Friends on the Bodhisattva Path

The task is huge. Beginningless eternity is a long time and infinity is a big number. Without good buddies, we’ll get confused, we’ll get lost, we’ll suffer more than we need to.

We strive,
from the island of self,
to tame this beast,
to ride this ox.

Self-awakened,
we ride the elephant
of our own well tamed self
through the jungle
safely.

While trying to avoid falling into ego-delusion
of persons and things
and without letting the wisdom of notself diminish our compassion
we advance through the Bodhisattva stages gracefully.

With the support of the Tathagatas,
our Honorable Friends,
and by our own diligent efforts,
we steer this ferryboat across infinite oceans of confusion,
carrying multitudes of nonentities–
we, ourselves, may not have attained perfection,
we may still be quite weak and sick,
but we are, nonetheless, perfectly capable of helping many others cross the great oceans of confusion and despair.
This is a big boat.
Mahayana.

But! It’s not all rainbows, teddy bears and lollipops.
Sometimes it can all get pretty heavy.
There are some deeeeep seeds that continually give rise to a jungle of wrong views– getting at the roots of all this stuff is not easy.

It takes effort.
Sometimes we get tired.
Sometimes we get confused.
During difficult times, we are lucky to have admirable friends– “kalyanamitta”.

Reading Perfect Wisdom in 8,000 Lines, we learn a bit about the importance of friendship.

Sariputra, Subhuti and Buddha are just hanging out talking about the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita, or ‘the Perfection of Wisdom’, is one of the six paramitas that define the Bodhisattva Path).

Sariputra seems to represent a kind of philosophical / analytical approach to the practice of the Perfection of Wisdom– he keeps asking questions that reveal his tendency to cling to form. He wants definite thought-forms. Looks like he wants solid ‘yes/no’ and/or ‘is/is not’ assertions. Subhuti, on the other hand, represents the state of wisdom born of serene faith / confidence which is, in turn, derived from clear vision / coursing in perfect Wisdom. Buddha, and even Sariputra, continually praise Subhuti for this.

As we get at the heart of delusion, things get real. It is suuuper important to have good friends! If you have no friends, I recommend that you make friendliness your practice.

Perfect Wisdom in 8,000 Lines

Or, the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā

Subhuti: Will not Bodhisattvas who have newly set out in the vehicle tremble when they hear this exposition?

The Lord: They will tremble if they get into the hands of bad friends, but not if they get into the hands of good friends.

Subhuti: Who then are a Bodhisattva’s good friends?

The Lord: Those who instruct and admonish him in the perfections. Those who point out to him the deeds of Mara, saying ‘this is how the faults and deeds of Mara should be recognized. These are the faults and deeds of Mara. You should get rid of them after you have recognized them.’ These should be known as the good friends of a Bodhisattva Mahasattva who is armed with the great armor, who has set out in the great vehicle, who has mounted on the great vehicle (Mahayana).

 

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