Buddhism has come to the West through books, ideas, art, and meditation practice. Sangharakshita emphasises a vital dimension that has been rather neglected in some quarters: human communication and friendship. Community and friendship is all the more important as western society becomes increasingly fragmented – with so many people living isolated from one another, whether in ‘nuclear’ families, or as individuals living alone.
Sangharakshita maintains that in practising Buddhism we need other people to learn from. Buddhism, he argues is best ‘caught’ not taught. He believes that our relationships with teachers and fellow practitioners must be characterised by honesty and clear communication. He also stresses the value of friendships with peers, in particular having at least one friend (not a lover) with whom we can be intimate and completely open.
Through friendship we have the opportunity to develop the virtues of generosity, compassion, patience and forgiveness. Sangharakshita would like spiritual community – particularly the Order he himself founded – to be a ‘network of friendships’. This teaching has many practical consequences within the Triratna Buddhist Community.
We put a lot of effort into learning the art of effective communication, developing and deepening friendships with other individuals, and befriending those who are just starting out on the Buddhist path.
Listen to some great talks on the practice of spiritual friendship.
Read books exploring friendship as a spiritual practice.