Consort with one who is learned, who maintains the Dhamma, a great & quick-witted friend. Knowing the meanings, subdue your perplexity, [then] 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 .
Meeting the right people can be a life changing events, for better or for worse, that is.
When we practice Dharma, it is important that we have good counsel from experienced practitioners. Most of the time, this refers to hardworking practitioners who had obtained experience in their practice. Many people confuse mystic experiences as Dharma experience and that is a grave mistake.
In Buddhism, mystical encounters are side effect of Dharma practices and we are cautious about it because many people become trapped by their mystical experiences. In that manner, mystical experiences becomes an obstacle in our quest for enlightenment. It is that fake mirage enticing us to become lost.
How do we identify a spiritual friends with true learning? A wise practitioner focus their attention on awakening their mind. Their passion in practice is focused on removing their craving, aversion and ignorance.
For example, a person who observe the Buddhist precepts is considered as diligent. If he avoids killing and harming animals and develop a sense of ‘all-embracing’ compassion. Then that amiable, kind, and compassionate personality that represent his practice becomes obvious.
On the other hand, if he become proud, arrogant, and critical of others. Then we will feel uncomfortable. His attachment to life-protection, may turn into an aversion for non-vegetarian or user of non-animal-friendly products. He forcefully critique everyone who doesn’t meet his expectation. In this case, such a practitioner of the first Buddhist precept of non-violence developed attachment to the idea of non violence and that turns into a form of aversion against others.
From this example, we notice 2 different outcome for people practicing the same path.
If we recall the Buddhist goal of removing craving, aversion and ignorance; we will know that the later practitioner seems to be going into extremity. Instead of finding peace, his practice makes him angry with the rest of the world. Therefore, we need to have the wisdom to know that his practice is not in line with the Buddhist goal. Thus, we will not allow his belief or approach to have any influence on our mind.
Then there are practitioners who became engrossed with the idea that their mantra will help those animals in the supermarket. And their favorite past time is to go to the super-market fresh meat and frozen meat section, to say prayers over all the dead carcasses. Already sound crazy right? But lets not be judgmental.
If their practice leads to their realization of emptiness, then it will be good. If that practice leads to their hallucination of ghost of animals loitering in Supermarket, resulting in their erratic behaviors, then something is wrong.
When we practice mind training, we are changing our mind, we need to have wisdom and cannot loose our common sense. When we befriend a wise spiritual friend, he will bring blessings into our life because their positive influence will rub off on us.
Therefore befriending a good dharma practitioner results in our spiritual progress. However, this stanza also inform us not to latch on to good spiritual friends. In another word, we should not be attached to them. We still need to practice detachment and learn to practice on our own.
May all be well and happy.