Godwin Samararatne


Godwin Samararatne

Acharya Godwin Samararatne (September 6 1932March 22 2000) was one of the best known lay meditation teachers in Sri Lanka in recent times. During his teaching career he was based at his Meditation Centre at Nilambe in the central hill country near Kandy. After his death in March 2000 letters and tributes poured in as many people around the world attested to the impact that Godwin and his teaching had made on their lives.

Biography

Godwin was born 6 September 1932. He grew up as one of seven children in a Kandy-based family, in the central hills of Sri Lanka. He attended a well-reputed Buddhist school, but later admitted to neglecting his studies there in favour of exploring the deeper philosophical questions of life. After school he became a Librarian, serving in libraries in and around the Kandy area before being promoted to the post of Chief Librarian at the main Kandy Public Library.

While his brothers and sisters all married, Godwin remained living at home, devotedly supporting his widowed mother until her death in 1977. By that time Godwin was already involved with a Buddhist lay group who were studying the Dhamma and practising meditation, so when in 1979 this group founded a Meditation Centre at Nilambe, at the top of a tea estate some distance outside Kandy, he gave up his work as a librarian and took up residence in the new Centre.

He subsequently became the Centre's chief meditation teacher. Godwin based his teaching on his own practice and on his discussions he had with the many meditators he taught over the years, and the understanding he gained of the Dhamma through that. He had no particular teacher himself, but he discussed the Buddha's teachings widely with many experienced monks, scholars, and other meditators.

News soon spread about Godwin and the new Centre, passed on by word of mouth by those who had been there and benefited from their stay. Young Westerners especially who were seeking a spiritual dimension to their lives were attracted to the Centre, appreciating Godwin's ability to translate the Dhamma into a language relevant to people's everyday lives and concerns.

Godwin's reputation as a meditation teacher grew steadily throughout the 80's both in Sri Lanka and abroad. By the mid-80's Godwin had already been invited to teach in Europe and South Africa, and he became over time an internationally acclaimed and much loved teacher. In the 1990s his teaching tours extended to many more countries, including England, Germany, and Holland; and Asian countries such as India, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

At the end of 1999 he made another teaching trip to South Africa and Botswana, and it was shortly after his return to Sri Lanka that he died on 22 March 2000 in Peradeniya Hospital of a progressive liver disease.

Godwin's teaching

What was so special about Godwin was that he lived what he taught - his teaching and his life were seamless. He had the marvellous ability to put the teachings of the Buddha concerning suffering and the way out of suffering into his own simple words which were relevant to the everyday lives and experience of the people he was speaking to, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist.

Godwin's deepest concern was to help people free themselves from their suffering, and having realised the fruits of the Buddha's teaching himself, he brought a great depth of wisdom and compassion to his explorations of the Dhamma with others. He also evinced a lightness, humour, and sense of the absurd, as much in his talks as in his day-to-day life.

His teaching style was direct and practical, and he always insisted that his students concentrate on the realities of their lives, rather than getting lost in theoretical speculation. With simple stories, similes and examples he was able to communicate the Dhamma he had imbibed so well to audiences who were perhaps unfamiliar with the often difficult language of the books.

What Godwin taught then was for us to explore and find out for ourselves the simple truth of the Dhamma in the context of our everyday lives, by putting the practice of awareness and loving-kindness at the centre of our lives, and thereby experiencing a natural unfolding of our inherent capacity for wisdom and compassion.

Godwin did not see meditation as being about having special experiences; rather he saw the spiritual path as encompassing the whole of life, and providing a set of tools for meeting all the challenges and difficulties of everyday life. By practising and consistently applying these tools he believed we could overcome our suffering and find a lightness, joy, and contentment in our lives just as they are.

Not only was he a living example of this himself, but so many meditators around the world who took to heart his teachings were able to experience the benefits of the practice, and the Centre where he taught for 20 years continues to this day to provide the opportunity for people from all different backgrounds to find the space and support for their own spiritual journey.

Quotations

...do not have high expectations that you are going to achieve something very special. Meditation is nothing special. It's just being open to ordinary things. It's nothing extraordinary. Please remember that. Please realise that. This is something beautiful about meditation. So it is not results that we are going to achieve but the practice itself, that is the result; knowing what is happening is the result, not what comes after... "from The Gentle Way of Buddhist Meditation"

...in Asian countries like Sri Lanka there is great suffering due to poverty. In Western countries, especially rich Western countries, which can be considered as affluent, there is also a type of suffering which is called affluenza! You have heard of affluenza? Western affluenza?... "from Meditation for Everyday Life"

...it is extremely important to learn to be friendly to oneself. The phrase I like to use is: learning to be your best friend, and in a most friendly way. To make this very important connection with oneself; to feel at ease with oneself, feel at home with oneself... "from The Gentle Way of Buddhist Meditation"

...I would like to discuss with you how we can find meditation interesting, how we can sometimes find it entertaining, a little amusing, how we can develop a taste for it, how we can develop a curiosity about meditation... "from Discovering Meditation"

...what one tries to do in meditation is to find out how our minds work experientially. To look at the different dimensions of our minds, and to understand our bodies. Then through that understanding to make an effort to free ourselves from conflict and conditioning... "from Conversations with Godwin"

Literature

Buddhist teachings

* Godwin Samararatne: "Watching thoughts and emotions." In: Rod Bucknell and Chris Kang (eds.): The meditative way. Readings in the theory and practice of Buddhist meditation. Curzon Press, Richmond 1997, S. 136-145, ISBN 0-7007-0677-1. (This talk also published by Nilambe Meditation Centre in booklet form, 2007).
* Godwin Samararatne: Talks on Buddhist Meditation. Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy 2002, ISBN 955-24-02330.
* Godwin Samararatne: Lebendig durch Achtsamkeit. Anleitungen zur Meditationspraxis. Waldhaus Verlag, Nickenich 2005, ISBN 3-937660-00-3.
* Godwin Samararatne: Meditation for Everyday Life. Buddhist Cultural Centre, Colombo 2006.
* Godwin Samararatne: "Seeing Emptiness". In: Sumana Ratanayaka (ed.): Buddhist Studies in Honour of Venerable Kirindigalle Dhammaratana. Vidumina Pirivena, Pujapitiya (Sri Lanka), 2007, S. 191-198.
* Godwin Samararatne: Life is our Best Teacher (Chinese translation of Godwin's 1997 Hong Kong talks) (date and place of publication unknown).
* Godwin Samararatne: The Gentle Way of Buddhist Meditation (Godwin's 1997 Hong Kong talks). Inward Path Publisher (Penang, 2007). ISBN 983-3512-31-3.

Reincarnation studies

* Emily Williams Cook, Satwant Pasricha, Godwin Samararatne, U Win Maung, Ian Stevenson: Review and analysis of "unsolved" cases of the reincarnation type. I. Introduction and illustrative case reports. In: "Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research." 77 (1983), S. 45-62. ISSN|0003-1070
* Emily Williams Cook, Satwant Pasricha, Godwin Samararatne, U Win Maung, Ian Stevenson: Review and analysis of "unsolved" cases of the reincarnation type. II. Comparison of features of solved and unsolved cases. In: "Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research." 77 (1983), S. 115-135. ISSN|0003-1070
* Ian Stevenson, Godwin Samararatne: Three new cases of the reincarnation type in Sri Lanka with written records made before verification. In: "Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease." 176 (1988), S. 741. ISSN|0022-3018
* Ian Stevenson, Godwin Samararatne. Three new cases of the reincarnation type in Sri Lanka with written records made before verification. In: "Journal of Scientific Exploration." 2 (1988), S. 217-238. ISSN|0892-3310 ( [http://www.scientificexploration.org/jse/abstracts/v2n2a6.php Abstract] , [http://br.geocities.com/existem_espiritos/reencarnacao_1988.html Portuguese translation] )
* Ian Stevenson, Satwant Pasricha, Godwin Samararatne: Deception and self-deception in cases of the reincarnation type. Seven illustrative cases in Asia. In: "Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research." 82 (1988), S. 1-31. ISSN|0003-1070
* Erlendur Haraldsson, Godwin Samararatne: Children who speak of memories of a previous life as a Buddhist monk. Three new cases. In: "Journal of the Society for Psychical Research." 63 (1999), S. 268-291. ISSN|0037-1475; [http://www.hi.is/~erlendur/english/cort/monks.pdf PDF (1,8 MB)]

Other

* Anne M. Blackburn, Jeffrey Samuels (eds.): Approaching the Dhamma: Essays on Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia. Pariyatti Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1928706193. (Book with buddhological essays in memory of G. S.)

External links

* [http://www.godwin-home-page.net/ Godwin Home Page] English language website containing Godwin's audio talks (mp3), transcriptions of talks, also tributes, photographs, and other material.
* [http://www.godwin.org.hk/ Godwin website in Chinese] Contains many of the same talks as the English site translated into Chinese, and other material.
* [http://www.nilambe.org/ Nilambe Meditation Centre] Godwin's still flourishing Meditation Centre in the central hills of Sri Lanka.
* [http://www.buddhanet-de.net/Lewella/ Lewella Meditation Centre] Godwin's Meditation Centre in Kandy, Sri Lanka.


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