V. On approaching a good friend

Q. Then how is concentration brought out?**A.** If a man wishes to bring out concentration, he, at first, should approach a pre-eminent friend. Why? If, at first, when a yogin wishes to accomplish excellent concentration, he dwells apart from a good friend, he will not acquire steadfastness. In a Discourse it is said: “Meghiya bhikkhu partakes of deterioration.” [10] It is comparable to a man who sets out alone on a distant journey. None guides him. When a man sets out alone, he is like an elephant that is not guided by the goad. If, when a yogin practises, he listens to the discourses and instructions of a good friend, he is able to remove his many difficulties and get into the right method and practice. If he strenuously endeavours and strictly trains himself, then he is able to acquire excellent concentration.

Qualities of a good friend

A good friend who may be likened to a wealthy chief of merchants honoured by all, to a kind good-hearted person, to a dearly loved parent, steadies one, as the chain the elephant.

A good friend on whom one relies and accomplishes all meritorious activities is like a mahout who causes (the elephant) to go backwards and forwards, is like a good road on which a man can take a yoke of oxen, like a physician who cures diseases and removes pain, like the rain from heaven which moistens everything, like a mother who nurses her child, like a father who guides his son, like parents who ward their children from perils and like a teacher who instructs (his pupils). Therefore, the Blessed One declared [49/112] to (Ā)nanda: “Good companionship is the whole of the holy life.” [11] Therefore, one should search for the pre-eminently good man and make him the good friend.

What is meant by pre-eminent good friend? (Here), the fulfilment of acquisition is the meaning (of ‘pre-eminent’). The understanding of the Sutta, Abhidhamma and Vinaya is called ‘fulfilment of acquisition’.

One understands the seed (?) of kamma and is endowed with beneficient worldly knowledge. One knows the Four Noble Truths.

These two kinds of men are merit-fulfillers. They should be searched for.

If these two kinds of merit-fulfillers cannot be found, the fulfiller of seven qualities should be considered as a good friend. Such (a man) should also be searched for.

What are the seven qualities? [12] Loveableness, esteemableness, venerableness, the ability to counsel well, patience (in listening), the ability to deliver deep discourses and the not applying oneself to useless ends.

What is ‘lovableness’? Led by two kinds of practice, a man preaches well: dwelling together happily, having come to a mutual understanding and not abusing one another. [50/113]

‘Esteemableness’ means that one is tranquillized through the action of virtue, fulfils the protection of mindfulness, is not over-desirous and does not speak much. This is called ‘esteemableness’.

‘Venerableness’ means that one is endowed with the merit of much learning and appreciates well the value of meditation. This is ‘venerableness’.

‘The ability to counsel well’ means that one considers thus: “Let my speech be lovable, esteemable, venerable and fruitful”, and benefits others and esteems the truth. Therefore, one restrains oneself from things that ought not to be done. Thus one observes to the end and does not forsake. This is called ‘the ability to counsel well’.

‘Patience (in listening)’ means that one is like a saint, understands well, never hesitates in one’s speech and does not flatter [13] ∗…………………………………This is called ‘patience (in listening)’.

‘(The ability to deliver) deep discourses’ means that one well understands ∗…………………. This is called ‘(the ability to deliver) deep discourses’.

‘The not applying oneself to useless ends’ means that he understands well the place of kamma. This is ‘the not applying oneself to useless ends’.

Thus the seven qualities are completed. These (are qualities of) a good friend who should be searched for.

The search for a good friend

Q. How should one search?

A. If in such and such a place there is one who knows the accomplishment of these merits and is a teacher of meditation, one should go to that teacher. Though one may not know, yet if a fellow-student knows, one should go and serve him.

At the proper time in a befitting way (one approaches a fellow-student) and without expressing one’s wishes, one worships him and exchanges the customary greetings and consults him as to what one should do, thus: “In which country and in which place is it safe for a bhikkhu to dwell? Which is the suitable place of meditation for a bhikkhu? What is the name of the teacher who dwells there? For what practices and for what merits is he honoured by all”? Thus one should inquire.

The fellow-student will answer: “In such and such a country, in such and such a monastery, in such and such a place of meditation set apart” for the Order, such and such a teacher of meditation is honoured by all”.

On hearing this, one should think on this and be happy, and going thither serve that teacher and practise under him. [51/114]

Adjusting one’s robes one should go to the presence of one’s preceptor [14] and open to him one’s happy heart: “O preceptor, hear me. I wish to go and serve such and such a teacher of meditation”.

Hearing this the preceptor will reply: “Sādhu! I too am glad. Your action is praiseworthy. It is called co-residence with a good man and is the action of a good man. It is the practice that accompanies the truth. Great is the merit of learning it and greater that of co-residence. You should go to him. After you go there, you should not be negligent”.

A beginner’s duties

If one is good, one studies earnestly, honours (one’s teacher) wholeheartedly, not for a while but always. If one uses gentle speech and guards the body and the mouth, then, one may understand and fulfil the practice.

One relies completely on the teacher in all things, does not slight him and obeys him just as a newly-wed bride her mother-in-law. If one sees other bhikkhus lacking robes or liquid-medicine, one prepares (what is lacking) in the customary way.

When on going there one is instructed (through) exposition, precept and posture — in the Good Law—one should adjust one’s robes, bow at the feet of the teacher and circumambulate him.

At the water-side which may be by the road or outside the village, he goes to a certain spot, keeps his bowl, robe, sandals, washing-vessel and the meditation mat on a high place. He does not use the water which is near by, and without noise he bathes. After bathing he wears the upper-garment, [15] arranges his robes and, carrying bowl [16] and robe and the meditation mat on his right shoulder, rolls the shoulder-cloak [17] or throws it across the shoulder.

On entering a monastery, he lowers his umbrella and circumambulates the relic mound. If he sees any bhikkhu, he goes to him and asks: “Is there a yogin living here? Is there a ‘dirt-rags’ man living here? Is there a ‘begged- food’ man living here? Is there a teacher of discipline living here? Where does he dwell? Which is the way to his dwelling? [409] If there is one, I wish to see him. If there are no such persons and if there is a (sub-) teacher of discipline, I wish to see him. If there is no teacher of discipline, who is the elder here? I wish to see him”.

If that bhikkhu is a senior or a venerable one, one should not hand one’s bowl and robe. But if he is junior, one should. If there is none, one places one’s bowl and robe on the ground. When one sees the elder, one bows at his feet and sits at one side.

A bhikkhu who lives there will give one a seat and water, show the washing-place, [52/115] serve, give information, take care of bowl and robe and point out the place for easing.

According to the rules for visiting bhikkhus, one should go round, within the precincts of the monastery, before sundown.

If one sees a teacher of discipline, one should talk with him and ask him concerning any faults with regard to which one is in doubt, and which one has not yet committed. Or, if one sees a teacher of Abhidhamma, one should inquire concerning the method of acquiring wisdom and about the aggregates, sense-spheres, elements and kamma. If one sees an observer of austerities, one should inquire concerning the benefits of the austerities connected with wisdom. If one dwells there, one should go to many and daily make inquiries. If one wishes to leave, one folds one’s bedding and bows at the seniors’ feet and informs them and leaves. These are the rules for visiting bhikkhus.

How does a yogin dwell in a monastery? When the teacher of meditation comes, one should take his bowl and robe, even if he be a junior. According to the rule of the teacher of meditation, one should practise that which ought to be practised or not practise the ought-not-to-be-practised, and one should not abandon the practising (of that which ought to be practised and of that which ought not to be practised). This is the practice that should be observed at first. Thus should one practise.

If the yogin wishes to let others learn the Law at first, he watches the dwelling-place and keeps the bowls and robes. After sometime has passed, he, at the proper- time, approaches the teacher of meditation, salutes him respectfully, and remaining silent a while, sits.

Should the teacher of meditation question the yogin, he expresses his desire. If the teacher of meditation does not question, the yogin should not speak. Thereupon he should ask for tooth-sticks and water for washing, and should use them in the proper way.

When the time for the alms-round comes, he should ask permission of the teacher and follow the usual way.

When the meal-time arrives, one should wash the teacher’s feet, arrange his seat, give him the bowl and inquire of the teacher what he wants from one’s own bowl. Having partaken of the remainder, one gives what is left over to the juniors. Thus one observes and abstains from’ quarrelling.

After finishing one’s meal, one washes the teacher’s bowl and puts it in the proper place.

Seeing a suitable time, one approaches the teacher, respectfully salutes him, and remaining silent a while, sits. Should the teacher question, one should express one’s desires. Should the teacher not question, one worships and says: “I will now say what I wanted to say from the first. If I am permitted, I wish to ask what I want”. Should the teacher permit, one expresses everything. Should the teacher not question, one should worship him. [53/116]

Finding a suitable opportunity, one should inform him (the teacher) concerning the reason for one’s coming there thus: “O teacher, kindly listen to me”. If the teacher listens, one should tell him regarding all one’s wants. The teacher will say, “Sādhu, I will instruct you in the regular manner. You should observe well. Therefore, the Blessed One uttered these stanzas:- [18]

‘One goes, when ‘tis the right and proper time,
with lowly heart devoid of thoughts of pride,
to him who guards the Law with holiness.
As when no wayward winds assail a tree,
in pleasant practice of the Law he dwells,
feeding on the joyous calm of truth.
Thus dwelling in the Law he knows the Law
and so expounds that others too may know
The Sublime Law, just as it truly is.
He never speaks in dispraise of the Law,
jests not, flatters not, speaks no fearful words.
He has done with ill will and slothfulness.
He dwells not in anger, revenge, greed or pride,
is not deluded, craves not, is not attached.
Thus does he practise, conquer, and reject.
Conceit of righteous life he does not nurse.
Sincere are his words and always true.
For meditation’s sake he knows and learns.
The self-indulgent, heedless, feckless man,
unsuited ever is to know the truth,
and is not one who grows in wisdom’s light.
If there’s a man conversant with the Law,
a winner of the homage of gods and men,
whose lustrous splendour adds to his faith,
who by much learning ably guards the Law,
who is a happy hearer of tidings glad,
possessor of an ample stock of virtues good,
a follower of truth and a practiser-well,
who causes the arising of excellent wit,
and who has himself reached high wisdom’s peak —
if there is such a teacher — under him,
should one with zeal unremitting practise well’”