Did you know admirable friendship is considered essential to walking the Buddhist path?
The Buddha said “With regard to external factors, I don’t envision any other single factor like admirable friendship as doing so much for a monk in training,”[i] and this certainly applies to lay practitioners as well.
What’s an admirable friend? About this the Buddha said:
“The friend who is a helpmate,
the friend in happiness and woe,
the friend who gives good counsel,
the friend who sympathizes too —
these four as friends the wise behold
and cherish them devotedly
as does a mother her own child.”[ii]
Specifically, in being a helpmate, a true friend guards you when you’re heedless, helps protect your wealth, becomes a refuge when you are in danger, and goes above and beyond when she has a commitment. In being a friend in happiness and woe, he reveals his secrets to you, keeps your secrets, doesn’t forsake you in misfortune, and even sacrifices his life for you if necessary. In giving good counsel, a friend discourages you from doing evil and encourages you to do good, educates you when necessary, and points out the path to true happiness. Finally, a true friend never rejoices in your misfortune but only in your prosperity, discourages others from speaking ill of you, and praises those who speak well of you.[iii]
Wow, how’s that for a high bar for friendship? How many friends do you have like that? To how many people are you an admirable friend?
[i] “Itivuttaka: The Group of Ones” (Iti 17), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/iti/iti.1.001-027.than.html.
[ii] “Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala” (DN 31), translated from the Pali by Narada Thera. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.31.0.nara.html.