Some critics have a
tendency to label Buddhism as a religion with supra-mundane goals,
devoid of the concept of love and friendship for living in this world.
But the Tripitaka furnishes us with ample evidence to prove that the
Buddha considered living in harmony and friendship without disputes
(Samagga Sammodamana avivadamana)
an important human relationship based on love. Metta or Loving Kindness
envelopes much more than mere love. Etymologically the word Metta
means the nature of a friend - (mittassa
In other words, a friendly spirit which is edified, not only on
love, but on loving kindness. In modern parlance, the word "love"
has rather a cheap connotation, but Metta when taken in its real
perspective encapsulates all the noble human feelings a person could
shower on another." Metta
(loving kindness), Karuna
(altruistic joy) and Upeksha
(equanimity), which are known as Satara
Brahma Vihara or the
Four Noble patterns of behaviour form the very sheet anchor of Buddhist
friendly, ethical conduct. The spirit of love and friendship promulgated
by these, cover a much wider spectrum than mere love, which is supposed
to be lacking in Buddhism.
It is mentioned in Samyutta Nikaya
that once Ven. Ananda approached the Buddha and remarked that "half
of the dispensation is based on friendship, companionship and association
with the good." to which the Buddha replied " Ven. Ananda,
do not say so. Not half, but man's entire life is established on
friendship, companionship and association with the good."
The friendly disposition among the Bhikkus towards each other was
so admirable and imitable that King Ajatasattu who was not so well
disposed towards Buddhism had remarked according to Samananaphala
Sutta of the Digha Nikaya
that "the monks lived in unity talking to each other with mutual
friendliness ..... mixing with each other like milk and water and
seeing each other with pleasing eyes." (Nirodha
Ki Dhuta annamannam Piya Cakkhuhi Sampassamana) and had even
gone further and said, "How nice it would be if my son Udayabhadda
too could possess these friendly qualities."
Again, it occurs in Majjhima Nikaya
that once the Buddha questioned Ven. Anuruddha how the Bhikkhus
were getting along with each other, and the Venerable replied thus,
"Lord, we have diverse bodies but assuredly only one mind."
(Na na hi kho pan a bhante kayam
ekam ca kho manne cittam).
Two types of friends
As far as the laity is concerned, the Tipitaka
abounds with examples to show that the guidance of good friends
is very essential for life here and hereafter. The Buddha has described
two types of friends, Kalyana Mitta
(the good friend) and Papa Mitta
(the evil friend). A famous stanza in the Dhammapada
says, "Do not keep company with evil friends or those who are
mean. Associate with the good and bold friends."
(Na bhaje papake mitte-na bhaje purisadhame, bhajetha mitta kalyane-bhajetha
purisuttame). All parents should instil into the minds of
their children the noble advice conveyed by this stanza. The Buddha
has advised us to lead a lonely life in case we cannot find a decent
friend. But never keep the company of a fool. (eka
cariyam dalham kariya-natthi balo sahayaka). Mahamangala
Sutra which enumerates 38 blessings to guide one in life's journey
starts with avoiding the company of fools as the first blessing.
Friendship is a force that has no parallel; there is no other single
power that can generate good qualities in a person as friendship
with the good because, after a certain age children stop emulating
their parents and start imitating their friends.
The Buddha's advice regarding friends could be well comprehended
by absorbing the contents of the Sigalovada
Sutra. Sigala, who had very devout Buddhist parents was indifferent
to religion. The Buddha explained inter alia who an evil friend
and a good friend are:- A foe in the guise of a friend or a Papa
Mitta will appropriate a friend's possessions, render mere lip service,
flatter, will give little with the idea of taking much, will associate
for his own advantage, tries to gain favour by empty words and when
the opportunity arises for action, he will give an excuse and express
his inability to render any service. An evil friend also praises
and approves his friends bad deeds whlle the good deeds go unnoticed
and upraised. He praises the friend in his presence and rebukes
him in his absence.
The Buddha has explained further how a foe in the guise of a friend
(mitta patirupaka) brings
about the ruin of a person in four ways. He is a companion in indulging
in intoxicants which gives rise to infatuation and heedlessness.
He is a ready companion to frequent the streets at ungodly hours.
He is a companion to attend theatrical shows and he is a companion
in gambling which causes one's downfall.
Next, the Buddha tells Sigala the four types of friends who could
be reckoned as warmhearted and dear. He who is a helpmate, does
not change in happiness or sorrow, gives good counsel and sympathizes.
Upakaro ca ya mitto-yo ca mitto
sukhe dukkhe dtthakkhayi ca yo mitto-ya ca-mittanukampike."
A wise person having understood these four kinds of friends, should
cherish them and associate with them as a mother tends her only
son. (etepi mitte cattaro-Iti vinnaya
pandita, sakkaccani payiru paseyya Mata puttamva orasam).
According to Nettippakarana
there are seven qualities by which you can judge a friend. He should
be pleasant and loveable,
respectful, worthy of emulation, willing
to engage in useful conversation, willing to tolerate words, engages
in profound talk and never exhorts groundlessly. Today, the
younger generation have a tendency to shun good advice and show
resentment when their faults are pointed out by even parents. A
stanza in the Dhammapada spells out a bit of excellent advice. "Someone
who points out your mistakes, declare them as weaknesses and condemns
them, think of such a person as one showing you a treasure. Associate
with wise people of that nature. (midhinam
va pavattaram-yam passe vajja dassinam; niggayhavadim medhavi tadisam
pabditam bhaje). This shows that a friend need not be always
sweet and soft spoken, but could resort to constructive criticism.
How to win Friendship
The Buddha has explained how to win and keep friends. By being generous
one can surely win friends (dadam mittani
ganthati) and also by being courteous and benevolent. Rajoice
in your friend's achievements, praise any commendable acts and strong
points. But the Buddha says that if you always keep on talking of
your friend's goodness, kindness, greatness and so on, then you
are trying to deceive him. In dealing with friends, one's word should
be as clean as the actions.
According to the Jataka Pali, striking a friendship is one, maintaining
it is another. Buddha has given invaluable advice not only to keep
the friendship but also to make the bonds stronger. One should not
visit the friends too often or overstay the welcome.
This changes the friend to a foe. If your friend loses something,
then you may be under a cloud. Visiting a friend too often invariably
leads to gossip, which will involve you in a vortex of trouble.
Buddha says that, it is equally bad not to visit your friends at
all. You should judge for yourself how often you should visit your
friend, how long you should stay and so on. Buddha has pointed out
that a friendship deteriorates by asking favours, especially at
wrong times. If at all you ask a favour, it should not be unreasonable
or of a demanding nature. Asking favours far too often makes you
a pest more than a friend.
Buddha has explained that if someone wants to bring about his own
ruin or downfall, he could associate with Papa mitta or evil friends
who are gamblers, libertines, tripplers, cheats, swindlers or violent
thugs. Buddhist Commentarial Tradition defines a friend thus:- "A
friend is one whose association leads to spiritual profitability,
protects you from evil that may befall you and is inclined towards
In this manner, Buddhism points out the basic ingredients to foster
a healthy friendship, minimize friction and displeasure, promote
good-will, and companionship and ultimately bring about one's welfare
here, and spiritual progress leading to the realization of the Supreme
Bliss of Nirvana.
The foregoing facts show that Buddha's admonition regarding how
to chose friends, win them and keep them expounded in the 6th Century
before the common era surpasses all books of the twentieth century
on this subject and the Buddhist Concept of Friendship remains a
vibrant force forever.