The 4 Types of Enemies Disguised as Friends – The Buddha in the Sigalovada Sutta

“Young man, be aware of these four enemies disguised as friends:

  1. The Taker
  2. The Talker
  3. The Flatterer and
  4. The Reckless companion.

 

  1. “The taker can be identified by four things:
    • By only taking,
    • Asking for a lot while giving little,
    • Performing duty out of fear, and
    • Offering service in order to gain something.
  2. “The talker can be identified by four things:
    • By reminding of past generosity,
    • Promising future generosity,
    • Mouthing empty words of kindness, and
    • Protesting personal misfortune when called on to help.
  3. “The flatterer can be identified by four things:
    • By supporting both bad and good behavior indiscriminately,
    • Praising you to your face, and putting you down behind your back.
  4. “The reckless companion can be identified by four things:
    • By accompanying you in drinking, roaming around at night, partying, and gambling.”

That is what the Buddha said.

So in life, you can use these 4 criteria to give you an idea of what people are like – and this helps you to build a picture of them in 4 different dimensions:

  1. Are they Givers OR Takers?
  2. Is their talk cheap?  OR do they honor their word?
  3. Do they say things just to flatter you? (and talk behind your back?)
  4. Do they bring their other friends to ruin?

Let’s see if we can go into a little bit more detail.

Using these 4 criteria, in the Sigalovada Sutta, the Buddha tells us to be aware of 4 types of friends because they are actually enemies in disguise – and how to identify them:

Young people, be aware of these four enemies disguised as friends:

  1. The Taker:  In life, there are givers and there are takers.  Takers can be identified by these things:
    • Like to take their friends’ stuff
    • They asking for a lot, while giving little
    • Does things in order to gain something or seek some advantage or out of fear.
  2. The Talk is Cheap Friend:  These people say empty words and only render lip service – they are all talk and no action.  But talk is cheap – it’s easy for people to talk big, but when it comes down to it, they can’t deliver on their actions.  They are unreliable – so be weary of relying on them in times of need.  They can be identified thus:
    • They remind you of what they did for you in the past and promise things they’ll do for you in the future
    • They’ll try to get on your good side by mouthing empty words to you
    • When you want them to help, they’ll say that they can’t (e.g., they’ll cry about their misfortune)
  3. The Flatterer: Can be identified thus:
    • They’ll approve of your bad deeds and tell you off for your good deeds
    • Say nice things in front of you, and but will say bad things about you behind your back.
  4. The Friend who Brings Ruin:  They accompany you in:
    • Drinking – If you get intoxicated – infatuation and heedlessness arises – so you can easily (without realizing it) do lots of stupid things that you may regret later – and even suffer the consequences of those actions for the rest of your life.
    • Roaming around at night – because of the danger you can encounter at night – as it’s dark and people can get away with things without being seen or caught.
    • Partying – related to the above 2 as well as realizing the preciousness of your time.  And inch of time is worth more than a pound of gold – so treasure it wisely.  Enjoy yourself but be careful not to let your time (and therefore life) go to waste frivolously.
    • Gambling – this is how you lose your hard earned money fast [and potentially split your family up because of financial troubles in the process] because the odds are always on the house.  This can be addictive too – as people like to win big with little to no effort – but the downside is how often

Summing up in verse, the sublime teacher said:

  1. The friend who is all take
  2. The friend of empty words
  3. The friend full of flattery, and
  4. The reckless friend;

These 4 are NOT friends, but enemies.

The wise understand this and keep them at a distance as they would a dangerous path.”

 

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