Friendship: the whole of the holy life?

I also think we mirror the people we around to some extent. I’ve certainly picked up more than a few Sri Lankan and Singaporean habits in this last year!

I know with the monastics I have lived with I step-up to their level of conduct. If we hang with akusala friends we are eventually brought down by them.

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AN 125-6:

“Monks, there are these two conditions for the arising of wrong view. Which two? The voice of another and inappropriate attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of wrong view.”

“Monks, there are these two conditions for the arising of right view. Which two? The voice of another and appropriate attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of right view.”

Maybe, as a simple summary, we could say that a good friend is someone with whom one can discuss & practice appropriate attention.

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Slightly off topic - but I think its worth noting that the majority of Buddhist practitioners these days are lay people rather than “monks”. If one lives within a monastic community Its probably a whole lot easier to find a “spiritual friend” than it is in lay life.

Additionally, sometimes advice given to monastics in the suttas is a little too austere for the average layperson with a job and family. The subject of another topic, perhaps?

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Well, there’s this:

“We are lay people enjoying sensuality; living crowded with spouses & children; using Kasi fabrics & sandalwood; wearing garlands, scents, & creams; handling gold & silver. May the Blessed One teach the Dhamma for those like us, for our happiness & well-being in this life, for our happiness & well-being in lives to come.”


This Sutta has an odd progression; it looks like two Suttas kinda shoved together, but I’m sure that’s just my brain acting up again:

[The Blessed One said:] “There are these four qualities, TigerPaw, that lead to a lay person’s happiness and well-being in this life. Which four? Being consummate in initiative, being consummate in vigilance, admirable friendship, and maintaining one’s livelihood in tune.

…“And what is meant by admirable friendship? 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.

…“There are these four qualities that lead to a lay person’s happiness and well-being in lives to come. Which four? Being consummate in conviction, being consummate in virtue, being consummate in generosity, being consummate in discernment.


Good friends are simply practicing (lay) Buddhists, with one eye on the present & one eye on the future. It doesn’t seem very complicated to me.

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This sutta is good for non-ordained in that it speaks of material and spiritual development in balance. Stream entry was the most common attainment among the layity- the consummate in discernment ('knowledge of co-arising and cessation, samudaya and nirodha) is the knowledge the stream entrant posses. He’s saying however well off as a layperson you can still endevour to reach stream entry. Later commentators have said that stream entry is the best balance between samasara and nibbana. Stream entry guarantees reaching full enlightenment eventually, like a punctured tire slowly letting out air.

with metta,

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…well, since thinking of oneself as Noble can result in laziness (e.g. AN 9.12), and since people can be wrong about their being Noble & since they should practice the same no matter whether they’re Noble or not (e.g. AN 10.86, iirc), stream-entry really isn’t a helpful idea.

Ideally, yes, …but it doesn’t always work out that way. I found in the first tradition I was involved with, other people only wanted to be friendly if one regarded the teachers as godlike entities, and in the second, there weren’t really any opportunities to get to know other lay people.

As for the internet … its not very reliable. People I’ve thought might be my “spiritual” friends have been very changeable, due to impermanence I guess.

The Rhinoceros Sutta remains my closest internet friend at the moment!

I do have some good friends in “meat space” around the world who aren’t Buddhists though.

Have a good Xmas holiday everyone.

:rhinoceros:

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I agree. Without good friends in this Buddhist sense, one should take one’s practice into a solitary space while keeping in mind Ud 4.1, the Meghiyasutta which sabbamitta mentioned above.

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Hence the Buddha proclaiming it only at the point of death, in many case- except when the person is wise, according to the text.

Yet, he changed this teaching later in the Mahaparinibbana sutta when he gave a method for everyone to determine this for themselves … according to each person’s capability.

Of course- but Bhikkhus were making mistakes while on the rains season with the Buddha himself -and proclaiming they were arahanths when they weren’t.

Stream entry has been praised by the Buddha many times to his monks, in many suttas. I think if I’m not mistaken it is the most praised of all the attainments, including jhana.

Sole dominion over the earth,
going to heaven,
lordship over all worlds:
the fruit of stream-entry
excels them. Dhp 178

Also SN55.1, SN13.1, SN13.2, SN13.8.

Stream entry is that gateway to unlock the rest of the path.

with metta

See the sequence of the stanzas:

Association with people of integrity is a factor for stream-entry.
Listening to the true Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
Appropriate attention is a factor for stream-entry.
Practice in accordance with the Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
— SN 55.5

with metta

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True- there was a sutta (cant seem to find it now) where all the wise student bhikkhus were drawn to Ven Sariputta, all the learned ones were drawn to Ven Ananda etc and all the ones with many defilments were drawn to Ven Devadatta. I think the Buddha notices this and may have been the first to say essentially that ‘birds of a feather flock together’.

with metta

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Stream entry is that gateway to unlock the rest of the path.

Even so, if one develops an obsession about getting “attainments” its just another form of craving to let go of.

It can cause laziness, it can be an overestimation, and it doesn’t change the way one practices. In the context of this thread, we can say that even if one’s good friends are Nobles, one’s own appropriate attention is the thing that allows the possibility of Right View, not the attainments of others.

Stream entry is an idea with no useful application. Here, it’s enough to say that good friendship is not defined with reference to it.

Maybe we can funnel stream entry discussion into this thread.

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I’ve heard Ajahn Brahm mention before that the good friends mentioned in the texts refers to the Noble ones. So this would include the Buddha, but also probably all the Ariyas.
I’ve also heard Bhante G mention before (in Singapore, at the Buddhist Fellowship celebration lunch) that “Buddha is kalyanamitta No 1”.

I personally would consider the Buddha to be kalyanamitta No 1, via the suttas. But that’s just me. :smile:

Again, I think the primary focus should probably the Dhamma and the Vinaya as the primary kalyanamitta. I personally practice that way, and consider Ajahns Brahm, Brahmali, Sujato and Analayo as the main messengers of the Buddha (imo).

That said, I think friends play a very important role, especially in correcting for the tendency towards egotism and conceit. It is perhaps for that reason that the Vinaya rules have so much confession; it’s humbling to have to admit wrongdoing. And the Vinaya rules definitely go a far way to help one let go of a sense of self, which probably reinforces the practice of the Path (by reducing the Self, which is delusion No. 1, and probably making it a lot easier to practice the full Eightfold Path).

There is a sutta which I remember reading, where the Buddha actually asked a bhikkhu if he had attained samadhi before seclusion. And the monk hadn’t attained samadhi, hence the Buddha actually advised the monk not to go into seclusion, but to first master the jhanas first within the Sangha. Unfortunately I can’t remember which sutta this was…

Just my two cents. :slight_smile:

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I really like this topic.

The Buddha’s teaching that “good friendship is the whole of the holy life” to me means this: “good friend” is essentially one’s teacher, whether it be the Buddha or one’s preceptor or achariya; “holy life” is the higher spiritual life that leads to the end of old age, sickness and death, i.e. Nibbāna. In other words, I think it means that without a teacher you cannot attain Nibbāna on your own.

On the other hand, the advice to be secluded and not indulge in socializing, I find very beneficial for a personality like mine. The Buddha also said that “one who dwells alone sees things as they really are”. I love being by myself. It conduces to great inner peace and freedom. I also rely on myself and my wisdom and my own investigation and I teach myself things, that is I have an “inner teacher”, which is simply a deeper level wisdom than my superficial shallow one, that teaches me things I ordinarily wouldn’t teach others. At one point I thought it was my Buddha-nature (now I’m not sure), so I got more involved with Mahāyāna; but anyway, I think you can gain a lot by being by yourself and not necessarily be without a good friend - you are your own good friend in this case! That’s why I’m never ever lonely, and personal solitary retreats have been the best time of my life and the cause of great personal progress.

Hope this addresses your original post somewhat. Take care!

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This is an interesting topic, to me the idea of ‘good friendship’ is closely connected with the idea of no-self, which implies that since we have no permanent, immutable core, we will be influenced (even, in the words of Ajahn Brahm, ‘brainwashed’) by our environment and the people we spend time with, so that it’s wise to avoid bad company. I have clearly experienced at some stage in my life some bad influence of my environment - I have just written in a separate thread on the topic.
My understanding is that the supreme happiness in buddhism has to be found in meditation and thus in seclusion though.
By the way I’ve just been reading Aristotle’s Nichomachean ethics. It’s quite interesting because Aristotle was a great mind but he had completely different views on the solitary life, on what happiness is, and on the role of friends compared to the Buddha. They are two completely different worlds.

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While looking for something totally different I found this lovely sutta AN7.36 which is clearly about our regular dear friends

He gives what is beautiful,
hard to give,
does what is hard to do,
endures painful, ill-spoken words.

His secrets he tells you,
your secrets he keeps.

When misfortunes strike,
he doesn’t abandon you;
when you’re down & out,
doesn’t look down on you.

A person in whom these traits are found,
is a friend to be cultivated
by anyone wanting a friend.

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Spiritual Friendship: the whole of the holy life
Scriptural Friendship: a part of the holy life

Me : Trying to learn how to swim from a book on land.

Kalyanamitta : Swimming champion who can train other people.

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