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MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE'S TALKS AT THE CHI LIN NUNNERY IN 1998
Day 1 : 7th October 1998
Topic : Why Is Meditation Becoming Popular
Firstly, I like to welcome each one of you.
I am very happy to be back and I am also very happy to see some of my old friends here. It's also nice to see some new faces.
So I will give a short talk and there will be time for questions and then we can do some meditation together and we can end with some chanting, both Chinese and Pali.
So when I arrived here this time, my friends told me that there is more interest in meditation now in this country and that there has been many teachers, many masters, who have been also visiting this country. I was very happy to hear this and in a way, it did not surprise me because I know that everywhere in the world there is more and more interest in meditation now, especially in western countries. So a question arises : why is there this interest in meditation in the present world ? We can think of different reasons but a general reason is, I think there is more and more suffering in this world. So human beings, at least some of them, are finding ways and means of finding some peace, a way out of the suffering. So I'll be presenting some aspects of meditation which will help us, as I said, to experience more peace and to find a way out of suffering.
In this modern world, one of the things that is happening because of mechanization and industrialization is that human beings are also becoming more and more machine like, automatic. So here in this connection, meditation offers two very important solutions.
One is when human beings are becoming more and more like machines, they also like machines. They don't seem to have feelings and one aspect of this lack of feelings is that people are becoming more and more violent. More and more violent towards themselves and more and more violent towards others and also even becoming violent towards the environment, the surroundings that we are living in. This is why the problem of environment and ecology has also become a very serious problem in the present world. So in this connection, meditation of loving kindness, meditation of compassion, is extremely helpful in working with this aspect of having lack of feelings, lack of warmth.
A phrase that I often like to use is that meditation of loving kindness helps us to be our best friend. If you can be your best friend then naturally your behaviour will be not something unskillful, unwholesome to you and you create more and more happiness for yourself and more and more happiness for others. So meditation on loving kindness helps us to open our heart to ourselves and learning to open our heart to others.
Another way meditation of loving kindness can help us is that again, due to different reasons, we can be having what I call wounds. Wounds created from the past, wounds in relation to what you have done to others, wounds in relation to what others have done to you. And I think there is no human being who has not been wounded in one's life. I think a great source of suffering in the modern world is holding onto these wounds and these wounds can generate lots of suffering for oneself and lots of suffering for others. So meditation of loving kindness helps us to heal these wounds by learning to forgive ourselves and learning to forgive others. It's only when we can heal these wounds that we are carrying that we really experience joy and peace in ourselves. And when we experience this joy and peace in ourselves, this can become infectious, it can even affect others.
So these are some very important aspects of meditation of loving kindness which the modern world needs very badly. I would suggest that this is the only way to work with the global violence, violence that we have in this modern world.
Another important aspect of meditation which can help us to work with human beings becoming more and more mechanical is the practice of awareness. The practice of being present. It's a practice of being alert and awake. And like meditation of loving kindness, this aspect of being aware also has many benefits. One is, as I said, it helps us to be conscious, it helps us to know what is happening in us, in our mind and body from moment to moment as far as possible. And this awareness can help us to develop insight, to see what are we doing to ourselves and to others. Again to see how we create suffering in ourselves and how we create suffering in others. And what awareness helps us to experience is that sometimes, or most of the time, how we create our own suffering. And when you see very very clearly, with awareness, how we create our own suffering, then it becomes clear that only we can free ourselves of the suffering that we created. Sometimes I like to define meditation as a way of discovering the medicine for the sickness that we create ourselves.
Another aspect of awareness is that it helps us to experience the present moment. It is interesting that most of the time, we live either in the past or we live in the future. And we hardly know that we are living in the past and living in the future because again it happens habitually, mechanically, unconsciously sometimes. So here again awareness helps us to realize how we are using the past and the future which again can create problems for ourselves and for others.
So we need to use the past, we need to use the future. One simple way of using the past and the future is if we can learn from the past, whatever has happened in the past, if we can see the past as a learning experience, as a teacher. So whatever mistakes we have created in the past, rather than hold onto them and then feel guilty and suffer from them, if we can ask ourselves : what can I learn from my past mistakes ? It can be a very useful way of coming to terms about the past. Otherwise what happens is we carry the past as a burden. So in a way this type of thinking, this type of practice enables us to let go of this burden that we are carrying all the time, most of the time. And in the same way, if we can use the future, again as a friend. As we know, when we think of the future, sometimes what happens, we feel anxious, we feel insecure. But if we can make friends with the future and learn to be open to the future, again we will be learning to relate to the future in a much more creative way. So with awareness, we can learn to experience the present moment when we breath consciously. And then in relation to the past and the future, if you can see the past as a teacher and if you can see the future as a friend, this will be really beautiful, creating happy and peaceful way of living.
Another way where we can use awareness is to use awareness to learn, to discover, to explore, to investigate what is happening in our mind and body. A real problem we have in everyday life is how to relate to unpleasant emotions. A problem modern man is confronted with is the problem of stress. It's a problem everywhere. So now people are finding ways and means of working with stress. It is interesting that there are now workshops, courses, which are called stress management. So they're not trying to get rid of stress. They want to manage it, control it. So awareness helps us to find out under what circumstances do we feel stressed, what really happens to us, mentally, physically, when we experience stress. So in this way, we can explore, learn, investigate, any unpleasant emotion that we experience.
I think everyone here is familiar with other unpleasant emotions like anxiety, fear, sadness, guilt, all these are quite familiar to us. And what normally happens is when we experience them, we have no way, we have no tools how to work with them. So human beings have become helpless victims of these unpleasant emotions which really control us, overwhelm us and affect us. So in meditation, there are techniques, there are ways, to work with these unpleasant emotions. In fact there has been a very interesting book that has come out recently, "Emotional Intelligence". Has anyone heard of this book ? So the author, who is a buddhist, says that human beings are trying to develop more and more high I.Q. but what is more important is not to develop a high I.Q. but an intelligent way of working with emotions. And this has become a bestseller and there has been lots of workshops on this problem because again, in this modern world, unpleasant emotions are a real challenge, how to work with them. So here again, meditation, specially the aspect of awareness, helps us to work with these emotions. One such method is not to repress them, not to control them, nor to express them but just being aware of the emotions when it is there. In fact in meditation there are other tools, techniques, of working with these emotions. In a way we cannot prevent these emotions from arising but what we can learn is how to work with them when they arise rather than continue to suffer as a result of them.
Maybe another aspect of meditation is that it helps us to learn to be our own teacher, to be self reliant, to have complete confidence in yourself. This is a hard teaching but it's a very important teaching. To develop your own resources, to develop your own self reliance, to develop your own tools, how to work with suffering when they arise. So what arises from that ? That is that we learn to take responsibility for what is happening in us, without blaming others, without blaming the surroundings that you find yourself in. When there is a change that takes place in our mind, then we'll be able to handle whatever arises in a particular environment, in whatever surroundings you find yourself in.
I like to conclude by presenting a buddhist symbol which shows how we can live in any environment and learn how not to be affected by that environment. And the symbol is a lotus flower. As you know, a lotus flower grows in muddy waters. But though it is surrounded by muddy dirty water, the lotus is able to not be affected by what is there around the lotus.
So in this modern world, there can be lots of challenges, lots of difficult situations, lot of problems that might arise but with the practice, with meditation, we'll be still be able to see them as challenges and learn like a lotus, still not being affected by the surroundings that we find ourselves in.
So if there are any questions, you can please ask them.
Please ask questions. It is very important to ask questions.
When joy and bliss arise during meditation and when the body starts to tremble, is that correct or is that O.K ?
I'm happy you are experiencing joy and bliss. It's a very important aspect to experience joy and bliss in meditation. So when joy and bliss arises, when the body trembles, just know that the body is trembling, just try to find what exactly the sensation you are experiencing if the body is trembling and just to be with the sensation. What is important is when we have these positive emotions, not to hold on to them.
Any other questions please.
How to use our future in a proper way. For example, in the office when I deal with my boss, at first I may find that my boss has got some incorrect or improper views and then I have this anxiety that the situation may turn bad in the future and I find emotion arises. Then I try to alter my boss's attitude and then I think that the situation maybe O.K. But afterwards, I find that I have not handled the situation properly. I could have done better. So my question is : How can I ensure that what I'm doing at the present moment is the correct way to handle the matter rather than having done it first and then look back and regret what I have done.
So just a few practical suggestions : How to work with such bosses. One thing is you said that you would like to change the attitude of the boss which you can never succeed. Arising from that is you should learn to change your attitude towards the boss. It is if you can use the boss as your spiritual friend because the boss is teaching you something, to look at your own mind. So as I said this is the importance of awareness. So the emphasis is not what the boss is saying or what the boss is doing. The emphasis is looking at your own mind. How you are relating to what the boss is saying or what the boss is doing.
So it'll be interesting to start experimenting with your boss. So rather feel angry with him or rather than see him as a problem, as I said, you learn to see him as a spiritual friend and then find out : Now when I'm with the boss, what are the emotions that arise in me ? How long will these emotions stay with me ? So that you can experiment : Now today, this is what happened with the boss. Now let me see what happens with the boss tomorrow. So you are looking forward to be with the boss because it's a very valuable learning experience for you. So you can really feel grateful that you have such a good boss, that the boss is really showing you a mirror to watch your own mind. So without giving a minus to the boss, without giving a minus to yourself, you can give pluses to yourself and pluses to the boss.
And these suggestions that I offered , one can use in any situation in relating to people, it need not necessarily be the boss.
I think there's time for one last question.
Master, normally people practise meditation by sitting down with their legs crossed but what happens if I'm a little bit old and I have kidney problem which makes it difficult to sit too long to practise meditation. Is there no way for me to practise meditation , or alternatively can I do meditation by lying down on my back ?
There's still hope for you. You can just sit down on a chair with your spine erect. And as you rightly said, you can use the lying down posture but what is important is, in that posture you have to be very alert and awake because from lying down you might start snoring but it is still interesting to learn to meditate lying down in that laying down posture.
I'm very happy that you have asked some very good practical questions. So now let us take a short break, about 5 minutes and during this time, please as I said, see how you can be aware of whatever you're doing. So when you are standing, when you are walking, whatever you are doing, please try to slow down your movements and as I was emphasizing, the importance of awareness, just try to practise it as far as possible. And being silent will be helpful in practising this awareness.
So please come back after 5 minutes if there's a need to go outside.
[ Break ]
The meditation which you are going to do is something very simple. In my talk, I emphasized the importance of being aware, being mindful, being awake. So let us develop this very important skill.
So during the sitting, we can try to be aware, mindful, alert, from moment to moment as far as possible.
Just knowing. Just knowing what is happening in our mind and body from moment to moment.
And in my talk I also emphasized the importance of friendliness, gentleness. So we will try to combine awareness with friendliness and gentleness. Feeling friendly and gentle to whatever is happening in our mind and body as far as possible.
So as I said it is something very simple that we are going to do now.
You can please close your eyes.
If you're having thoughts, just know what thoughts you are having very sharply, very clearly.
If you are experiencing sensations, just know what sensation you are experiencing from moment to moment.
You can experience the present moment, just feeling the peace and the stillness in this room.
Feeling what it is to sit with your body completely still.
If the body is still, the mind may become still and you can feel the stillness around you.
Feeling friendly and gentle towards our mind and body.
[ Bell ]
Now please don't think that the meditation is over. Just please continue to know what is happening in your mind and body from moment to moment. And will you please open your eyes.
In a way, there is no beginning and ending of meditation. This is the importance of awareness, of knowing.
Thank you. Thank you very much for sitting so peacefully and calmly.
Let us do some chanting now.
So I'll be presenting three chants. The first chant is Buddham Saranam Gacchami, Dhammam Saranam Gacchami, Sangham Saranam Gacchami. S.K. will explain the meaning of the three sentences. The next chant is Sadhu which means well said. In traditional Buddhist countries, you will hear this word very often. And then the last Pali chant is Shanti which means peace. Then we'll be ending with some Chinese chanting.
So while chanting let us try to experience the present moment, the here and the now, with the help of the chant.
[ Chanting ]
Thank you very much. Please make an effort to put in practice some of the suggestions that I made. Please learn to be your best friend and also to be a friend of others. Learn to forgive yourself and to others and then heal any wounds that you are carrying.
Please make an effort to live consciously, to live with awareness, to live with a mind that is fully awake.
And as I suggested, try to work with unpleasant emotions when they arise.
Please try to find a new direction in your life, a new way of living where you will live in such a meaningful way that you will be not creating any suffering for yourself and any suffering for others.
And may you experience more joy, more peace and again friendliness to oneself.
Thank you very much and hope to see you tomorrow. And tomorrow we'll be speaking about the technique of being aware of our breathing, what advantages we can experience through this technique.
Once again, thank you very much.
MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE'S TALKS AT THE CHI LIN NUNNERY IN 1998
Day 2 : 8th October 1998
Topic : Anapana-sati and its Advantages
I would like to firstly welcome each one of you.
I'll be giving a talk and after the talk, we'll have a discussion. and then we'll meditate. And after meditation we can do some chanting, both Pali chant and also chanting in Chinese.
The subject that has been suggested to me is to speak about the benefits of meditation on our breath. So we can reflect on this question as to why the Buddha choose the breath as an object of meditation.
Now one thing is, as I said yesterday, a very important aspect of meditation is developing awareness, mindfulness. So here we can use our breath to develop awareness. In Pali this technique is called Anapana-sati, developing awareness, mindfulness in relation to the in breath and the out breath. So again to repeat, we can use the breath to always develop the practice of mindfulness, awareness because we are breathing all the time so that as it is with us all the time, we can make use of that to develop awareness. Ahjan Chah, one of the meditation masters in Thailand, has said that if you remember to breath, then you remember to meditate. If you have time to breath, then you have time to meditate. So this is the first point I want to make as to why the Buddha might have chosen breathing as a technique of meditation.
Another important aspect of meditation is learning to experience the present moment, the here and the now. So here again, when we breath, it is very interesting, we always breath in the present, we always breath in the here and the now. Sometimes I like to refer to our breath as our friend. So if you make a connection with your breath as a friend, then whenever we think of our friend, the friend will help us to experience the present moment. Whenever we are lost in thoughts about the past and the future, and there is confusion and disorder in our mind, you have only to think of your friend and immediately you can experience the
Another important aspect is, as we all know here, we are sometimes affected by our thoughts. Most of the time thoughts control us. So here again our friend can help us maybe for the first time, to learn to let go of the thoughts, to learn to control the thoughts rather than allow the thoughts to control us with the help of our friend by again being with the friend and experiencing the present moment, letting go of the thoughts about the past, letting go of the thoughts about the future.
And related to our thoughts is our emotions. There's a very strong connection between our thinking, between our thoughts and emotions. So sometimes thoughts can create emotions and then what happens is when we have emotions, again with thoughts, we can make it bigger. Here again if we can remember our friend, immediately it will help us to recover ourselves from emotions because if we can spend a few minutes with the breath and in such a situation, it will help us to find some space in our mind and then that space can help us to recover from whatever emotions that we are experiencing. You can experiment with this. You can try it for yourself.
Another useful thing that our friend can show to us is our state of mind. We all know what happens to our friend when we are affected by a strong emotion like anger, fear, excitement, stress and insecurity. What happens to our breath? As we know, it moves very very fast. So it can be a very useful signal, a very reliable signal, to show us what is happening in our mind. So if someone has problems with emotions, maybe to take an example, like anger, our friend will immediately show to us from the way the breathing moves that we are getting angry. So it can be a very very useful signal as I said and then if you can listen to the signal, heed the signal, you'll be able to recover from that anger or whatever emotion immediately.
In the same way, when our mind is calm, when our mind is relaxed, when our mind is still, what happens to our friend ? The breath also becomes calm. Sometimes it becomes so subtle that you don't even realize that you are breathing. So as I said, if we can learn to make a connection with our friend, the friend will always tell us what is happening in our mind. Some of the friends we have can be sometimes wrong, or maybe most of the time they can be wrong but you'll realize this friend is always right, this friend is always reliable.
Our friend also shows about our body. Here again the way we breath can indicate to us our state of physical well-being, our state of mental well-being. If you can focus attention on the breath, sometimes you'll realize the breathing can be very relaxing, sometimes the breathing can be very deep, very deep and also shallow. And when you realize that your breathing is shallow, it will always show that you are having tension in your body. And it is interesting that our friend will show that our body is tense and naturally it will create an emotion or it will indicate how we are connected, inter-related, the connection between feeling tense and emotions. And the only way, or one of the ways of letting go of the tension is again using our friend. In such a situation, sometimes if you can breath, if you can take some deep breath, immediately or to a great extent, you might be able to relax your mind and body.
In Buddhist meditation, there are two aspects. One is the aspect of experiencing calm, tranquility, which is called Samatha. Another aspect is developing Vipassana, insight or wisdom. So it is interesting that the object of meditation, this technique, is relevant to both these aspects. So when we are being aware of the in breath and the out breath and if we can learn not to react to what is happening, then the mind becomes calm and the mind becomes tranquil. And then this technique also helps us to develop wisdom or insight or vipassana.
One aspect of vipassana is to experience the fact of impermanence, the fact of change. And when we are aware of the breath, you'll realize how, whatever is happening in our mind and body including the breathing, changes from moment to moment. So if you are having thoughts you'll immediately realize how thoughts are arising, how thoughts are passing away. And the same thing becomes very very clear with our breath. And here again if we can be aware of the sensations, you'll realize how from moment to moment there is variations of sensations taking place and again how sensations are changing from moment to moment. So we learn to be open to any changes that will be taking place in our mind and body from moment to moment. And this insight which you develop through being open to change and impermanence internally will help us to be also to be open to changes, the fact of impermanence when it happens externally. As we know, sometimes we have no control of what is happening inside us and we have no control of what is happening externally certain events in our life. So suffering arises when we resist this change, when we resist impermanence. So if we can really be open to impermanence and understand the nature of impermanence, this is a very powerful way of overcoming suffering. And as I said, we develop this very important insight : how suffering is created by resisting change and how we can overcome suffering by being open to change and an understanding of the nature of impermanence.
Another important insight, wisdom that can arise in relation to our breath, is to realize we can have moments of it when you realize that there is only the breathing that is taking place, the rise and the fall and then there is no ego and there is no sense of "I" or "me" that is breathing but just the process of breathing from moment to moment.
Another very important insight is to realize that we are all inter-connected, inter-related, inter-being, but we think we are separate, foreign to each other in a sense. But when we reflect on breathing, we realize that what is common to all beings is this fact of breathing. So this should enable us to have this feeling of oneness with beings around us because what unites us, what is common to all beings is this fact of breathing. And we have to realize that we breath the same air, that in relation to the air that we breath, we can't separate the breath and say this is mine, the air that I'm breathing . So there is universality.
According to a Buddhist text, when we die, when we pass away, those who have meditated on this object can easily remember the breath at the time that we die if we are conscious. I know some people who are working with people who are dying and one of the techniques that they use in helping people to die is to get them to breath at that time, to learn to be conscious of the breathing at that time. So when we are dying, if we can experience the present moment with our friend, we have a good chance of dying peacefully. So our good friend helps us to live peacefully, it can help us to sleep peacefully. Before you fall asleep if you can spend sometime just to relax your mind and body, with the breath we can sleep peacefully. And then we can die peacefully. Is there anything more that we need to live in this world peacefully ?
So if you have any question, we can discuss them. So please feel free to ask any question, specially about this technique that we discussed.
Yesterday, we heard from you that some people are teaching other people how to manage tension and you were saying that it's best to get rid of it and I'm very glad to hear you just followed up on what you said yesterday by telling us to get rid of tension and other emotions through watching the breathing or having smooth and deep breathing. Can you elaborate more on this because it is very useful. Thank you.
So as I said, when we have emotion, unpleasant emotion, what makes it worse is our thinking, our thoughts. It is very interesting when we have an emotion. If you have the space of mind to watch our thoughts, you'll realize how thoughts come so quickly at the time and we can create a big story from what is happening. And sometimes a small emotion, it can really blow up by just this process of thinking, thoughts.
Maybe a practical example would be if someone has made you angry, at least you think that someone has made you angry. Then what happens to us ? So you'll be using thoughts about that person, how that person has been behaving in the past and all those things so that our whole attention is about that person and with the thoughts, negative thoughts about that person, our anger becomes worse and worse. In such a situation, we lose control. Actually at that moment the emotions and the thoughts really control us, they really overwhelm us as we all know. So someone who has been making a connection with our friend in this way, at that moment, immediately, if you can spend some time with the breath, just the in breath and the out breath, just being completely being with it, then at least for a few minutes, this brewing up of that emotion with thoughts, it will become less.
And as I said in relation to tensions in our body, it is again if we can really, consciously and deliberately do some deep breathing, this can also to a great extent help to work with that tension. In a way, one can say being with the breath or just being with the sensation can be the same because we are experiencing the present moment with the help of the breath and the sensation in the body.
An interesting process to discover is how again thoughts, emotions are involved in creating tension. Supposing someone is afraid of dogs. So when such a person sees a dog, the thought comes : Ah the dog is there, maybe the dog is going to bite me. And immediately, quickly, that thought gives rise to emotions. Emotions of fear, anxiety, insecurity can come. And then that can give rise to tension in the body. So again with meditation, if we can see this process taking place slowly, it can be very very useful, there can be very important discoveries that we can make for things. And again the process continues. We react to the tension with thoughts and then it becomes emotions. So it really becomes what can be called a vicious circle.
So how can we interrupt this vicious circle ? How can we break this vicious circle ? One way, one very powerful way is to spend some time with the breath because immediately your mind comes to the present and then all these things, the process that has been taking place as I described earlier, there can be some space that is created by this focusing on our friend.
So I took some time to explain in this way because I think we all can relate to what I have been saying. So what I would suggest is to please experiment with what I am saying. Just find out for yourself whether it works.
Any other questions please.
Some people when they teach this breathing technique, they mentioned that there should be four steps. They are soft, shallow, smooth and long and when I tried to follow these four steps, I found that my heart beats faster. And when I counted the breathing, I found that even my breathing becomes faster. So how do we deal with this situation?
I'm not surprised. Because it seems that you are trying to force the breathing in an artificial way. What is important is to spend some time just allowing the body to breath naturally. Our friend knows very well how to breath. Even when we are asleep our friend continues to breath. In fact this is what I'll be emphasizing when we try to experiment with this technique, to spend some time firstly just allowing the body to breath naturally, without controlling it, without manipulating it, without interfering with it. So, and then in a very simple natural way, just knowing, just being aware of what is happening to the body when the body is inhaling and exhaling. So it is a very simple technique but we are very good at complicating a simple technique.
It's interesting in the text, it says when you realize that the breath is long, you just know that the breath is long, when you realize the breath is short, you know that it is short. So whatever is happening naturally, you just know, that is all. So I like to suggest to you to please try out the way I'll be presenting the technique and after you finish, to please come and tell me what your experience was.
I think there is time for one more question please.
Master, when we meditate, when we are doing meditation, very often we cannot meditate well. Our body, our mind, or breathing is not peaceful, calm. What should we do ? Shall we just stop and do something else ?
It's a very useful question that has been asked. So I like to offer a few suggestions. That is when we sit to meditate, please don't have any expectations of what should happen or what shouldn't happen. And without any expectations, if we can just know whatever is happening and what is important is not to judge, not to give a plus, not to give a minus but just knowing from moment to moment what is happening in your mind and body with an openness.
The whole idea of meditation is to experience freedom, to be free of suffering but sometimes the way we try to meditate with our expectations, the meditation itself creates suffering for us. So if we have an expectation that my mind should be calm, that I should be only having positive experiences and if they arise, what we do is we hold on to them. And when we are unable to hold on to them, that creates suffering. And then when the mind is not calm, when the mind is not relaxed, you will think you're not meditating rightly and then, that is creating suffering. So without this idea of positive/ negative, just be open, just to be friendly to whatever is happening from moment to moment with awareness, can give us immediate freedom. So I'll be emphasizing this aspect when I'll be presenting this technique.
So now please take a short break and then during the short break as we did yesterday, please try to develop awareness when you are moving, try to move slowly and consciously as far as possible and what can help us is to practise complete silence during this short break.
[ Break ]
Let us begin the meditation without any expectations of what should happen or not should happen.
We will begin with what is called the beginner's mind. Not knowing what is going to happen.
Let us begin by being aware of our body. The different sensations, the different movements in our body.
Let us learn to feel friendly towards our body.
Feel what it is to sit with our body completely still.
See if you can feel the stillness around you.
And now please allow the body to breath naturally.
The body knows very well how to breath. Just allow the body to do what it likes.
Now please find out what happens in the body when the body is breathing naturally.
The different movements, the different sensations in the body when the body is breathing.
Let us just be with the different sensations, the different movements in our body from moment to moment.
Just being with our friend.
Experiencing the present moment with the help of our friend.
If you are having thoughts, just know that you have thoughts and then come back to your friend.
If the mind is calm, you know that the mind is calm. If the mind is not calm, you know that the mind is not calm. No plus no minus.
What is more important is to be with our friend.
[ Bell ]
Now please don't think that the meditation is over. Just continue to know what is happening in your mind and body from moment to moment. And whatever you do, please do it mindfully, opening your eyes, changing your posture.
There is no beginning and ending of meditation in a way.
Now let us do some chanting and while chanting, let us also learn to use the chanting to experience the present moment. And I would like everyone to join in. It's very beautiful when there is group chanting.
S.K. will explain the meaning of the three chants we will be doing.
[ Chanting ]
Please try to make a connection with your friend, the breath, and the friend will always help you especially when you are not doing sitting meditation. So our friend can be very useful in our everyday life.
So thank you very much for the beautiful chanting and also asking very good practical questions.
And tomorrow and the day after, we'll be discussing some very important aspects of the Dhamma. How to develop qualities of our heart is a very important aspect.
Once again thank you very much.
* * * * * * * *
MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE'S TALKS AT THE CHI LIN NUNNERY IN 1998
Day 3 : 9th October 1998
Topic : Metta, Karuna, Mudita, Upekkha (1)
Once again I like to welcome each and every one of you.
So today and tomorrow, we are going to talk about a very important aspect in Buddhist meditation. It is relating to develop four very important spiritual qualities in ourselves. They are called " The Four Sublime States" or beautiful states. They are also called "The Divine Abodes" so that when we develop these qualities, we can be like divine beings, like gods.
I like to see these four qualities as our friends because if we can encourage these four friends to be with us most of the time, this will help us to experience a lot of joy and lightness and this will also help us to give joy and lightness to others. To put it in another way, when these four friends are not with us, this can create lots of suffering for ourselves and lots of suffering for others.
And these four qualities in Pali sound so soothing, so nice. They are Metta, Karuna, Mudita, Upekkha. So Metta is loving kindness, friendliness. Karuna is compassion. Mudita, is sympathetic joy. And Upekkha, is having a non-reactive equanimous mind.
So today I will be talking about the first two qualities, the first two friends and tomorrow I'll be talking about the last two friends.
So Metta in simple terminology means just friendliness. So the interesting question is : where do we begin this friendliness ? It is psychologically interesting that we are to begin in ourselves. I think it is difficult to be friendly to others unless you are friendly to yourself. A phrase that I like to use is : Metta enables us to be our best friend. But we don't realize sometimes that we can be our own worse enemy. And generally speaking we see enemies outside ourselves and maybe all our life we are trying to find and get rid of the external enemies but we don't realize, as I said, that we can be our worse enemy.
In what way do we become our worse enemy ? One is that we can be extremely critical and hard on ourselves. The phrase that I like to use is, it can become a very strong habit in us, to give ourselves minuses. And when we have this habit of giving ourselves only minuses, we'll also be giving minus to other people. So we can create a hell where in this hell, only minuses exist. So meditation of loving kindness helps to see this very clearly, how we become our own enemies by giving ourselves minuses and minuses to others and then we learn to see more and more the positive qualities in us and others. In this connection there is a beautiful word that is used in the Buddha's Dhamma, the word is rejoicing. To rejoice in our own good qualities. To rejoice in the positive aspects in ourselves. Now at this moment, everyone of you can rejoice. Rejoice that you have made a commitment as meditators. So in this way, to see more and more the positive in us and learning to rejoice in our own goodness can bring about lots of joy and lightness in ourselves. And when we experience more and more joy and lightness in us, then it also can be infectious to others, it can also influence and inspire others also to experience more joy and lightness.
In the Dhammapada, one of the very important books about the Buddha's teaching, there is a very interesting phrase there, that we should try to overcome our suffering through joy. Sometimes we are trying to overcome suffering through suffering. Because when we experience more and more joy and lightness, when suffering arises, when we experience unpleasant emotions, it becomes very easy to handle them.
Another aspect of rejoicing is when we take to meditation as our spiritual life, naturally we learn to lead a harmless life, a skilful life, wholesome life, not creating suffering for ourselves and not creating suffering for others by harming others. This comes under a moral or ethical behaviour which is very much emphasized in the Buddha's teaching. And here again there is a beautiful phrase, I like to use the Pali words, Anamaja Sukha. And what Anamaja Sukha means is joy and bliss that come from harmlessness, joy and bliss that come from a skilful wholesome way of living. So you see how clearly how from being your worse enemy, we can learn to be our best friend.
Another way where 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. Wounds can be generally speaking created by what you have done to others and what others have done to you. And in relation to what you have done to others, a very destructive emotion that we can be holding on to is guilt and remorse. And wounds in relation to what others have done to you, 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 where it can create certain tensions in our body. And also 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, 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 to even die peacefully.
So it is extremely important for us to learn how to heal these wounds. So here again meditation of loving kindness can be extremely helpful in learning to just forgive yourself and just to forgive others. Forgive ourselves by realizing that we are human. Forgive ourselves to realize that we are still not enlightened, we are still imperfect. And in the same way, forgive others by realizing that they are being human, that they are also imperfect like you. 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. So 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 more compassion for others.
Now I like to say something about our second friend, Karuna. Usually Karuna is associated when you see suffering in other people. It is extremely important to learn to do something, to have friendliness when you see suffering in other people. In this world, as I said on the first day, there can be more and more suffering in particular situations. So we need to develop this important spiritual quality of compassion where we need to do something, even small things, little things, when you see someone suffering. One of the spiritual teachers have said that it is not so important to do big acts of loving kindness to other people when you see suffering but small acts, little acts that we can do are very very important.
And this reminds me of again a quotation by the Buddha where he was emphasizing 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, that is good enough.
In the same way, as I was saying, doing little acts, sometimes even talking to a person, sometimes smiling with a person, such little small acts even for a few minutes is a way of developing this quality. And when you develop this quality, wherever you are you are bound to see such opportunities, even travelling in a bus or going on the road, you're bound to notice situations where you can be of some help, show some kindness to others.
And I like to suggest that this quality of Karuna, one should also learn to relate to yourself. When you see yourself suffering, when you realize that you are suffering yourself, you'll be your worse 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 the suffering. So now we realize the reason why these qualities are called beautiful qualities, that they are divine qualities because it helps us to do something about our own suffering and it helps us to do something about the suffering of others. And here again like loving kindness, when you develop this quality of Karuna and when you can see that whatever help that you have given is having the desired effect, you can be very happy about it. And when you can see that you can do something about your own suffering, this can develop lots of self-confidence and you can be happy that you have found a way to work with your suffering and also found a way to eradicate the suffering of others.
So tomorrow I'll be speaking about the third quality and the fourth quality and now we can have a discussion so if you have any question, please feel free to ask them.
I would like to ask if there is any limit for compassion and loving kindness. For example, I have a friend who asked me to lend him some money because he said he was poor but in fact I later found out that this friend went gambling. The first time I realized that I forgave my friend but the next time my friend came back again to ask for money , I gave him money again and again a second and third time and forgives him. So is there a limit for forgiveness and loving kindness and compassion.
Very good question. Because in everyday life we sometimes have to face such situations. So it is very important to realize 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 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 fire wood saw this cobra and mistook this cobra to be a rope. So she used the cobra to bundle the fire wood that she was carrying. So as the cobra was doing loving kindness, the cobra allowed this woman to do anything. So the woman carried the bundle of fire wood home and then the cobra escaped with lot of physical pain, physical wounds and went to meet his teacher. And then the cobra said : See what happened to me. I was practising your loving kindness and 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 have at least hissed. So in relating to people like the person you described, we have to learn to hiss and you'll be doing a service for that person.
Any other question please.
Master Godwin, I have a problem I like to present here. A couple of times in my life, in fact recently, lots of things were going wrong, things like losing control and it was just like that I was in the eye of a hurricane spinning and spinning or like a rat climbing on the wheel trying to keep up with the spin and I don't understand that , I can't be really, that my own mind would create such a horror. I want to know do you have any idea what really is causing it, how to get out of it.
Anyway I would like you to, if you don't mind, meet me personally and I like to get more details on what exactly is happening but in the meantime, I might try to offer one or so suggestions.
The first suggestion I like to offer which in fact I should have mentioned when I was speaking about loving kindness, is learning to make friends with unpleasant experiences. When we experience 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 that. By hating such experiences, by resisting such experiences, by disliking them, sometimes we might be giving them more power and more energy. So here, 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. This is the first suggestion I like to offer.
The second suggestion I like to offer is making friends with it, being open to it and 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 expectation how you should behave, how others should behave, how life should be. Sometimes in a way, we can be making strong demands of how things should be. And when these demands are met, you'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.
The third suggestion I like to offer is, which is related to the second suggestion, is to find out whether this condition is created by thought, whether it is created by emotion, whether it is created by sensation. Sometimes when we have such unpleasant experiences, it's a very good practice as I was suggesting yesterday, to spend some time with the sensations in the body or the breath in the body and that technique can help you to create some space and then you'll realize that these sensations are changing all the time. So if we can be really be open to the sensations, whatever you are experiencing in your mind and body, being open to the change, then whatever happens, to a great extent, you'll be able to relate to it in a different way.
And the last suggestion I like to offer is, also find out when you don't have unpleasant experiences. It is extremely important in everyday life to find out if you are bothered by a particular emotion, to know the times when that emotion is not there. Perhaps if you can be open to that, you might be surprised that during the day, there are moments when this condition that you are describing is completely absent. I'm sure you're not experiencing that now because I can see you smiling.
So I would suggest try to use some of these tools and still if they won't work, you can either call me or to come and please see me. Thank you.
Maybe one last point is, if we can learn to see such experiences as valuable experiences, as opportunities to learn, then it's a beautiful way to live. To learn from unpleasant experiences, to learn from conditions which we think are negative, to really see them as opportunities to use for our spiritual growth.
I think there is time for one last question.
Usually when nothing happens, it is very easy to say let's have loving kindness to ourselves and to others but when things happen, for example, somebody say or do something around us and make us very unhappy, my experience is I get very very angry, to such an extent that I completely forgotten everything about loving kindness and I can't even sleep for a few nights and this hatred remains for a few days. I want to know whether you have had any such experience before. If you have, how did you handle it?
Very good question, very good question. I'm very happy that you're presenting very practical questions relating to everyday life.
So firstly I will share how I work with such situations which hopefully will help you to work with what you described.
The first point is : don't be surprised. Because as I said, we are still human, we are still imperfect. So as long as we are human, as long as we are imperfect, we are bound to get angry, so why should we be surprised ?
The second point is : don't give yourself a minus because you are getting angry. By giving yourself a minus, what you are doing is, you are angry about the anger and you're hating yourself because you have anger.
The third point is that if you are unable to observe the anger at the time that it arises, at least later on. Later on you can start reflecting on what happened. So why did I get angry ? Why did I use those words ? What really made me lose my control ? So as I said earlier to the earlier question, our failures can become very valuable spiritual friends. And this kind of reflection has to be done in a very friendly, gentle way rather than do it in a very hard way, trying to beat yourself and unnecessarily experiencing guilt and remorse in relation to what has happened. And then as I said in my talk, you can forgive yourself. I'm still human. I got angry but let me see now when I meet that person next week or whatever, I will see how I will be relating to that person. So that you'll be learning from such experiences, then you can sort of experiment with such situations.
And if we need to have an ideal, the ideal should not be that I will not get angry. The more realistic ideal we can have in relation to anger is how soon we can recover from that anger. So this is the importance of practising awareness in every day life.
So that if you can practise awareness, and as I said yesterday, if you can have a connection with your breath, then as you are getting angry, the breath will tell you that you are getting angry, and with awareness, you can notice it and that will help you to really recover from that anger.
I met a woman who had a terrible temper, anger was her big problem. I gave her a simple suggestion and it worked very well. I told her to carry a mirror in her pocket. And I told her whenever she got angry, please look at the mirror, don't open your mouth but just look at the mirror. And when she did it she was shocked to see the person. So whenever she did that she felt bad about how she was looking because she was concerned about her appearance. And again there was an immediate recovery from the anger and sometimes she was able to laugh at own anger.
So I'm afraid there is no time now so we will take a short break and during this short break, as I was saying the last two days, please move slowly with awareness and also please maintain silence and enjoy the space that silence creates in your mind and please come back after a few minutes.
[ Break ]
Feeling grateful that we have this body, that we can use this body for our practice.
Can you see yourself as your best friend. Can you really feel it? Feel it in every part of your body, your whole being.
Feeling it in the area of your heart and allowing your heart to open up to yourself, like a flower.
And feeling yourself as your best friend, can you forgive yourself for any mistakes you have made in the past.
In forgiving yourself, can you really say to yourself and feel these words : May I be well. May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free of suffering.
For anyone who does not have such wounds, you can feel happy that you have healed your wounds.
For those who have wounds in relation to what others have done to you, let us also learn to heal these wounds by learning to forgive others, by learning to let go of the past.
Learning to let go of any hatred or ill-will that you are carrying.
Can you think of them and also wish them that they be also well, that they be also happy, that they be peaceful and may they be free of suffering.
In healing our wounds, may we experience more joy, more lightness, more friendliness to oneself and more friendliness to others.
Let us now learn to rejoice that we are learning to develop loving kindness to oneself, to develop loving kindness to others.
[ Bell ]
Before we start to chant, let us just feel the peace and the stillness in this room.
[ Chanting ]
May you all be well, be happy, be peaceful and be free of suffering. And may all beings be well. May all beings be happy. May all beings be peaceful. May all being be free of suffering.
Thank you very much.
* * * * * * * *
MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE'S TALKS AT CHI LIN NUNNERY IN 1998
Day 4 : 10th October 1998
Topic : Metta, Karuna, Mudita, Upekkha (2)
I like to once again welcome everyone.
Yesterday I spoke about the importance of these four qualities, four beautiful qualities which the Buddha emphasized. So they are Metta: loving kindness. Karuna: compassion. Mudita : sympathetic joy. And Upekkha: equanimity.
So according to the Buddha's teaching, when we develop these important spiritual qualities, we can become like gods. That's why they are sometimes called "The Divine Abodes". I like to see them as four of our very beautiful friends. When we have these four friends within us, they will make us beautiful, they will make us experience more joy and lightness and this can also infect and affect others around you.
Yesterday I spoke of two of these qualities. Metta, loving kindness and Karuna, compassion.
So Metta can be seen very briefly as learning to be your best friend and then also learning to be a friend to others. Metta helps us to open our heart to ourselves. It also enables us to open our heart to others.
Karuna is when you see suffering in us, in ourselves, and when you see suffering in others, doing something to overcome our own suffering and doing something to overcome the suffering of others, is developing the quality of Karuna, compassion.
In this modern world, where there is lot of suffering, the suffering manifests itself in different ways, it is extremely important to develop this quality of Karuna in relation to others and in relation to your own suffering. In this connection, the Buddha has said : Helping others is helping yourself. Helping yourself is helping others. And eventually you see no difference between ourselves and others.
So today I like to speak about the third quality and the fourth quality : Mudita, sympathetic joy and Upekkha, having an equanimous and non-reactive mind.
It is interesting as I said, Karuna is responding to suffering in whatever way it turns. Mudita is when you see others happy, you are happy because others are happy. So this is sometimes not easy because the opposite of this quality of Mudita is jealousy and envy, specially when you see others doing better than yourself. Is it possible for us to really be happy and joyful that others are experiencing happiness and joy ?
And another aspect of Mudita is making an effort to make others happy. In a way one can relate it to Karuna because when you see others suffering, trying to do something about it and then getting them to experience some joy and lightness from their suffering and when that happens, you can be extremely happy about that.
Now this sympathetic joy or Mudita has another interesting aspect. Learning to rejoice as I said yesterday. Learning to be happy about your own happiness. Though again this sounds simple, in practice, sometimes for some people, it is not easy. I know some people when they experience happiness and joy, they would say : I don't deserve this. I'm such a bad person. I don't deserve to be happy. And I know others who say : How can I feel happy ? I feel guilty because there is such a lot of suffering around me and how can I experience joy ? When I experience joy, I feel guilty about it. So therefore it is extremely important to learn to develop this quality and then this word is very very interesting : To rejoice in your own happiness, to rejoice in your own goodness, rejoice in seeing more and more the positive in you and when you see the more and more the positive in you, then you are bound to see more and more the positive in others.
And as I said yesterday, every one of you right now should rejoice because you have made a commitment to follow a spiritual path, to be meditators. You should rejoice that you have made a commitment to lead a harmless life, learning not to harm yourself and not to harm others. And you should also rejoice that meditation sometimes or most of the time, is trying to work with our unpleasant experiences, whether it is physical pain or mental pain. How many people in this world are really prepared to do this ? So again to repeat : Shouldn't we rejoice that we have made a commitment, that we are prepared to work with our unpleasant experiences in whatever form they arise. And as I said, trying to learn from them. To ask the question : What can I learn from this ?
And I'm very happy to find that some of you have been coming for these talks regularly. So again to rejoice that unless you have this motivation, an interest, you'll not be doing that. So again to rejoice in this strong commitment, the motivation you have to listen to the Dhamma and to practise the Dhamma.
Being hard on ourselves, being critical about ourselves, giving ourselves minuses may come sometimes for some people quite naturally. That is why we need to deliberately and consciously cultivate this positive quality of rejoicing in some of the qualities that I mentioned. Sometimes I reflect that we, all human beings, have the potentialities to become free. So these qualities of freedom are just within us. So meditation can be seen as a way of acknowledging this, realizing this and allowing these factors of enlightenment to arise in us. So I hope you realize the importance of this beautiful quality, the divine like quality of Mudita, sympathetic joy, in relation to ourselves and to others.
The last quality of equanimity, of having a non-reactive mind. Again, it is a thing that we have to cultivate, to work at. So when we are meditating, when we are doing formal sitting meditation, whatever happens in our mind and body, so if they are pleasant, if you are having a non-reactive mind, an equanimous mind, we should learn to just to relate to it without giving it a plus and just holding on to it and wanting to continue it. And when we have an unpleasant experience whether it is physical pain or mental pain, the immediate reaction is giving it a minus and not liking it, resisting it, disliking it. So having an equanimous mind is whether it is pleasant or whether it is unpleasant, no plus no minus, no liking no disliking, learning to see things just as they are.
As I often emphasize the importance of being human, I like to suggest that as we are still human, there are moments when we like, when we dislike, reactions can be there. So here again I would suggest that if you are reacting, just to realize that you are reacting and then to find out, in your own experience, when you are liking something, when you are holding on to it, how it creates suffering for yourself. And when you are resisting something, when you are disliking something, how it again creates suffering. So again from our reactions, from a reactive mind, we can also learn.
When we are reacting, just know that you are reacting, to make that as a learning experience and learning not to react to that. And when you are not reacting, just know that you are not reacting and see for yourself the results, the benefits of it. So that if we can really learn to be open, learning to be open to both the reactive mind and the non-reactive mind and see the difference between the two, that can be considered something very important.
This as I said is how we can try to practise when we are doing formal meditation. Now can we learn to do this in every day life as well which may be more difficult but this is the practice. So if you can be observant, if you can be aware in every day life, in different situations, you can catch yourself how in certain situations we like certain things, we like certain things to continue, we like to give pluses and in other situations we don't like, we like to get rid of them. So like doing formal meditation in every day life, when you like something, when you identify yourself with something, again see for yourself what happens to you, what it does to you. Then you will realize, it is a very very important discovery that you'll make : That we can't be demanding from life how things should be. So in a way what we are doing is making demands from ourselves, how we should behave, how we must behave, making demands from others, how they should behave, how they must behave and also demanding from life, how life should be, how life must be according to our own terms. Making demands is one thing, the reality is another thing. This is a simple way how we create our own suffering. So here again, it is very important in every day life just to see how we create our own suffering with the demands we are making.
This brings us to what the Buddha discovered as the Four Noble Truths. Is there anyone, I'm curious to know, who has not heard of the Four Noble Truths. Please put your hands up.
So the Four Noble Truths is, briefly the first noble truth is the fact of suffering. And there is no human being who is not familiar with the first noble truth. Everyone here, including myself, has experienced the first noble truth. Maybe some of you are experiencing it even now.
An interesting question arises : Why is suffering a noble truth? What is noble in suffering ? It is an interesting useful question to reflect. I suggest that it is noble because, from the suffering, if you can go to the second noble truth, you can find a way out of suffering.
So in every day life when we are suffering, if you can tell yourself : I'm experiencing the first noble truth. That is an interesting way of saying suffering. And then what happens to most people is they just stick only in the first noble truth, only suffering.
The second noble truth is more difficult sometimes because you have to find out how you are creating your own suffering by your likes and your dislikes, by the demands that we are making, to see how we create our own suffering. And I would suggest that this is a very very important realization for us to see because if we can see that we are creating our own suffering, when you have the realization that only you can free yourself from the suffering that you create yourself, that brings us to the third noble truth and the fourth noble truth.
So if you have any question about the Four Sublime States I mentioned and also the briefly mentioned Four Noble Truths, please ask them. And I must tell you that in the last few days, you have been asking very useful practical questions.
I don't understand the relationship between the Four Sublime States that you have mentioned. For example, when you mentioned about equanimity, you said that we should not distinguish between liking or disliking or any outside circumstances but when you talk about loving kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy, we have to feel for others, we have to feel for external circumstances, so we have to get involved in what happens outside. So how can you reconcile the three qualities where we have to get involved with what happens outside while the fourth quality is that we should not distinguish.
Very good question. Very good question.
I like practical examples. So let's take a practical example where you are walking on the road and you see someone fallen on the road. Then if you have loving kindness and if you have compassion, there is a need and an urge to respond. Here again there are two very important words : reacting and responding. So reacting would be getting emotionally involved, having fear, insecurity, you might even start crying. And if there is a reaction, you'll not be able to respond clearly about what to do about that person. So this is how the four qualities come together. So then with an equanimous mind, you learn to do something about it, just responding without reacting. I hope it's clear.
Anything else ?
If we only handle the situation as you have just said, then if we go on this way, I feel that we may get cold and very indifferent to what is happening outside. Only handle the situation and do not feel anything. So what is your suggestion?
Yes. Well this is why my response to the earlier question was that you have to have Metta, Karuna, when you see the person has fallen on the road. If there is no Metta and Karuna, you'll just see the person fallen on the road and you just walk by. It's only because of Metta and Karuna that this person felt the need to do something, to act, to show some concern and care for that person. And from that sense of concern and care, that kind of response to act just happens. This is what is beautiful when you cultivate these qualities. When there is a need to use them in such situations, there is just the response. So I hope the answer is clear.
How can we cultivate these four qualities during meditation.
Another good question, practical question.
This is how it can be done. Now what I suggest sometimes is we choose one of these four qualities. Maybe today we can do what we did yesterday, the quality I chose was loving kindness.
If one wants to develop Karuna, then supposing when you are sitting there is physical pain, there is suffering in yourself. So rather than continue to suffer as a result of that physical or mental suffering, you try to do something about it, you learn to be friendly in relation to that, you learn to let go of that. So this would be practising Karuna in relation to meditation. And when you do that, you can immediately perhaps experience sympathetic joy, to feel happy. Very nice. That instead of suffering, I tried to do something about it and now there is a change taking place. So you can experience joy about it, happiness about it. Then you can experience the last quality, realizing maybe I should not hold on to this joy, a non-reactive mind to the joy. So you see one particular situation, simple situation, one can develop Metta, Karuna, Mudita, Uppekha, the four qualities.
So may be today when we meditate, I might try to offer some guidelines, including all these four aspects.
Can I just come back to the big qualities, Metta, Karuna. Are they not reactions, feelings, that one would have when one sees a child fallen down on the road ?
I again repeat the same point and take the example of the child. So when you walk on the road, so instead of a man you see a child fallen. So it's the same principle because with a child, you can really react, you can even start crying, you can even feel sad: Oh see what has happened to the child ! And when you are getting involved with this, you will not be in a position to help that poor child. So like doing something to the person who has fallen, here you show some concern and then you would do something about the child. This is why I used the two words, please get the two words very clear : reaction and responding. And as I said earlier, if we are reacting emotionally, we can again learn form that. What made me become so sad ? What made me become so depressed ? What made me so insecure ? Because you might have the thought : may be my own child would be like this. So we can create a huge story from that typical incident that you have seen on the road. So if that happens, you can reflect on that : Oh why am I reacting ? So that becomes an object of meditation.
And may be in another situation, you might be able to respond. Respond very clearly, very calmly, with a still mind, what has to be done. So you see the difference very clearly : Ah see what happens when I react and see what happens when I respond. Just see the difference.
And the same principle applies to what is happening internally. Now here it applies to some external event and when we are meditating, someone who is very habitually reactive, can be reactive to what is happening in meditation also. To take an example, so supposing your knees are in pain. You can say my knees are in pain, who knows my knees might break, I know some meditators who have broken their knees and like in that incident, you can create a huge story from the pain in the knees. And from the pain in the knees, you can have anxiety, you can have fear, you can have insecurity, you can have all these unpleasant emotions. So responding would be just observing the pain and learning to make friends with it and if it becomes unbearable, you change the posture.
So thank you very much for asking questions. So now let's take a small break before meditation. And during the break, please try to continue to move slowly with awareness and also practise silence.
I was very happy to hear some of my friends telling me that they noticed the very very peaceful calm atmosphere here. I was very happy to hear that so if you would try to maintain it as far as possible.
[ Break ]
So let us begin with meditation of loving kindness, Metta.
We will try to radiate, extend, lots of friendliness in all directions.
May all beings be well. May all beings be happy. May all beings be peaceful. May all beings be free of suffering.
Let us now think of the people whom you know are suffering. May be physical suffering, may be mental suffering.
Let us feel for those people who are suffering. Let us feel concern for those people who are suffering.
May they be free of the suffering that they are experiencing.
Can you really wish this from your heart.
Can you now feel happy that you are trying to develop qualities of loving kindness, Karun@, concern for others. Rejoice in this.
Can you be happy with yourself that you are trying to develop these qualities of the heart.
Let us now try to develop the important quality of a non-reactive mind. Whatever is happening in our mind and body right now, can you relate to that without liking, without disliking.
If we are experiencing physical pain, physical discomfort, can we relate to it without reacting.
If your mind is not calm, can you just know that the mind is not calm and not react to it, not give it a minus.
If you are experiencing pleasant experiences, can you not like it and if you are experiencing unpleasant experiences, can you relate to it without disliking it.
Just being open to whatever is happening.
Learning to see things just as they are.
[ Bell ]
Let see how far you can continue to have a non-reactive mind in relation to what is happening in your mind and body.
We will do some nice chanting now.
Before we start to chant, let us create some space in our mind by just feeling the peace and the stillness in this room.
[ Chanting ]
May every one of you here be well, be happy, be peaceful and be free of suffering.
And when you go to sleep, may you sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully. Thank you.
MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE'S TALKS AT THE CHI LIN NUNNERY IN 1998
Day 5 : 11th October 1998
Topic : Meditation In Everyday Life
So I like to welcome each one of you for this one day meditation program.
So I would like to just share with you what we will be trying to do today.
The first point I want to make is that everyone of you should feel very happy because being a Sunday, being a holiday, to have decided, to have the motivation to come here and spend the whole day in meditation, everyone of you should rejoice, everyone of you should feel very happy about this.
One of the things that we have been emphasizing in the talks and also a very important aspect in meditation is the practice of awareness, mindfulness. So today we will make a special effort to develop this very very important skill, the skill of being conscious. And also related to that, we will try to have continuity of awareness from moment to moment as far as possible.
So whether you are sitting, standing, walking, eating, doing yoga, whatever you are doing, going to the toilet, what you do in the toilet, please make an effort just to know, just to be conscious, just to be present, of what is happening in your mind and body from moment to moment.
And it is also important to learn to use awareness with friendliness, with gentleness. There is a very interesting Mahayana text in this connection where watching yourself, observing yourself, is compared to a mother. So like a mother, just watching, just observing, just noticing her child in whatever the child is doing. In the same way, if you can watch, if you can observe, if you can find out what is happening in your mind and body with awareness and friendliness, this combination is extremely important.
So another important aspect of awareness is to experience the present moment, the here and the now. So today let us make an effort just to forget whatever has happened in the past. We cannot change the past. It's gone. And then let us not think of the future because the future has not yet come. So in a way thinking of the past and the future is not being with the reality. So today we will make a special effort to use awareness, to use friendliness, to experience the present moment as much as possible, as far as possible today.
A very important area that we need to work with is the area of emotions, especially emotions that create suffering for us which we all know like sadness, fear, insecurity, shame, guilt and all these things in everyday life. These are the things that create suffering for us. So I'll be presenting techniques which will help you to work with these unpleasant emotions.
And it is also important to know, to find out, when these unpleasant emotions are absent. Here again what will be helpful to us is the practice of awareness because if you know how to be aware, then you know what unpleasant emotions you are having and if there is awareness, you know when they are not there. And what is important is I will be presenting one or two tools which will help you to work with these unpleasant emotions.
So it is important to have self-confidence. I know when these unpleasant emotions would arise, I know what to do with them. So we need not be afraid of them. So I hope today all of you will discover some of these tools and I really hope that you'll develop this self-confidence in you, the trust in you and the trust in the Dhamma so that you realize problems will arise, suffering will arise but I know what to do with them, I know how to recover from them. This is extremely important.
And whatever we are trying to do today, there'll be a time for group discussions. And in the group discussions, please ask questions or share your experience about what is happening here, today. This is very very important. So only things which have a practical significance which we will be trying to do but as I said, only ask questions or present difficulties in relation to that.
So in conclusion, I like to suggest that you make a real effort to make full use of your stay today. As I said, in a way you have made a big sacrifice in coming here on a holiday. So let us make an effort to make full use of today and get a glimpse, get a taste of what meditation is about and then to have the confidence that through my own efforts, I can find a way out of the suffering that I create myself. Thank you very much.
Let us now begin the program with sitting meditation.
Let us begin by just feeling friendly towards our mind and body. friendly and gentle towards our mind, friendly and gentle towards our body.
Can you see yourself as your best friend ? And can you really feel it, feel it in every part of your body, your whole being ?
And being your best friend, you have complete confidence and trust in yourself.
Now let us just be mindful, just be aware, just be alert and awake of what is happening in our mind and body from moment to moment.
Please realize what we are doing is not to develop concentration but just learning to be aware, learning to be conscious, learning to be alert. So please don't try to achieve anything. Whatever is happening in your mind and body, just know what is happening.
If you are aware, do you know that you are sitting completely still and that you will feel the stillness in this room.
Now we will use our awareness to become aware of our breath. So please allow your body to breath naturally and just be aware of the sensations, movements you experience in the body, in your breath.
You know when the body is inhaling. You know when the body is exhaling.
Feel friendly towards your thoughts and just return to your breath.
Experience the present moment with the help of your friend, the breath.
When the breath is long you know that the breath is long. When it is short you know that it is short. When it is deep you know it is deep. When it is not deep you know that it is not deep.
Feeling the stillness in the room, you inhale. Feeling the stillness in the room, you exhale.
If there are unpleasant sensations in the body, just learn to feel friendly and gentle towards them. Don't see them as disturbances or distractions.
We will now end with meditation of loving kindness.
If there are unpleasant sensations in the body, how far can you make friends with them without disliking them ?
If you are experiencing any unpleasant emotions, how far can you feel friendly towards them, not dislike them, not wanting them to go away ?
If you have thoughts that you don't like, how far can you feel friendly towards them and just to allow them ?
If you are not resisting any of these things, there is no suffering.
Please don't make any noises.
[ Bell ]
Now please don't think that the meditation is over. Please continue to know from moment to moment what is happening in your mind and body.
We can meditate in four postures. Sitting, standing, walking, lying down. So we'll be exploring three postures. Sitting, standing and walking.
Now let us do some standing meditation. And when you stand, please stand slowly, observing every movement when you are standing and observing the intention to stand. And please learn to stand slowly so that you will not be disturbing persons around you.
Now just feel what it is to stand. Feel the different sensations, the different movements in your body when you are standing.
So when thoughts come, gently let go of them and come back to the body, the sensations.
Experience the present moment with the help of your body.
Note carefully, sharply how sensations in the body change from moment to moment.
Feel what it is to stand with your body completely still.
And can you feel the stillness around you.
Not thinking about the past, not thinking about the future.
Experiencing the present moment with the help of the sensations and stillness.
Whatever you experience in the body, just see them as just sensations, sensations arising, sensations passing away from moment to moment.
[ Bell ]
Let us now explore walking meditation. So S.K. will give some directions, some suggestions how it can be organized.
Please be aware of all the movements in your body while you are walking. Again, experiencing the present moment with the help of walking, conscious walking.
Feel the different sensations, the movements in your body while you are walking.
Please look at the feet of the person in front.
Let go of your thoughts gently and come back to walking.
Just enjoying conscious walking.
Please don't look around. Please look at the feet of the person in front.
Can you walk as if you are walking on lotus flowers, be conscious of each step that you are taking ?
Can you feel the sensations in your knees ? Do you feel the sensations of the feet touching the floor ?
Now please try to slow down the walking so that you can be really conscious of each step that you are taking from moment to moment.
Let go of your thoughts gently and come back to walking.
Please stand wherever you are and please close your eyes.
We will now do a short sitting before yoga. So please walk slowly with moment to moment awareness to where you were seated and then we will do a short sitting. So continuity of awareness from walking to sitting is very important.
Please have moment to moment awareness.
This is going to be a very short sitting so we'll try to sit with a mind that is really alert and awake from moment to moment. And as it is a short sitting, please learn to sit without moving.
[ Bell ]
Thank you. Thank you very much. I think it was a really peaceful sitting.
Now before yoga and after yoga, please go to the toilet so that during the sitting after yoga, please try to avoid leaving the hall to go to the toilet or to go outside. Thank you.
[ Yoga ]
Discussion with Group A
We can discuss what we have been trying to do today. So what we will try is do is go over some of the things we did today and then if you have any questions, you can present them.
So the first technique we practised was just being aware of whatever was happening. Does anyone have any question in relation to this ?
When I practised walking and standing meditation, I was able to be aware of the sensations and what happened at the time but when I practised sitting this morning, I had many passing thoughts and I was carried away by these passing thoughts. So later in this afternoon if we are going to have sitting again, then if I am again carried away by the passing thoughts, can I do standing meditation instead of sitting or what other suggestion you would give to me.
Yes. Very clear question.
In that technique I presented, it is something very simple, just to observe the passing thoughts. To just to know very clearly, very sharply, what thoughts are arising from moment to moment. So having passing thoughts should not be a problem when we have this awareness of whatever is happening.
Anything else about this technique ?
Thank you for your teaching. Now I know that my suffering comes from my expectations but this is my habitual pattern, this is my bad habit. How can I stop this bad habit from coming back again. That is the first question. The second part is should I deal with this situation with sympathetic joy or with equanimity ? And the third part of the question is if I deal with it with equanimity, would there be another expectation of what I have to do?
Well it is quite right to say that suffering is created by our expectations and that it is a strong habit in us and this is where awareness is very important. So with awareness, you catch yourself immediately when your habitual pattern arises. And then to realize that it is just a habit and that it is not reality. So that it is again, to repeat, being aware and catching the habit when it arises in whatever form and then learning to let go of it, aware that it is just a habit, nothing else. So if you can catch it as it arises it will be great because then you'll be really handling it effectively working with this habit. As I often said, as we are human, sometimes we might fail to catch it as it arises and we might become victims of this habit. So when that happens, again to reflect on what has happened when the event is over and then learn from what has happened and learn to experiment with such situations. And the best technique to work with this is of course awareness and equanimity as you have pointed out. Learning to have a non-reactive mind to whatever is happening.
Whether to have a non-reactive mind is another expectation is again to realize : I'm trying to be non-reactive but sometimes it might succeed, sometimes, it might fail so that if you can have that openness, there is very little likelihood of it becoming a strong expectation.
I'm very happy that you have made a very important discovery and I would like to say that with the aspect of discovery you are to make, I'm sure you have confidence in it, more and more discoveries, and I feel that eventually you will succeed in working with this habitual pattern.
Another thing that you were doing was focusing on breathing. Now does anyone have any question, difficulties about that technique.
When I walk normally in the streets, there is no problem, very natural but when I tried to practise walking meditation and place the mindfulness on the feet, then I find that my walking was unstable.
Actually my question was about focusing on breathing, whether there are any questions but it is alright that you asked a question about walking. I will try to respond to that.
Very interesting point that you are making because in meditation also, we have to do things naturally. This is why in the meditation of breathing one has to learn to breath naturally. In the same way when doing walking meditation, it's only slowing down but in slowing down one is learning to walk naturally. But if you try to, whether it is breathing or walking meditation, try to do it differently and not naturally, then naturally we have problems.
A very interesting point that arises from that question is when we are meditating, we feel that we should do something different, something special. So if you try to do anything as if it is something special, as if it is something different, then there'll be special problems. So please realize meditation is not something special. It is something very natural. It was so beautiful when I had a session with a group of children, so natural, simple and uncomplicated.
Anything else ?
I usually meditate at night at about 1:00 a.m. and I find that when I breath, my eyes appeared to be pulled inwards. When I meditate during the day time, there is no such problem. So I would like to know whether there is a difference between meditating at night and meditating in the day time.
It depends. If you are getting up at 1:00 a.m. I feel that maybe you are trying too hard. I am very happy that you are so motivated to start meditating at 1:00 a.m., a big plus, I like to suggest to you to try to meditate between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning, maybe 3:30 or 4:00 and maybe the problems that you were describing may not happen then. In most meditation centres in Sri Lanka, we get up around 3:30, 4:00, 4:30. And I think it is very important that we should get enough sleep, of course depending on the individual.
There is time for one more question.
When we meditate and focus on the breathing, sometimes we may find that the air around is polluted. For example when somebody is cooking nearby and there are smells, the focusing would be disturbed by the smells or polluted air. So what should we do under those circumstances. Should we stop meditating or what ?
No, I would suggest you continue with the meditation because it might be difficult to find a place where there is no pollution. And the problem is not with the smell of food but the problem is with ourselves. If we can find ideal places where there is nice air, where there is no smell of food, that is very good. But does that mean that we should not meditate in places where there is smell of food and not very pure air ?
So in relation to the smell of food, when you get the smell of food, what you can observe is what are the thoughts that you have in relation to the smell of food. So it will be a very good insight when you get the smell of food but it is only smelling and there is no reaction to the smell that you are getting. So if that happens, you have a very important insight, a glimpse, that the problem is not with what is happening externally but what is happening inside us.
So what is beautiful about meditation is the so-called distractions and disturbances, they become teachers. Rather than waste such situations, we should learn to confront such situations and see how far even under those circumstances that you can meditate and this will give us lots of self-confidence and this will be a very very important breakthrough.
And if we meditate in a place where there is pure air, where there is no smell of food, do we think there won't be any problems for us ? Then we might have other problems.
Thank you very much for the useful questions that have been asked but what struck me was all the questions were asked by ladies. I hope the men do not have any problems.
Discussion with Group B
Do you have any questions about what we have been trying to do today ?
When we sit, is there a posture which we must stick to ?
I would say the ideal posture will be the cross-legged posture and even in the cross-legged posture there is variation like the lotus posture is one. So anyway with whatever cross-legged posture, what is important is to have your spine erect because when you have your spine erect, it is very easy to become alert and awake and really be conscious. So this is where sometimes yoga exercises can help you to work with your posture. In the afternoon session, if you have any problems, difficulties with the sitting posture, please ask the yoga Master and he will help you with the sitting posture. And here again what is important is to have your posture where you can feel relaxed with your posture. This is very very important. To be mentally relaxed, to be physically relaxed when you meditate is extremely important.
Anything else ?
Can you kindly repeat what you have said about focusing on the breathing because I was not here on the night that you were talking about focusing on breathing.
Very briefly, firstly is allowing the body to breath naturally and then be aware of the sensations you feel within the area of the nostrils and other parts of the body when the body is breathing. And it is just simple, using the in breath and the out breath to develop awareness and to be in the present moment.
When I meditate and after I have completely relaxed, I find my eyes usually became moist and tears came out. I would like to know what has happened in that situation.
I'm happy to hear that you feel relaxed when you meditate. And then when you are relaxed if something is happening in the eyes, if that is happening, just know that it is happening. When we meditate, we really don't know what is going to happen in our mind and body. So many different things can happen in our mind and body. And if you ask the question : Why is this happening to me ? Is it the right thing or the wrong thing and then if it is right and if it is wrong, it can create more problems and it creates more suffering. So meditation is something very very simple. So whatever is happening, you just observe, you just know, and then continue and then something else is bound to happen.
I would like to ask questions about the Four Sublime States, not about meditation. I work in a coroner's court as a clerk and whenever I read reports on the cases, in each case there is a deceased person. He or she may have been killed in an accident or he or she might have committed suicide. Whatever the cause of death, when I read the reports, I have to write down his or her age, occupation, address, reason for death etc and there is a code for each age, occupation and when I did this, I found that no matter whether a person is young or old, man or woman, there are a lot of suffering and it is because of those suffering that they have committed suicide or because of some negligence that they were involved in accidents. So whenever I write down a code in the file, I felt pain in my heart and sometimes what I did was do some reciting like Namo Tassa and then the pain may become a little bit less. I also found that my mind expands, thinking that the person who has committed suicide must have suffered a lot before committing the act and even thereafter in his next life, he may have to go to a place where he has to continue with the suffering so I became very unhappy. I would like to know how to handle this situation. Should I try to lessen the pain or should I just allow the pain to go on.
I'll give a simple suggestion. You can think of the person doesn't matter how old, how young, whatever the circumstances and then think of that person wherever that person may be, may he or she be well, may he or she be happy, may he or she be peaceful, may he or she be free of suffering. So in place of the pain, in place of the grief, instead of your suffering, you will be developing loving kindness for that person. It will be good for you and it must be good for that person.
Most of the time when I meditate, I found that it is very difficult to relax because there are many passing thoughts. So what is your suggestion ?
What is wrong with passing thoughts ? There is nothing wrong with passing thoughts. Or did you think that I should not be having passing thoughts then you complain that you cannot relax. If you try today, I repeatedly mentioned, please make friends with your thoughts, please make friends with your emotions, please make friends with your sensations. I can't understand why meditators hate their passing thoughts. Poor thoughts. So when we don't meditate passing thoughts are no problem and when we are meditating, no passing thoughts. So when you're not meditating, passing thoughts, you feel very relaxed and when you're meditating, you can't relax because of the passing thoughts. Aren't we very funny ? See what we are doing in the name of meditation. Please see this very clearly.
Previously, I have practised some other kind of breathing where my breathing is not natural. Now I would like to practise natural breathing and then I found that because of this change of my breathing pattern during the sitting, my body became stiff and even my skin is affected. I would like you to give some suggestions as to what I should do.
Now when you are seated in this posture, I'm sure you're breathing. Is that creating a problem ? No. So when you sit, there's nothing special. So you see most of the questions are very interesting for me that when you meditate, it is something different, something special. There is a meditation Master in Sri Lanka who tells that when you sit and if you aim for something special, you will have special problems. Please realize that meditation is a way of living. Please realize that meditation is not only involved when you are sitting. As I said, whether it is sitting, standing, walking, lying down, in any situation, one has to have meditation of just being aware. Then meditation becomes natural, then meditation becomes part of us, then all these questions about what happens in sitting may not arise.
I think we have time for one last question.
The first question is that when I was younger, I was able to sit cross-legged but now I am much older and I cannot sit cross-legged. So I would like to ask whether I can meditate in the posture in which I am now sitting. The second question is that I practise visualization and I visualize some deity or Bodhisatta and there was a night when I saw a deity coming down from the sky and I would like to ask whether this phenomenon is O.K. or not.
First question. You are looking very beautiful, very peaceful when you are sitting on the chair.
So when I sit like this, can my feet touch the ground ?
The way you are sitting now is perfect.
I am now 91 years old.
I'm very impressed and inspired that at 91 you could be sitting so beautifully on the chair and that you could so clearly ask these questions.
About the second question, I am very sorry I have not practised visualization meditation. I'm sure you must have a teacher who is teaching you about visualization, so I think you should ask the question from the teacher. I'm very sorry.
The teacher who taught me visualization has passed away.
Then I will try to offer some suggestions. So when you visualize, when you have pleasant visualization or when you have unpleasant visualization, just try to have a mind that is equanimous in both situations. And I am sure you will be able to do that.
Thank you very much.
Discussion with Group C
Yes. So are there any questions ?
When I have negative feelings and thoughts when I sit in meditation, then how can we be friends with them and deal with them.
A suggestion is please see it as an opportunity, as a learning experience because it is extremely important and valuable for us to learn about unpleasant emotions.
The second suggestion is , as I have been saying this morning, how far can we make friends with them, how far can we say I don't feel O.K. but it is O.K. not to feel O.K. How far can we say this.
And the third suggestion is try to find out, try to learn, what exactly is negative, unpleasant about it. Is it a thought, is it a sensation, is it an emotion ? Trying really to look deeply into what you consider as negativity.
Another tool is to think of our friend, the breath, at that time. So breathing, or as we did this morning, whilst standing, just become conscious of the sensations in the body. Just being with the breath, just being with the sensations and then if we can just be with the breath and with the sensations, you might be having less thoughts and this will help us to really to create space around that unpleasant emotion you are having.
The next tool is for us to realize that whatever arises passes away. What is funny is that if you have an unpleasant emotion, if you tell the unpleasant emotion : don't leave me, don't go. What will happen ? It won't stay. Or even if you say : stay with me. It will change. So we have no control. So these things arise, these things pass away. So just to be open to that important aspect of what the Buddha taught.
Another very important point is when these unpleasant emotions are not there, just to know that they are not there. So because it is changing, sometimes we have pleasant emotions, sometimes we have unpleasant emotions. We can't be having all these pleasant emotions nor will we be having all these unpleasant emotions. So again to be open to both and to know when they are there and when they are not there.
And the last tool is to realize these are visitors that come to our mind. So you must be a very good host. So let these visitors come and let these visitors go. So when visitors come, as a good host you must say : Hello, welcome. Make friends with them. Talk to them. Why have you come ? What can I learn from them. And when they leave, say : Goodbye. Come back. So in this way, we can sometimes learn to play with their coming and going. So rather than see them as problems, you see them as very interesting situations, challenges, to work with these interesting visitors we have. And it has a very deep Buddhist insight which means that these visitors do not belong to us. The problem arises when we think they belong to us and say this is my sadness, this is my anxiety. So I hope you will wait for these visitors to come and learn to use some of these tools. When you develop lots of self-confidence, that when they arise, you know what to do.
Anything else ?
I want to share some experience on how to make friends with unpleasant experience.
Thank you very much.
At the beginning, I think it may be difficult for us to welcome unpleasant experiences . When they come, we will not like them but I think reflection is very important. After the unpleasant experience has gone, we can reflect on the situation and gradually we will discover that we can really learn a lot from unpleasant experiences and they are really my great teachers. Then gradually we will even welcome unpleasant experiences. So I think reflection is very important.
So I hope that those who have problems with unpleasant emotions will have the experience of learning to make friends with emotions.
When I meditate, it's not necessary that there is unpleasant or pleasant sensations. Sometimes there are practical questions which arise which need to be answered. For example, in daily life there are things which we should handle. As you said, we should respond but not react. So when those questions arise, should we think about the solution during the meditation because it is very natural that when such questions arise, we need to think how to handle them. So can we think whilst we meditate ?
Yes, a useful question. So here this brings up an important technique in meditation which is called reflection.
Reflection is using thoughts in a very creative way. Usually we use thoughts destructively to create our own suffering but here when you use thoughts creatively, you're using it to work with the suffering, all kinds of suffering. So what is important is with a mind that is calm, with a mind that is clear, you start to reflect on the problem you are supposed to be having. And a very interesting exercise is to see that problem, to see that situation, from different angles. Usually we see only one or two aspects of the problem but when we reflect in this way, we can see so many areas, so many aspects of this problem that we are reflecting on. So this in itself, as I said, becomes a meditation and from this, a solution to the problem may arise in this kind of meditative reflection.
Master, when we practise a non-reactive mind, we have this negative feeling, we try to overcome this negative involvement, say worries, things like that, negative emotions. Would we become a piece of wood or lose interest in life or lose the ambition to succeed? Is there a problem there?
In relation to unpleasant emotions, I offered many tools. So when I offered the tools, I never spoke about a non-reactive mind. Working with unpleasant emotions, you should not have the idea that you will have a non-reactive mind. In which case, I should have just said there is only one tool, a non-reactive mind. I didn't say that. In Sri Lanka, people who have grief, they have lost a son in the war, I just can't tell them : Just have a non-reactive mind. It doesn't work. So I would tell them to start with that it is natural that you have grief inside. We all have grief in us. So it is natural and then try to, as I said earlier, to work with them and then, try the different tools that I mentioned.
I think maybe the problem with the question is I think with the phrase, non-reaction, you feel that you do not need any action. Is that the problem you have ? Is that what is worrying you ?
No. If we are non-reactive to things, outside circumstances, there may be a danger that we would have no feelings and as a result, not interested in anything else.
Yesterday, for a few days I have been speaking about Mett@, Karun@, Mudit@, Upekkh@. And I said that they are really making an effort to open our heart because they are all qualities of the heart. So firstly, when you have Mett@, you learn to open your heart to yourself, feeling for yourself. Then when you have Mett@ for others, you really open your heart to others. So you're relating to others with warmth. And the second quality that I mentioned was Karun@ which means really feel for the suffering of others. Really feel concern and care for others. So if you do not have feelings, you cannot care and have concern for others. And in the same way, if you do not care for yourself, then you don't have Karun@ for yourself. I have been emphasizing so much the importance of joy and lightness. And joy and lightness is nothing but the area of your heart, feelings. And non-reactive mind, maybe I should use a different phrase for you, that is : to be cool without being cold. So I like to tell my friend not to use the word "non-reactive" but to use the words, "cool but not cold". Is it clear now ? Thank you.
Can you give us some idea how to try to maintain your joy and compassion and warmth to people you see day in and day out who are negative. I find it very difficult. I get swallowed up in their negativity after a while and I can't help them and then I can't help myself.
Although it is time for yoga, I will still respond to that question because it is a very important question. Because I think everyone here can relate to that question specially in everyday life, sometimes we are forced to see people whom you consider as negative. Maybe starting with your husband or wife or probably your boss. So what do we do when we have to relate to such people ? Fortunately or unfortunately, you can't avoid them. So you can't escape from them. Then what do we do ? So I will give some suggestions as usual. First suggestion is don't be surprised. Why ? They are unenlightened beings including yourself. So it is very very important to realize that we are living in a world which is full of imperfect human beings including yourself. Put it in a more stronger language, according to the Buddha, until we are enlightened, we are all crazy. We are crazy in the sense that no one can claim that we can always see things as they are. We all see things subjectively not objectively. So in this sense, we are all crazy. So we are lving in a crazy world. So when you see imperfections in every day arising whether in yourself or in others, please don't be surprised.
The second suggestion is when you see imperfection in others, try to remind yourself : I am also imperfect like that person. Otherwise, we have a self-righteous attitude : I am perfect, the other person is negative. I am positive, the other person is negative. Is there anyone here who is always positive ? Are you always positive ? So just to realize : Now the other person is negative so I can also be behaving like that. Then you become more and more humble.
The third suggestion is try to see them as your gurus, as your teachers, as your masters. I like to mention now that I have been called a master but I like to see myself as a spiritual friend and not as a master. But please when you see negative people, please see them as masters. Why ? The master is showing you a mirror. So what we do is when we are angry, with the mirror, look at your face in the mirror. So whichever way the master is behaving, look at your own emotions. What are the emotions that are coming ? I'm giving that person a minus. See I'm getting angry. I'm getting annoyed. I'm getting agitated. See all the emotions that are arising thanks to the master. The function of a good master is to try to test whether you are good meditators. So this master is testing you whether you are a good meditator. And then something very difficult, something very interesting is : can you see the master sometimes as if for the first time. Sometimes we come to the conclusion this person is a negative person. So everytime you see that person, you relate to that person with that conclusion, with that prejudice, with that bias. Sometimes we see what we want to see. So poor master, even if the poor master is behaving in a positive way, see how negative that person is, see the way that person is looking at me because we only want to see what we want to see.
And the last suggestion is ask the master what are the negative things you can see in me. That will be very revealing. Thank you very much. Enjoy your yoga.
[ Yoga ]
So we will now try to meditate on our thoughts because in the discussion, there were people who were having difficulties with thoughts. So let us learn to meditate on thoughts.
So just learning to observe, just learning to watch. Thoughts that arise and thoughts that pass away in our mind.
So let us learn to make friends with our thoughts. To observe them very sharply, very clearly.
Let us see how far we can observe the thoughts without judging them. No plus. No minus. Just letting thoughts come, letting thoughts go again.
If you are judging the thoughts, just know that you are judging them. And see the difference when you are judging and when you are not judging the thoughts.
If some of you are having difficulties with unpleasant emotions, can you allow them to arise now if there is a need to arise.
Sadness, fear, anxiety, depression, whatever you don't like, let them arise now.
If there are no such unpleasant emotions, just to know that they are not there and if they are there, just to know that they are there and then make friends with them.
[ Bell ]
So I will offer some suggestions how to integrate meditation in daily life.
One can see meditation as medicine. Medicine for the sickness that we create ourselves. The first point to be very clear in your mind is : Are you really interested in taking the medicine? Have you really made a commitment to take the medicine? Because if you have really made a commitment to take the medicine, one can never say I forgot to take the medicine or I have no time to take the medicine. You all have different priorities in life but where this taking medicine figure in the list of priorities ? So this is a very important point to be clear. This is the first point I like to make.
The second point is, as you know, we have been emphasizing the importance of just knowing, just being aware, just finding out what is happening to us especially in our daily life. So one has to make an effort, a sincere effort, during the day, to make conscious effort to try to be aware, to try to be conscious of what is happening to you. Maybe a good time to do this is in the morning.
Now just as we wake up in the morning, you may have lots of things to do but just as you wake up in the morning, can you just spend a few minutes just even lying down on your bed. I mean it would be ideal if you can do some sitting meditation in the morning even for a short time but let us assume that you are too busy in the morning but at least lying down and spending even 5 minutes in the lying down posture and maybe start the day with loving kindness meditation just feeling friendly towards yourself and maybe radiating thoughts of loving kindness. And it is useful to have just a wish, today during the day, may I get an opportunity to practise loving kindness, Karun@, Mudit@ and other things that we have been discussing. So this is a beautiful way to begin the day. It won't take more than 5 minutes, less than 10 minutes.
Then there are certain things that we have to do in the morning. However much you are busy, I think everyone will brush their teeth in the morning. No one will say I don't have time to brush my teeth. Now here again, can we just practise a little awareness, mindfulness when we are brushing our teeth, just as an example. What happens when we brush our teeth ? Again, we have thoughts. We hardly know we are brushing our teeth. This becomes a very very strong habit in us. So as it is a strong habit, thoughts will come. So just with awareness, knowing thoughts are arising, knowing thoughts are coming and then, just learning to let go of the thoughts and come back to brushing, just conscious brushing of your teeth.
However much you are busy, you are bound to go to the toilet. It is interesting in the main text, the Buddha described how we should develop awareness and in this text it says that when you are even in the toilet, try to be aware, try to be conscious of what is happening when you are in the toilet. So I call this toilet meditation. So if you are really interested, if you are really motivated, if you really want to take the medicine and if you are so busy, at least you will have time to do toilet meditation.
Then I think you will definitely be having breakfast. I won't be telling you to eat breakfast in silence because it is not possible. At least spending one minute before you start eating breakfast feeling grateful. Maybe someone has prepared the breakfast for you. It is beautiful to feel grateful for that person or even if you have prepared breakfast yourself, just feel grateful now today I prepared my breakfast and now I'm eating my breakfast. Just to develop this quality of feeling grateful. This is a very important aspect, very important spiritual quality.
Then at least to make an effort not to allow the eating of breakfast but at least occasionally, to come back to awareness, just to come back to tasting, just to come back to swallowing, chewing. Just make an effort to do that.
Then what happens ? Maybe you have to go to work. Now work is a very very interesting place. Very interesting challenges. Now in the place of work, a very important aspect, and also in everyday life, is the problem of relationships. How to relate to people around you. Because as I said, we live in an imperfect human world. So most of the time, all the time, we have to encounter, we have to have relationships with imperfect human beings. Now here what we can try to do, as I suggested, is try to learn from them. The importance of meditation, the importance of awareness is trying to watch your own mind in relating to others. And it is natural, don't be surprised, you are bound to have unpleasant emotions in relating to people. So this is the importance of awareness. This is the importance of watching. This is the importance of learning. And see how we can work with the emotions, how we can understand them, how we let go of them. Supposing at that time, we are unable to do that and we get angry, we get annoyed, we show our anger, we express our anger. And what happens when we do this ? Again, please don't be surprised. Please learn not to give yourself a minus. This is very very important. If you do not have time there, when you go back home or when you have a little space, then what you can do is to reflect on what really happened. As I said earlier, learning to reflect and this reflection, this exploration, has to be done in a very very friendly gentle way and not in a harsh hard way, being extremely critical of yourself and seeing yourself as a failure.
So this would be a very creative way of living where we really learn from our mistakes. Our mistake becomes an area for our spiritual growth. I like to suggest rather than give yourself a minus, please give yourself a plus for this. You deserve a big plus because you are learning from this, you are trying to use them as part of your spiritual growth. So shouldn't we rejoice for this learning, growing and our effort to do this. Again to feel grateful for such an opportunity.
Now here it does not mean allowing others to do what they like to do, allowing yourself to be exploited. So sometimes in certain situations, we need to be assertive, we need to be firm because some people understand only that language. So here again you very deliberately, consciously, now I'm going to be very firm, I'm going to be assertive in relation to this person. So you do it with complete awareness. I know some meditation teachers, some meditation masters who pretend they are getting angry with their students in order to awaken their students. So it can be used as a tool. It can be used as a device.
And I also would like to suggest that during the day specially if you are very busy, just try to take very very brief times when you can spend some time on yourself. You don't have to leave the place of work and you can still be seated on your chair and you can even have your eyes open so no one really knows what is happening and then, please spend some time with your friend, the breath. Even for 5 minutes, it will create space in your mind. Even for 5 minutes, the build-up that is happening in your office, or whatever you are doing, there can be some recovery and some space and this will really help you. And of course you have the freedom when in the office also to do some toilet meditation where you can be completely alone, secluded. So during the day, whatever emotions that would arise, whatever states of mind that would arise and they are bound to arise in a place where it is busy and so on, but what we have to do is to make them the objects of meditation.
And when you go back home, maybe you'll be too tired to meditate, so at least spend 10 minutes, maybe not in the cross-legged posture but just lying down on a chair and just reflect on how you spent the day. Try to do this reflection in a very friendly gentle way : Now how did I spend the day today ? What were the times when I had unpleasant emotions ? What were the times when they were not there ? This is equally important. Sometimes you might be surprised that for the whole day, you were angry only once. So in this way, this can really help you to understand, to discover about yourself, about how you are relating to yourself, how you are relating to others. And this can naturally bring about a transformation in oneself.
Maybe another point related to this is, as I have indicated earlier, it's a really powerful, very practical direct practice, is to see the Four Noble Truths in everyday life. It will be really excellent, it will be wonderful when you are suffering during the day, if you can remind yourself, here I'm experiencing the Buddha's first noble truth. You will see if you can tell yourself all this, if you can remind yourself, you'll be relating to that suffering in an entirely different way. And then if you can really from that move to the second noble truth : Now let me see, in what way am I creating my own suffering ? And then you can use the third noble truth and the fourth noble truth in this way. During the day, just find out when you are free, when there is no suffering and then find out : Now there is no suffering, what is the reason, why is there no suffering ? So if you can really learn to use the Four Noble Truths in daily life, in this practical simple direct way, you'll be living in the Buddha's teaching whether you are suffering or whether you are not suffering. Isn't that a beautiful way to live ?
Maybe a few more practical suggestions. In the Buddha's teaching, spiritual friends are very much emphasized. So you are very fortunate here that you have many groups doing meditation. So it is good to join one such group and it is good to cultivate friendship from spiritual and noble friends.
So spiritual friendship is learning to grow together. I was speaking about relationships earlier. In the relationships you have with different people, if you can also see them as spiritual friends, again it is a very positive way of relating to each other. Anyway, if there are meditation groups, please join one of them.
Another helpful suggestion is to read about the Buddha's teaching. So here again there are some very valuable books that have been translated and I think some of them are already distributed here. So it is good to read them and good to reflect on them. So this can really inspire us and this can also be an incentive for us to practise and this would be reminding ourselves of the importance of taking the medicine.
I like to pause now and if you have any questions and I feel the kind that might be more valuable is if you can present me with difficulties and say now in this situation, how can a meditator respond ? So if you have such situations, such difficulties, in your everyday life, we might be able to discuss such situations.
Master, I like to ask if we are sick and we are suffering from great pain or other things, spiritually can we practise meditation because I think in that way, we are not in a fit state of mind.
So if I understood the question correctly, it means there are certain situations where we are really overwhelmed by emotions where there is lot of suffering and it is not possible to think of meditation at that time.
So what I would suggest is that you can wait until you recover from that state of mind. It does not matter how long it takes and then as I suggested earlier, then you can look back, you can reflect : Now what really happened to me ? What really made me go through the physical and mental suffering ? What can I learn from that experience ? And maybe this is why the importance of spiritual friends, maybe at that moment, if you have a spiritual friend, it is something very wholesome, very skillful, just to share your suffering with another person. This is how we help each other.
Any other question ?
I occasionally join talks on Buddhism like this one and I sit and meditate occasionally. There was an experience when I was sitting, I felt some force or very strong sensation arose in my abdomen towards my heart and it made me very uncomfortable. And then emotion arose and I cried. Can you comment on this phenomenon ?
As I said this morning, when we meditate, we really don't know what is going to happen. As it happened to you, the most unexpected thing can happen. So when such things would happen, please don't be surprised and please don't blame yourself. Please don't give that experience a big minus. And as I said this morning, please don't try to understand it. Sometimes we don't know. Sometimes we cannot understand it intellectually. So what we can do is just know it. This is the beauty of awareness. This is why the Buddha said this is the only way. So just to realize this is what is happening to me and just to be with it. And as I said, if it is very unpleasant, you can say : I don't really feel O.K. but it's O.K. not to feel O.K. Just really feel it, just really say it.
And the last point, and I consider it as a very important point, is meditation is also learning to work with unpleasant experiences, please realize that meditation does not mean having only positive experiences, pleasant experiences, experiences we are familiar with. So I like to repeat that such experiences are extremely valuable, extremely useful, if you can really learn from them, if you can see them as meditative objects rather than seeing them as something strange, unusual and so on. So please make such experiences the objects of meditation.
Sometimes I consider such unpleasant experiences more valuable than so-called pleasant experiences. There are no problems with pleasant experiences. So in that sense, such experiences are valuable because you learn to handle them when they arise. And this is exactly what happens in life. Suddenly we find ourselves with an unexpected situation in life, same principle. So you see the importance of learning to handle such situations when you are meditating so that if such events were to arise externally, we learn to do the same. So this is why in the Dhamma, it is said internally and externally, same principle, same solution.
I was told by somebody that it is very important for us to chose the right type of meditation. May I ask are there any schools of meditation which are evil and others which are not evil and how can we distinguish these types of schools ? And what are the criteria for us to chose the right master ?
I like to quote a very very inspiring text from the Buddha. The Buddha was asked the same question. There are many teachers, there are many methods, we are confused. Please help us Buddha. The Buddha said : Please do not accept anything just because it is said in the traditions. Please do not accept anything just because it is written down in the scriptures. Please do not accept anything just because it sounds logical and reasonable. This is the important point. Don't even accept when a teacher says something. So please don't accept what I am saying also. The Buddha said only when you see for yourself, your own experience, what is creating suffering, what is creating happiness, that is the right quality for you to practise. So the teacher is your own experience. To see whether the medicine is working or whether the medicine is not working. So you have to see it for yourself. I am so amazed and I am so inspired that it is a very radical teaching of the Buddha.
Can meditation cure insomnia ?
I work with people who suffer from insomnia. It is interesting in meditation on loving kindness, they speak of eleven benefits of meditation on loving kindness and three are related to sleep. So with loving kindness, you sleep peacefully, you wake up peacefully, you don't have unpleasant dreams, nightmares and so on. So when I meet people who suffer from insomnia, what I tell them is, before they fall asleep, try to practise loving kindness and I have found that this generally helps in working with insomnia.
If we sleep very late, we feel very tired mentally and feel like going to sleep most of the time. In that situation, the tiredness is so overwhelming, then is it right that we should not force ourselves to continue with the sitting and just go to sleep ?
What I would suggest is when you wake up and you found that you have not had enough sleep and you really want to meditate, what can be attempted, what can be tried, is not to do sitting meditation straight away. This is the importance of yoga, some physical exercises where you try to wake up physically and mentally with such exercises.
And maybe another suggestion is to take a very cold shower. This will also help you to wake up physically and mentally. And then try to sit with your eyes open.
These suggestions may help you, hopefully.
I'm afraid that according to the time table, it's time for chanting and loving kindness meditation.
So before we start to chant, let us create some space in our mind. A few minutes of just feeling the peace, listening to the sounds.
[ Chanting ]
May I also thank everyone of you for showing such interest and motivation in the practice. It has been sometimes very inspiring and impressive for me.
And I also like to thank the excellent organization. It was very efficient and for Sri Lankan standards, excellent, wonderful.
And I also like to thank the yoga teacher who brought yoga to us.
And in conclusion I like to thank the wonderful nuns here and those who have taken care of me in my stay. I was really touched and moved by their generosity, kindness and friendliness which they showed to me.
And I like to express my deep appreciation to the three interpreters. I'm sure they have improved on what I said. One of the visitors to the nunnery, high up in the education department, she said she was so impressed with the three interpreters she wanted to know more details about them.
And in conclusion, may I wish everyone of you, with lots of concern and care, that you should continue to take the medicine and then through taking that medicine, find a way out of the suffering that we create ourselves.
1998 RETREAT WITH MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE AT FA YIM KOK, LANTAU ISLAND
Day 1 : 15th October 1998
I'm very happy to say that I'm very impressed and inspired by the atmosphere, being the first day of this retreat. There's a beautiful feeling of peace when we are sitting here. And I can see that you are making an effort to continue the practice of awareness when you leave this room. Usually when we eat, there is more talk but today there's only few words in relation to some practical matter. Being the first day, it really surprises me but I'm very very happy about it. So as you are making an effort to practise awareness, I will offer some more suggestions; how you can sustain that awareness.
The first is, as some of you are already doing it, just slowing down. As you know when we move in a very fast vehicle, we will not be able to notice things that are around us but 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 things very sharply and clearly about external things. So related to this is, one thing which we can discover with more and more awareness and slowing down is our intention before doing something. We do things so quickly, so fast, that we hardly catch ourselves intending to do something. And with more and more observing the intention, you will realize 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 aspects, implications, so that we will not rush into things specially in everyday life. Before we speak, if we can catch ourselves, whatever we are going to say, I think we will not hurt others and we will not be using our speech in a very unwholesome unskillful way.
In the same way, before we act, if we can pause and try to see the intention and why we are doing a particular thing, there again, 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 in the same way, we should be reflecting about our speech, about our actions before doing. But to exercise this reflection, there has to be awareness and there has to be a pause.
Another aspect of observing the intention is, it can really enable us to discover our real motives for our actions. So in this way, it can enable us to really understand ourselves, know who we are, the type of person we are and it will also enable us to see the positive sides in us and also the negative sides in us. It is very very important to see both aspects.
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 only if you 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 so that we really experience the present moment fully and completely.
And then it is also important when there is 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 realize how they can create our own suffering, how they can create certain emotions in our own mind. So with this type of practice, we can develop, I'm not happy with the word control, but mastery over our mind. Usually thoughts control us but with this type of practice, we will be able to develop mastery over our mind.
Another aspect of awareness is that we can use awareness to explore, to investigate, to learn, to find out about anything that we are experiencing. So if you are experiencing physical pain, you can use awareness and you can start exploring about the nature of pain. In ordinary life, when we experience pain, we merely try to get rid of it because it is unpleasant but by reacting to pain in this way, we never learn about pain, a very important part of the human condition. So with awareness, with this investigating faculty, we can make discoveries by ourselves about so many aspects of our mind and body.
So as I said earlier in my talk, if you can really make discoveries, finding out, learning while you are here, then in everyday life, you can continue to do that. So that what is beautiful is we can learn from anything, we can learn from anyone. But we should have this openness, to be able to, with humility, try to learn, try to discover, then meditation becomes interesting because as I said, anything can be a learning experience, anything can be your teacher.
Another important aspect of awareness is it naturally brings about ethical and moral way of living which is very very important for the practice. So here, while you are here, if you have awareness, in what way will there be a change in your behaviour ? So small things, little things like opening the door, shutting the door, we learn to do it very slowly, with awareness, without wanting to disturb others around you. You see how your actions naturally brings about a change with awareness.
So when we are preparing the meal or trying to set the table, here again we will try to do it without disturbing others. This is very very important in meditation : learning to develop a sense of care, a sense of sensitivity, for the people around you. Human beings are becoming more and more insensitive in this regard. They want to do their own thing, disregarding the consequences it can have on other people.
Another very important aspect of awareness is we learn to develop self-confidence because we learn that with awareness, with our own effort, that we can do a great deal about ourselves. Self-confidence and self-reliance. Then we take responsibility for our own actions. We take responsibility for what is happening to us without blaming others and without blaming the surroundings so that you take full responsibility for your own actions, for your own thoughts, for your own ways. This is an aspect that the Buddha emphasized very much.
I studied in a Buddhist school in Kandy and in the school we have mottos and the motto was in Pali, it sounds very nice. It means self help is the best help. So in this way, awareness is the key to the practice. This is why the Buddha called it the only way.
Now I like to say something about effort. Here, there are two extremes that we need to avoid. One is trying too hard. The other is not trying at all. There are some very beautiful similes used in this connection in the texts. During the Buddha's time, there was a monk who was trying very hard in walking meditation so there was even blood in his feet. When the Buddha spoke to him, the Buddha realized that he was a musician. He used to play a lute which has strings. So Buddha asked him : Now when in a musical instrument if the strings are too loose and too tight, what will be the nature of music ? So he said it should not be too loose and it should not be too tight. So this is what is called right effort.
Another simile is, the Buddha said when you want to catch a small bird, if you catch that bird too tight, you might kill the bird in the process and if you catch it in a too loose way, the bird might escape. So this right effort can be called effortless effort.
Now what happens when we try too hard ? Naturally there is tension. You might even have a headache, you might even feel tired and you might feel restless and disappointment because with a strong expectation you are trying too hard and in this way of practice, you can never achieve it, so you feel bad, you give yourself a minus, you start hating yourself and so on.
And if you do not try at all, what happens ? Then you might feel sleepy, drowsy, you might get into a dream like state. So here again it is by learning, by experimenting, by finding out that you know whether you are trying hard, too hard or not trying at all. And it's again sometimes we need to exercise more effort, sometimes we need to relax effort. So one way which will help us is, as I was emphasizing, if we can have a meditative mind, then when you are outside, when you are not meditating, then it becomes natural, it becomes effortless.
It's interesting for me that over the years, I have been discovering the cultural factors in these two areas. Usually when I meet westerners, I realized that they try too hard. So I tell them to relax and take it easy. And with Sri Lankans, it is the opposite. They're too relaxed. So with the Sri Lankans I have to push them, some of them. I'm curious to know to which category you fall into.
Most of them work too hard, some of them not enough.
So most of them try too hard. So maybe this can be a cultural factor because here, I think in this culture, you are pushed and you have to achieve. So when you live in a culture where generally speaking, you have to try, the danger is you try to do things so perfectly and this can create tension. I think it is O.K. to try to do things perfectly, thoroughly, it's a good quality but using that quality to generate tension and self hatred may not be very wholesome. And those who are not practising hard enough must realize that and exercise right effort.
Now I like to say something about the timetable and touch on some aspects of the practice. So the meditation practice should start at 4.30 when we hear the bell because it's a nice opportunity to start watching your mind when you hear the bell. And then after that, there might be some difficult situations and here again if you can watch what is happening , it'll be a very fine preparation for the sitting here.
And then I like to say something about eating. How eating can be a meditation. So here as you know one important aspect of eating is again, trying to be present while eating. It's a very important aspect of our life but most of the time in everyday life, we really eat in such a mechanical way, we even don't know sometimes what we are eating.
Before we start to eat, I like to suggest to spend a few minutes just feeling grateful for those who have prepared the meal. This is very much emphasized in traditional Buddhist countries. So you develop, as I said in my last talk, the importance of feeling grateful.
And then what normally happens when we start to eat is that we have thoughts. So here if you have awareness, it's like when you are meditating, sitting, you catch the thoughts that are arising and then let go of them and come back to eating.
One thing we should make a special effort is to chew our food. If you can really consciously chew your food, it'll help us even in our digestion. And then also you'll realize that you don't need lots of food because you consciously eat and then it can fill you even with little food.
Another aspect to emphasize is tasting. At what point do we really taste our food ? I would like you to experiment and discover for yourself at what point do you really start tasting the food. The other is swallowing our food. To consciously swallow our food.
Another thing that happens when we eat our food is we like certain food, we dislike certain food or we neither like nor dislike, reactions to the food. But most of these reactions, habit, happen habitually as a strong habit. So at least to be aware, to be conscious of this. This is something.
Another thing about food is as I said about the quantity of food. The Buddha advised meditators again to avoid two extremes. One extreme is eating too much. The other extreme is eating too little. So again following the middle way in relation to eating.
So while eating, how can we discover this right quantity ? Can anyone suggest an answer?
When eating, we observe the sensations of this area. When the stomach is full, there is a sensation.
Yes. So in other words, we have to listen to our body when we are eating. So if we can listen to our body, as you said, the sensations in the body, then you'll be able to, on your own, discover the right quantity of food. It is very very helpful to develop a sensitive body.
Another interesting area to work with is that we make decisions when we are eating. Do you drink water, do you drink ovaltine, or do you drink both ? Do you eat one bowl or do you eat two bowls? So it's interesting if you can know these decisions you are making. Again, if you can catch your intention, it'll be very interesting. So it shows that even a simple act of eating, if we can do it with awareness, we can learn a great deal of it. And all this learning, for all these discoveries, the mind has to be silent.
And as I said, we can also practise loving kindness when we are eating. It is again learning to take into account the persons with whom you are eating. As far as possible whenever you get an opportunity, to 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 big acts of love but with these small things, we'll be developing these 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 also in a small way, in a little way.
About working meditation, I already said in my last talk that again we can see meditation as an act of loving kindness. We can learn so many qualities by working. It's giving. It's being generous. You learn patience in working with others. And if you can see work as not something different from meditation, then it is a very useful way of integrating meditation with daily life.
I like to say something about individual and outdoor meditation. One thing is that we hardly get an opportunity sometimes to spend some time alone with ourselves. So it's sometimes useful to spend some time completely alone, alone with yourself, and see how you relate to yourself. Some don't seem to enjoy their own company. They can't stand it for more than a few minutes. So 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 called them toys. Though we are grown up, we have our toys and without these toys, we are completely lost. Sometimes our whole life is changing one toy from another, like children, thinking that maybe this toy will give you pleasure and that doesn't give you pleasure, so the whole life is changing one toy to another. So I like to suggest meditation is learning to be your own toy, so that you can find yourself interesting, you can find yourself amusing. We can enjoy our own dramas that go through our own mind. We don't have to see a television outside, we can amuse ourselves watching our own television in this way. We have many channels. So this is about one aspect of individual and outdoor meditation.
Another is using nature. Learning to awaken our senses. 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 and full awareness in what they are seeing and they are experiencing the present moment in that situation. And when we see something beautiful, what happens in our mind ? Can anyone suggest what happens when you see beautiful mountains, beautiful flowers, beautiful birds ?
We have joy.
That's exactly. In fact there are in the Buddhist texts many references to seeing something beautiful. On one occasion, the Buddha was walking with Ananda, his chief disciple and at some point he said : look back, what a beautiful scenery that we are passing. There is a section in the Pali text where it describes how monks and nuns became enlightened and in that section how some of them described the beauty of nature is 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, we are again losing this sensitivity of appreciating something beautiful, learning to relate to nature in this way.
Another way I would suggest that you can use in individual and outdoor meditation is to meditate on your own. So here when we are meditating, you don't have enough freedom, enough space, for you to experiment on your own, to make your own discoveries. So when you are meditating on your own, you have the freedom to discover, to find out, to learn , by yourself. Then as we go along during this time, I will be also encouraging meditators to reflect on certain themes during this time.
We have individual and outdoor meditation twice a day. I like to meet meditators individually. I can see three meditators at one time and three meditators later on so I can meet about six meditators in one day. I like to meet everyone of you, I don't like the word interview, but come and just have a chat with me, a discussion. You can write your names on the board and if you need an interpreter, please indicate that.
So this is about the time table. Now I like to tell you what I might try to do during the next few days. I thought that each day we might try to emphasize one aspect of the practice. Not that you'll forget it on the following day but one particular day to make that a complete object of meditation. So tomorrow, let's make awareness the main object of meditation whether you are here or whether you are outside, we will make an effort to develop awareness tomorrow.
Maybe the next day we might try to use just awareness to focus on an object. The object can be the breathing when we are meditating. When we are eating, the object would be what we are eating. When we are walking and standing, the object is really walking and standing. When we are in nature, we will use awareness to see some objects or hear things very sharply with a very focused mind.
So maybe another day we will have a whole day of loving kindness. So during the day of loving kindness we will try to heal our wounds, forgiving ourselves, forgiving others. We will try to develop more and more opening our hearts to ourselves and more and more opening our hearts to others.
And then maybe another day we will try to work with pleasant emotions and unpleasant emotions, specially using tools to work with unpleasant emotions.
Then maybe there can be a day for working with our thoughts, a very important aspect in our daily life and in meditating here also.
Then we will have some days to really experience two very important insights. The importance of Anicca : change, and the importance of Anatta : no self. And we can all see how these different aspects of the practice are related.
Any questions about what has been said so far ?
When you said there will be days where we will practise working without thoughts, no thoughts.
No, it's mostly working with our thoughts. I will be emphasizing that aspect. Sometimes when we work with our thoughts, just to see there can be gaps, space, between two thoughts. Interesting practice. This doesn't mean that insights like impermanence or no self may not arise even before that. So just be open to them everyday but maybe on particular days we might focus on some of these important things.
I want to correct some things that have been translated. In relation to meditation, you told us to reflect on some themes in outdoor meditation. You told us to reflect on some themes you have mentioned like looking at beautiful things, birds, flowers, listening to the sounds of nature. That's the part I want to step in, just before the translation of this part.
I have a suggestion on the interpretation for the interviews. Could we group the interviews where interpreters are needed maybe in the morning or afternoon so that the two interpreters can have more time to practise.
I feel that it will be good to have more than one interpreter, then we can share translators otherwise they will become very tired. So I'm happy that we have a few interpreters. See that also as an act of kindness, interpreting, translating.
If there is nothing else we can do some chanting and S chants very well especially she chants the first poem of the Dhammapada.
So maybe tomorrow we might be able to give a translation of that poem because it has a very interesting area about the importance of the mind. As it is a long chant, today we will try to just listen to it. It's very soothing and very nice just listening to it, using the chant to experience the present moment. And then slowly slowly everyone can learn it. It'll be nice if everyone can chant it together, it's beautiful.
Before we start to chant, let us create some room, some space in our mind for the sounds.
We can hear some drops of water.
The chanting of the insects.
Experiencing the present moment with the help of the sounds.
Sound of the wind.
Is it possible to hear sounds with less thoughts or no thoughts even for a few minutes ?
[ Chanting ]
Let us see ourselves as our best friend. Try to really feel it, feel it in every part of your body, your whole being. And being your best friend, can you have trust and confidence in yourself?
Learning to open our heart to ourselves.
Let us now extend this feeling of friendliness to everyone in this room. See everyone in this room as spiritual friends, noble friends.
Can we feel grateful for this moment ? We can sit here peacefully with a group of friends around us.
May you sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully.
For those who like to continue the practise here or to practise outside, you're most welcome to do so. Let us make an effort to make full use of our stay here. Thank you.
1998 RETREAT WITH MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE AT FA YIM KOK, LANTAU ISLAND
Day 2 : 16th October 1998
I will mention a few points about what we have been trying to do today, what are the benefits, what are the advantages we have in our practice and in what way it will help us in everyday life.
One thing is that 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 breath naturally, we try to control it, we try to breath differently and so on. Even in walking meditation sometimes this conditioning can come up. So what we tried to do today was, which is not very very easy, just being, learning non doing in relation to meditation. So this is one of the things related to what we were trying to do.
Another is that when we are 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 tried to do today was learning to have a complete open mind to whatever that arises. So when we have pleasant states of mind, we just know that there are pleasant states of mind. We learn not to hold on to it. If it is there it is there. If it goes away, you allow it to go away. And if some unpleasant experiences would 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 did today, as I said, we are learning to be open to both pleasant experiences, 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.
And then what we were doing today was, in relation to what is happening, what is arising internally from us. So it can be unpleasant emotions, it can be unpleasant sensations, it can be what you consider as negative thoughts. So we learn just to allow them, we just learn to let them be, by using awareness. Now in everyday life, we might have two problems. One is of course what is happening internally but it's mostly in relation to what is happening externally. Here we are fortunate that nothing difficult arises externally but in everyday life it is not so. So in everyday life also if you can learn when these external things arise and then in relation to the external things, what happens inside yourself, so you learn to watch, to work with what is happening inside us in relation to what is happening externally.
This is a very important tool, a very important skill to develop because then whatever is happening externally, we learn to look inside us and then 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 no control over external events. So the practice, interesting 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 there is a transformation that has taken place inside you, then you are able to relate to them, not to be surprised throughout what is happening but as we are practising here, learning not to react to them.
It is interesting that in certain cultures, maybe what is happening externally can be more unpredictable, sometimes more unexpected things can happen. Maybe here, it may not be so bad because you get the impression that everything is under control or to a great extent, you can predict what might be happening. 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 MTR, 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 won't happen. You will 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 very deep but very profound teaching in the Buddha's teaching, to be open to uncertainty, to be open to the unexpected, because this is the real nature of life. So realizing that this is the real nature of life, without trying to continue to control the environment in particular ways. Of course it can give a sense of security when you realize 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, the 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. So in a way what we are doing, what we have been doing today, is a kind of preparation for that. Internally where we are allowing anything to arise, any unexpected things to arise as an emotion, as a sensation, as a thought. So whatever arises we learn to see, as the Buddha said, just as they are.
Another aspect of what we tried to do today is that by trying to continue to have awareness in all the postures, in all situations, we are learning to see meditation as a way of living otherwise what happens is we associate meditation only with a particular posture, or with a particular time that we are meditating. The danger of what happens when we practise that way is when the person is sitting, there is one kind of individual but when the same person is inter-acting with society, another kind of individual arises. So there is a big gap between the meditator sitting and maybe the meditator functioning in everyday life. So what we have been trying to do today is to make this gap smaller and smaller so that meditation becomes as I said, as a way of living, if you like, a kind of living so that then any situation in life can be a meditation, becomes an object of meditation. So if you are really serious about the practice, we have to slowly slowly make an effort where meditation becomes a way of living.
Another aspect of what we have been trying to do today is that we have no model, no prior idea, 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 whatever happens does not correspond with that model, this is how suffering arises. And this is exactly how suffering is created when we are meditating. So 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 while meditating. It's not only that, then 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 here we meditate with what can be described as a beginner's mind, a don't know mind and whatever arises, as I said, it can be pleasant, it can be unpleasant, that becomes the object of meditation. And this as I said, continues whether you are sitting, standing, walking, lying down, in any posture. We are learning, we are finding out we are having this awareness in all such situations.
Sometimes, I mean 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. So the idea is, one day, to reach the top of the mountain but if we are so much concerned, pre-occupied with what is going to happen, 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 form them, that 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, to discover, to explore, to be open to what is happening from moment to moment. Maybe another point related to this is when we practise in this way, then we are always trying to achieve the results in the future. So you are practising in order to become free or whatever in the future but the way that I am describing, the way that I am suggesting, the results are not in the future but the results are right now, just in front of us.
So these are some aspects of what we were trying to do today. Maybe the important insights we can develop about impermanence, about change and specially the most important aspect in the Buddha's teaching, to experience emptiness or no self, are also related to the way we are practising. So I will touch on these two aspects on the days that we will be exploring and emphasizing these two aspects.
Maybe another point related to what we have been trying to do is, as I have been encouraging you to do, is to make discoveries, to learn, to find out. In this way, you become extremely self-reliant, you develop lots of self-confidence. Sometimes there is a nice phrase that is used : You try to become a spiritual warrior.
There are two types of warriors. One is the person who worries all the time, most of the time. But in the practice, what is encouraged is to be a spiritual warrior, to have trust, to have confidence, to have courage in yourself. So here in this practice that we have been trying to do, we develop that quality and therefore we are open, like a spiritual warrior, to any situation, to any experience because we know that we can handle it, we know what to do so that we don't have to push away things, we don't have to deny things, no need to refuse to look at things. So with this courage, with this trust, with this confidence, we are prepared, we are being open to whatever arises because we know, whatever arises, I can handle it, I can use the Buddha's teachings in any situation.
So if you have any questions. Please there is no need to agree with me, so please if you want to raise any questions, please feel free to do that.
I want to know is the awareness related to whether you are tired or not physically.
When we are tired, I think we all know the experience that it is not easy to practise awareness, we don't have enough energy within us to practise awareness. So when we feel tired and when we don't have energy, we might also again try to use some techniques, some devices, where we can try to bring about some energy. This is the question you are raising ?
Here, we will take a practical example which you can relate to because here, I know that you have to work from morning to about 7:00, 7:30 in the evening. And here, I have seen people working and you are really working throughout the day. Again a very interesting contrast to what happens in Sri Lanka.
After really working so hard, when you go home you are really tired. Now an interesting question arises is : When you go back home, how can you practise awareness ? Here again if you are really interested in the practice, what you can do is maybe to take a shower and then try to at least recover to some extent from this feeling of tiredness. Anyway on the last day, I hope to speak about how to integrate meditation with daily life and then I'll offer some tools on how you can try to work during the day without hopefully getting too tired by having certain breaks and how you can use meditation.
So after taking a shower, if you can do some of the yoga exercises, then at least this type of thing might help you just to recover from this feeling of tiredness. And here, maybe a simple meditation, I mean the motivation to sit and so on maybe asking too much, this is why I have been encouraging using reflection. It is an interesting exercise just to reflect on how you spent the day. So this can be a very very useful kind of meditation, a useful kind of reflection to do each day, even for 10 or 15 minutes. Anyway this is my response to the question of feeling tired and the practice of awareness.
Anything else ?
My experience is opposite to this question. I can be physically tired but I can also be aware because awareness does not involve much energy. When I translate and if I'm physically tired, so tired that I cannot even straighten my back but I can listen to the words and then translate. The phyiscal tiredness does not disturb the awareness in my experience. Physically I might have no strength but my mind has awareness.
I can relate very much to what you said.
This is because he is on a higher level of attainment.
I think I would agree that he has attained a high state but I will just, arising from his comment, maybe make a suggestion and maybe you can try it out when you are feeling tired.
What I mentioned before about tiredness is not physical because I am an office worker, I do a lot of thinking during the work, like thinking about how to arrange my work, how to structure the daily work. My experience is that when I get tired, my awareness is loose.
I will try to briefly touch on both aspects when the mind is tired and when the body is tired. So let us take the situation where you feel that your body is very tired. Now here is something very interesting which we can learn because sometimes, I wouldn't say everytime, sometimes feeling physical tiredness can have a psychological reason. Supposing, to give an example, you have not slept the previous night. So now what happens is you think now I did not sleep well so you are assuming sometimes : Now I should be feeling tired. So it is really not the body that is feeling tired but the thought which says you did not sleep well so that thought can really affect us in this way. So in this way, sometimes it is interesting to find out, to again using awareness to find out : Now do I really feel tiredness in the body or do I feel some tiredness in the mind ? Or that you are projecting what is happening in your mind to the body and assuming that the body is also tired.
Sometimes when I am in the centre in Nilambe in Sri Lanka, some of you who have been there will remember that from the main road you have to climb some distance, so sometimes I come by bus and start climbing. Sometimes when I start climbing, when I climbed some distance, then I realized I have walked a long distance and then I think, maybe I should feel tired. So when I try to find out : now actually it's my body feeling tired, I don't realize.
In this connection, I hope that I am not taking time but it is an interesting theme, there is this Buddha's famous suggestion about working with sleepiness and drowsiness. So he gives some techniques of working with this feeling of sleepiness and drowsiness and then he said if all these techniques fail, then go to sleep. How I understand this is, what exactly I am saying is, to find out whether the feeling of sleepy or drowsy has some physical reasons or has some psychological reasons. So if it has actually some physical reasons, then we have to learn to be kind to the body and then you have to do something about it. But as I was saying, if it has some psychological reasons, then you use these tools, you'll realize that it is only my thoughts, the psychological aspect that is creating the physical tiredness or drowsiness.
So now let me say something about what J said, how during the day, working with the computer or being busy planning and so on, you get tired and then it is not easy to be aware because of this mental tiredness. Here, it is very important, I might say it in more detail on the last day, that when we are very busy, when we have to do very hard work, using your head, using your mind, how during the day you should learn to relax. Now during the day, there can be very very short breaks, even 5 minutes breaks and during these short breaks, there should be again techniques, devices, how to recover from this build-up that happens during the day as J described it. When I say this, I like to mention a very good friend of mine in Kandy. He's one of the leading lawyers in Kandy. P met him when he was in Kandy. Now he is a very very committed serious meditator. In his house, there are two meditation classes very week. This man has a family, lots of responsibilities but he gets up at 3:30 in the morning for his practice. Now you can imagine in a court of law, he has to argue, how he has to use his brain, how he has to use his mind to win and be very intense in such situations. He says one of the benefits is that he can do this very sharply, very clearly. In the past he would get tired but now, with meditation, because he is relaxed, he is also calm and clear, he gets tired less or he doesn't get tired at all. And because of some of his changes that his colleagues saw in him, I know a few more lawyers who have taken to meditation.
Anything else ?
I want to ask about drowsiness during meditation. Sometimes I find that even though my body has been given enough rest, drowsiness still occurs. Previously, I thought my drowsiness came about because I could not maintain awareness but then I tried and made further discoveries and I found that maybe it is because I was sitting quietly and there are no noises around and the breathing became fine and the reason as to why I felt drowsy in that situation is probably because my awareness is not sharp enough. This is the discovery I have made. I have tried this every week, practising awareness and sometimes I can maintain it but not all the time. I would like you to give me some advice or suggestions on that.
One thing is, generally speaking, drowsiness can have some reasons depending on the type of person. One is the quality of sleep in the night. Sometimes we might have slept for long hours but if the sleep is not deep and relaxing, sometimes during the day, you can feel sleepy as a result.
Another reason for feeling drowsy in meditation is the quantity of food that we have eaten. Sometimes if you have eaten too much or too little, it is also possible that you might feel drowsy.
Another reason which I have discovered working with meditators is that sometimes they don't want to see what is arising in meditation. So sometimes sleepiness can be used as a device, not to really look at unpleasant things that are arising. It's an interesting reason. And sometimes when we feel relaxed while we are meditating, then also sleepiness comes. So whatever the reasons are, what can be attempted is one thing, that is to change the posture. This is one of the recommendations of the Buddha also. So if you are sitting, you can do some walking meditation and then you can do some very quick walking meditation or you can try to walk backwards, So the idea is just to induce more energy using walking meditation.
Another thing that can be attempted is, and this is where awareness is important, to sharpen your awareness so that when signs of sleepiness is coming, you'll be able to catch it and then do something about it, either open your eyes or start walking or standing up.
The third thing is I think when I spoke about effort yesterday, sometimes when our effort is too weak, you can feel sleepy. So then you can make more effort to sustain that awareness, to try a little harder.
If there are no more questions, we can do some chanting.
[ Chanting ]
May you sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully.
1998 RETREAT WITH MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE AT FA YIM KOK, LANTAU ISLAND
Day 3 : 17th October 1998
I would like to say something very briefly about being aware of our breath and also something about loving kindness.
So as I said, this is a very simple technique but we complicate it in many ways. And maybe sometimes I think one problem might be with the word "concentration". In Chinese, the word "concentration", what does it mean, what is the picture that comes to your mind when the word "concentration" is used ?
Put all the effort on something and forget other things.
It's interesting that you have to try very hard so effort is very much emphasized in that word, in the meaning, yes ? And maybe the other meaning as J said, ignoring and excluding things. So this is why concentration in this sense, this technique becomes difficult. But if you see what the technique means, at least the words, the meaning is awareness in relation to the in breath and the out breath. So the whole emphasis is just knowing what is happening. This is related to one of the texts which says that when we practise this technique, then we experience the four foundations of awareness or mindfulness. What it means is you become aware of the body, you become aware of the sensations, you become aware of the thoughts, you become aware of the state of mind.
So when we practise this technique, we think that we should not have thoughts, that we should not have other sensations, we should not hear sounds, so we try to exclude them and being only with the breath and that can create lots of tension and lots of suffering. I would suggest that we do it in this way, just knowing, just having awareness of what is happening and then allowing calm or whatever states of mind, allow it to come naturally, you can never get it by force, you can never get it by trying. This is maybe why again in the text, it is said that when there is loving kindness, the mind becomes calm naturally. So rather than hating things, rather than fighting things, resisting things, controlling things, you just know what is happening, then let calm arise naturally.
The idea of Buddhist meditation is to free ourselves of suffering but sometimes the way we practise this technique creates more suffering. So when we practise this simple way, we can experience absence of suffering right at that moment. So when thoughts come you don't suffer, you just know it. When you hear sound, you don't suffer but you know that you hear it. When there is physical pain, you don't suffer, you just know that there is pain. When the mind is not calm, you don't suffer but you realize that the mind is not calm. When you realize that you are not with the breath but somewhere else, you don't suffer as a result of it, you realize that you have not had awareness and you establish awareness and then can back to the breath.
Another aspect of the technique that we forget is while we are sitting, when we learn this awareness, when you leave the place, when you finished meditation, one should continue to have that awareness in the other posture, whatever you are doing and then when you come back, you just continue that awareness.
I like to share with you a meditation technique that has been discovered in Burma. I like you to experiment with it, try it. So here when you have thoughts, you just note them, you just label : "thinking of thoughts". It is interesting the technique is you don't get involved in the individual thoughts, what you are thinking, but just realize that there is thinking. So you note it and then come back to the breath. When you hear a sound, you don't say it is an aeroplane or it is someone speaking but you just say sounds. And whatever you experience in the body, you just see it as a sensation. So you note it, label it as just sensation or feeling and back to the breath. So here the difference is we verbalize but in the other technique you don't verbalize, you are just being aware.
So these are some points relating to the technique. At the Chi Lin Nunnery I spoke about the benefits of this technique. If you have questions relating to this, you can ask me later on.
Let me say something very briefly about meditation of loving kindness because I have spoken a lot about this technique. So here I would say one important aspect of meditation of loving kindness is that it helps us to experience joy.
In the Buddhist model of meditation, first we work with what are called the hindrances or the obstacles. We can see them as unpleasant emotions. Then the next stage is working with them with using loving kindness or even using focusing on breathing, we can experience sometimes jhanas or the absorptions. When these hindrances or unpleasant emotions are absent so these absorptions or jhanas are in a way also can be seen as positive emotions. And the next stage of meditation is when there is joy, as I said earlier, not to identify with the joy but to see that also as changing, as impermanent and to realize that we don't really own this positive state of mind. So this is in simple terms, one way of understanding the Buddhist model of meditation.
What else can I say about meditation of loving kindness. If there are questions, you can raise them, maybe some thoughts about it might come and then I'll try to share with you. So are there any questions or difficulties about these two types of meditation ? This is what we tried to do today.
If there are no questions, I would like to say what we might try to do tomorrow. So tomorrow is a day for emotions, both for unpleasant emotions and pleasant emotions. In a way, what is more important is to learn to work with unpleasant emotions because this is what creates our suffering and this is what we have to work with in everyday life. I think we are all familiar with unpleasant emotions. There is no one who has not experience them including myself. It might be helpful to discover, to reflect and find out which unpleasant emotion really affects you most or bothers you most. So tomorrow it might be sometimes helpful, useful, to work with that particular emotion or emotions that bother you in everyday life. I have already presented some tools. I will try to go over them and maybe mention some more.
One thing I have been emphasizing is when they arise, to again to learn to be friendly to them. By hating them, by disliking them, we give them more power. And hating and also disliking them, we might be also pushing them away, repressing them, which is also not very good because they can come up in most unexpected situations. So here again it is the importance of awareness, just to know them, just to feel them with awareness.
Another very important tool related to that is we have to learn not to give these unpleasants emotions minuses. So tomorrow if they arise, please give yourself a big plus because tomorrow, we are learning to work with them, so we deserve a big plus. So in everyday life also when they arise, rather than give them a minus, if you can give them a plus and then make that the object of meditation, this can be a very very powerful tool.
Another tool is learning about them, finding out about them, discovering about them as I have been emphasizing. If you hate them and if you want to get rid of them, how can you learn about them ? And if you are prepared to learn about them and if you are open to them, tomorrow we will wait until they arise. What do you think will happen when you really wait for them to arise ?
They might not come.
Exactly. So this is a very very important realization for you to hopefully experience tomorrow.
So when you fear them and you don't want them to come, then they come. And as I said, if you are prepared for them, invite them, be open to them, they don't come. So I hope you will really experience that.
On the first day I said what we will be trying to do in this retreat is to develop insight, to develop skills, not to have only pleasant and calm experiences. So these are the insights I had in mind because when you are here, when you develop these insights, when you develop these tools, then when they arise in everyday life, you know what to do with them. Maybe another two very important insights based on the Buddha's teaching is to realize that they are impermanent. Whatever arises passes away. So I hope tomorrow you'll also develop that insight. So please don't try to get rid of them through your will, by controlling, but when they are there, let them be there, and let them go away, let the impermanence operate naturally. Another insight is to realize that they don't belong to you because they are visitors. So visitors are visitors who come and go. It means that they don't belong to you. So I hope you will try some of these tools and then hopefully what is important is to develop self-confidence, self-reliance and trust. It means that let them come, I know what to do with them. I like to emphasize that this is very very important.
So tomorrow we will not only be working with unpleasant emotions; we'll be also trying to be, with awareness, find out when they are absent. This is another very important tool, very important insight because we have given these unpleasant emotions such powers, such energy, when they are absent, we hardly know that they are absent. So tomorrow, please make a special effort just to check during the day, what is my state of mind ? Am I having unpleasant emotions or am I having pleasant emotions ? And then what is very important is when there are unpleasant emotions, as I said, don't give them a minus. And when pleasant emotions are there, don't give a plus and hold on to them. So without a plus, without a minus, learning to see them just as they are. So tomorrow will be a very important day in this retreat.
We will do some nice chanting now.
Let us create some space in our mind.
Can you hear the chanting of the insects ? You can hear it very faintly.
When we are with the sounds, can we have less thoughts ? Because to hear sounds we don't need thoughts.
[ Chanting ]
Thank you very much.
Let us just be in this very beautiful friendly atmosphere.
Feeling grateful for this moment.
Can we feel as one family of spiritual friends.
Can we wish everyone in this room : May everyone in this room be well, be happy, and be peaceful.
Let us bow to each other.
May you all sleep well, sleep peacefully, and wake up peacefully.
1998 RETREAT WITH MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE AT FA YIM KOK, LANTAU ISLAND
Day 4 : 18th October 1998
Does anyone have anything to share ?
Very interesting today I looked into who is the body. The body is just a feeling but my thought is this is my body. I was just thinking about the sutta where the Buddha said that everybody sees the body as a valuable thing but the Buddha said the body in an arahant is just a burden. In a small part I had this feeling.
That it is a burden ?
Yes because before we are just these things, nothing there, nothing valuable because if you attach to it, it is a burden, lots of worries, some sort of suffering.
I know a text in which it says the body is a burden, feelings are a burden, what are called the five aggregates are burdens. Here the idea is they become a burden if we identify ourselves with them. So a burden is something that we have to carry. So to put down the burden that you are carrying, we have to learn not to identify with these five aggregates. So then it does not become a burden because as you rightly said in the case of an arahant, an enlightened person, this is how he or she sees the five aggregates. So to put it in another way, these five aggregates when we are identifying ourselves, they become a source of suffering and if we can let go of identification with these five aggregates, then there is no suffering and the burden goes away.
I like to share what a meditator shared with me. She said that before she was having the meal, before she started to eat, she felt grateful. And when she felt grateful, she had what is called sympathetic joy, the quality of Mudit@. It deeply touched me how this small quality, little quality of feeling grateful before eating a meal can generate this feeling of sympathetic joy.
Anyone else would like to share anything ?
Another point is connected with this feeling. With the feeling of the body and the ego becomes less and less but I just feel that there is still something there, sensations in the body, like stray cats or dogs that have come. They just come around so you have to take care of them still even though you don't identify yourself with them.
Yes, certainly. That is why the arahants eat.
So in this respect, loving kindness is very useful, loving kindness towards our body although our own body is like stray cats and dogs. It seems as though it is loving kindness to oneself.
It's useful. This reminds of one of the stories in Buddhist texts. The Buddha emphasized to a group of monks to develop feeling of foulness towards the body. And some monks who sort of meditated on the foulness in a very serious intense way, some of them committed suicide because they started hating their bodies. Then the Buddha immediately emphasized the importance of developing loving kindness. So maybe with loving kindness you learn to detach yourself, not by hating it but with friendliness to disindentify yourself.
I would like to add one comment to Mr. S's experience. That is I have heard from another Buddhist teacher who said something about our body which really struck me. He said that although we may find our body a burden sometimes but we have to understand that our body is the total result of our past actions. And as this is the result of our past actions, so we are responsible for it because Buddhism teaches us not only to put down things by ignoring things, Buddhism tells us to discharge our duties responsibly. So even though this body is going to get old, get sick and die, more and more problems may come but we have to understand that this is the result of our past actions so we have to take good care of this body in order to discharge the responsibilities which we created in our past and also make use of our body as a vehicle to carry on with our practice.
Yes. That's the area that I want to emphasize. I'm happy you touched on that aspect. In fact this is exactly related to one of the reflections meditating monks do in Sri Lanka and maybe also in other countries where there are serious meditators. Before they start to eat, they say that I am eating the food not to make this body beautiful but so that the body can survive so that I can use the body as a vehicle for the practice.
I enjoy the yoga sessions led by S very much and two points mentioned by her especially. The first point is she always emphasized that we should have a smile when doing yoga so that we can really relax ourselves. And the second point is that she emphasized we should try to enjoy doing simple actions. I think this is very important. And after practising yoga I remind myself to smile when I practise walking meditation or standing meditation outdoors and I find that a smile can help me to relax my body and my mind.
In fact that reminds there is a famous meditation master from Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh. He emphasizes very much when you are sitting also just to smile while sitting. He says when you have the Buddha's smile, the face can relax and the meditation can be, there can be a lightness to the practice. And he also emphasizes very much the need to smile with others. The only thing is that it must come naturally.
I want to ask her when she practises toilet meditation, does she smile or not.
I don't think so but I will try.
Talking of toilet meditation, S had an interesting toilet meditation this morning. Like other meditators she shared this experience with me. So I would ask her to share this experience with the group.
I would have liked to come to this hall for meditation this morning but I couldn't. I was locked in the toilet. And then they turned out the light also. Standing there in the dark, with the door locked, and I thought : what am I going to do now ? I thought of a book title that I like very much : "The wisdom of no escape". So I thought rather than escape from the situation, I'll meditate there.
You were trying to do some yoga!
I did smile actually.
May I say something.
I was the one who opened the door and it struck me that she was still smiling.
Did you also smile ?
Yes. I also smiled.
But he didn't ask what had happened, he just smiled at me.
Because D was practising silence.
But it is interesting the Buddha said in the text, what is called the Satipatthana Sutta, the sutta which describes how one should develop awareness, that even when we are in the toilet, one should make an effort to be mindful, to be aware.
So it's interesting that in whatever you do, even when you are in the toilet, one can use meditation.
Today I hope some of you discovered some tools on how to work with unpleasant emotions and that you also discovered that there are times during the day when these emotions are absent, which is also very important. In this connection, a meditation master said something very interesting. He said when we look for only what is wrong in us, we never look for what is right in us. So we should learn to be more and more positive and to be aware of our positive states of mind rather than only be concerned about negative states of mind.
Ideally, we go beyond the positive and the negative which means we are open to both states of mind. This is related to the meditation technique that I presented where it can be described as having a mirror like mind, where we learn to reflect things just as they are. Something what is considered beautiful comes before a mirror, it just reflects that beautiful object just as it is. Something what is considered ugly comes before the mirror, again the mirror would reflect it just as it is. So meditation of Vipassana, insight, or wisdom, is developing such a mind where you learn to reflect things as they are. And meditation of Samatha, calm and tranquility, can be seen as polishing the dust that is there on the mirror. So when the mirror is polished very clearly, then applying it to our mind, we can see very sharply and very clearly what arises in our mind and then hopefully, learn to see them just as they are.
So this technique I presented today is extremely important and what is also important is that it can be practised in everyday life. You don't have to have a particular posture, you don't have to close your eyes. So you are merely aware of what is happening in your mind and body. So then in such situations in everyday life, if you are reacting, if you are having emotions, physical pain, mental pain, you realize it and you just see it just as it is, no minus. And then in everyday life we can be also having pleasant experiences and when we have pleasant experiences, positive experiences, just know it with awareness and just reflect it just as it is.
I like to share with you today the meditators who brought us supply of food. Some of them have done a three day retreat here and I asked them were they able to continue what they learnt here in everyday life. They said it was not so easy as meditating here but still they were able to do it to a great extent. So I was very happy to hear this. They did only a three day retreat and you are doing a nine day retreat so it will be much easier for you. Perhaps on the last day, we should have a discussion on this very important aspect.
So tomorrow the object of meditation will be our thoughts. This is a very important area. In simple terms, it is because of thoughts that we have suffering. Another thing is from morning, from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep, we have continuous thoughts going through our mind. So we should learn how to use our thoughts. We should learn to make discoveries about our thoughts. We should learn the important connection, relationship between thoughts and emotions because it is mostly a thought that creates the emotion. And when the emotion is there, it is the thought that again makes it worse. And then sometimes these negative thoughts with some people can be a very very strong habit. I know meditators who have this strong habit who give themselves minuses and they give minuses to others. So one can create a hell where only minuses exist.
Another very interesting and important area for us to discover is how we can create stories from our thoughts. Now from what happened to S this morning, she could have created a big story. So she had one hour to create a big story. She could have started by saying it is someone who doesn't like my yoga and for one hour she can start imagining who might be the person who did this. So she might say maybe it is that person, the way that person looks at me, it seems that person doesn't like me, so it is possible that she did it.
We are laughing but this is exactly how we create our story. We can use our thoughts in a very destructive way but also in a creative way. So in a way, most of our suffering comes from this kind of imagination using thoughts to create stories. And what is unfortunate is that we take the stories as real. So it is funny we give the reality something unreal and then we become victims of the stories that we create ourselves. And with such a story, S could have had anger, she could have had fear, and whenever she goes to the toilet, that person is going to lock the door. So in this way, she could have had all these emotions, fear, insecurity, perhaps sadness. So you see how the story and these emotions are related. So do you realize how important it is for us to be aware and understand the nature of thoughts.
I would suggest that we can use thoughts destructively in the way that I have been describing and you can also use thoughts creatively to free ourselves of our suffering. So it is important in our practice to see the difference.
So using thoughts creatively is using reflection. So perhaps on the last day or one day before the last day, I would like you to reflect on the four noble truths in everyday life. This can be a very important reflection : How do I create my own suffering in everyday life ? Because being in a place like this you can get some sort of distance from what is happening in everyday life. To see the different situations in life where I suffer. Then to reflect : Now in what way do I create my own suffering in this way ? Then from that you can realize the third and fourth noble truth : So this is the way I should work with my suffering. So when you do this reflection, I would like to really get you to reflect very deeply and then what is important is really whether you are clear to find a way out of suffering. So this is how we can use thoughts creatively.
So tomorrow our object of meditation will be just thoughts. And then from these thoughts, I would like you to make your own discoveries about yourself. From our thoughts, from our pre-occupations, they can tell a lot about ourselves.
Does anyone have any questions ?
Before the questions, on behalf of everyone, I just want to say sorry to S because until now I did not know we have locked her in the toilet.
I think in a way it has not been done intentionally. So therefore I don't think the person, D.
But he just opened the door. In English he said he locked the door but in Chinese he said he opened the door.
And what is interesting is, what can be considered as a negative experience, we can make it positive by meditating on it. So it is a very important principle. In any situation in life, we can create stories and suffer and we can use the same situation not to suffer but to make use of that situation. So S should be thankful to the person who gave her this opportunity and hope tomorrow the person will give her another opportunity!
Before we meditate, the last person will lock all the doors. This is our practice.
Anyway it is very nice that we had a very light-hearted discussion. So sometimes Dhamma discussions need not be always serious and intense. So sometimes this lightness and humour can be very relaxing also for our practice, to be able to laugh at life.
One day I was talking to a very wise monk in Sri Lanka. He has written very very deep and profound books on Buddhism, like concepts and reality in early Buddhism. He has translated some Buddhist texts into English. We were talking and he suddenly said sometimes I see life as a joke. Sometimes it can be a bad joke when you find yourself in the toilet but still a joke. Then this kind of attitude to life can give lots of lightness and joy.
So with this light-hearted atmosphere that has been created today, we can do some beautiful chanting and then end with meditation of loving kindness related to this. Yesterday I enjoyed very much the chanting. Yesterday also there was a beautiful atmosphere after chanting and while chanting.
1998 RETREAT WITH MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE AT FA YIM KOK, LANTAU ISLAND
Day 5 : 19th October 1998
Has anyone anything to share like yesterday ?
During working meditation, I went to cut the firewood. Whilst I was doing that, I had an image of what happened when I was young because when I was young I lived in a place where we also had to use firewood for cooking. And then I thought about my mother. That also jog up a memory of the past and this is the most regrettable thing in my life. Once this image came to my mind, all the emotions like sadness, remorsefulness arose. The emotions were so great that almost immediately, tears welled up in my eyes. Now it is clear to me the connection between a thought and emotion, how the thought gives rise to emotion. It is very clear.
Thank you very much for sharing that experience. I'm happy that you made a discovery through that experience.
The emotion was still with me when we came back from working meditation to this hall to meditate. I was still remembering this particular incident of the past. The tears continued to come during the meditation. As to how this emotion was eventually resolved, when I was still having this emotion and was still meditating, a bee came in and buzzed around me and the bee somehow touched me and I was very scared, so scared that I got so nervous that my muscles expanded, my heart beat increased and then I discovered that this strong emotion overcame the other emotion of sadness. So I discovered that one emotion can be overcome by another especially if they are both strong emotions. The strong emotion of the fear of being stung by the bee overcome the sadness.
Actually I was meditating here. I suddenly heard a sound. He jumped.
He fell backwards so I opened my eyes to find out what had happened but I didn't know why he fell backwards.
I thought there was an accident so I opened my eyes and I saw him on the floor.
Maybe one comment arising from that is sometimes experience which we consider as negative, like the bee coming, can have positive effects. In a way, the bee helped you to recover from the earlier emotion.
Maybe another comment is when we are affected by what we consider as a problem as is in this case, then as you rightly said, when another problem comes, the earlier problem dissolved.
Anyway, thank you, very interesting.
Anything else ? Anyone else ?
Yesterday you told us to dig out our unpleasant memories, unpleasant recollection. After that meditation was over, we all went out to do walking meditation and I observed that everyone who was doing walking meditation was looking very forlorn as though they were bankrupt, including myself. Then I recalled a very unhappy incident I had a while ago. Whilst this feeling of unhappiness continued, I thought of the sensation of pain and pain is pain and although you told us to treat pain as a sensation and be friendly towards negative feelings as well but when I am really in pain, how can I be friendly to the pain ? Whilst I was still pondering on this question, I somehow resolved it myself. Pain is there because we have certain attachments. Once there is pain, one must deal with it and if we observe the pain from a third person's point of view, as though one is not the person concerned, then the pain would lessen. When I tried this method, observing the pain as though I was a third person, I realized the pain does decrease and then I tried to catch hold of the pain again but I could not find it again.
I'm so happy that you have been making this very important and deep discovery. This is exactly what I am trying to do. To create a kind of atmosphere, giving some suggestions, where you make your own discoveries. And when you make your own discoveries, then you'll realize we have lots of self-confidence in handling such situations. And then when the same discoveries, the same tools in everyday life when they arise, you can use the same tools.
So what you have discovered is when you identify yourself with pain, then the pain becomes a problem but when you disidentify yourself, and as you put it so nicely, seeing it as a third person, then the pain is no longer such an intense problem.
Anyone else ?
It's about working on thoughts. I had a walk in the forest and I saw a bee and automatically my heart vibrated a bit as well. So I think when we are not in thoughts, we can see much more.
When we have strong pre-occupations, when our mind is full of thoughts, we can hardly see anything externally. You might be passing through the most beautiful place but you hardly noticed the beauty because your mind is full of these pre-occupations and your thoughts.
In the same way we can't see what is in our own mind because there is no space, there is no clarity. This is why I also, on the first or second day, gave an exercise of learning to awaken your senses by seeing things very sharply, hearing things very clearly. Then that can create space in our mind. And then you can learn to see things very sharply, clearly. You'll be able to hear things sharply and clearly. You'll be able to feel things very very clearly and also there'll be clarity and space in our mind. However much these things are told, they may not make any sense until you have a glimpse, a small experience in these matters. So this is the beauty of meditation, that you can see for yourself, not because someone says or because something is mentioned in the books. So the whole emphasis in meditation is for you to see it, for you to experience it.
In all three experiences presented so far, everyone of them saw something, realized something, experienced something, so it really becomes a part of oneself. This is why on the first day I said what will be attempted here is for us to develop some insights, some tools, so when you discover them here and when you experience them, it is just continuing them in everyday life.
You are free to present any negative or unpleasant experiences because they can be equally important.
I had some pleasant experiences. One thing you always stressed throughout your talks and that is to create space in our mind. Actually I never really thoroughly understood how to create space in my mind but today when I was doing my work during working meditation, in relation to thoughts, I had no idea what thoughts I had in my mind throughout the period of working meditation probably because I was pre-occupied with my work, I was busy and so I did not know at all what thoughts went through my mind, there was no clarity at all. But when I came here for sitting meditation after that session, I settled down and listened to the sounds in the room and then later on, I began to notice what thoughts were going through my mind and what they were. So that experience enabled me to really taste and know for myself what creating space in our mind really means. This is very important.
So it is interesting that when we do working meditation, as you rightly said, there could be thoughts in the mind but then if your attention is only on the work that you are doing, then as you said, it creates space in the mind. And once that space is created then one can really as it happened in your case, use that space in feeling things, in hearing things, very sharply and very clearly. So in everyday life, when we work also, can we see work as working meditation ?
In whatever work you do in everyday life, maybe related to your job, it is possible at the time of doing something being completely present in doing that. So this is a very practical way of integrating meditation with the way we are living. To see work as not something different from meditation.
Anyone else ?
Yesterday, you said we can allow our pleasant and unpleasant emotions to arise. On other days, I tried this type of meditation as well and I found it really really helpful. When I practised this type of meditation, I waited the whole morning of yesterday for this but not even one visitor came to my mind. Even by afternoon when I have prepared tea for the visitors but still the visitors did not come. For the whole day yesterday, I found that I did not have any pleasant or unpleasant emotions. The only thing was waiting.
Today you told us to find out the connection between thought and emotion. When I practised this, I found the thoughts came so frequently that it was like snowing. Before the emotion could arise from one thought, the next thought was coming already. Even my breathing was more faster than usual. It was not until the afternoon that the thoughts slowly lessened. Even if we have the ability to invite the emotions to come, they might not come at all and even if they come, we have the ability to handle the emotions.
Your experience yesterday was very important. This is one of the very interesting and important tools to work with unpleasant emotions or even pleasant emotions. Not to fear them but then sometimes waiting for them to arise. And as it happened in your experience, when you are waiting, prepared for them to come, they don't come. On the other hand, if we fear that they will come, then they are bound to come. But here when you are waiting for them to come or invite them, they don't come. Very important realization.
I'm very happy to hear all these positive experiences.
So I like to say something about what we might try to do tomorrow. Tomorrow I would like to suggest that we will try to use what the Buddha discovered. When the Buddha became enlightened, what he discovered for the suffering humanity is the four noble truths. And what is very powerful in what the Buddha discovered is that we can use it in any situation. We can use it when we are meditating. We can use it in everyday life. As I said, you can use it in any situation.
So the four noble truths can be, sometimes I like to use the medical model : sickness, cause of the sickness, cure and the medicine. So what I have been hearing about the experiences is that the medicine is working. So in a way meditation can be seen as discovering the medicine for the sickness that we create ourselves. So to use it in a practical way, tomorrow, when you are meditating or doing whatever, whenever there is suffering, don't give it a minus, don't feel bad about it but see, I am experiencing what the Buddha called the first noble truth. He called it noble because it is only when we suffer that we can find a way out of it. Only when we are sick that we feel the need to find the medicine. So tomorrow, in any situation, if there is suffering, just see it as the first noble truth. And I think this is a very interesting way of relating to suffering because we are learning to see the Dhamma in the suffering.
But the second noble truth is more difficult than the first noble truth, where you have to see that you are creating the suffering yourself by the images we have, by the models we have, by the expectations we have. So this is where one has to, in such situations, see very clearly. To see your own expectations. To see your own model. To see your own image. To see what it is that you are resisting in relation to what is happening. So again, even while we are meditating, we can use this. So when we are meditating and when we are suffering for some reason, then you can find out immediately, what you are expecting, what you are wanting, what you are demanding.
So supposing tomorrow you find yourself in the toilet like S. You can say : now I am experiencing suffering and then you can find out : why am I suffering now ? Because you have the idea that others should not lock you out. Other people make mistakes. So then when you realize that, then you see now, can I let go of that ? And as S did, you can use meditation to face the situation without suffering but trying to find a way out of the suffering.
And I like to suggest a positive way of also using the four noble truths, specially the last two. So you constantly observe what is happening and then you will realize, at this moment , there is no suffering, there is no reaction, there is nothing that I am resisting. Then it will be also interesting to find out why is there no suffering now ? Then you will realize : Ah, I am accepting things just as they are now and therefore there is no suffering.
So I would like to suggest that tomorrow, let us really make an effort, in any situation, to use the Buddha's very deep and profound but simple discovery and then see how these four noble truths can be a part of your life. Then in everyday life, one can use the four noble truths in the same way in the same way.
I had an unpleasant emotion, experience this morning. It was something that was very unpleasant to me but afterwards when it was over, I was able to breath for a moment and then I felt very calm instead. The point I like to make is that it is very clear to me now when I practise meditation how I can feel so low one minute and then it is over, not that it never happened but there is not a trace much and I can feel joyous.
So it shows that even if you have been meditating for a long time, you cannot prevent such unpleasant experiences from arising.
Please remember that. Please realize that. It is a very important point. But what is important is when such an unpleasant experience would arise, learning not to be surprised by it but then as you did, to work with it and then to realize that it can go away. To use the simile of the sickness and the medicine, we are bound to fall sick in the sense of suffering. But what is important is if you have discovered the medicine, then when the sickness arises, you get the medicine.
So in conclusion I am very happy that you are already discovering the medicine and I really hope that you will continue to make discoveries about the medicine so when sicknesses arise, either here or in everyday life, then you can use the medicine.
We can now do some nice chanting like yesterday.
1998 RETREAT WITH MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE AT FA YIM KOK, LANTAU ISLAND
Day 6 : 20th October 1998
I'm very happy to see your happy faces. It shows the medicine is working. I like to hear any experiences you like to share.
I went downstairs for lunch after you suggested we focus on greed. By the time I got downstairs, the food was on the table. But before my eyes even made contact with it, my nose did and it's amazing that it just blows up and I felt like an animal. It is quite when you really stop and, to use that expression that someone used last night, if you look at it from a third person's perspective. It just comes up and just go away. I'm an animal, with very strong volition.
And then after I had my first bowl, what really brought things into perspective was, that for me, it's virtually like crossing the stream. To not have that second bowl for me was like going against the stream. I really had to use will power and say : no, that's enough.
I appreciate your honesty in sharing it in this way.
Were you a little more hungry because of today than you were yesterday when you only had one bowl ?
After reflecting on that since lunch I didn't noticed any difference at all.
So it shows that it is mostly our head, our concepts, rather than what you really feel in the stomach or the mouth.
Of the banquets that I have been to in Hong Kong, the food that has been presented and how much can be consumed, it's flabbergasting.
For the poor Sri Lankan, there is sadly no such thing.
Eating is guided by concepts. I do not eat something because it tastes good or bad but rather whether it is healthy. I love drinking soup, particularly the ones prepared by our kind lady chef here. At home, I normally drink about two to three bowls of soup because I love soup which I consider to be healthy, whether it tastes good or not. And today, when I have already had my first bowl of soup and I was going to have some more, when I was about to scoop up the second bowl, I hesitated because I remembered what you said and that is we should mind whether other people would need to drink the soup as well, people who have not yet drank it. So I thought : should I forgo this extra bowl of soup? But in the end I had a second bowl because I was concerned for myself.
When it came to the food placed on the table, again I did not choose by what tastes good or what tastes bad, I aimed for the green vegetables because to me, guided by my concepts, this is healthy food. So I went first for the green vegetables and continued eating green vegetables only until later on when I tried another dish which was the diced vegetables. Then I found out that it tasted very good. And then I realized that all the while, I have been eating without wanting to know whether things tasted good or bad but what is important for me and that is a new discovery for me.
When J came to scoop up the diced vegetables, I thrust my bowl in front of him and indicated he should scoop some for me. That was not because I had a desire to eat more of the diced vegetables but I felt that I wanted to be pampered as well. I knew I was a bit naughty but I wanted to be pampered as well just like the way we pamper you.
Just a brief comment about living in a country like Hong Kong where there are lots of things that are available and plenty. An interesting exercise should be to discriminate between the real needs and the greed. I suppose this is how a meditator can function in a country where there is consumerism.
Anything else ?
During the individual meditation session I was down by the sea near here and I was enjoying the scenery, the sea and the trees around and then I noticed some rotted vines and I thought to myself, this is spoiling the scene because it was not pretty when all the other trees were green and pretty. Then I noticed discrimination arose in my mind. I was judging what was pretty, what was not. When I noticed this liking and disliking arose, I thought to myself, what if there are no green and beautiful tress around now but rotted and dead trees around me. If that happens, would I be truly unhappy ? Would my world be dictated by external factors ? Then I realized that this is all part of nature, as the Buddha said, everything that is formed has to die and this is just a natural cycle. The trees die and they sprout up again. If we really understood this principle, then even though there are scenes that we do not like but if we really understand the Dhamma, then it would really not affect us. And then I realized that, just like those trees, my body will die one day as well.
If we really understand this teaching, if we really accept it, there would be no such thing as suffering at all. When I got to this stage of reflection, I suddenly felt very relaxed, very happy.
Just like J, whilst I was in the midst of reflection, a buzzing bee came around. I did not panic. Normally I am very afraid of bees but this time I did not react and the bee was very close to me so we were staring at each other eye to eye. And because I did not have fear, this time I looked at the bee in the eye and noticed very clearly the colours of the bee. I could see its big round eyes and wings. That was a very interesting incident for me.
Because of this joyous feeling that arose in me during my reflection, I found that when I was in this state of joy, little things that I used to be afraid of did not affect me.
And if we accept nature as it is, we might understand the law of nature. Then even if everything around me has rotted and died, it should not affect me at all. I should still have this joyous state.
I think not all bees are bad. They can be very very helpful as well.
A bee stung me once and then bit me. The second time it just bit me.
Did you send the bees loving kindness ?
There was no time for that but I was not angry with the bees.
Just some information on bees. Just before I came to this retreat, I read an article about bees. The author said that in Hong Kong, in this season, early Autumn, the bees are in the most frustrated time. The article warned hikers to be aware of bees at this time.
Why are they frustrated ?
That was not mentioned in the article. The article mentioned two kinds of activities of the bees. One typical type is that they would come and fly around you and this behaviour is for patrolling only. They are patrolling to see whether you would break their homes. These are the patrolling bees. But bees that fly in a straight line are working bees. So the next time you see bees flying in a straight line, then that does not matter. The article warned that with bees that fly around you, you had better walk away quick. The bee is watching you.
The last piece of information about bees is that it said that at this time, we better dress in light colours because usually the bees, I don't know whether it is a specific type of bee or they are all the same, they like to attack dark coloured animals.
I like to share my experience with bees. I think as J referred in the article, I have experienced lots of patrolling bees. Maybe after patrolling, they have just spared me. This is what happened so far but I don't know what will happen in the future.
Because of your metta.
Let me go back to the earlier experience with nature. I like to make a few comments.
The first thing is, what a lot we can learn from nature. So this point was brought out very well in your account about nature.
The second point is how reflections, this reflecting kind of meditation, this is using thoughts creatively, can be also extremely helpful to us.
And the third point is, as you rightly said, depending on our state of mind, then we are in a position to handle whatever negative or unpleasant experience that we are faced with.
And maybe the fourth point is, when we have fear in relation to bees or anything, we can never see their beauty. So because you did not have any fear, you were able to see the beauty in a bee.
And I think even about the point of death and impermanence, I like to mention that this is a very important reflection sometimes to reflect on. In Budhhist meditation, this reflection on death plays a very important role in the practice. In Sri Lanka, in forest meditation centres, when you visit such places, you see skeletons being used by meditating monks to remind them of the fact of impermanence and the fact of death.
In a way, death is the most certain thing in life. And what is unfortunate is that we forget this most certain thing in life and we get involved in other things that are uncertain. When you can be with this most certain thing in life, then when we encounter it either in ourselves or in others, then it doesn't affect us.
And as you rightly realized, in nature you get death and life co-existing together. They are not separate. They are inter-related, inter-connected. This is how we should see life and death. Not to see them as separate but to see how they are connected, inter-related. Then ideally, whether you live or die, it makes no difference. Then you know the way to live and you know the way to die.
Anything else ?
You have been telling us that we have to be our best friend but you have not told us the details about how to make friends with ourselves. So I have been reflecting on this point, as to how I could do it. I recalled that when I met my best friends in the past, we shared own experience and we tried to console each other when we have problems. If my best friend has any problems, I would listen to her problems patiently and if I have something happy, I would share my happiness.
Through my experience with my friends, I think I have grasped the technique so to speak. And during meditation in the past two days, I think I can handle things like thoughts. When a thought comes, I will not react to it and then it will go away. And in this sense I think I have grasped the technique in away. And because I realized this, I felt I should be happy with myself.
This afternoon, during the outdoor meditation session, I was practising observation of suffering as you told us to. I was reflecting on the four noble truths and when I thought of suffering, I somehow felt helpless because it seems that I was always drawn into the suffering itself. When I felt this rather negative emotion arising, then I remembered that I am my own best friend. So I said, well, if I am my best friend, I should share my sorrows with my best friend. When I found this best friend, myself, my best friend did not know what to do either ! My best friend is also confused ! So helplessly I said to myself, let us sit down and have a think. While I sat down with my best friend, I began to laugh at this notion and then I told myself, well, there is no need to worry about the future. We are always trying to think of how to get out of suffering of something in the future, why bother thinking about them now.
Usually in retreats, I try to give talks on different themes in the Dhamma. But in this retreat it just happened that I have been inviting people to share their experiences and it has been such an inspiring experience for me and I am sure also for others. And it has been also a learning experience for me, I mean to see what I can learn from these experiences, these insights, these discoveries about the Dhamma. It brings out the beauty of the Buddha's teaching. So we should be all grateful that we have been able to discover the Buddha's teaching and I think it is also a good practice to feel grateful for the Buddha. One meditation that some traditional Buddhist countries practise is to reflect on the Buddha's qualities. Sometimes this can be also a very very powerful and inspiring experience : to reflect on the depth and the wisdom and the loving kindness of the Buddha and how it comes through in the teaching.
Anything else ?
You gave us certain directions as to how we should eat. For example, we should feel grateful before we eat, how to watch the taste etc. At that time, a thought arose in my mind, that is : it is suffering to do so many things before one eats. Then another thought arose, that is you only told us to observe, not stop us from eating, so I got happy again. When I actually tasted the food and ate, I began to understand that this is meditation. Meditation is part of our daily life. Meditation is to bring our attention to the present moment, the tasting whether it is good or bad, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. I realized that suffering and happiness can exist at the same time. There is a Chinese saying : when the suffering ends, some form of good will come. Then I reflected that after the experience of suffering, when you look back, then you can really say that you've learnt something.
Full of wisdom.
I find that quite to the contrary when I eat with mindfulness, the food is not as tasty but when I ate without mindfulness at all, all the tastes get really blown up and it gets really really tasty.
I have the same quantity of lunch everyday here but I felt extra full today because I ate very slowly.
We have often heard this from meditators.
I want to talk about the things that can be brought about by worries. At 6:00p.m. this evening, I went over to the temple just before our place to visit a monk who is a friend of mine and I did not get back here until 6:30. Then a thought arose because it was getting darker and darker very quickly at that time and I was a bit worried because I did not have a torch and there were no street lamps, and what if something happened. It was not really totally dark. I could still see the road at that time but there was this protraction of my worry what if something happened. Then I realized that the best thing to do was to walk quicker and get back back to this place rather than worry about something that might happen in the future.
Actually I had a similar experience yesterday when I went for a walk during the outdoor meditation not far from here because I never get to go too far by myself. When I have went a bit further from the nunnery here, there were rustling noises behind the trees. They sounded like human footsteps running towards me, running very very fast towards me. I was dead scared because I thought it was some illegal immigrants or whatever, something was aiming at me and I was on my own. But I stood still and looked because I could not run away faster than a man anyway, if it is a man. So I stood still and looked through the trees to try to find out whether it was a man or just falling leaves. I could not see anything but the footsteps kept running towards me and then it stopped but I could not see anything. Then I stood still and eventually saw a dog coming out and there was me having all sorts of thoughts of being hurt by someone else.
A lot of suffering and worries are created by imagination.
By thoughts because I was thinking of a human being. A human being who will do me some harm.
I think her fear had some foundation. It could be that somebody was trying to do her harm. It's possible.
But in this particular incident, she found it was not so.
So that is why we worry.
Respond not react.
I think there can be rational fear and irrational fear. So it is very important to know the difference. Supposing you knew very well there were people around at that time, having such a fear can be considered rational because it has an actual basis. But irrational fear is as we have been discussing, related to imagination and thoughts creating the fear. It has no basis whatsoever.
There is an interesting text in which the Buddha describes how before he became enlightened, he worked with fear. So he was meditating in the forest. And then when he would do walking meditation in the night, because of the sounds he hears, he would, what was described so clearly, have certain fears arising in his mind. And he says in the text, in whatever posture he was meditating in, when fear arose, he would not change the posture. So if he was doing walking meditation, while walking, without running, he would watch, observe and confront that fear, try to understand that fear and worked through that fear.
In the experience that you presented, supposing you started to run, you would imagine the footsteps following you and you'll get more and more fear and you might even panic. So as the Bodhisatta did, what you did was also the same. And not panicking, not running, staying there and exploring and investigating, you made a profound discovery.
I like to also share an experience from what a meditator told me.
There is a meditator here who last year was asking me many questions. She was coming for many interviews but this year she had not asked any questions and she had not come to see me. So I was wondering what was happening. So I was having my own thoughts. So then I asked her. She gave a very interesting inspiring answer. She said I have questions but I try to find out the answers myself. This is beautiful. Learning to be our own teacher. Learning to be your best friend.
So if there are more experiences to share, I'd like to say something about what we might try to do.
I just want to know about how to deal with the fear. In the case of a bee, should we just stand there and work with the fear or walk away since there are two possibilities. It might really sting you or it might not. This is imaginative. So how do we distinguish between the right fear and imaginative fear.
Very good question.
So in the case of Prince Siddhattha and in our own case, as there was not something objectively true, so one can pause and try to find out whether this fear is imaginary or whether it is a factual fear. So in the case of the bee, it is a fact that there is a bee around you; it is not imagination. So as it is a fact, then we have to act. So it is up to you.
I don't know the difference between the bees flying here. I had two or three bees following me today and I found that whether my fear is rational or irrational, it is still fear. It makes no difference to me. So I find that how I deal with one fear is the same as the other. Today I didn't know which fear was which. I didn't know there are two kinds and it went into my head and it was ticklish and if I didn't think, if I stopped thinking it's going to bite me, it's going to sting me, I thought about you. I thought no it doesn't have to do the same thing to me and then it crawled on my head and it was ticklish. I had to laugh because it was ticklish and not because I enjoyed it. I mean maybe it would have stung me I don't know because I don't know whether it is rational or irrational, I just thought it was the same.
Sometimes I think it is helpful to draw this distinction. In Sri Lanka there is a war that is going on. And going to such places where there is a war naturally the fear has a basis. So if one does not have that kind of objective situation and then if that person starts to imagine that maybe walking in the streets of Kandy, where in Kandy there is no such a war, such a person will not get out of his house or her house.
Another difference is in the case of irrational fear, we have a chance to work with it. This is the important thing as meditators. We can see very very clearly, as it was mentioned, how thought can create theories. A very very important discovery to make. So sometimes it is just an innocent thought that comes and then you start imagining and how it can even result in panicking is a very very important realization. To see how one condition, how there is a vicious circle in the creation of fear.
So with meditation, with awareness, we might be able to make these discoveries. And what is also important is to work with our fear in this way.
In the case of rational fear, you know that there is an objective fact and that is the end of it, that is it.
But in a way, S is right. The impact it has on the person, whether it is rational or irrational is the same.
If there is nothing else, as I was saying, tomorrow we might try to work on two very important aspects of the Buddha's teaching which some of you have been already experiencing. In discovering the medicine and using the medicine, these are two powerful aspects of the Buddha's medicine, that is the fact of change, the fact of impermanence and the fact of no self. So tomorrow we will, as far as possible, try to work with these two very important aspects of the Buddha's teaching.
So to be open to any change that may arise physically and mentally and even externally. So if we insist how change should take place according to our own idea, then when there is change which does not correspond to that idea, that leads to suffering.
But by realizing that this is the nature of existence, that it changes, that we have no control over change, and then if you can be open to change in whatever form it arises, internally or externally, this will result in freedom.
And according to the Buddha, this fact of change and impermanence and this idea of no self, is very well inter-connected, inter-related. He comes out with a very interesting argument. If we own things, that if there is really an ego, a sense of self, then we can order things : now things should takes place according to this way, according to my way. But as there is no sense of self, sense of ego, we cannot do that. So therefore we have to see that the fact of change, that there is no self identity, an agent, apart from the process of change.
It is interesting that whenever there is suffering, there is suffering because you want things your way and this your way or my way is the result of this feeling that you are somebody. So tomorrow whenever we are suffering, just find out what is the idea, what is the model that you are holding on to which is now going against. So it is always you will see some idea of how it should be, how it must be, according to the idea of the self.
And as tomorrow and the day after are the last two days we have, we will try to focus more and more on our everyday practice, our everyday life. So tomorrow and the day after, we will really discuss all the problems, all the difficulties you have to encounter in everyday life and let us see how far the tools that we have been discussing, the tools that we have been experiencing, how they can be used in everyday life.
So tomorrow and the day after there will be no sharing unfortunately but I would like, I would love you to present practical situations, practical difficulties in everyday life and then to ask : now how can meditation help in such a situation ? So please reflect on such questions and if you are reluctant to ask them, you can even write them and pass them on to someone so they can be read.
It is easy to take medicine here and it is easy to see the benefits of the medicine here. But what is more important is how we can take the medicine back in Hong Kong in everyday life.
1998 RETREAT WITH MR. GODWIN SAMARARATNE AT FA YIM KOK, LANTAU ISLAND
Day 7 : 21st October 1998
How to use medicine in everyday life. So what are the questions?
Interpreter read out written question
The first question is in respect of emptiness and no self, when we know how to use them as tools, then in everyday life, how do we live in the present ?
The second question is : how come suffering is so difficult for us to accept ? how could it make our mind closed to all things and become the great wheel of Kamma ?
Maybe you can also read the other questions, there maybe similar questions.
Interpreter read out written question
In our meditation classes Mr. S has explained details of many questions. Therefore in this retreat led by Master Godwin, I understand a lot more in this retreat, a much deeper understanding. I understand that if there is no distinction, then I shall be able to put things down, non-attachment, to the stage of no self. Today I'm only knocking on the door outside the meditation centre (meaning just a beginner in the practice) but I will bear in mind the teachings of Master Godwin and will always maintain awareness and to apply it in daily life so as to reduce greed, hatred and delusion in daily life. I truly thank Master Godwin for the teachings. I also thank Mr. S for the very good organization. Thanks to the yoga teacher and all other meditators who have brought warmth to me. I also thank the interpreters. And I do not know when I will be able to taste the good food prepared by our lady chef again.
I'm happy as long as you all work hard.
So one question is how to use no self in everyday life.
Now what happens is because of this sense of self, we have images, models, of how things should be according to my way. It is always my way. So naturally in everyday life things won't happen according to my way. So that is how suffering is created in everyday life with this idea of my way. So whenever we are suffering in everyday life, if you can try to find out : what has been my idea, what has been my way of how things should be ? Then you'll realize how this sense of self is directly related to the suffering that you are experiencing. So in this simple practical way, we can work with this idea of my way and then when that my way is not there and when there is emptiness, how there is absence of suffering.
Another way of saying the same thing is, with this sense of self we have, we feel that we are somebody. Here again suffering and unpleasant emotions arise with this idea, with this concept that you are somebody. I will give a few practical examples. So with this feeling of somebody, we would like others to behave according to the idea this somebody has. And then naturally when others don't behave in this way this is how we get angry. So you see the direct connection between this idea of somebody, this sense of self, and getting angry.
And how does this feeling of somebody and fear arise ? What is the connection ? So here when somebody is threatened, when this somebody feels that something might happen to me, that I am in danger, that is how fear comes.
How does this feeling of somebody generate anxiety in the future? So with this feeling of somebody, you feel that in the future everything should go according to this idea this somebody has. And if you are uncertain about it, then this is how anxieties arises.
So these are some simple practical examples, how this idea of somebody related to self, how suffering and these emotions come. No self or emptiness is when this feeling of somebody becomes a nobody.
Another question that was raised was how to be in the present in everyday life.
Actually the first question is : there are two tools, one is emptiness, one is no self, and how to apply these two tools in our daily life.
The first part of the second question is : why is that suffering is so difficult to bear, the suffering is so tremendous, suffering makes us unable to open our mind thereby becoming a big wheel of Kamma.
So I'll answer that question. That is very very nicely put, the question. Why do we find it difficult to bear up suffering ? Why aren't we more open to suffering ? A simple response is we are surprised when there is suffering. So we should not be surprised because we are still not enlightened. So naturally as we are not enlightened, we are bound to suffer. We should be surprised if there is no suffering. And when we are surprised and with that what happens ? We give it a big minus. Only I suffer. No one else suffers in the way that I am suffering and I know in my life, I will continue to suffer. So we can create a big story out of the suffering that we are having. So in this situation how can we be open, how can we not be affected when there is suffering? So this is the beauty of the Buddha's teaching if you can see it as a noble truth.
I'd like to offer a very interesting tool. You should wait with an open mind : let me experience the first noble truth of the Buddha. So unlike in the past, not being closed to it, but waiting for suffering to arise. One thing is, as we found out, when we are really open for suffering, it doesn't arise.
The second point is : when we are being open to suffering, waiting for it to arise, we are not surprised. And then when suffering arises, if you can say : Very interesting. I'm very grateful because now, it has come, I can work with it.
Please try this tool and see what a difference it makes when suffering comes. To put it in another way, now we see it as something extremely negative but in the way that I am suggesting, it is something very positive. And if you can at that moment ask yourself the question : What can I learn from this suffering ? In what way can I use the Buddha's tools, in what way can I use the Buddha's medicine in working with this situation ? And this brings up as I said, the second noble truth. And here you will see very clearly that suffering is due to this idea you have that something that is happening now should not happen to me. So if you can develop this attitude, then we will be really open to suffering. And then we can really make use of suffering to find a way out of suffering. So it is simply changing your attitude to suffering. So when you change the attitude, you see suffering in an entirely different way.
What is the next part ?
You have answered both the short questions and the long question is just an experience. He or she is just telling you that he or she is going to be very determined to continue with the practice under Mr. S's instructions and your teaching and then he or she thanked all the organizers.
So it's a big plus for Mr. S and it's a big plus for this meditator. And we wish that with that determination, he or she will be finding a way out of suffering. And it is very nice that he or she has expressed thankfulness and gratitude so we really appreciate the way he or she has expressed thankfulness and gratitude. I also like him or her, waiting for the next opportunity to taste the tasty food.
I just want to take this instance to add something interesting to the four noble truths. I have a short story. I have a female colleague in my office and one day I talked to her about the four noble truths. She has no religion. And after I told her about the four noble truths, what they mean and what I am practising, do you know what her response was ? She said it is not necessary for her to practise Buddhism since she really enjoys suffering. She said sometimes the life has suffering but when the suffering is gone, the happiness comes and that is a wave, sometimes calm wave, sometimes down wave, that is the taste of life. She said that is the taste of life so why do I want to get rid of the suffering.
So it is interesting that there are people with different philosophies, different views.
There is an interesting Buddhist text which speaks about 62 views, 62 suppositions, during the Buddha's time. And when you go through some of those 62 views, I'm sure some of the views that people at present have can be identified in those 62 views. And I think people are entitled to their views, why not ? So she takes up that position but then someone else takes up the position that he or she really feels suffering and then he or she finds a way out of suffering, that is where the Buddha's teaching is relevant.
I had also a friend of mine. He was a professor in the university. And he said I'm always happy, I don't have to practise anything. He had money. He had good health. He had a good family. So in a way he was very very happy, contented. Suddenly he had a heart attack and he felt sick. What a difference it made on him. He became so sad. He became so depressed. He had lots of fear of death and dying. It was so sad and tragic to see that man in that condition. So it's only when one can really encounters such suffering that one really sees the suffering and all its implications. In such a situation if someone were to go to him and say : would you like to find a way out of suffering, he would say : please please tell me. So we can be living in a world that we have created which does not correspond to reality, a kind of dream world, and then in life, when that world is shattered, that is when you see reality and when that happens, sometimes it is too late. So this is the importance of the practice. When we start practising, then one aspect of the practice is that we are preparing our minds for any situation in life. Then we will never be taken unaware, what life can teach us. So this is my response to people who follow that philosophy.
Anything else ? Please ask questions how to deal with everyday life. It is important.
Can I share an experience about suffering, not a question. Sometimes when I meditate and when pain arises in my legs, sometimes I might get frustrated and agitated also. I would try to escape from the situation by thinking : shall I release my legs ? And the more I think about how to escape from the pain, the more I get agitated. I recall an incident a few years ago when I had an accident and hurt my leg badly. On that particular occasion, I accepted the fact that I hurt my leg and therefore my leg was in pain. So I just allowed the pain to go on for the whole night and I did not suffer from the pain because I accepted the situation as it was. When I look back to this incident, I found that it is the trying to escape from the situation that causes the suffering. And if there is no escape, then pain is pain, sensation is sensation.
I can only do it sometimes.
All of us are like that. But what is important in such experiences is, at least you have a glimpse, you have a realization of what can be done when there is physical pain. So this is a very important insight. It's a very important experience. And it shows that the Dhamma, the medicine, really helps. If you can really use the medicine, it always helps us.
And I also want to emphasize that it also applies to mental suffering. If we do not escape from the mental suffering, it is not that painful sometimes.
Very important point because it shows that when there is physical pain, accepting it, working with it as a sensation and so on, then you'll realize the physical pain is there but it is not a source of suffering. In fact I was discussing this with P. You can have mental suffering, maybe certain defilements like maybe greed, maybe anger, fear and all these things. So like physical pain, if you can learn not to identify yourself with that mental pain, if you can see really use the idea of no self, that there is no one really owning; that state of mind, those defilements or those negative things will be there but you'll be relating to them in an entirely different way, like physical pain. In the Buddhist tradition, normally it is interpreted as only when these things are completely absent that we can be really free of suffering. That seems to be a goal which is not easy to reach but if you can see mental pain, physical pain in this way, then it is within the reach of maybe all of us. So it again shows it is not what is happening but how we relate to them makes the difference. Maybe that is why in the same tradition it is said the ordinary mind is the enlightened mind.
So I hope that in everyday life when you have physical pain and mental pain, if you have discovered the tools, if you have discovered the medicine, to a great extent, you can be experiencing them but not suffering as much.
And what is important is when you have such experiences, you develop self-confidence. It also means having trust and confidence in the medicine and the Buddha who discovered the medicine. So when you have this self-confidence, when you have this trust, when you have this self-reliance, then anything can arise but you know what to do with it.
Is it better to say that mindfulness is the secret ingredient because you have given us the tools, mindfulness then is a tool that enables us to remember that we have these tools. Is that accurate ?
As the Buddha said, mindfulness or awareness is the only way. So with mindfulness, we can investigate, we can explore. So this is how one can use mindfulness for exploration. There is a very interesting text which brings out this connection between mindfulness/awareness and wisdom. So awareness is compared to a surgeon. A surgeon who operates, what is called the surgeon's probe. Probing the wound or area the surgeon has to operate on. And the surgeon's scalpel which is used to remove that wound or whatever the surgeon wants removed, is compared to insight or wisdom. So with awareness, you can probe. And with insight or wisdom, we can let go of it. So take a simple example, when we are angry, we try to, with awareness, explore why we are angry. Then you'll realize : I'm angry because I am demanding how things should be. Then when you see the problem is with you, wisdom or insight arises immediately. This sounds very simple but at least this is the teaching.
That was part of the reason why I have asked because I noticed from my life that the wider the gaps are between applying mindfulness, the harder it is to. So it seems a shame that I have the tools but never use them.
It is interesting that one meaning of "Sati", mindfulness, is recollecting and remembering. S.K ,in Chinese also, does awareness mean recollecting, remembering ?
So we have to remember. So if you are sick and if the medicine bottle is there and if you have forgotten, you can't be healed. So you have to remember to take the medicine at the right time. And I must say sometimes the medicine in the practice is not very sweet. The medicine is not always pleasant as you know. There are some medicines which are very very, what is the word, not sweet at all, not tasty at all. And sometimes such medicines can be very powerful. Like an injection. It is very unpleasant but it can work very quickly.
Like the bee.
By the way, after yesterday's discussion I didn't see any bees today.
I have reflected on how to apply the tools that I have learnt in daily life but there is still one or two things that I cannot find a solution. For example, in the office, I have to have expectations of my colleagues do. Just one practical example. I asked one of my colleagues to send a letter to a certain place. My colleague has done that many times, hundreds of times before so I expected this colleague to do the same this time. Occasionally people make mistakes and a mistake is a mistake. When I found out that this job was not done properly, which is a very simple job, then I found myself got agitated immediately because when I assigned the job to my colleague, I had this expectation that is a very simple assignment, there should be no problem and my colleague would be able to handle it. What I find is that after practising all these years, I can recover from my agitation very quickly because I very quickly understand that every human being makes mistakes. When I make a mistake myself, I really wish that somebody will forgive me. So when somebody makes a mistake, I better forgive him. But still the expectation is there because it is my job. So in that situation, do you have any suggestion ?
I like such practical situations. So a few suggestions. One is it is O.K. to have expectations because it is natural to such expectations but again to realize, having expectation is one thing, reality is another thing.
The second suggestion is when such a thing would happen, learn not to be surprised. Because we have to deal with human beings who can be forgetful and we have to also deal with human beings who are not so responsible. We should be surprised only if we find such people because there are no such people who never forget and are always responsible. We should always remember that we are living in a world of imperfect human beings.
The last suggestion, which is very important, is you must show that you are a cobra. But you must learn to play it like a game. Now I'm going to call this man X who has forgotten to attend to this very important letter but I am going to speak to him very firmly, in a very hard way but knowing very well I am just only pretending, I am just consciously doing it but inside I have no hatred towards him. Some people understand only that language. So you can really firmly say that next time you do such a thing, as they say in Sri Lanka, I will reduce your salary by 50%.
Not in Hong Kong.
Another interesting suggestion is to try to have a dialogue with that person. It's a very interesting exercise to just to raise questions in such a situation. Now tell me : what happened to you, why did you forget, is it because you were not really interested or you had other more important things to remember, are you normally forgetful ? So just to get him to reflect on what has happened to him. So it enables that person to reflect on his own actions. This can be sometimes extremely helpful and it can reveal to him something that he might have not looked at before.
So I wish you the best of luck.
I work in a school and it is so easy for teachers to tell children how to behave and for children to be obedient. But we want our children to grow up to be responsible.
So whether it is relating to adults, whether it is relating to children, or whether it is relating to ourselves, we can use the same tool, have a dialogue with yourself. Supposing you have made a mistake. Rather than give yourself a minus, to have this kind of dialogue with yourself can be extremely helpful, can be extremely revealing and in a way, this is related to being your best friend.