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Is it appropriate for a lay person to refer to a monastic as a Dhamma friend (on social media and/or in real life)?

I was wondering whether one can use the word Dhamma friend (in the sense of kalyanamitta as in e.g. SN 45.2) when describing the relationship between a practising lay person and a monk (both if they know each other in real life or if they are connected through social media (which I admit using now and again…) - I mean in the case of FB your connection are called friends, so I was wondering whether you could call a monk you are connected with through FB a dhamma friend)
Or is it offensive/ inappropriate to refer to a Bhikkhu as your Dhamma friend if you are a lay person?

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Not sure if this is strictly a question on the ebts, but to my mind, the term ‘Dhamma friend’ is nothing but wholesome and good. :blush: And the Buddha of course most strongly endorsed the support of kalyanamitta as in SN 45.2.

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That’s what I thought at first as well. And certainly the “it offensive/ inappropriate” is rather subjective.

If one were to keep to the Pali, calling someone a kalyānamitta would seem to be appropriate based on the Upaḍḍhasutta:

4.1And here’s another way to understand how good friends are the whole of the spiritual life. 4.2For, by relying on me as a good friend, sentient beings who are liable to rebirth, old age, and death, to sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress are freed from all these things. 4.3This is another way to understand how good friends are the whole of the spiritual life.”

However, to my knowledge the term kalyānamitta is not used in the EBTs as a way that a lay person described their relationship with a monk. But there could be! Perhaps someone else will have an idea about this.

One passage that did come to mind was in Cūḷataṇhāsaṅkhayasutta:

14.2Soon after Moggallāna left, Sakka’s maids said to him, 14.3“Good sir, was that the Blessed One, your Teacher?”

14.4“No, it was not. 14.5That was my spiritual companion Venerable Mahāmoggallāna.”

14.6“You’re fortunate, good sir, so very fortunate, 14.7to have a spiritual companion of such power and might! 14.8We can’t believe that’s not the Blessed One, your Teacher!”

Although it is possibly idiosyncratic, it’s notable that Sakka uses the term “Sabrahmacārī me”, my companion in the holy/celibate life. Normally I think we understand this usage to be justified by the fact that Sakka is a stream enterer.

On the cultural side, if I were to hear a lay person address a monastic as “friend,” I would be very tempted to correct them. (which is not something I do often) But if I heard them, using the 3rd person, describe a monastic as a “good Dhamma friend,” I wouldn’t even flinch, FWTW.

I know some very traditional Sri Lankan monastics that use the term “Dhamma friends” when addressing lay people while preaching, but this is as a substitute for පින්වත් නි, which they would otherwise translate as “meritorious disciple.” But this case is clearly monks addressing lay people.

And there is a monastic-led English language group in Colombo called Colombo Dhamma Friends.

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Indeed this was the passage I had in mind:

Thank you for your valuable comments and for the references and links :pray: :pray: :pray:

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Perhaps you’re thinking of the “reveal” at the end of MN 140?

Surely a transgression overcame you, in that like a fool, confused and blundering, you presumed to address me as ‘friend.’

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Thank you, Venerable. I’ve often scratched my head at the closing of MN140.

MN140:33.3: “I have made a mistake, sir. It was foolish, stupid, and unskillful of me to presume to address the Buddha as ‘reverend’.

Now I understand.

:pray:

@stef, a “friend” is generally a peer in status. The kindness of the Buddha and of those who have gone forth really deserves much more respect than the casual term, “friend”.

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Thank you for the reference.

However I’d say there’s a difference between the Buddha - to which this refers - and a monastic.

Anyway I’m not really clear on the idea of rank in Buddhism because on the one hand to consider oneself inferior or superior (or equal) is conceit. On the other hand hierarchy plays an important role between lay people and the Sangha - and within the Sangha

The teacher can only be a Buddha.

The rest can only be a dhamma friend. Even an arahant, perfected one, who is a student of current Buddha will always refer Buddha as the teacher. See MN 84.

If they are not referring Buddha as the only teacher, then one needs to be questioning this person further. Why not?

Hence, One needs to investigate even a monastic person whether he/she is a Noble/good person or not. But to investigate one needs to be a Good Person first. That means one has maintain morality in daily life and has basic understanding of Buddha teaching.