Art of living and art of crossing

Many of us know that Buddha’s teaching is overlapping with the conventional teaching (art of living) and the ultimate teaching (art of crossing)
This matter is first time (as far as I Know) is high lighted in relation to Mangala sutta by one of Sri Lankan monk named Ven. Anandasiri in the following video. (Sinhalease language).
I wish to discuss his points in this video and I like to know your opinion on this.

Link to Mangala Sutta

"Not to associate with the foolish,[5] but to associate with the wise; and to honor those who are worthy of honor — this is the greatest blessing.

As a child I always had problem with above teaching. Many of my friends including myself were not wise but were very foolish. So I had the trouble understanding who to associate.
Ven. Anandasiri quite convincingly pointed out the deeper meaning of this teaching is related to your own mind. According to him the meaning of this is that your mind should not occupy with foolish thought but with thought of wisdom.

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With respect, @SarathW1, and with respect to the bhante you’ve quoted too, I don’t find this interpretation fits in with the Dhamma as I understand it, nor does it provide me with an obvious practical use as far as the Practice is concerned.

Where this Mangala Sutta (Snp 2.4), states:

Not to associate with fools,
But to associate with the wise,
And to honour those worthy of honour:
This is the greatest good fortune.

I believe it is meant quite literally.

Here is a reference that supports my view, it is from AN 10.61:

Hearing the good Dhamma, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for hearing the good Dhamma? It should be said: (10) associating with good persons.

Thus associating with good persons, becoming full, fills up hearing the good Dhamma. Hearing the good Dhamma, becoming full, fills up faith. Faith, becoming full, fills up careful attention. Careful attention, becoming full, fills up mindfulness and clear comprehension. Mindfulness and clear comprehension, becoming full

This is backed up in AN 10.62

And also by AN 3.26, for instance:

One who associates with an inferior person declines;
one who associates with an equal does not decline;
attending on a superior person one develops quickly;
therefore you should follow one superior to yourself.

AN 9.1 is extremely clear on this. It states:

when a monk has admirable friends, admirable companions, admirable comrades, it is to be expected that he will be virtuous, will dwell restrained

When a monk has admirable friends, admirable companions, admirable comrades, it is to be expected that he will get to hear at will, easily & without difficulty, talk that is truly sobering and conducive to the opening of awareness, i.e., talk on modesty, on contentment, on seclusion, on non-entanglement, on arousing persistence, on virtue, on concentration, on discernment, on release, and on the knowledge & vision of release.

AN 9.1 makes a clear distinction between cultivation of

mental development in general, and the association with good people. The two are distinct.

The main point of this sutta, as I see it, is that the latter influences the former. So associating with wise/good people influences one and thus one is likely to become like them and become a wise/good person and cultivate one’s virtue, peace and wisdom on all levels, not just on the level of thought. This makes sense in the wider scheme of the Dhamma, for the Buddha teaches again and again in the EBTs that we are conditioned beings, not fixed entities; thus those we associate with will condition us, and of course we may condition them too…

It is not to say that mental development is not important! Indeed, the crux of this Path is mental development and it is mentioned again and again and in a myriad different, but very literal, ways! So why, in this instance, in the Mangala Sutta, would the Buddha choose to hide his usually crystal clear literal teachings in metaphor. I would suggest he prefers the use of similies to metaphors and when he does use similies, he makes it extraordinarily obvious that he is about to do so.

In the section you’ve quoted he does not do this. It is meant quite literally. Those we associate with have an impact upon us. It’s hard sometimes to only hang around with wise folk, and certainly we have to have more mindfulness and restraint and cultivate, well, essentially the whole of the 8 Fold Path to support us when we have no option but to be with those who might not be wise or virtuous; but we shouldn’t kid ourselves, just so we can feel better about it.

To finish, in Ud 4.1, the Buddha gives Meghiya some advice and details 5 things for he “whose freedom of mind is not fully mature”. The first thing is having “a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade”. Interestingly, this first thing is clearly shown as a causal condition for the other four things, which are, in a nutshell, cultivating virtue, talking with these wise companions and having talk that is, “suitable for opening up the mind”, cultivating energy and cultivating wisdom. Factor 1. is shown to be an influencing factor on the subsequent 4.

With respect and metta


Thank you, Kay, for your well-researched answer.
In my language, by answering my question you associate me.
Without any hard feeling do you know whether I am a fool or a wise person?
For a moment say you think that I am a fool. You did not accept my statement.
But as a Kalyanamitta you decided to associate me and correct me.
Because you already have a mind of a wise person you did not accept my statement.
But you still decided to associate me.
There are no perfect fools or wise people in this world.
Sometimes we are fools as some times we are wise.

In another point say I was prisoned for some reason. All people around me are murderers and thieves. What should I do? The best I can do is to associate these bad people and make them to be good.

With this, I think you can’t literally interpret Mangala sutta.

Yes, you can.

The Mangala Sutta is not presenting you with a list of things to tick off a checklist, nor is it presenting you with a list of things you must immediately go out and do. It is describing circumstances that make for a life that feels blessed and happy.

We can’t all have all these circumstances. And it’s unlikely we would have them all of the time either. Of course we have to do the best we can. As I said already:

But this doesn’t mean the Mangala Sutta isn’t meant to be taken literally.

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Perhaps we both are in the same wave length.
When I said an art of living meant taking it literally.
When I said an art of crossing I meant Mangla Sutta isn’t taken literally.

As I said in my initial reply…“with respect and metta”… There’s no need to agree or be on the same wavelength as long as there is some respect and metta :slight_smile:

I don’t agree with this at all, as I feel strongly that this misrepresents the Buddha:

But I understand you wish to interpret the matter differently and it’s always fine to disagree in friendship Sarath. :slight_smile: An agreeable disagreement if you like :slight_smile:

With metta

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I like people who disagree with me as it helps me to understand the Dhamma in deep.
Having said that if you practice boundless metta, you would interpret Mangala Sutta in a different angle. Mind you that I discuss only the first verse of Mangala Sutta so far.

How can I misrepresents the Buddha when I have already agreed with your understanding in mundane level. What I am saying we have to move from mundane to supermundane.

You can still practice metta and have an understanding of when someone isn’t wise/virtuous. May all beings be happy and well, even those we perceive to be/are unwise. Especially when often times it’s our own selves that are unwise!

You can wish someone one well even if they aren’t wise. You can be kind to them too. It would be very difficult to be kind to ourselves some of the time otherwise! Recognising our own/other peoples’ foolishness, doesn’t mean one wishes anyone/ourselves ill. Practising metta and growing understanding about people’s conditioning can make it easier to forgive and accept each other.

It’s about understanding. Not a lack of metta.

But specifically, within the context of this debate, it’s about understanding that those we hang out with influence us. So in a sense it’s about growing in Dhamma, growing in our realisation of how things are; and realising that one needs to seek out good people to grow in Dhamma even more; realising that part of the way things are, is that we are conditioned beings and therefore open to influence. It just means recognising the value of taking as much care as possible, with what we influence ourselves with.

It doesn’t mean putting pressure on ourselves to be perfect.

Rather we can just be open to these ideas and to see, for most of us, that this can present a challenge for us. It calls us to purify our virtue. A very challenging business sometimes. Influences mean so many things nowadays, including TV and the internet! Our companions these days are not necessarily real live people! So we’re called to cultivate more virtue, more restraint. We don’t always live up to this, but we should at least recognise the call…the call of ehipassiko if you like.

It doesn’t mean shutting people out when it’s not possible or kind to do so. It does mean seeking out and hanging out with those who are wise in whatever way is possible for us. While, good companions and spiritual friends and teachers are important in this, the highest and best wise companion is the Buddha. So for all of us, regardless of who else is in our lives, we can’t go further than seeking out his teachings in the EBTs.

Finally, kindness and wisdom go together. Hanging out with wise people ought to increase our ability to be kind to ourselves and others, even when we are foolish. It’s a gradual training. We need all the good influences we can get. And there are no absolutes when it comes to the gradualness of this training.


It’s up to us how we act on this.


Metta to oneself includes being able to have metta to oneself at the same time:

Other person is better than you (in the path)- try to be with them (if that’s ok with them), but check you are considering changing and taking them as an example to yourself.
Other person is lower on the path- see you have the capacity to help them, and that they are seeking help (not just out to endlessly debate or be difficult) AND you will not be negatively influenced by their negative qualities. :slightly_smiling_face:

The Buddha said in teaching the dhamma one should not harm oneself or the student!

With metta

To reside in a suitable locality,[6] to have done meritorious actions in the past and to set oneself in the right course[7] — this is the greatest blessing.<

There is no perfect locality. Once Ananda asked Buddha to move to a another locality to avoid the hostility of some people. Buddha asked Ananda what if the people in other locality also hostile.
Here again what matters is not the locality you are living but the state of your mind. Here, suitable locality means a suitable state of mind.

The Mahamangala sutta is a gradually deepening instruction. Living in a suitable locality is one of the earliest of those instructions and I think it is meant to be taken at face value . The Buddha says that when a country is at war, famine, pestilence etc (sutta?) it is not a suitable place to practice. There is a sutta where the Buddha says live in an area where you find your practice progressing well (regardless of the cause). He also mentions that a forrest dwelling isn’t always a suitable place for practice, depending on one’s capabilities. We know that our minds are affected by our environment so it is nice to see a teaching which reflects that. When the rest of the teachings are devoted to developing our ‘inner environment’ it is good to acknowledge that the external environment plays a role. In fact, it could be that the bulk of this sutta deals with creating the correct foundations, for a lay person, to develop their spiritual practice. This includes everything from living in tune with ones spouse and children, having problem free employment, not having trouble from relatives etc., all of which could ruin one’s sati and samadhi. It is of course not possible to control for all these many conditions hence the Eight worldly conditions will prevail but this is to minimise problems and to make the path easier for oneself.

With metta


This is a great sutta to chant! It’s very joyful. I find that in addition to reminding me to look for these conditions it also reminds me to to recognize and take advantage of them where I find them. It’s amazing how often people (myself esp.) don’t treasure fortunate circumstances when we have them. So I think that while the instructions are literal (good to hang out with wise people) the practice of reading/chanting this sutta is a way of cultivating a wise and joyful mind.


Somewhere in here is a reminder that we shouldn’t be using meditation to soften a stressful life but to work towards reducing stressors in our lives. Meditation will have a stronger foundation then.

With metta

To support mother and father, to cherish wife and children, and to be engaged in peaceful occupation — this is the greatest blessing.>

When Buddha said mother and father and the wife and children, he did not mean only your immediate family.
We have to treat who ever we have contact with us as our relations.
Buddha said that it is not possible for us to find a being who was not our relative before. (father, mother child etc.)

“Monks, you could not find a being who was not your mother in the past, in this long train of existences.>

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With my request Frank was kind enough to make an audio on Mangala sutta.
I hope it may some benefit to you all.