Friendship – A Buddhist’s Concept

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“Metta”, translated as “loving kindness” or “wishing happiness for others”, is the Buddhist concept of good friendship. The term implies expectations and individual responsibility, in line with the essence of the Buddhist sacred Dhamma. Good friendship embraces being a friend to self, (the body and mind) and to the world.

Good friendship must first begin with the self.

Take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself. Accept yourself for what you are. Then you have the strength to give the same to others. As you give friendship to yourself, knowing there is nothing in return (except a sense of peace), so you can give friendship to others in the same spirit.

Good friendship need not be given to a specific other person.

Friendship should be like an inner glow, felt by others around you. The glow radiates friendship. Others may feel the atmosphere, without a word needing to be spoken. In that sense, the Buddha spoke of universal friendship. This is pure goodwill, expecting no reward or praise. It is available, radiating from a friend, anytime, anywhere.

Good friendship transcends all barriers, whether racial, political, social or cultural.

It neither judges nor condones, but gives sincere, measured praise where praise is due. The praise should never be overdone, for then that implies false friendship.

Good friendship should not intend to change another person. As you choose to be as you are, so others have the right to choose to be as they wish also.

Good friendship, however, can be the anti-dote to ill will. Offer friendship to those who are angry, distressed or suffering. But keep their pain detached from you. Keep friendship in focus.

Bad friendship is one based on evil, meanness, cruelty or jealousy.

To be involved in such a friendship is to be influenced by the negative essence of this friendship. It should be avoided at all costs.

One special kind of friendship is the spiritual friendship. In Western terms, this is a little like a platonic relationship, with some emphasis on respectful distancing between parties involved. In this instance, only the spiritual mentor is called the friend. This is the Buddhist way of giving respect to the wisdom of the elders.

“Metta” is really one of 4 arms of Buddhist love. Just as mind and body are not separate entities for a Buddhist, so “metta” cannot be compartmentalized away from the other 3 elements of love.

They include:
* “Karuna”- This element means compassion or empathy.
* “Upeksha” This element recognizes that we are all equal.
* “Mudita” This element represents spiritual joy, including sharing in others’ joy.
“Metta” is the first arm in this grouping, implying that the other 3 elements are descriptive fragments of “metta”.

Good friendship, then, for the Buddhist, embodies unconditional love. This form of love is offered to all living things, including animals and plants. It generates and accumulates good karma. “Metta” is not a relationship with a specific person. It is a self-cultivated attitude to all forms of life. Good friendship simply offers kindness and respect.

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