The more we learn about Buddhism the more it seems like practical advice we’ve been given all our lives. We have learned the principles but call them by different names. The views Buddha offers on the importance and meaning of friendship is much the same as any mother would tell a child.
We see some insight in a conversation that took place between Ven. Ananda and Buddha. Van. Ananda mentioned that “half of the dispensation is based on friendship, companionship, and association with good.” Buddha’s reply was “Ven. Ananda, do not say so. Not half, but man’s entire life is established on friendship, companionship and association with good.”
The Buddha describes two kinds of friends. I believe our parents may have told us about the same two kinds. There is the good friend (Kalyana Mitta) and the bad friend (Papa Mitta). It’s fairly easy to identify the evil friend and in the power of positive thinking let’s concentrate on how Buddha describes the four types of Kalyana Mitta. ” Upakaro ca ya mitto-yo ca mitto sukhe dukkhe dtthakkhayi ca you mitto-ya ca-mittanukamppike.” He, who is a helpmate, does not change in happiness or sorrow, gives good counsel and sympathizes. We might say a good friend sticks with us through thick and thin.
Buddha also points out the Middle Way of friendship. The Middle Way allows constructive criticism, praise and encouragement. They are all part of the package we call friendship. Each has a place and time to be practiced.
The Buddhist Commentaril Tradition defines a friend as “A friend is one whose association leads to spiritual profitability, protects you from evil that may befall you and is inclined towards your welfare.” We would be proud if any of our associates described us in this manner.
Buddha has several teachings that explain how one becomes a good friend and stays a good friend. I found one piece of advice that seems to ring true. He spoke about spending too much time with one friend and explained that this invariably leads to gossip. There seems to be no room for gossip in friendship. He also talks about asking too many favors.
Buddha gave us this question to consider. Is it better to be lonely than to have bad friends or friends that are fools? It is a good question
Is there room for friends in Buddhism? I would have to say that it’s probably an important stone on the way to Nirvana.