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.

With Friendliness

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When we have unpleasant experiences, whether it is physical pain or mental pain, what normally happens is we don’t like it, we resist it, and then the result is we start hating ourselves for it. By hating such experiences, by resisting such experiences, by disliking them, sometimes we might be giving them more power and more energy. So loving-kindness can be used in this context by making friends with this situation that you are experiencing.

A phrase I like to use sometimes is just to tell yourself: It is O.K. that I don’t feel O.K. You make friends with it, are open to it, then you can explore, investigate, learn about what you are going through.

Sometimes we may have such an experience when we have unrealistic goals in life, when we have expectations how we should behave, how others should behave, how life should be. Sometimes we can be making strong demands of how things should be. And when these demands are met we’re happy but when these demands are not met, this is where we start to suffer, this is where we start to hate ourselves, hate others and hate life. So with friendliness you can learn to find out, learn, explore, more about what you are really going through.

Find out whether this condition is created by thought, whether it is created by emotion, or whether it is created by sensation. Sometimes when we have such unpleasant experiences it’s a very good practice to spend some time with the sensations in the body or with the breath in the body. That technique can help you to create some space and then you’ll realise that these sensations are changing all the time. So if we can really be open to the sensations, whatever we are experiencing in our mind and body, and open to the changes, then whatever happens to a great extent you’ll be able to relate to it in a different way.

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Idiotic Compassion

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It is very important to realise that loving-kindness doesn’t mean allowing others to exploit you. This can be considered as idiotic compassion. In this connection there is a very interesting story. It is one of my favourite stories. I would like to share this story with you. It comes from the Indian tradition and the story is about a cobra who was practising loving-kindness.

So there was this cobra practising loving-kindness in the forest saying: May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful. And an old woman who was collecting firewood saw this cobra and mistook this cobra for a rope. So she used the cobra to tie up the firewood that she was carrying. As the cobra was doing loving-kindness practice, the cobra allowed this woman to do anything.

So the woman carried the bundle of firewood home and then the cobra escaped but with a lot of physical pain and physical wounds. And then he went to meet his teacher, and the cobra said: See what happened to me! I was practising loving-kindness, and now see the wounds and all the pain that I’m experiencing in my body! The teacher very calmly said: You have not been practising loving-kindness. You have been practising idiotic compassion, because you should have shown that you were a cobra. You should at least have hissed! So in relating to people like the person you described you have to learn to hiss, and in doing so you’ll also be doing a service for that person.

Little Acts of Kindness

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Doing little acts of kindness, sometimes talking to a person, sometimes smiling at a person, such little actions even for a few minutes are a way of developing compassion. And when you develop this quality, wherever you are you are bound to see such opportunities; even travelling in a bus or going along the road, you’re bound to notice situations where you can be of some help or show some kindness to others.

And I would like to suggest that you should also learn to relate to yourself with this quality of Karuna. When you see yourself suffering, when you realise that you are suffering yourself, you’ll be your worst enemy if you’re just allowing yourself to continue to suffer in this way. So having Karuna for yourself is trying to do something about your own suffering.

Little Things

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I would like to say something about Karuna. Usually Karuna is associated with seeing other people suffering. It is extremely important to learn to do something, to have friendliness when you see such suffering. In this world, there can be more and more suffering in particular situations. So we should develop this important spiritual quality of compassion where we feel the need to do something, even small things, little things, when we see someone suffering. One spiritual teacher said that it is not so important to do big acts of loving-kindness for other people when you see suffering, but the small everyday acts, the little acts that we can do are very important.

And this reminds me of a quotation by the Buddha where he was emphasising the importance of loving-kindness when he was addressing a group of monks. He told them that if you can practise loving-kindness during the time it takes to snap your fingers you’re worthy of being monks. So it shows that even practising loving-kindness for a few minutes is really good.

Forgive

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It is extremely important for us to learn how to heal these wounds. Here again meditation of loving-kindness can be extremely helpful in learning just to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. Forgive ourselves by realising that we are human. Forgive ourselves by realising that we are still not enlightened, we are still imperfect. And in the same way, forgive others by realising that they are being human, that they are also imperfect like us. And this is also a way of learning to let go of the past, otherwise we carry this past as a very heavy burden that we are holding onto. It is only when we can really heal these wounds and let go of the past and the burden that we are carrying that we can really experience joy, peace and more compassion for ourselves and for others.

Unhealed Wounds

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A way in which we can be our own enemy is when we hold on to the wounds that we carry in relation to what has happened in the past. Generally speaking wounds can be created by what you have done to others and what others have done to you. In relation to what you have done to others, a very destructive emotion that we can be holding onto is guilt. And with wounds created in relation to what others have done to us, the emotion that we can be carrying within us is hatred and ill will.

And when we have these unhealed wounds it can affect us in many ways. It can affect even our body sometimes. We can have psychosomatic illnesses which are created due to psychological reasons. It can also affect our body it creates certain tensions in the body. And it can affect our sleep and we will be having dreams in relation to some of these unhealed wounds. So we can be experiencing sadness, we can be experiencing fear and guilt even while we are sleeping! And at the time that we die some of these unhealed wounds can surface in a very strong way so that we’ll not be able even to die peacefully.

Harmlessness

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When we take to meditation in our spiritual life, naturally we learn to lead a harmless life, a skilful life, a wholesome life, not creating suffering for ourselves and not creating suffering for others or harming others. This comes under moral or ethical behaviour which is very much emphasised in the Buddha’s teaching. And here again there is a beautiful phrase, I would like to use the Pali words, Anavajja Sukha, which means the joy and bliss that comes from harmlessness, joy and bliss that comes from a skilful and wholesome way of living. So we see clearly how from being our own worst enemy we can learn to be our best friend.

Overcome Suffering

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In the Dhammapada, one of the most important books containing the Buddha’s teaching, there is a very interesting phrase: that we should overcome our suffering through joy. Sometimes we are trying to overcome suffering through suffering. But when we experience more and more joy and lightness, then when suffering arises, when we experience unpleasant emotions, it becomes very easy to handle them.

Rejoicing

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There is a beautiful word that is used in the Dhamma, the word is rejoicing. To rejoice in our own good qualities. To rejoice in the positive aspects in ourselves. Seeing more and more the positive in ourselves, and learning to rejoice in our own goodness in this way can bring about lots of joy and lightness. And when we experience more and more joy and lightness in us, then it can also be infectious, it can also influence and inspire others to experience more joy and lightness.

Only Minuses

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In what ways do we become our worst enemy? One is that we can be extremely critical and hard on ourselves. The phrase that I like to use is: we give ourselves minuses – it can become a very strong habit. And when we have this habit of giving ourselves only minuses we’ll also be giving minuses to other people. We can create a hell where only minuses exist. So meditation of loving-kindness helps us to see this very clearly, how we become our own enemies by giving ourselves minuses and giving minuses to others; and then we learn to see more and more the positive qualities in ourselves and in others.