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Tributes to Godwin

My Association with Godwin: Some Reminiscences

by close friend Mrs. Pat Jayatilleke

The following has been composed by a very close friend of Godwin's who has known him for a very long time. She is the wife of the late Professor K. N. Jayatilleke, Head of the Department of Philosophy, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka:

I have known Godwin Samararatne for nearly 40 years. As a young man he was very shy and inclined to be in the background. He used to visit our home often, to meet my husband and seek clarification on certain points of the Dhamma. He made friends with my 2 children, both of whom were under 10 years of age at the time. He could relate stories interestingly and had a charming manner with children. My daughters grew fond of him. I watched Godwin maturing through the years and developing spiritually to become the ‘super-human being' he eventually turned out to be. I feel both humble and privileged to have been a witness to this process.

I became a widow at the age of thirty-seven. During those days of crisis and turmoil, Godwin was there to help me. Always a gentleman in his dealings, respectful, kind and courteous, he was there in my hour of need. Never did he violate the trust I placed in him. I respect him deeply for that.

To the surprise of many of his associates, Godwin resigned his job as librarian and went to live at the meditation centre in Nilambe. His friends were quite dismayed about this rash decision as it meant that he forfeited his chance of a pension. Though he had no financial security, Godwin took that bold step. Here was a man who lived from moment to moment, unconcerned about material security.

Before he went to reside at Nilambe, Godwin gave a farewell party to his colleagues at the library. I had offered to keep the ice-cream in my refrigerator and deliver it at the time it would be needed. Later I realised that my car would not be available at that time and so I had to send it earlier. I was quite upset about not being able to keep my promise. When I met him later I asked how his guests had managed, and he said laughingly, ‘Everything went off very well. The guests drank melted ice-cream with a spoon.' He had a wonderful sense of humour, which he used in good measure to counteract the negative feelings of others.

A few years ago, when on a train in Germany, Godwin lost his passport and all his travel documents. He was locked up in a railway station in a strange country. I asked him what his thoughts were at that time. After his usual long pause and deep thought he said, ‘I thought people can steal all your material possessions but they cannot steal your mind.' Intrigued by that answer, I asked what he felt at that time. He said he felt calm and peaceful.

Judging by my own experience, I asked Godwin whether he did not wish to stay at home sometimes. I posed this question because he was always on the move catering to the demands of others all the time. I felt he was harassed. His answer was that wherever he was at a particular time, that place was home. He explained to me the idea of boundlessness. He said that when people think in terms of ‘this is home' and ‘this is outside' they create a boundary between the home and what is not home. In the same way they build boundaries between my race and the other, my religion and the other, my country and the other, and so it goes on. When the mind is free of boundaries, there is no problem.

Extending the idea of boundlessness, Godwin spoke of boundless love, the sublime virtue, metta. The normal love we find around is bounded love, which is love for child, spouse, friend, country, and so on. Metta is love to all beings alike, without boundaries.

On one occasion I asked Godwin why the metta meditation starts with reference to self, when the core teaching of the Buddha is selflessness. His explanation surprised but convinced me. He said, it is only when you have something that you can gave it to others. If you have love within you, you can give love to others. If you hate yourself, you can only hate others. Learn to have love within you. Accept yourself as you are. Forgive yourself. Don't be hard on yourself. Be kind to yourself. If you can do this to yourself, you can do this to others. Hence metta bhavana starts with self.

Once when I was ill and in great pain, many friends visited me to comfort me. Concerned and full of good intentions, they suggested various means of getting over my illness. Some said my planets were bad, some said it was the evil eye, some suggested that I had been charmed and I should take remedial action. Others said it was my bad karma and I should do meritorious deeds. My Christian friends said that God was testing me, or punishing me for past sins and I should pray and ask for forgiveness. When Godwin visited me, he said, ‘Be with the pain; make friends with it; make space for it; don't get the mind involved with the physical pain. Let it be 'the pain' and not 'my pain', and you will find it tolerable.' I followed his advice. It worked and the pain was tolerable.

At one time there was a close friend of ours, highly respected by society, whose secret unethical behaviour shocked me beyond measure. It was difficult for me to accept it. When I discussed the matter with Godwin he told me it was not his (the friend's) problem but my problem; that I had images about people that made me feel that such and such a person should live according to my expectations. When my expectations are not fulfilled, I become disappointed and unhappy. ‘There lies the problem and you have created your own problem. Think of him as a human being subject to human weaknesses, just like yourself. Forgive him and forget it.' That was Godwin's advice on the matter. He also told me often, ‘Don't take yourself too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself.'

In more recent times my daughter bought herself a computer and installed it in her room. Soon afterwards she was dismayed to find a rat in the room and feared for the safety of the computer. Faced with a moral dilemna she turned to Godwin for help. His gentle reply was: `Do what has to be done but be very clear in your mind about your intention. Take full responsibility for what you do. Don't blame others and don't make excuses.' This he called `Situational Ethics'.

Godwin never talked about himself nor did he talk about others. He was always concerned about others. Metaphorically speaking, he was always there with a shoulder for anyone to cry on. He heard the secrets and confessions of many a person, but he never let them down. His method of conflict resolution always intrigued me. He spoke little but his body language solved most problems. He never wore reading glasses. He never carried pen or paper now did he have a list of things to be done. Yet he had much to do. He carried everything in his head.

Godwin would never participate in a group discussion asserting his own point of view. He would listen, observe, and occasionally smile. What amazed me was that he was able to keep silent, without expressing his own ideas, unlike me who felt compelled to have my say.

I am happy and grateful for having had the chance to know Godwin, an embodiment of Dhamma, living according to it, teaching what he practised, practising what he taught. There was no inside and outside in his way of life. He was what he was as perceived by others. He was transparent.

The best way we can pay tribute to Godwin is to remember his good qualities, follow his example and set an example to others.