In the midst of companions — when staying at home, when going out wandering — you are prey to requests. Valuing the freedom, wander alone like a rhinoceros.“Khaggavisana Sutta: A Rhinoceros” (Sn 1.3), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.1.03.than.html .
The inevitables of associating with people, is the pressure of expectations.
Even for monks who wander the tropical forest of Thailand in group, there must be consensus of where to go, where to pitch tent and where to meditate.
For most of us, we don’t need much convincing to believe that being in the company of people is rewarding. In this sutta, Buddha is just helping us to see the other side of the coin.
For a meditator or chanting practitioner, the things that ruffle our mind becomes very obvious. No matter what we chant or meditate on, the stress of associating with people will enter our mind during our practice.
The duties of a parent, children employees, employer, teacher, students, friends, classmates etc, we all have various roles in life and these roles comes with different obligations.
In another word, we bind one another down with mutual request. These relationships create a sense of “purpose in life”. Sometimes we look forward to them and sometimes we hated them. Unless we can become non affected by them, they become a distraction in our mind.
For a laity like us, I think it is good to keep this verse in mind.
It is especially useful when we lose a companion. When a companionship ends, we do not have to take it badly. Instead, we can look at it as a release from burdensome request. We can think that it as a form of release, a freedom for us.
For example, when our children grow up and leave us to lead their own life, it gives us freedom and time to pursue our interest. (perhaps more time for meditation?)
When our friend leaves us, maybe to work in another city or maybe they have new interest in life. We do not have to take it badly too. We have new opportunity to do other stuff (maybe join the Buddhist association that you previously had no time for?)
With this in mind, we look at this verse and remind ourselves of 2 things.
- Do not crave too much for companionships.
- When we loose a companion, learn to look at it from the other perspective. It is freedom and a new opportunity.
We enter this world alone and shall exit alone, in between are just passerby in this illusionary world. Treasure this life and become enlightened. That is the true purpose.
May all be well and happy.