buddhist texts the Buddha often mentions the importance of reflecting on the good things that we have done. This can give tremendous confidence, tremendous joy and considerable lightness and encouragement as well. With this perspective you relate to the human frailties in yourself and others in an entirely different way.

But this perspective can create difficulties as well, because you may use it as an excuse for being reluctant to act when people misbehave. You may say to yourself: “Well, it is due to ignorance”, and you don’t do anything. If parents are practising meditation they might get the idea that their children can behave in any way they like; or if the boss is a meditator then the people working under him or her may be excused anything, because it is simply due to their greed, hatred and delusion. If the husband is a meditator the wife can get away with anything. But this is not reality.

The question is then: how are we to bring these two perspectives together? One way is that without getting angry, without immediately giving a minus, we might get the person to reflect and to understand why he or she is behaving in a particular way. You’ll be surprised to learn that most human beings whom you meet don’t know why they are behaving as they are. Their behaviour is simply a habit, it has become a conditioning, and so they behave according to certain patterns; or they may carry unhealed wounds. People are just behaving in a certain way and they don’t know why. To give a person a minus and to show your anger and resentment to a person such as this is like taking a crazy man seriously and threatening him just as though he was a sane person.

What We Should Forget

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I think that in our spiritual practice we also have to learn what we should forget. People often remember only their minuses and they tend to forget their plusses. That way we are using our selective memory to create more suffering for ourselves. This is a very interesting, a very fascinating area to work with. Someone who is self-destructive will remember only the minuses, only the failures, only the mistakes that he or she has made.

I See Trees!

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I remember an old gardener we had working in the Centre. I considered him as one of my teachers. Although he was teaching he was not conscious that he was a teacher. He was teaching with his being, with his openness, with his gentleness, which is the real teaching. He would speak to the plants, he would speak to the trees, he would speak to nature. It was fascinating to watch because he had a personal connection with nature. One day we were talking and he told me that even in his dreams he sees nature. I asked him to meditate, and after a while I asked him what was happening in his meditation. He said: “I see plants, I see trees!”

A Caring Connection

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Another thing is learning to have a caring connection with the material things you use in your daily activities, like computers. It is a way of making a human connection with the computer, even though it is a machine. A very good friend of mine in Sri Lanka talks with his car, he touches the car, he has got a very special connection with his car. And of course now with the progress in technology cars and computers are talking back to you. These are interesting things I hear about when I travel in the West. A car can speak to you and now we are learning to speak back to the car or to the computer! If you try this, you’ll realise that you make an entirely different relationship with the machine, as though with something that has life.

A Helpful Tool

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A helpful tool in everyday life can be to develop a non-reactive mind. If you are in a situation where you are getting anxious or unhappy, try telling yourself not to react. In most of these situations it is reacting to the things that happen that makes the problem worse. We don’t like something and we start resisting it. Naturally it becomes a battle, a tiresome struggle.

A Very Nice Posture

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You will be surprised that in the main Buddhist text that spells out the development of mindfulness and awareness, which is called the Satipatthana Sutta, it is said that even when you are in the toilet you can practise mindfulness and awareness! Going to the toilet is a very powerful way of preventing stress and anxiety building up. It is a very nice posture, and I don’t know any place where there are restrictions about the time that you can spend in the toilet. Just relax, just use the breath, then if people actually do notice you, they will think: “It is one person who entered the toilet, it is another person who is leaving the toilet!”

Reality of the Present Moment

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In your daily activities you can use your friend the breath to experience the reality of the present moment, even if only for a few minutes. You can make this connection throughout the day, especially when there is a build-up of work and tension and stress. Just pause for a few minutes. You can do it seated on your chair. You don’t even have to close your eyes, people do not need to know you are meditating. Thinking of your friend the breath, you can come back to the reality of the present moment and stop this build-up of tension that has been happening so far.

Work

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Work can be seen as an opportunity to develop spiritual qualities like patience, caring, and compassion for others. I could draw up a long list of spiritual qualities relating to work. So it is possible to see the work you do as something you can use as a practice to help yourself and other people.

Without the Monsters

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During the day we can experience many so-called negative emotions, but can we make an effort to realise when the monsters are not there? Wherever you are, in the office or at home, and whatever you are doing, just take your mind back and remember the times the monsters came, and the times they didn’t come. Very soon you will realise that you are spending more time without the monsters, and this can give you inspiration, faith and confidence in the Buddha’s medicine. You will be surprised to realise what a good person you are.

Aware of the Small Things

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Try to be aware of the small things and routine things we do, like brushing our teeth: this is just a very simple suggestion. You can make a little effort to brush your teeth with awareness. We all know that when we brush our teeth we do it mechanically, habitually, while mentally we are elsewhere. This simple exercise in the morning, brushing our teeth in a very caring way, will help us to develop awareness, and as an extra benefit your teeth will shine in the darkness! Another simple exercise is that when taking a shower in the morning, you can just stand there for two or three minutes simply feeling the water on the body, just being with the feeling. It is a beautiful way to start the day.