On associating with the wise

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
Invincible_Summer
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On associating with the wise

Postby Invincible_Summer » Sun Mar 02, 2014 6:16 am

How is it possible - as a layperson - to be more prudent in "associating with the wise" in modern Western society, when we are expected to mix and mingle with anyone and everyone? Do many of you have "dhamma friends" - friends who are also Buddhist (or maybe of another faith tradition) that you can communicate with about spirituality?

An example from my own experience: I'm currently a college student, and while I'm friendly with most of my classmates, I feel that many of them create a toxic environment by constantly complaining, shifting blame, gossiping, etc. We have a small program and so if I willingly distance myself from my classmates, I would cause more problems for myself.

At the present, I don't have time to find a sangha to try and make "dhamma friends" (who are actually Buddhist). I have a few friends who are actually Christian that I feel are the most "wise," as they also strive to have spiritual wisdom and be mindful ("good witnesses" in Christianspeak).

culaavuso
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby culaavuso » Sun Mar 02, 2014 6:39 am

Invincible_Summer wrote:How is it possible - as a layperson - to be more prudent in "associating with the wise" in modern Western society, when we are expected to mix and mingle with anyone and everyone?


Expectations are a matter of other people's values. Choosing the people with whom you wish to associate is more fruitful when done based on your own values.

Invincible_Summer wrote:An example from my own experience: I'm currently a college student, and while I'm friendly with most of my classmates, I feel that many of them create a toxic environment by constantly complaining, shifting blame, gossiping, etc. We have a small program and so if I willingly distance myself from my classmates, I would cause more problems for myself.


What constitutes a problem is relative to the values used to evaluate a situation. If values and priorities are clear, then the relevant question is how to act on those values and priorities in a consistent and skillful way. Understanding the allure and drawbacks of things clearly can help in clarifying values and priorities. Once the values and priorities are clear, as long as actions are consistent with those values and performed with the greatest available skill, there is nothing further to gain from labeling the outcome of those actions as a problem.

Regarding values recommended in the suttas for choices of companionship:

Dhp 23: (328-330) wrote:If you gain a mature companion —
a fellow traveler, right-living, enlightened —
overcoming all dangers
go with him, gratified,
mindful.

If you don't gain a mature companion —
a fellow traveler, right-living, enlightened —
go alone
like a king renouncing his kingdom,
like the elephant in the Matanga wilds,
his herd.

Going alone is better,
there's no companionship with a fool.
Go alone,
doing no evil, at peace,
like the elephant in the Matanga wilds.


DN 31: Sigalovada Sutta wrote:These four, young householder, should be understood as foes in the guise of friends:
(1) he who appropriates a friend's possessions,
(2) he who renders lip-service,
(3) he who flatters,
(4) he who brings ruin.
...
These four, young householder, should be understood as warm-hearted friends:
(1) he who is a helpmate,
(2) he who is the same in happiness and sorrow,
(3) he who gives good counsel,
(4) he who sympathises.

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cooran
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby cooran » Sun Mar 02, 2014 7:38 am

Hello all,

The article "Association with The Wise" by Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_26.html

With metta,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Mar 02, 2014 9:21 am

If one can find no wise companions, it is better to Wander Alone Like a Rhinoceros.
AIM WebsitePāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

chownah
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby chownah » Sun Mar 02, 2014 9:54 am

Associating with the wise can be taken at many different levels all of which are helpful in different ways. At the simplest level it teaches that when associating with people and especially when wanting to learn something it is beneficial to consider that some people will have more wisdom in certain things and one should evaluate our friends to determine which ones have that wisdom. You may think that everyone knows this already if you are from a western culture but in some eastern cultures there are influences which draw one away from the wise person and instead getting advice from a rich person, or a powerful person, or an old person, or a person who claims to represent the gods, or from a higher station, or etc. Not everyone looks for wisdom in a person as the place to find good advice. An example of this here is that some people accept the advise of any monk without actually evaluating the monks wisdom.....thinking that all monks are wise....etc.
chownah

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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby Feathers » Sat Mar 15, 2014 10:08 am

I don't read the advice to 'associate with the wise' as advice to also cut off completely from those we don't consider wise (and it always worries me a bit, making a judgement on other people like that). It's perfectly possible to be friendly with people, socialise with them, but avoid joining in the gossip etc. And who knows, maybe you'll meet people on your course who are bad about malicious speech but good about other things - and at the very least, you're going to learn a lot of self discipline and watchfulness trying not to join in!

The world is crammed full of people. Obviously, avoid the violent and those who would actually harm you or lead you into serious trouble. But we all have to learn to live with the annoying, the gossip-y, the occasionally deceitful . . . and hope that people will be equally patient with us.

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Aloka
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby Aloka » Sat Mar 15, 2014 9:46 pm

Invincible_Summer wrote:How is it possible - as a layperson - to be more prudent in "associating with the wise" in modern Western society, when we are expected to mix and mingle with anyone and everyone? Do many of you have "dhamma friends" - friends who are also Buddhist (or maybe of another faith tradition) that you can communicate with about spirituality?

An example from my own experience: I'm currently a college student, and while I'm friendly with most of my classmates, I feel that many of them create a toxic environment by constantly complaining, shifting blame, gossiping, etc. We have a small program and so if I willingly distance myself from my classmates, I would cause more problems for myself.

At the present, I don't have time to find a sangha to try and make "dhamma friends" (who are actually Buddhist). I have a few friends who are actually Christian that I feel are the most "wise," as they also strive to have spiritual wisdom and be mindful ("good witnesses" in Christianspeak).


i have friends who are Buddhists and also friends who are not - and I value and learn from them all. In general, sometimes the most unlikely people can speak gems of wisdom.

I think also that at college or in an employment situation, one can try to learn to practice patience and goodwill towards others whilst not getting too involved in pointless gossip etc

....and I agree with what Feathers said in the previous post.


:anjali:

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Kusala
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby Kusala » Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:45 am

Invincible_Summer wrote:How is it possible - as a layperson - to be more prudent in "associating with the wise" in modern Western society, when we are expected to mix and mingle with anyone and everyone? Do many of you have "dhamma friends" - friends who are also Buddhist (or maybe of another faith tradition) that you can communicate with about spirituality?

An example from my own experience: I'm currently a college student, and while I'm friendly with most of my classmates, I feel that many of them create a toxic environment by constantly complaining, shifting blame, gossiping, etc. We have a small program and so if I willingly distance myself from my classmates, I would cause more problems for myself.

At the present, I don't have time to find a sangha to try and make "dhamma friends" (who are actually Buddhist). I have a few friends who are actually Christian that I feel are the most "wise," as they also strive to have spiritual wisdom and be mindful ("good witnesses" in Christianspeak).


All Dhamma, All the Time http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/y201 ... e_Time.mp3 I highly recommend listening to this audio Dhamma...
Image

Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.

Fitz
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby Fitz » Sat Mar 22, 2014 3:45 pm

Hi Invincible_Summer,

I am also a college student trying to practice in a similar situation. This may not be orthodox Theravada wisdom, but I find that people respond to what you put out. If you don't show interest in gossiping and argument, people will not do those things with you. The wise are drawn to the wise, develop your own wisdom. I think wandering alone may be best left to the most serious renunciants.

I think it's definitely possible to find wisdom with your Christian friends. The truth of the Dhamma is built into reality, and the Buddha explains and systematizes this truth. Therefore we Buddhists don't have a monopoly on truth, but other thought traditions and religions have access to it as well. I think it's quite possible that people engaged with another faith are likely to be more tuned into 'Buddhist' wisdom because they have some sort practice, whereas many of the 'nones' have not formal spiritual practice at all.

I have also been consciously searching out for more Dhamma-friends at my school too. I'm looking for people to start a weekly sitting group with, but without much luck yet. You might considering breaking out of your friend group to do something similar. Are you on a small campus like me? Or else kinda stuck in an intensive program with that same small group?

-Fitz

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daverupa
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby daverupa » Sat Mar 22, 2014 3:59 pm

If the Xian folk are interested in early Xian history at all, they may be keen on playing a bit with the practices of the Desert Fathers or maybe the early Irish monastics, groups which resemble the early Sangha in certain ways. That might make for a good foundation for an interfaith sitting group; a college might really be a good environment for such a thing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation ... meditation
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

Invincible_Summer
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby Invincible_Summer » Sat Mar 22, 2014 6:24 pm

Feathers wrote:I don't read the advice to 'associate with the wise' as advice to also cut off completely from those we don't consider wise (and it always worries me a bit, making a judgement on other people like that). It's perfectly possible to be friendly with people, socialise with them, but avoid joining in the gossip etc. And who knows, maybe you'll meet people on your course who are bad about malicious speech but good about other things - and at the very least, you're going to learn a lot of self discipline and watchfulness trying not to join in!

The world is crammed full of people. Obviously, avoid the violent and those who would actually harm you or lead you into serious trouble. But we all have to learn to live with the annoying, the gossip-y, the occasionally deceitful . . . and hope that people will be equally patient with us.


Yes, you make a good point. The middle path - not joining, yet not isolating. Thanks for the "real life" example!

Fitz wrote:Hi Invincible_Summer,

I am also a college student trying to practice in a similar situation. This may not be orthodox Theravada wisdom, but I find that people respond to what you put out. If you don't show interest in gossiping and argument, people will not do those things with you. The wise are drawn to the wise, develop your own wisdom. I think wandering alone may be best left to the most serious renunciants.

I think it's definitely possible to find wisdom with your Christian friends. The truth of the Dhamma is built into reality, and the Buddha explains and systematizes this truth. Therefore we Buddhists don't have a monopoly on truth, but other thought traditions and religions have access to it as well. I think it's quite possible that people engaged with another faith are likely to be more tuned into 'Buddhist' wisdom because they have some sort practice, whereas many of the 'nones' have not formal spiritual practice at all.

I have also been consciously searching out for more Dhamma-friends at my school too. I'm looking for people to start a weekly sitting group with, but without much luck yet. You might considering breaking out of your friend group to do something similar. Are you on a small campus like me? Or else kinda stuck in an intensive program with that same small group?

-Fitz

Yeah, I've noticed that people no longer gossip with me or invite me to events that would include heedlessness. While on one hand I feel a bit sad because I'm excluded, I'm also glad that I don't have to be in that environment.

I have to remind myself to not get bothered by the fact that gossip still happens even if I'm not a part of it (e.g. I overhear it).

Best of luck starting a sitting group! I looked into it, but my campus is very small and commuter-oriented, so students don't stick around. Plus, I'd have to officially register it as a club, with a whole board of members and everything. I won't be able to find people to fill those positions, unfortunately. A casual sitting group may be possible, but no one I know seems interested when I try to casually bring up meditation with them.

daverupa wrote:If the Xian folk are interested in early Xian history at all, they may be keen on playing a bit with the practices of the Desert Fathers or maybe the early Irish monastics, groups which resemble the early Sangha in certain ways. That might make for a good foundation for an interfaith sitting group; a college might really be a good environment for such a thing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation ... meditation


Thanks for the tip! Unfortunately, there are the barriers mentioned above. And most Christians I know are more into the petitionary prayer than contemplation, even if they are great people.

suwapan
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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby suwapan » Mon Apr 07, 2014 8:38 pm

Invincible_Summer wrote:How is it possible - as a layperson - to be more prudent in "associating with the wise" in modern Western society, when we are expected to mix and mingle with anyone and everyone? Do many of you have "dhamma friends" - friends who are also Buddhist (or maybe of another faith tradition) that you can communicate with about spirituality?


Invincible_Summer, you're a very wise young person. I've been a Thai Buddhist all my life and I've always found difficulty in searching for a "wise" associate. Even I found them twenty years ago, I didn't appreciate them. Now in my 50's, I have found the people I need. Don't be impatient. Until, I early retired a few years ago, I was too busy working and raising children. Basically, I was too busy with "worldly" commitments. Moreover, so many people in Thailand claim to be Buddhists and, yet, they haven't the faintest idea what the Buddha taught except for the five precepts, donations and prayers. Your time will come when your good will (if strong and pure enough) leads you to the people you want to associate with. By that time, if you continued to study and practice the Buddha's teaching, you will be able to identify people who "think and speak the same language as you."

As for now, i suggest that you seek out people who abide by the five precepts, some if not all five. Friends who do not like killing or harming animals, may even be a member of an animal protection group. Friends who do not steal things or girlfriends/boyfriends. Friends who do not lie, swear or curse as often as they "take hot dinners." Friends who do not drinks for pleasure and take drugs. At least you will have somethings in common with them. Cheers :twothumbsup:

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Re: On associating with the wise

Postby Ananda26 » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:59 pm

Invincible_Summer wrote:How is it possible - as a layperson - to be more prudent in "associating with the wise" in modern Western society, when we are expected to mix and mingle with anyone and everyone? Do many of you have "dhamma friends" - friends who are also Buddhist (or maybe of another faith tradition) that you can communicate with about spirituality?

An example from my own experience: I'm currently a college student, and while I'm friendly with most of my classmates, I feel that many of them create a toxic environment by constantly complaining, shifting blame, gossiping, etc. We have a small program and so if I willingly distance myself from my classmates, I would cause more problems for myself.

At the present, I don't have time to find a sangha to try and make "dhamma friends" (who are actually Buddhist). I have a few friends who are actually Christian that I feel are the most "wise," as they also strive to have spiritual wisdom and be mindful ("good witnesses" in Christianspeak).


This is the whole of the holy life, that is Noble Campanionship, Noble Friendship, and Noble Association. Having good friends to associate worth is so important I would suggest making time sometime to find good dhamma friends.

Associating with the wise: you can write down some Dhamma questions and look for someone to ask about them. You can compare their answers to what Buddha has said.


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