Good Friends/Kalyanamittas: A Personal Ad :dharmawheel:

I emailed you my current understanding of paṭiccasamuppāda.

Due to this valid point, I copied and pasted my current (since I am still in the process of learning) understanding of paṭiccasamuppāda below too since it seems like a core issue that would be helpful to discuss in PM/by email with other potential kalyanamittas anyway.

Four Noble Truths
Problem: sadness (dukkha)
Cause: thirst (tanha)
End: extinguishment (nibbana)
Way to the End: way (magga)

Noble Eight-Limbed Way
Balanced View
Balanced Intention
Balanced Speech
Balanced Action
Balanced Livelihood
Balanced Effort
Balanced Memory
Balanced Concentration

Twelve Conditions of Conditional Occurrence
(Sensory) Consciousness
(Sensory) Organ(/Base?)
Aging, Illness, Death, and the rest of Sadness (dukkha)

Brief explanation:
The Buddha seems to identify the cause of sadness (dukkha) to be thirst (tanha).
The two extreme ways of trying to quench thirst seems to be indulgence and deprivation.
The commonality between these two extremes are that they attempt to quench thirst directly.
The middle way that the Buddha claims actually quenches thirst is the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path seems to lead to understanding (panna), which attempts to quench thirst indirectly by clarifying misunderstanding (avijjā), which in turn quenches thirsts (tanha), which in turn extinguishes sadness (dukkha).
This is the way in which I currently understand the concept of paṭiccasamuppāda.

Reminds me of:
76. Should one find a man who points out faults and who reproves, let him follow such a wise and sagacious person as one would a guide to hidden treasure. It is always better, and never worse, to cultivate such an association.
Dhp 76 Panditavagga: The Wise



I tend to try and keep company with people who have good virtue, even if they aren’t Buddhist. Like there are a few people in my degree’s cohort who are generous, and so I try and hang out with them so they can rub off on me a bit. There are a lot of good people who aren’t Buddhist. Maybe one can’t ask them a meditation question or understanding a problem as impermanence or not-self, but they can help with some other parts of the path.

I do try and let a sandpaper-person smooth me out instead of scratch me too. There are plenty of those types!


Modified a relevant quote you posted on another thread:



Who are not into yoga and have half a brain? :laughing:

  • groups can extend to five hundred, the acquaintance level, and to fifteen hundred, the absolute limit—the people for whom you can put a name to a face.
  • The best known, a hundred and fifty, is the number of people we call casual friends—the people, say, you’d invite to a large party. (In reality, it’s a range: a hundred at the low end and two hundred for the more social of us.)
  • From there, through qualitative interviews coupled with analysis of experimental and survey data, Dunbar discovered that the number grows and decreases according to a precise formula, roughly a “rule of three.”
  • The next step down, fifty, is the number of people we call close friends—perhaps the people you’d invite to a group dinner. You see them often, but not so much that you consider them to be true intimates.
  • Then there’s the circle of fifteen: the friends that you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, the ones you can confide in about most things.
  • The most intimate Dunbar number, five, is your close support group. These are your best friends (and often family members).
  • While the group sizes are relatively stable, their composition can be fluid. Your five today may not be your five next week; people drift among layers and sometimes fall out of them altogether.

The main point: ideally, I would like to get to a point where almost all, if not all (whether it is 5, 15, 50, 150, 500, or 1,500) of my associates are relatively true kalyanamittas. I.e. try to find and sustain associations with those who are already committed to a study and practice of the Dhamma-Vinaya, independent of me.

I would like this because I think this would be most suitable, beneficial, and fruitful for me (and hopefully others too) in the long-run even though being able to develop such a group to such a degree seems extremely difficult.

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One may also associate with the kalyanamitta in all of us. The Buddha in me bows to the Buddha in you. Knowledge of suffering is that first Noble Truth, the one that joins us all.

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Yes, a common enemy, the common problem.

How do you mean?

I think I get what you mean, but I am not sure. Can you elaborate?

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Good friends (Kalyāṇamitta) are the whole of the spiritual life.

SN3.18:4.3: Good friends, companions, and associates are the whole of the spiritual life.

Yet as we wear away greed, hate and delusion, we can’t really be greedy about spiritual friends. And it harms us to hate non-spiritual folks. And we certainly shouldn’t waste all our time deciding whether someone is worthy of spiritual friendship. So we end up with a bit of a quandary about how to relate to others.

This is where ethics steps in to aid and support us. MN8 goes into a lot of detail about ethics and lists 44 things to practice. Here are the first five:

MN8:12.2: ‘Others will be cruel, but here we will not be cruel.’
MN8:12.3: ‘Others will kill living creatures, but here we will not kill living creatures.’
MN8:12.4: ‘Others will steal, but here we will not steal.’
MN8:12.5: ‘Others will be unchaste, but here we will not be unchaste.’
MN8:12.6: ‘Others will lie, but here we will not lie.’

What’s remarkable about these 44 perspectives is their universality. It is the way we treat our spiritual friends and the whole world. Let the Buddha in me bow to the Buddha in you, the non-cruel in me bow to the non-cruel in you, the non-killer in me bow to the non-killer in you, etc. And in this gentle, deep manner, we treat all as our spiritual friends:

AN3.63:8.5: I meditate spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, I spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.

In this way we practice the heart’s release by love, on the way to the third liberation and further…

SN46.54:12.8: The apex of the heart’s release by love is the beautiful, I say, for a mendicant who has not penetrated to a higher freedom.


Beautifully said :relieved:


Sadhu. Sadhu. Sadhu.
Everyone is worthy of our lovingkindness.


Does this mean that everyone is a kalyannamitta?

Has the Buddha or Sangha used this kind of phrasing before? I am curious where this kind of phrasing comes from because I don’t think I have come across these in the early sources.

What do you mean “greedy about spiritual friends”?
Is even looking for spiritual friends considered being greedy for them? :thinking:
How can one find them if one does not look and search?

I agree. Any form of hatred is harmful.

It seems that the Buddha did advise beings to be discerning about evaluating whether someone is worthy of spiritual friendship in at least one place:

Thus, I wish wish to prioritize associating with beings in the following way:

  1. superior to me in terms of mental development
  2. similar to me in terms of mental development
  3. inferior to me in terms of mental development

This does seem to require that I accurately assess both my own current level of mental development and assess the current level of mental development of others as well.

I love this and totally agree. Thank you for sharing. :pray:

I am not sure if the definition that you are using here as spiritual friends (I agree with what you mean to say in terms of MN8) agrees with the way the Buddha used the term spiritual friends (such as in AN3.26) - the latter seems to encourage a significant degree of discernment in terms of choosing who to associate with.

I completely agree with developing metta and the rest of the brahmaviharas. :pray:

Another relevant thread:

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I haven’t met everyone. And my knowledge of those I have met is incomplete. Yet somehow I’ve noticed that in all people I have met there is always an openness of heart that can be shared.

I first heard this in the Zen Sangha decades ago. I understand that the brahmaviharas, by their very infinity of scope imply this.

We probably have all felt at one time or another ostracized by this or that spiritual group. The EBT quote is:

MN1:8.2: But then they identify with gods …

I have learnt ethics, immersion, and wisdom from many people that others would avoid. It was at times perhaps not what they were trying to teach me, but I did learn. And I am quite grateful for all the lessons they taught me. Even a rock taught me how to be a better person. That rock was a spiritual friend.


Would “openness of heart” be the criteria to determine who is and isn’t a kalyannamitta?

Thank you letting me know.

Imply what exactly?

How do you mean? How the point about ostracism relevant to the question about whether merely looking for spiritual friends is considered being greedy for spiritual friends?

So would that imply that the Buddha was wrong to advise us not to associate with those who are inferior to us “in terms of ethics, immersion, and wisdom” or “mental development,” etc.?
Or maybe is it possible to learn from others who are “inferior to us” without say, associating with them, except out of compassion as stated in the discourse?


What definition or criteria do you use to determine who is and isn’t a spiritual friend?


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Anybody who helps me practice MN8 is a spiritual friend. For example, as a rock climber, the rock was a spiritual friend who helped me deal with restlessness:

MN8:12.23: ‘Others will be restless, but here we will not be restless.’

Being restless on a rock is deadly. If you watch Alex Honnold climb without a rope, this is clear. In this way the rock was my constant spiritual teacher for decades. The rock taught me how to move with my breath and be mindful and attentive. And that is why I bow to the rock every time I climb.

Spiritual friends are those that help us progress on the Noble Eightfold Path. The more I look for them, the more I see and the more I learn. The deepest lesson in all of that was humility. Because whenever I tried to avoid someone as being unworthy of spiritual friendship, I was proven wrong and eventually learned much from them.

MN8:12.28: ‘Others will be contemptuous, but here we will be without contempt.’


I also think that the focus on finding the “perfect kalyanamitta” runs the risk of being a bad friend even as defined by the Buddha:

SuttaCentral DN 31
You can recognize a fake friend who’s all take on four grounds.

Your possessions end up theirs.
Giving little, they expect a lot.
They do their duty out of fear.
They associate for their own advantage.

If you believe someone is more attained than you and associate with them for your advantage, to progress along the path, rather than just to enjoy their company then your intention may be off. You may want them to save you rather be an example and support your practice (you also support theirs the best you can). I don’t remember the sutta saying that nobody can enlighten another person because it takes personal effort. For this reason I’m extremely wary of a narrow definition of kalyanmitta and a narrow definition of who qualifies, because it can get very exclusive very quickly and that doesn’t seem effective for progress as intended.


These two seem in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya.

Thank you for taking the time to explain your perspective.

How do you reconcile what you said about “deeming someone unworthy of spiritual friendship”/“contempt” with what the Buddha seems to say to explicitly discourage associating with those who are inferior to oneself “in terms of ethics, immersion, and wisdom”?
These two seem contradictory.

How do you reconcile what you said about “if you believe someone is more attained than you and associate with them for your advantage, to progress along the path,” with what the Buddha seems to say to explicitly encourage associating with those who are superior to oneself “in terms of ethics, immersion, and wisdom”?
These two seem contradictory.

I am neither interested in a narrow, exclusive criterion nor a wide, inclusive criterion.
I am interested in figuring out what criterion the Buddha himself provided in the Dhamma-Vinaya and how one can actually use that criterion to find actual kalyanamittas in real life.
Without a proper, accurate, and clear understanding of what a kalyanamittas even is or who it is suitable for one to associate with, how can one set out to consciously, intentionally, and proactively search for suitable beings in accordance with the instructions provided by the Buddha in the Dhamma-Vinaya?

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That is going to be a bit of a shock for the entire monastic system :wink:

But to be a little more serious…This seems contrary to the way the path works to me. Any progress you make along the path benefits all sentient beings in your sphere of influence. There can be nothing selfish about progressing on the path. There is never an individual advantage at the expense of someone else when progressing on the path. From the first precept all the way to Awakening, there is a benefit for all in taking up and progressing the path. And if your kalyanamitta is realised, they will let you tag along out of compassion and kindness.

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This is along the lines of how I see it too.

Maybe the root of the misunderstanding might be:

maybe a distinction can be drawn between “material advantage” and “mental advantage” (also called “spiritual advantage”).

There is one discourse, I think in MN, where the Buddha criticizes those who desire even the slightest material advantage from the Buddha, saying he respects one who refuses to accept even leftover food in the Buddha’s bowl that he offered to them in order to strive on hungry.

The discourse I re-shared in the previous message explicitly stated that one should in fact associate with another who is superior to one precisely for the sake of “progress along the path” - and not the perhaps contemporary, modern, or Greek notion of friendship as being merely for the purpose of “enjoying each others company.”

In fact, I think there was a discourse where the Buddha criticized a monk for simply following him around and in a sense “enjoying his company” rather than any sort of attempt to advance himself mentally. The Buddha often criticizes socializing and praises solitude, which seems to lend further support to the possibility that the Buddha might even reject the goal of friendship as being “enjoying each others company.”

Maybe the distinction between material advantage and mental advantage may help clarify this confusion.

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This is precisely what I felt like could be a problem when searching for a “perfect kalyanamitta”. Thank you!

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