Gil's talk today was about friendship. I paraphrase: "Good spiritual friendship is most important foundation for Buddhist practice". Gil quoted from the Buddha, the five conditions for a successful practice:
- to have good spiritual friends
- to be virtuous
- to be able to have Dharma discussions easily
- to be able to monitor one's states of mind
- to have deep appreciation of impermanence
Until Gil's talk, I never gave much thought to spiritual friendship, and I certainly did not expect it to be at the top of the Buddha's list . . .
Next, Gil went through the Buddha's description of qualities to look for in a spiritual friend:
- gives what is difficult to give
- does what is difficult to do for other
- can endure difficulties
- reveals personal secrets
- does not despise other because of loss or reversal of fortune
The Buddha considers two types of spiritual friendships: with peers, and with friends who are further along the path. Yet another list from the Buddha, this time aimed at lay people, categorizes loyal spiritual friends as follows:
- is a helper
- is same in happy and unhappy times
- points out what is good for you
- is sympathetic
Gil shared his own list of qualities to look for in a friend:
- interest and care
As I listened to Gil's talk, I could not help but think of Twitter, and the spiritual friendships I have formed there, and how many of the exchanges I have had with my Twitter spiritual friends, meet most, if not all of the criteria from the Buddha and Gil's lists. I have come to rely on these tweets back and forth, with the folks in my 'twangha' Twitter list, as a source of steady support for my practice. Sure, the physical presence is missing, but that's not necessarily bad. The lack of physicality and historical context, helps keep our friendships focused on task at hand, that is, to stay on the path.
I am just wondering, for those of you with a Buddhist practice, who are also on Twitter, how has your experience been? Have you found Twitter beneficial to your practice? Have you made spiritual friends, of the kind described by the Buddha?
PS - 'twangha' = sangha, or spiritual Buddhist community on Twitter