Mindfulness of Buddha
is the practice of befriending
the best spirirtual friend [and our own Buddha-nature].
In the Upaddha Sutta, Ananda uttered this to the Buddha, ‘This is half of the holy life, Lord – admirable friendship [companionship, camaraderie (the spirit of friendly fellowship)].’ The Buddha replied, ‘Don’t say that… Admirable friendship is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk [or anyone else] has admirable people as friends… he can be expected to develop and pursue the Noble Eightfold Path [Right view, resolve, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration, which leads to liberation]… And through this line of reasoning, one may know how admirable friendship is actually the whole of the holy life. It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth, [aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair] have gained release…’
From the Dighajanu Sutta, more than associating with the good, spiritual friendship is also about learning to emulate their good qualities, to befriend the Dharma within. What is admirable friendship? It is when one spends time with householders (or their children), young or old, who are advanced in virtue. One engages them in discussions, and emulates those consummate in conviction, virtue, generosity, discernment, which leads to happiness and well-being in future lives. Such friendship includes monastics and lay people, regardless of seniority, age or gender, for goodness is not determined by such factors. Regular interaction with the wise and kind is indeed crucial and invaluable for self-checking and furthering Dharma understanding.
Being consummate in conviction is to be convinced of the Buddha’s perfect awakening to the truth, that his conduct, wisdom and skilful means to train us is supreme. Being consummate in virtue is to abstain from taking life, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and taking of intoxicants by observing thefive precepts at least. Being consummate in generosity is to rid miserliness, to be freely generous, delighting in being magnanimous, and responsive to needs. Being consummate in discernment is to be penetratingly discerning of the rise and fall of phenomena, which leads to liberation. But what about those without these qualities? Following the Buddha’s example, we should strive to be consummate spiritual friends to those who lack them, so as to help them nurture the same. Just as the Buddha’s presence was invaluable as a model example for us to emulate, we too ought to be the best examples we can.
Spiritual friends are
the embodiments of the Dharma,
the personifications of truth and goodness.