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Good Friends

Posted 02-18-2009 at 04:55 AM by deebeelicious
Updated 02-18-2009 at 05:01 AM by deebeelicious
"What is a good friend? We can easily find a definition of the word 'friend' in the dictionary, but I would like to think about it in Buddhist terms. Nichiren Daishonin states,
"Therefore, the best way to attain Buddhahood is to encounter a good friend. How far can our own wisdom take us?
... In Nichiren Buddhism, the term 'friend' is translated from the Japanese Chi Shiki which literally means 'knowledge'. ... Traditionally, Buddhism was transmitted not by documents or books but orally, through word of mouth. In Buddhism, someone who leads others to enlightenment is called a 'good friend', and the opposite, an 'evil' or 'bad friend' is someone who leads people away from enlightenment. So while books support learning, such things as real wisdom and enlightenment, can only really be developed through meeting a good friend. ...
At one point, Ananda, one of Shakyamuni's disciples, asked the Buddha, 'It seems to me that by having good friends and advancing together with them one has already halfway attained the Buddha way. Is this way of thinking correct?' ... Shakyamuni replied, 'Ananda, this way of thinking is not correct. Having good friends and advancing together with them constitutes not half the Buddha way, but all of the Buddha way.'
... The Lotus Sutra teaches that every person has unlimited potential and a unique mission. In becoming a good friend, we too can develop the desire and ability to recognise the potential of others and make effort to maintain the conviction of the importance of each person' capability and mission. If we fall into the belief that someone will never change or develop, or that somehow they won't be able to hear our encouragement or understand us, the problem does not lie with them it lies with us.

In today's society, it is quite rare for people to truly seek good friends, with whom they can polish their character. People normally choose friends who they find easy to hang around with or someone who agrees with their opinion. We can easily get on well with such people, but ... they do not necessarily function as 'good friends'. Likewise, we don't usually view the people who we find difficult as friends at all - let alone 'good friends', but actually those who we find most challenging can function as powerful forces for us to polish our humanity. ... In the same vein Nichiren Daishonin [said his] best allies in attaining Buddhahood were [those who tried to kill him],
'I am grateful when I think that without them I could not have proved myself to be the votary of the Lotus Sutra.'
Nichiren Daishonin shows us that even those people who cause us the severest difficulty can be transformed into 'good friends'. There is no need to try to avoid or run away from them.

... [W]hen we are confronted with the people we find challenging and through our effort ... see their great qualities [and thus] transform the dynamic of our relationship with them. In doing so, we develop the ability to embrace and appreciate the lives of even those who are most different from ourselves. The dual result is that we develop our capacity to become a 'good friend' to others and our lives become broader and richer.

When we are in the company of someone who we know deeply believes in our potential and will never give up on us, we all have the urge to strive even that little bit harder. All people, in the depths of their lives, seek this kind of encouragement. Let's remind ourselves that as members ... we are never alone, we have good friends all over the world and in turn we can become good friends to many more."



From 'Good Friends' by Yasu Hirayama, from an article in 'Art of Living', a UK Buddhist magazine, published February 2009, Issue no 92.
Total Comments 6

Comments

  • Old Comment
    "If we fall into the belief that someone will never change or develop, or that somehow they won't be able to hear our encouragement or understand us, the problem does not lie with them it lies with us."

    To a point. "There are none so blind as those who will not see" - if we spend our time trying to encourage someone who doesn't want it, we lose the opportunity to work with someone who does. I think part of our own progression would be learning that hitting your head against a brick wall accomplishes nothing other than giving you a headache.

    'I am grateful when I think that without them I could not have proved myself to be the votary of the Lotus Sutra.'... 'When we are in the company of someone who we know deeply believes in our potential and will never give up on us, we all have the urge to strive even that little bit harder.'

    My own interpretation of these statements is that in the former, the encouragement came not from the attempt to be a "good friend" but out of the attempt to destroy. It was certainly not their intention to help or encourage, but it came about in order to thwart their true intention. That is quite different from the next statement - getting encouragement from those who know we can be better and challenge us because they want us to be. We strive to reach our potential in spite of the former and because of the latter.
    Posted 02-18-2009 at 08:11 AM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    I guess one of the points from the article is that someone who makes you be a better person (guides you towards enlightenment) is a 'good friend' whether they meant to help your or not.

    I don't know the full stories behind this article, but I'm guessing the enlightened one didn't hang out too often with his attempted murderers. Or perhaps he did and brought them to peace and enlightenment too?

    There was an advert on UK tv during the Olympics with this athlete saying 'thanks' to all the people who had 'helped' him on his way, ie had doubted, scorned or actively tried to sabotage him. He just took all that 'negativity' and focused it on making himself better, faster, etc, so he would 'show them'. He turned their negativity into extra positive energy. He wouldn't have been the success he was without them!

    With regard helping someone who doesn't want help. People are ready to listen when their ready, not before. So I don't read that to mean I should be hanging around pestering a person who doesn't want to be helped, but rather, just be ready to offer help when that person is ready. And yeah, sometimes they'll never be ready! Likewise, I should be ready to listen to other people who could help me, all kinds of 'other' people! (wink, smile - need some more smileys but this thing seems to be limited to 4 per comment! rolleyes, p)
    Posted 02-18-2009 at 09:14 AM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
    Updated 02-18-2009 at 09:20 AM by deebeelicious
  • Old Comment
    A great subject! Friendship as seen from this (Buddhist) point of view is quite interesting. So in this way, friends (as we perceive them) encouraging us in a positive way as well as enemies fighting us in a negative way are both to be regarded as friends, since they both help us grow in life.

    On the other hand, as Deebee stated, we nowadays tend to hang out with people we have a lot in common with (who resemble us perhaps?) and keep us in our comfort zone. In view of the above they would not be considered friends in the Buddhist way, since they (probably) don't stimulate us enough, or even hold us back. Quite something to chew on when looking at your present friendships.

    Thankfully, I don't have many enemies in my life (that I know of, at least), but from the ones I met I did learn how to do things differently and not to follow their example. So in hindsight they were definitely valuable ... How about that saying: keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer ? Could apply to this as well!
    Posted 02-21-2009 at 07:10 AM by asmay asmay is offline
  • Old Comment
    Very well said deebee and O!

    I consider a friend someone I can trust and confide in.
    Posted 02-21-2009 at 08:24 AM by bibbi bibbi is offline
  • Old Comment
    'How far can our own wisdom take us?'
    Indeed! I really liked that article, and it's certainly been food for thought for me! I hope I can be a bit more open to 'friends'!
    Posted 02-24-2009 at 09:51 AM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
  • Old Comment
    Found this as I was perusing the net, thought it was appropriate

    “Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Posted 02-25-2009 at 07:41 AM by ostarella ostarella is offline
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