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.

While Climbing

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In a way, we have to have a kind of expectation of what we are going to achieve eventually in meditation, but while practising I would suggest just to forget that, and then whatever happens becomes the practice. The simile I have thought of is like someone who is climbing a mountain. The idea is, one day, to reach the top of the mountain but if we are so much concerned, pre-occupied with what we are going to see when we reach the top, then what is happening while climbing we don’t see clearly. But in this process of climbing, the adventures we have, the falls we have, the wounds we might sustain, all this we can really learn from, this can be the practice. So in the same way, we can have some idea of what we will eventually achieve in meditation but I would consider, I would suggest that what is more important is to learn about, to discover, to explore, to be open to what is happening from moment to moment.

Beginner’s Mind

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We should have no model, no prior idea or expectation of what should happen or what should not happen. It is interesting that if we have such an idea, a model, an image in everyday life, and if what happens does not correspond to that model, then suffering arises. And this is exactly how suffering is created when we are meditating.

If we meditate with an idea, a model of what should happen and what should not happen, and if the meditation does not correspond with this idea, this model, this can also create suffering. It’s not only that, but we might even start hating ourselves because we cannot achieve what we think we should achieve. I know some persons who have given up meditation because they tell me that they cannot succeed in meditation, they say they cannot concentrate when they’re meditating or whatever.

So we meditate with what can be described as a beginner’s mind, a don’t-know mind, and whatever arises – it can be pleasant, it can be unpleasant – that becomes the object of meditation. And this continues whether you are sitting, standing, walking, lying down – in all the postures. We are learning, we are finding out, we are having this awareness in all situations.

A Way of Living

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By trying to continue to have awareness in all postures, in all situations, we are learning to see meditation as a way of living. Otherwise what happens is that we associate meditation only with a particular posture, or with a particular time that we are meditating.

The danger when we practise in that way is that when the person is sitting there is one kind of individual, but when the same person is interacting with society another kind of individual arises. So there is a big gap between the meditator sitting and the person functioning in everyday life.

Try to make this gap smaller and smaller so that meditation becomes a way of living. Then any situation in life can be a meditation, can become an object of meditation. So if we are really serious about the practice we have to slowly, slowly make an effort so that meditation becomes a way of living.

Open to Insecurity

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This is a very deep but very profound aspect of the Buddha’s teaching, to be open to uncertainty, to be open to the unexpected, because this is the real nature of life. So realising that this is the real nature of life we cease trying to control the environment in particular ways. Of course it can give a sense of security when you think that everything is under control and there is no problem, but this kind of security is a very fragile, false kind of security.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, real security comes when we can be open to insecurity. When we are open to insecurity, then whatever happens, to a great extent you’ll not be surprised and then you can see that as an object of meditation, you can make an effort to learn from that. Internally we are allowing anything to arise, any unexpected things to arise, such as an emotion, a sensation, or a thought. So whatever arises we learn to see them, as the Buddha said, just as they are.

Uncertainty

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It is interesting that in certain cultures what is happening externally can be more unpredictable, because unexpected things often happen. Maybe here it’s not so bad because you get the impression that everything is under control, and to a great extent you can predict what will happen. But in a country like Sri Lanka it is entirely different. You never know what’s going to happen. Always the unexpected can happen. I will give just one or two examples.

Now here I have been travelling on the railway system, there is no problem, there is always a train. You can time a visit and you’ll be able to catch a particular train and you’ll be there. In Sri Lanka this doesn’t happen. You may not even know whether there is a next train. So you go to the train station and they say today the train is two hours late or there is some problem with the rail track and today there is no train. So this is very good for the practice because you learn to be open to uncertainty.

This is a very deep but very profound aspect of the Buddha’s teaching, to be open to uncertainty, to be open to the unexpected, because this is the real nature of life. So realising that this is the real nature of life we cease trying to control the environment in particular ways. Of course it can give a sense of security when you think that everything is under control and there is no problem, but this kind of security is a very fragile, false kind of security.

Whatever Happens

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Let us try to be aware in relation to what is happening, what is arising internally in us. It can be unpleasant emotions, it can be unpleasant sensations, it can be what you consider as negative thoughts. We learn just to allow them, we learn just to let them be by using awareness. Now in everyday life we might have two sorts of problems. One is, of course, what is happening internally, but the problem is mostly in relation to what is happening externally. So if you can learn how these problems arise, what happens inside yourself, then you learn to watch and to work with what is happening inside your minds in everyday life.

This is a very important tool, a very important skill to develop because then whatever is happening externally, we learn to look inside ourselves and to work with what is happening inside us in relation to what is happening outside. What we normally try to do in everyday life is to modify, to change, to try to control what is happening externally to suit us, but as we all know we are unable to do this because we have little control over external events. So the practice, interestingly enough, is not to try to do that. Of course, if you can do it in certain situations it is good, but what is more important is learning to bring about a change within us, inside us. So ideally, whatever happens externally, when a transformation has taken place inside you, then you are able to relate to it, not to be surprised by what is happening but learning not to react to it.

Just Being Aware

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When meditating we like some experiences, we dislike other experiences. We like the pleasant experiences to continue and we like the unpleasant experiences not to be there. So our meditation becomes a big battle. Wanting things, not wanting things, accepting things, rejecting things. So what we should try is to learn to have a completely open mind to whatever arises.

When we have pleasant states of mind, we just know that there are pleasant states of mind. We learn not to hold on to them. If it is there, it is there. If it goes away, we allow it to go away. And if some unpleasant experiences arise, here again it is a very strong conditioning we have to hate them, to dislike them, to get rid of them. So in the practice we are learning to be open to pleasant experiences and to be open to unpleasant experiences, and learning, which is not very easy, actually to see no difference between these two states of mind by just knowing, by just being aware.

Non-Doing

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We are so used to doing things, manipulating things, controlling things. So this strong conditioning comes up when we are meditating where even in relation to our breathing, without allowing the body to breathe naturally, we try to control it, we try to breathe differently and so on. Even in walking meditation sometimes this conditioning can come up.

So try just being, learning non-doing in relation to meditation.

Seeing Something Beautiful

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In the Buddhist texts there are many references to seeing something beautiful. On one occasion the Buddha was walking with Ananda, his attendant, and at some point he said: Look back, what beautiful scenery we are passing through! There is a section in the Pali texts where it describes how monks and nuns became enlightened, and in that section some of them describe how the beauty of nature was very inspiring, because most of these monks and nuns were living in forests. And sometimes, as we are living in towns, big towns, where we don’t see nature very often, we are losing this sensitivity for appreciating something beautiful, for learning to relate to nature in this way.

Looking at Things

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Most of the time we use only one sense, that is thinking. According to Buddhist psychology this is the sixth sense, but we have other senses which we sometimes neglect. So we can awaken the sense of seeing by looking at things, looking at flowers, looking at little objects, looking at the sky, the clouds. In fact we can develop concentration in this way. I know some meditators who find it easier to concentrate in this way rather than concentrate on the breath, where they can have complete awareness of what they are seeing, and they are fully experiencing the present moment in that situation. And when we see beautiful mountains, beautiful flowers, beautiful birds we have joy.