Good morning, everyone! This is today's Dharma Espresso on Three Qualities of Friendship.
An English saying goes, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." True friends come when we need them. Confucius often taught that we should befriend those who do better than us. We say the same thing when we advise our children to make friends with only good kids. When they bring home bad ones, we'd kick them out. We don't want our kids to hang out with them. After having lived in this world for 50 or 60 years, we ourselves also want to associate only with good people.
The need to have friends is very important, and the need to become a good friend for others is also very important. There are three qualities that stand out for a good friend.
1. A good friend is always ready to stand by our side and help us when we fall down the deep abyss. As human beings, we all make mistakes, fall down, and do regrettable things. We are not saints. When we fall, do our friends come to help us, or do they walk away, gossip and badmouth us? Do they realize that we made mistakes and would need their help more than ever?
A good friend never doubts us, but loves us and always stands by us to help. They hope we will lean on their shoulder. A good friend often has very good words for us to pick ourselves up and move forward. That friend usually can see our potential, our future, and know that we can improve. We should find these kinds of friends or live like them, always ready to help others when they fall.
We should not, like the Vietnamese would say, only hang out with the fallen friends or the winning ones. A good friend always helps wholeheartedly whenever we need help, in good or bad times. Sometimes good friends show us the way and give us valuable advice. People who are suffering often feel that a true friend is difficult to find. Some friends come just to say a few words, but not wise enough to help us move forward. Some friends not only stay with us, lend us a shoulder to lean on, but also point a finger to the moon, to the right direction. These are invaluable friends.
We should live in such a way to become this kind of person. Don't live a shallow life like running away from fallen friends, or dropping them when they make some terrible mistakes.
No, we should go to them, console them, let them lean on us, and show them the right direction if they ask. That is the Tao of life for a good friend.
2. Express generosity. Good friends are never selfish. They usually take care of us, give us food and things, loan us this and that. They're very generous whether they're rich or poor, always ready to share what they have. They never badmouth us. Those who do are usually not generous or embracing. They only give when it's necessary, not from their hearts, but for a purpose. This purpose may be to win our hearts, or to get paid back in the future.
In family relationships, between husband and wife, parents and children, or with others around us, we should practice giving without expecting anything in return. Don't just wait for a special occasion, like a birthday, to give. We can give all kinds of things, whether it's a meal, an email, or just a nice word. There are all kinds of ways to express generosity. We don't have to wait for an opportunity. When friends come to visit and we ask why, they say they miss us. They bring us goodies. That's an expression for generosity. Or when they happen to run into us, they'd give us a hug for greetings. That's another way to express generosity. Being always open and generous is the quality of good friends. We feel that they give more than they receive. When they're near us, they always inspire us to be more open and generous.
We lose friends when we are selfish. Nobody wants to be friends with selfish persons who always gossip and look for mistakes in others. Certainly not me. They're very boring.
3. Unconditional sacrifice: This is the most difficult and noble quality. When friends sacrifice unconditionally for us, they help us, forget about themselves, and only think about us. They always hope the best for us. They rejoice with our achievements. They enable us to succeed. They're never jealous with our accomplishments. They never want to rob us of anything. They praise us for our good deeds and they sacrifice their lives to help others. This is the quality of a bodhisattva, always sacrificing for living beings to help them succeed.
The character of forgetting oneself to sacrifice for others is that of a bodhisattva. But before we become a bodhisattva, we can be a good friend, always ready to sacrifice for our friends. The question is: how many friends does a bodhisattva have? -All living beings. So it's a little difficult for us to be a bodhisattva. We just look for good friends first. Some friends may say a few nice words, feed us a few meals, but when we're sick and ask them to pray for us, they may not do it. They wouldn't come to visit us when we want them to; instead, they'd just call to say a few perfunctory words.
Sacrifice takes effort, requiring us to leave our comfort zone and our selfish circle to do something that can touch others' hearts. So the third quality is sacrifice but it is actually the quality of doing something that can touch our friends and transform them. We can really sacrifice ourselves for our friends. This is an awesome quality that can create a new field of energy for us.
When you can see the three qualities of a good friend, you can gradually understand that the bodhisattva path is based on that kind of friendship. Thus, friendship is the beginning step of the Bodhisattva Path.
That's deep enough for today's Dharma Espresso. Have a joyful and awakening day!
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)