Half of the Holy Life

Ven. Ananda was the Buddha’s cousin and close personal attendant. He served the Buddha with devotion and care, and even memorized most of the Buddha’s sermons. One time, when they were staying in the Sakyan town Sakkara, Ven. Ananda was sitting next to the Buddha as he said, “This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.” The Buddha replied with:

“Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.

“And how does a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, develop & pursue the noble eightfold path? There is the case where a monk develops right view dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops right resolve … right speech … right action … right livelihood … right effort … right mindfulness … right concentration dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. This is how a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develops & pursues the noble eightfold path.

“And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life.”

I have already mentioned in an earlier post that the Buddha is often referred to as a teacher of gods and humans (satthadevamanusssanam). However, in the above paragraph the Buddha is actually saying that he isn’t just our teacher – but he is also our friend. He actually helping us out, offering us all release from the cyclic existence of Samsara and the dukkha associated with it.

Of course, we should always seek out admirable friendship with others and act in accordance with those who are consummate in faith (saddha), virtue (sila), liberality/generosity (caga) and wisdom (pañña). In the Dighajanu (Vyagghapajja) Sutta, the Buddha teaches householders how to preserve and increase their wealth and happiness – in both the mundane, material sense and in the spiritual sense. He also defines what is meant by “admirable friendship” by stating that:

“There is the case where a lay person, in whatever town or village he may dwell, spends time with householders or householders’ sons, young or old, who are advanced in virtue. He talks with them, engages them in discussions. He emulates consummate conviction in those who are consummate in conviction, consummate virtue in those who are consummate in virtue, consummate generosity in those who are consummate in generosity, and consummate discernment in those who are consummate in discernment. This is called admirable friendship.”

Therefore, the purpose of having such healthy relationships with admirable friends is to develop those admirable virtues within ourselves. Having the support of your friends is always a great motivator along the path of self-awakening. In fact, having admirable friends, admirable companions, admirable comrades, etc. is actually listed in the Sambodhi Sutta as being the first prerequisite for the development of the wings to self-awakening. This is why it is always important to choose your friends wisely.

In my post On Being a Lay Buddhist, I stated that the Sigalovada Sutta has been referred to as the “Vinaya of the householder”. It basically lays out the codes of conduct for lay Buddhists. So of course, it gives some wonderful advice on choosing your friends wisely.

If someone is constantly taking your stuff without returning it, gives you a lot of lip-service and is constantly full of empty promises, always flattering you just to gain your affection yet always talks crap behind your back, and is pretty much reckless and gets you in trouble – well, then these people aren’t really very good friends. They’re more like enemies in disguise. Also, the Sigalovada Sutta actually lists “indulging in gambling which causes heedlessness” as being a quality of the reckless friend that just gets you into trouble. Maybe someone should have informed certain Korean monks of that.

True friends are good-natured and warm-hearted. They are always willing to lend you a helping hand especially when you need it the most, and they usually give some pretty good advice too. You know that you can always count on them because they are there with you, through thick and thin. They don’t talk smack when you’re not around, and they have never revealed those secrets that you have told them in confidence. They pretty much become a refuge for you when you are in need. These people are real friends, because you know that you can always count on them. That is why the Buddha said that we must always cherish them and attend to them carefully and with devotion, like a mother does for her own child.

As I noted in another post, there are also six conditions that Buddha recommended which are conducive to a state of harmony and unity. Therefore, it would probably be a good idea to try to apply these six conditions, or “harmonies”, in order to establish and maintain healthy relationships with good friends. We should also always keep in mind that those who are close to us – colleagues, friends, companions, family, etc. are not just a part of our spiritual life. They are our spiritual life.

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About bodhipunk

Just another anarcho-commie dhamma punk.

Posted on 05/17/2012, in anatta, dharma, enlightenment, heaven, karma, metta, nirvana, not-self, religion, samsara, sangha, stories, suttas and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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