The Gentle Way of
Dhamma Talks by Godwin Samararatne
Day 3 Retreat: 15th October 1997
Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
What I propose to do now is to touch on some aspects of loving kindness. After that, if you have any questions or difficulties about loving kindness, we can discuss them.
I delivered a talk on the same subject at the nunnery. I don't want to repeat the same things I said there. So what I like to talk about is in the text which is also translated and was given to you. There are some benefits that are mentioned, benefits of loving kindness. I'd like to discuss the implications of those benefits, the practical aspects of the benefits.
Sleep and Wake Up Peacefully
So it is interesting the first benefit that is mentioned is that you can sleep peacefully. There is a difference between sleeping peacefully and sleeping well. This is related to the second benefit, which is, you wake up peacefully and that is related to the third benefit where it is said you don't have any nightmares, any unpleasant dreams.
What are these unpleasant dreams we have, the nightmares? I would suggest that they are related to the emotions we are repressing, perhaps related to the wounds that we are holding on. So with loving kindness, you heal these wounds, then you don't have these nightmares, unpleasant dreams and then you can sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully.
In Sri Lanka, sometimes I work with people who suffer from insomnia, and the way I try to help them is the pratice of the simple method of loving kindness before you go to sleep. It has been interesting for me that it works most of the time.
Other People Like You
Now another benefit that is mentioned is that human beings like you. Why do human beings like you? Because you are friendly towards them, so naturally when you are friendly to others, they are friendly towards you. If you are not friendly to others, they will not be friendly to you. So it is a very very simple point that when you are friendly to others, others will respond the same way. I think this is very important because we have lot of problems, difficulties in relationships, the way we are relating to other people. So if we can be friendly to ourselves and friendly to others, this can generate lot of joy, lot of happiness.
Non-human Also Like You
Another interesting benefit that is mentioned is that non-human also like you. What are these non-human? One can interpret them in different ways but perhaps we can include animals, perhaps we can include plants, trees. We can include non-human beings who may be there in this world which we cannot see. I think it is a fact that animals can really respond and feel your loving kindness and they can respond in the same way. I was telling the other day that we have monks in Sri Lanka who meditate in deep forests where there are wild animals, where there are animals who can harm you, but it is interesting how these monks get on with these animals. I know in one place, the chief monk talks to these wild animals and they seem to obey the request or order of the monks, the orders the monks make to the animals. So I think animals are disturbed when you have fear but when you have loving kindness, when you are friendly towards them, I think they can feel that.
They have done some research, now even plants can feel your emotions. They can react to your emotions. So here again, I think loving kindness may be able to affect them in some ways, in different ways.
In the modern world, we have a lot of problems about the environment, what is called the ecological crisis and so on. I see it as a manifestation of our own self-destructive aspect in us, which comes through in this way. When you have loving kindness, you learn to develop a sensitivity to yourselves, your surroundings, your environment, so these are very simple ways of protecting the environment, making a connection with the environment. See yourself as part of the environment and not something separate from it.
Face Becomes Serene
Another benefit that is mentioned is that your face becomes serene. I don't know if the face becomes handsome. But serenity is, what is the Chinese world for it? It is a beautiful word. See some of the Buddha images, they have captured the serenity of that expression. So it shows our state of mind can affect our face. If it can affect our face, it can affect our body. So when you have a serene face, you don't have to use cosmetics. You can save all the money! And with loving kindness, the serenity that comes can never be captured through cosmetics. In a way when you have a serene face, I think it can affect other people. This is what is beautiful about loving kindness, that it becomes infectious. Hatred can become infectious and at the same time, loving kindness can be infectious.
Experience Calm Mind
There is another very interesting benefit that is mentioned, which is related to meditation. It is said that with loving kindness, it is easy to experience Samadhi, one-pointedness. This is why I emphasize friendliness so much in the practice because when we are practising, if you are hating things, if you are resisting things, if you are fighting things, it is not easy to have a mind that is calm. This calmness comes naturally when there is friendliness, when there is gentleness, when there is openness. So this is a very important point to remember in our practice and we are learning to use friendliness, gentleness in whatever technique we are practising.
Give You a Sense of Protection
Then another benefit mentioned is that it gives you a sense of protection. So it is interesting that loving kindness can be so powerful, it can in some ways protect you from situations. An aspect related to protection is that it also gives a sense of security, confidence. In one of the statements it is mentioned in the text that those who have loving kindness they feel at home wherever they are. So you don't feel threatened, you don't feel insecure because of loving kindness. So you feel at home with yourself, you feel at home with others.
Another benefit that is mentioned is that when you die, you die unconfused, you die with a clear mind. So why is it considered an advantage to die consciously? Can anyone suggest a reason for it?
Female 1: Is it because the last thought in our mind will affect where we go after we die?
Godwin: Yes, in a way. Any other possible reasons?
Female 2: Is it because we have fear when we die because we have not experienced death, and with loving kindness we can bring ourselves out from the fear and pain?
Godwin: Interesting. Anything else?
When we die, we have a last chance to become enlightened. Because at the moment of death, if you can really practise meditation, if you can really practise conscious dying, that will give us a great opportunity to free ourselves, to make that opportunity as part of the practice.
There is a very interesting book from the Tibetan tradition, the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Is it translated into Chinese?
Male 1: Yes.
Godwin: Has anyone read it?
Male 1: I read some.
Godwin: It's a very interesting book. It shows how your experience at that time is determined by the way you have lived. So in simple terms as I understand it, at that moment, our emotions, unpleasant emotions can surface and they can take many forms. So at that moment, we don't recognize that there are emotions but as they manifest themselves externally, we react to the external things that we see. So you see how it is related to meditation. How it is important to recognize how our mind works, it works with our emotions, to recognize, so on. And what is interesting is, it is also said that enlightenment also manifests itself and we have to recognize it, and if you don't recognize it, your last chance is lost. So in practical terms, in our meditation, we also should recognize our positive states of mind, so just to know that they are there. So when you know them, when you recognize them, then when they manifest themselves, in other words, it is just to know that it is the free mind, the enlightened mind that is manifesting in this way. So it shows directly when you have awareness, when you are conscious at the time of dying, you can know all these things, recognize these things and as I have said, we have a last chance to free ourselves from what is happening.
And in a way, these also relate to the wounds we carry in our mind. Sometimes when I travel, I meet people who work with dying people because I am very interested in this theme of death and dying. I used to work with terminally ill cancer patients who are dying. So the biggest problem at that time is the wounds that we have not looked at, the wounds that we have pushed away, the wounds that we have repressed, can surface in a very strong intensive way. Why should they manifest in a strong way when we are dying?
Male 2: Is it because our mind is weak at the time.
Godwin: Yes. What happens is at the time of death, our mind and body may become weak. So that when we are living we can consciously push these things away and deny them, repress them, lead very very busy lives, but at the time of death, you cannot escape from what is happening. So this is why I emphasized that while we are living, while we are strong, to look at our wounds and try to heal them. It is interesting that these things are also mentioned in ancient Buddhist literature. Anyway, this is the 10th benefit that is mentioned, conscious dying, the importance of it, and it is interesting there is a connection between loving kindness and death.
And the last one that is mentioned is that after death we will be born in the realm of the gods, a pleasant place. But what is important for us to remember and realize is that we can see the benefits in this life itself. Now this is some of the benefits that are mentioned in this text. Now let us see if we can include anything more, add to this list from our own experience. Do we have any suggestions?
Benefits Suggested by Other Participants
Male 3: Have no enemies, will not have anyone whom you cannot get on with and no hatred against another person.
Godwin: Very good one. In a way it is related to saying that human beings like you and because human beings like you, to have enemies is when beings don't like you. Anyway as you put it, to have no enemies is something very special. So what will happen is you will only have friends and no enemies. What a wonderful way to live!
Male 3: Sometime it is not a friend nor an enemy. Not an enemy but also not a friend.
Godwin: A neutral, neither friend, not unfriendly. Anyway, you don't bother them, they don't bother you, no problems, that is the point.
Male 3: Sometimes they bother me but I won't bother them back.
Godwin: Yes, that can happen. But if you are not really friendly but neutral, they then will leave you alone. That is an interesting way of seeing the benefits, anything else?
Male 2: It helps me to make clear decisions, that is when there is hatred in my mind, then I always make the wrong decision because I would make a decision from my own point of view and not consider what others think.
Godwin: Very very good. So when there is hatred, when there is anger, please don't take a decision because that decision will be always coming from a confused mind, not a clear mind. Not only decisions but also words. So I would suggest that if we get angry with someone then at that angry moment, we can just keep our mouth shut, because whatever we speak, it doesn't come from a clear mind, so it can be so confusing and can make matters worse. So the state of the mind in such situation is very very important. In some occasions, someone does something wrong and then we get angry and then we try to correct that person with anger. I would suggest that to a great extent, that type of reaction in trying to correct persons with anger, with reaction, may not work. So these are very important practical aspects of loving kindness in every day life.
Anything more to add?
Male 4: Before I learned about loving kindness meditation, I got angry easily with others but after I have learnt loving kindness meditation, I found a good thing about it is that the duration of anger gets shorter and slowly it will disappear. Another benefit is that as you continue to train yourself, you will find hating another is really quite silly because it causes suffering for yourself. The more hatred you have, the more problems you create for yourself.
Godwin: Very good. Two good points. The second point is very very important: How soon we recover from these emotions, hatred, whatever. I think we should not have as an ideal that you will not get angry but if you need an ideal, the ideal should be how soon I recover from them. There is a beautiful simile in one of the Buddhist texts, it gives three similes to three types of anger. The first type of anger is compared to letters written on stone, they never change, they never go away. The second type of anger is compared to letters written on sand. The third type of anger is compared to letters written on water. Isn't that beautiful? That quickness, it is there and also it is already over. And the first point is also very good, that it is silly, because it is really silly, it is really foolish for ourselves to hold on to this anger and then we are suffering. I think it is compared to someone who is spitting up because you spit up, it comes back to your face. Is this in that booklet?
Male 3: No.
Godwin: But this is a very good one. Big plus to you.
Anything else? It is very interesting we can think creatively and add to this list.
Female 1: It makes me feel warm, happy and pleasant all the time.
Godwin: That is true. This feeling of warmth is very very important because now human being are, for different reasons, becoming more and more cold. As I said at the nunnery, with more and more mechanization, human beings are becoming more and more like machines and one aspect of becoming more and more like machines is they lack feelings. So having this warmth, having feelings for other people, for ourselves, is something very very important, very beautiful.
Another one which I thought of which may be related to some of the people I have been meeting at the interviews is that this can develop a lot of self confidence. Can anyone see the connection between self-confidence and loving kindness?
Male 4: When you don't have enemies around you, then it is already very powerful.
Godwin: That's true. Very powerful. Anything else about self confidence?
Male 3: When you have loving kindness, you will quite easily do things that will help others, and you will think more for others and less for yourself. With this way of living, one can says one has no regrets at all in life and when one can say that, this is self confidence.
Godwin: I think another aspect of self confidence is that we lose self confidence when we consider ourselves as unsuccessful, worthless, useless, we may fail, so it is a very very negative self image we have of ourselves, more as failures.
So with more and more loving kindness specially to oneself, we can see how it works and we can see our own potentialities and we can become more and more self reliant, and this can give us a lot of self confidence in the sense that we can handle whatever arises. So it is not that they will not arise, anger will arise, problems will arise, difficulties will arise but you have the confidence, if they arise: I know how to handle them, I know what to do.
Anyway, so we can perhaps think of some more. So it shows anyway how important meditation on loving kindness is specially in everyday life, how the changes that one can bring about oneself, the transformation that one can bring about oneself and as I said, it is also bound to affect others around you.
So now any questions, any difficulties you have? So if you have any difficulties, please present them because it is important to discuss them.
Male 2: The difficulty I have about practising loving kindness is at the moment of anger. As you said, when I have a hatred mind, it is better not to make a decision and not even to say a word. My problem is when I work in the office, when some of my staff did something wrong, I immediately got angry and said something to them. Afterwards, I knew that I shouldn't have said it because I just add more suffering to the sufferings of others and it would be a mistake. I should have told them how to handle the mistake rather than to raise my voice, but I tried very hard but it is always difficult to control myself at that moment of anger.
Godwin: Not only you, we can all relate to that experience. So you have raised a very important practical question. Sometimes in a way people with whom you work, sometimes I think you need to speak firmly to them. Before I went to the meditation centre, I was a librarian. So I tried to practise loving kindness with those members of the staff, people who were working. It was not easy. People would come late. "He is practising loving kindness. So we got up an hour late. He is practising loving kindness, so don't send application for leave, just stay at home." So I realized it didn't work because some people understood only a different language. The only thing, again you have to be very very clear, that now I am going to be firm, tell him very firmly and in doing that, there is no wound, there is nothing inside, there is just saying something that has to be said.
Anyway, the second part of the question has a very practical aspect. It is that when we get angry unexpectedly, what do we do? The first suggestion is: Don't be surprised. Because you are still practising, you are not enlightened and don't be disappointed, don't feel guilty, don't get angry about yourself because you got angry. So this is very very important, otherwise what happens is, specially this can happen to meditators, when we take to meditation, we form an image:I am a meditator now. I am practising loving kindness. This is how I should behave. It is good to have an image but an image is one thing, reality is another. So at that moment when you have not been aware and you got angry, what you can do is just be with that without feeling bad, no need to give yourself a minus. Please realize that. It is very very important. But what has to be done is after you recover from that anger, may be after five minutes, may be after ten minutes, may be after thirty minutes, it doesn't matter even if on the following day, when you have recovered from that, then you reflect on that action. And that kind of reflection has to be done in a very friendly gentle way. Just to ask the question: What really happened to me? So you take your mind backwards and then try to see that incident objectively and also seeing the different aspects of that incident. So our anger becomes our object of meditation. So our shortcomings, our failures, become learning experience. So that what is also important when we practise this way, we don't have this fear to make mistakes, otherwise we become so concerned on doing things perfectly, correctly and this can generate such a lot of tension, such a lot of suffering. Please realise that this is not giving in to them but relating to our shortcomings in an entirely different way, a more meaningful way, a more creative way, in a way where it will reduce more suffering and we can also do what is necessary. So then you say: Now let me see, next time I face a situation, how I will behave. And just wait and see. So you are waiting for such opportunities to see how your behaviour is. To put it in another way, because you have got angry, there is no wound. So in a sense we come to a state where when we have got angry, there is less suffering as a result, and I think this is a very important state. Anything else?
Male 5: You said there might have been things done wrongly in the past where we did not forgive others and did not forgive ourselves and usually we will suppress these things in our heart. At this moment, how do I know whether I have suppressed these things in the past and bring them out to heal them. I would like to ask this.
Godwin: Very good. Let's take a practical situation where a wound has been created in relation to what you have done to another person, you have acted incorrectly and then you suffer from guilt. So the first point is to realize how the wound was created in the first place. So when you enquire into that question, you realize the wound has been created by your idea: This is how I should have behaved. So you realize the problem has been with your model of how you should behave. So it is helpful to understand this because this can help us to heal this wound. This is the first point. The second point is to realize, as I said earlier, we are still human, we are still imperfect, so therefore as I have been saying very often, learn to forgive our humanness, to forgive our imperfections.
The next suggestion is to realize that these things happened in the past. We cannot change the past so why I am holding onto something that has happened in the past.
Maybe the last point, I hope I can communicate this, is we carry the wounds in our memory. And as they are related to memories, the more we try to forget it, the more it comes. We have no control over our memory. The control we have is not in relation to memory but how we respond to the memory. This is where meditation comes in. This is where we can work with it in practical terms. So when the memory comes in relation to what you have done, what you can observe is our reaction to the memory: guilt. Now this is where awareness is relevant, so with awareness, we learn that there is guilt, and as we have also been practising, we learn to say O.K. to that guilt, we learn to feel friendly with that guilt, just to allow that guilt. Then again after some time, you might remember that incident and then again guilt will come, so again we are creating space for that guilt to be there. I can be also interesting sometimes to deliberately and consciously bring it up and see how we are relating to that memory. When one day you have the experience, the memory comes but there is no guilt and when that happens, it shows that the wound is healed. Then the memory might come but the corresponding emotion will not be there. We might deliberately and consciously bring up the memory and the corresponding emotion will not be there.
One last suggestion is to realize that holding onto such wounds is something very very self destructive. So these are ways and means of healing such wounds. So whether it is guilt, whether it is grief, whether it is hatred, the tools are the same.
Male 5: Today, I deliberately brought things up to see if there are wounds or not but there was no reaction. Could it be a delusion? Would such a thing happen?
Godwin: This shows they have been healed. So don't worry. So no need to feel unhappy: I don't have wounds. Why don't I have wounds? In a way you can give yourselves a plus because most people have wounds. So just to say: I don't have wounds, it's good, nice.
I think on one occasion I said those who do not have wounds, please send loving kindness to those who are trying to heal the wounds, because some people are really struggling with wounds. I know it is so strong in them, so deep in them that it takes a lot for them for healing. I know it by experience working with meditators.
Female 2: Love and hate are the same thing.
Godwin: Can you give us some examples? I am a simple man. I like practical examples.
Female 2: You mentioned if our wound is hatred, we can deliberately bring it up and look at the hatred, and if we have no reaction to it, that means the wound is healed. But what about love, can we dig up situations where we have loved, where we have loved ones and then see if we have any emotion when we dig out this memory of love? For instance, not a parting of ways but for some reason you sacrifice yourself for his or her good, there can be deep emotions when they are dug out. Should it be treated in the same way as we deal with anger?
Godwin: No, certainly not. When you remember such acts or when such acts you deliberately and consciously bring up without any unpleasant emotions, what you will be having is pleasant emotions. So you can feel happy about what you have done to another person. I would suggest that it is important for us also to sometimes think of the good things we have also done. This can give us lots of joy, lots of happiness, lots of lightness and this will also be an incentive to do more and more such actions of love. In Sri Lanka, we have an old custom, now it is no longer there, to have, they call it, a book of merits. So you note the good things you have done, the skilful things you have done and at the time that person is dying, they read out the book. Because usually we give more power, more energy to our mistakes so I think it is very important, in fact this is mentioned in the Dhamma, to deliberately and consciously, to think when they come up, just to feel those emotions.
So now something about tomorrow's practice. So one thing is that tomorrow we will try to make it a day of silence as far as possible. But this does not mean if you have to speak for something functional, something important that you should not speak, but as far as possible, let's make it a day of silence. This is one suggestion I like to offer. Today, it was a day of loving kindness, tomorrow we will make it a day of emotions. So tomorrow, we make an effort to allow emotions to arise, whether it is pleasant as in the case you mentioned or unpleasant, let them arise. So with pleasant emotions that arise, this might give more joy, more happiness, allow that to happen and with unpleasant emotions, we learn how to work with them, how to use them because I know some of the meditators here are still struggling with unpleasant emotions that are coming up. So tomorrow if you learn not to push them away because they are unpleasant, not to control them, not to deny them, but just to allow them to arise if there is a need to arise. When they arise, love it and can you make friends with it, can you love it? What can we learn from it? So let's use some of these tools tomorrow and see what happens. So in the evening, we can have a very practical experience for discussion on emotions and then discuss more about this aspect of emotions.
There is a connection between silence and emotions. With more and more silence, I think it allows for emotions to arise, maybe both types of emotions. So let's see what happens tomorrow.
Now let us do some chanting.
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