The Gentle Way of
Dhamma Talks by Godwin Samararatne
Day 1 Retreat: 13th October 1997
Fa Yim Kok, Lantau Island
Some Suggestions of
What We Can Try to Do During the Retreat
We should be really happy to have this opportunity to spend some days here with a group of spiritual friends in this very beautiful place. We should also learn to feel grateful that we have this opportunity to do this. So I like to offer some suggestions of what we can try to do during the next few days.
So what we will be trying to do is to learn to develop certain spiritual qualities, learn to develop certain skills which will help us in the spiritual path.
Experiment in Lighthearted Way
We will try to experiment with it in a very lighthearted way. This is one of the guidelines that I like to emphasize. It is learning to see the practice as something we can enjoy. That we can learn to develop a taste for it. While I say this, I like to also emphasize that we should also learn to open ourselves to any unpleasant experiences, physical pain, mental pain. Normally we don't like unpleasant experiences. We don't like to look at the dark side in us. So I like to suggest that during the next few days, we should make an effort naturally, that if they are arising, just allow them to arise as well, without repressing them, without trying to put them away, without trying to deny them, without feeling bad about them. If they arise, let them arise and learning to make friends with them, learning to see them as learning opportunities.
Another quality is the practice of awareness, being alert, being awake. Now in this connection I like to emphasize that what we might try to do, to see how far we can have the continuity of awareness as far as possible, moment to moment awareness as far as possible, whether you are in this room or whether you are outside should not make a difference. Then we learn to see meditation as a part of life. It's a way of living. It's an art of living.
Another spiritual quality that we need to develop is loving kindness. Here, we are in a beautiful situation where we are with a group of spiritual friends, so how can we relate to each other, how can we develop sensitivity to each other? The Buddha said helping others is helping yourself, helping yourself is helping others. So it is beautiful to develop this quality, while trying to help yourself you are helping others and then eventually, learn to see no difference between ourselves and others. Now I like to go over the schedule and I will emphasize some other skills, some other qualities that we can develop.
So as you know we wake up at 4:45 in the morning. So when you wake up, actually your practice should begin. At home, when we wake up, it's a different situation from when you are waking up here. To give a practical example, when you go to the toilet, there will be someone in the toilet. Now how do you relate to that situation? So you can observe your mind and see whether you are having suffering or can you see the situation and not suffer as a result of the situation? So in relation to such a situation, we learn to develop another very important quality of patience, learning to wait. And maybe there'll be other situations, other challenges you might have to face when you wake up. So this is what I want to emphasize, to see these challenges, to see these situations as learning experiences. So meditation should begin.
Group Meditation & Breakfast
Then we will be meeting here at 5:00 a.m. for group meditation and it will be a beautiful time of the morning to practise meditation. And then we will have breakfast. Here again eating can be a very very important meditation. We have a very good opportunity to develop awareness whilst eating. And with awareness we can observe our likes, our dislikes, judgments we make. And while eating I like to emphasize three aspects: chewing, swallowing, tasting. I like you to find out at what point we really taste our food. And also let us learn to keep the quantity of food, trying to avoid eating too much and trying to avoid too little, learning to discover the middle way in relation to eating.
Another quality we can develop tomorrow in breakfast is that as we are eating food, we can develop loving kindness while we are eating. Not thinking of only ourselves but seeing how others are eating, in what way can you help others, to be open to the needs of others. We will try to develop that quality also while we are eating as a group. Isn't that beautiful?
After breakfast, we will be having what is called working meditation. Now working meditation is learning when we do work, we do it mindfully, to work consciously, to have your complete and full attention on what you are doing. And what is important is learning to see work as not something different to meditation.
Another very important aspect of working meditation is learning to develop certain qualities while we are working. Can you see working meditation as developing compassion in action, loving kindness in action? If you are working in the kitchen, can you see there's some work that helps me to develop loving kindness to those meditators who are eating? So let me cook with loving kindness, that can be a quality that we can develop in working meditation. If you are sweeping the place, feel that I'm sweeping the place so it can look very clean and look very beautiful so that meditators can feel comfortable. So please learn to see working meditation as action in compassion, implementing loving kindness with the action.
Then we have group meditation. So during group meditation, we will be practising three postures: sitting, standing and walking. And let us see how far we can have continuity of awareness from one posture to the other.
Individual & Outdoor Meditation
Then we have what is called individual and outdoor meditation. So one aspect of individual and outdoor meditation is learning to spend some time alone with ourselves. So you have some very beautiful places here so please find one such place where you can be completely alone with yourself. And see when you are alone with yourself how you are relating to yourself. See whether after some time you might feel lonely, you feel bored with yourself. It is very interesting that we cannot spend some time alone with ourselves without suffering from loneliness and boredom. We don't seem to like ourselves! It shows that some of the things we do is an escape from ourselves. So tomorrow let us learn not to escape from ourselves but to be with ourselves, and if we feel lonely, bored, without giving in to them, we learn to go through them. And going through them, we will start to make a connection with ourselves where we learn to be our best friend, we learn to be self-contained within ourselves.
Another aspect is learning to develop sensitivity to nature. I was very happy when I came here, I saw the moon. I was able to see the stars in the sky. I was able to hear the insects around us. I was able to see some beautiful trees, some beautiful flowers. All these make me very very happy. I think in this modern world, we have lost this sensitivity to nature, we have lost the way to commune with nature. So I would suggest that you develop this very very important quality, to develop a sensitivity to nature and learning to see actually no difference between yourself and nature, learning as I said, to be a part of nature, seeing things very clearly, very sharply, hearing things sharply and clearly. As we go along, I will be suggesting other things we can do during individual and outdoor meditation.
Lunch, Rest & Interview
Then after that we will have lunch. And after lunch there will be a time for a rest. As you will be waking up very early, we need to rest and we should learn to feel friendly to our body. And after rest, we have another session of individual and outdoor meditation. And during these two times, individual and outdoor meditation in the morning and in the afternoon, I would like to meet each one of you. So we'll be having a piece of paper somewhere so you can write your name. I like to meet about four persons in the morning and four persons in the afternoon. So please come and see me and you can discuss with me any difficulties, any problems you have in meditation and if you have any personal problems, I would also like to hear and then try to use meditation to help you with the problems and difficulties.
After that, there's yoga. Actually you see a connection between yoga and meditation. One thing is with yoga exercises, we learn to be aware of the body. It is very very important to make a connection with our body, again learning to be friendly to our body, learning to be kind to our body. Another important aspect of yoga is learning to relax. When you can learn to relax, it will help you very much in meditation, relaxing the mind, relaxing the body. It is possible that maybe due to a sitting posture or due to other reasons, we might have tension, pain and discomfort in your body and some of the yoga exercises will help you to work through them and you are fortunate to have a very good yoga teacher to help us here.
Snack and Activities at Night
And after yoga, there is group meditation. And after group meditation, there is a snack. So again I like the word snack without calling it dinner. But normally I think you are used to dinners, so tomorrow when you have to eat a snack, it will be a very interesting learning experience.
After the snack, we will have a short sitting. After sitting we will have a discussion. After discussion, we will do some chanting and end the day with loving kindness meditation.
So by 9:00 p.m. we will go to sleep, as we have to get up early.
Practice of Silence
Another important thing that we will be practising is the practice of silence. In the Dhamma it is called the noble silence. So we are developing a very noble quality of being silent. Talking, speaking is a very very strong habit that we have. And you'll also see a connection between silence and awareness. And silence enables us to be with ourselves, be with our mind and body all the time or most of the time. Now a question arises: How can we be silent and still practise loving kindness? Here, I like to suggest that we can still relate to other people, connect with other people in silence with loving kindness. Normally, we know only to communicate with words. So during this retreat we learn how to communicate with others in silence. One way of doing this is to learn to feel the people around you. Another way is to smile with the people around you. So these are making connection with other people. And then when you look around, when you look at people, you might see opportunities where you can give a helping hand in complete silence. So I would like you to develop this quality of communicating with others without words, in silence and see whether one can make a deeper connection non-verbally.
Practice with the Door
Now another point I like to make is that there are very interesting doors here. So one has to have lots of awareness to open the doors and to close the doors otherwise you can make a big noise. So this will help us to develop awareness and learn to develop sensitivity to other people. In a way this is also making a connection with other people. Let me open very slowly and close slowly so others will not be disturbed by what I am doing. You see from this small act of opening the door and closing the door what spiritual qualities that we can develop. In the little booklet that has been translated on loving kindness, there is a very very interesting reference there. The Buddha was addressing a group of monks and the Buddha was telling the monks that if you can practise loving kindness during the time it takes to snap your fingers, you're worthy of being monks. So to snap your fingers takes only a few seconds. So it shows even for a few seconds, you can really have feeling, have loving kindness. You can make such a difference when you're doing these few acts of loving kindness, small acts with lots of loving kindness.
So I like to pause and if you have any questions, any clarifications to make, you have the opportunity to do so.
[Questions and answers were not recorded]
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