Avoid the evil companion disregarding the goal, intent on the out-of-tune way. Don’t take as a friend someone heedless & hankering. 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 .
Interpreting this sutta from a layman’s point of view, I think this stanza advice us to choose our friends carefully.
In Buddhism, our spiritual goal is beyond the entering of heavens. We aspire to be feed from the bondage of rebirth. Our practices are all meant for developing a renunciation of craving, hatred and ignorance (wrong views)
Since our friends and companion has great influence over us, we strive to mix with the right group of people. In this way, we can motivate each other to practice diligently.
In this stanza, the advice is to disregard people who do not care for enlightenment. I interpret this as not taking the views of such people to heart. As layman, we will have to socialize a lot. We meet different people everyday. However, we shouldn’t take their views to heart if their belief is contrary to our Buddhist Goal.
For example, people may advocate a life of heedless living. We can agree to disagree. That doesn’t mean we stop talking to that person in the office. We simply disregard those views.
Sometimes the society are mindlessly caught in popular beliefs that runs contrary to Buddhist principles. We need to stand firm and avoid any participation. For example, using violence to fight for a cause.
The out of tune way refers to extreme in practice. The Buddha’s life story recounted a life of luxurious entertainment before he became a monk and also a time of extreme practice of fasting that almost cost his life. Although we are serious about gaining enlightenment, we have to take care of our health too. We learn to live in a balanced manner that is beneficial to our physical and mental health. Only then, can we practice mind training successfully.
In gist, we should live a healthy and balanced life without wavering in our practice. Do not let the views of non-practitioners sway our resolve. We avoid taking people with wrong views as friends. That means we do not consider their opinions and views seriously. Don’t take it to heart.
May all be well and happy.