The Importance of Spiritual Friendship — Kalyanamitta (‘spiritual friends’)
"As he was seated to one side, Ven. Ananda said to Buddha, 'This is half of the holy life: being a friend with admirable people, a companion with admirable people, a colleague with admirable people. Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Being a friend with admirable people, a companion with admirable people, a colleague with admirable people is actually the whole of the holy life.' " (SN 45.2)
Over the last five years it has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience to witness the growth of spiritual bonds formed at WIMG. On more than one occasion I have heard from newcomers about how delighted they are to find such a group that shares a common interest in mediation and Dharma practice.
This should not come as a surprise to anyone. We are all human beings who walk the same ground, who seek the liberation and true happiness. What we have at WIMG is a safe, supportive, Sangha that nurtures spiritual relationship building through a shared curiosity of meditation and Dharma.
Many people think following the practice of meditation is a solitary exercise done in private. This perception is soon remedied when one sits in a Sangha environment like WIMG or on a retreat. The initial shock of realizing there are people just like you who meditate passes and friendships begin to cultivate.
Personal transformation cannot happen in isolation; we transform and help each other along this path. We may be responsible for our own actions (Karma) but those actions are also influenced by our relationships. This is why Buddha said what he said:
“I don't envision any other single factor like friendship with admirable people in being so helpful for one who is a learner, who has not attained the goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed rest from the yoke. One who is a friend with admirable people abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful." (Iti 17)
If we think about, it is spiritual friendships that were formed 2600 years ago that have brought us the joy of the Dharma today. The Dharma friendships we form today will help continue the Dharma for those who come after us.
As friendships are so important to our spiritual development, Buddha gave us instruction on the qualities of a good spiritual friend. These qualities found in others will help us build the same qualities in ourselves. A spiritual friend is:
"A friend who is helpful
A friend who shares one’s happiness and suffering
A friend who points out what is good
A friend who is sympathetic" (DN 31)
"A friend gives what is hard to give and she does what is hard to do. She forgives you your harsh words and endures what is hard to endure.
She tells you her secrets,yet she preserves your secrets.She does not forsake you in difficulties, nor does she roughly despise you.
The person here in whom these qualities are found is a friend.One desiring a friendshould resort to such a person." (AN 7:36)
Through spiritual relationships we help each other deal with the vicissitudes of life. The strength we gain from relationship helps keep us on the path to awakening and true happiness. Our common ground is Vipassana meditation, the Dharma and each other.
Now that we have discovered each other in Sangha and have a common interest in meditation and the Dharma, there is a way to deepen this common bond to make it even more rewarding than it is. That is to continue practicing and nurture relationships with such people. Share what you will with all your spiritual friends at WIMG.
WIMG will be continuing to develop ways to build these important relationships that nurtures realization for each other.
"If you find a wise person
Who points out your faults and corrects you,
You should follow such a sage
As you would a revealer of treasures.
It is better, never worse
To follow such a sage." (Dhp 76)
May all beings be happy!