The 4 Types of Good Friends – The Sigalovada Sutta by the Buddha

In this day an age, it’s difficult to find a good friend – as many people are selfish and care only about themselves. You can observe this if they keep going on about “me, me, me” – “satisfy my desires” or it’s going to affect “my lifestyle” – can mean that they are self centred and materialistic.

And, people who thought were your friends – you find out that they were actually just using you. Or at the first sign of problems – people abandon you.

That’s not to say that there are no unselfish people – because these people may also be just busy with their lives – helping their own families and friends. And you can’t really expect your friends to always be at your beck and call for silly little problems that you could have easily resolved yourself – that would be unfair to them too!

It’s said that at your funeral – if you have a handful of people showing up to your funeral – these people would have been the people you could count on to be your good friend during life.

You can also look for these qualities in family members. Good parents, for example, have a lot of these qualities that the Buddha teaches are qualities of true friends – they protect you, advise you on how to be good and not go down the bad paths, teaches you things that you may be blind to, don’t abandon you in your times of need but support you and would provide you double of what you need to the point of even sacrificing their lives for you.

So there are 4 Types of True Friends

  1. The Protector
  2. The Enduring Friend
  3. The Wise Advisor
  4. The Loyal Compassionate Friend

1. The Helper/Protector

There are givers and takers in life. A good friend, a wholesome friend – friends that you’d want your children to be around – are givers – they are constantly looking for ways that they can be of help to you and your children – not doing things with the selfish ulterior motives.

And how are they givers? They look for ways that they help you – not often ways where they can take (although you need a bit of give and take and reciprocity in any good friendship). The look for ways that they can look out for you and your children and your family. For ways they can protect you and your wealth from harm. And they give your more than what you asked for:

  • †Protects you when you when you are heedless – so they protect you when you are careless or don’t know any better
  • Protects your wealth when you are heedless – so they stop you from losing money. Maybe you were going to throw your money down the drain because you were going to squander your wealth in the 6 ways mentioned in my previous post – but your friend stops you
  • Protects you when you are in danger – they become your refuge
  • Give you double of what you need – so they are givers, not takers

2. The Enduring Friend

  • Reveals their secrets to you
  • Hides your secrets from others

Contrast this to people who, when you’ve told them to keep something confidential – and they’ve explicitly promised to keep it confidential, even doing so multiple times. As soon as you turn around, what happens? They’ve already leaked it out to someone! These sorts of people are not to be trusted as they’ve already demonstrated their untrustworthiness and lack of integrity of going back on their word. Plus, usually, a leopard doesn’t change it’s spots – so be very wary of sharing any further information with them that could potentially put yourself and others at risk of harm.

So a good friend actively protects your secrets and are able to keep silent on things rather than blurting them out to others.

  • Sticks by you when you’re down and out – they don’t abandon you in your times of need

It is not during the good times that you really know what a person is like – it is through the bad times. Because everyone is nice when times are good. But what are they like when it’s not so good? Everyone is not at their best when they’re stressed – but are they extremely bad?!

It is through the trying times, the times when you are weak and vulnerable, the times when you no longer have a high status or money, when you’re just a nobody – how do your friends treat you then?! Are they still there for you in those times? Or do they act like they don’t know you and just want to dump you?

See, when you’re rich and successful and powerful – everyone wants to be around you and be associated with you and have their picture taken with you to show off how cool they are and how high status they are – cos they’re associating with other, high status individuals.

You can see instagrammers doing this – taking selfies with seemingly rich people or selfies in front of expensive cars that they don’t own! Like Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s and on top of yachts – they are fronting – putting up a glamorous front on social media to make themselves look rich, popular and high This gives the impression that they are rich and successful (mind you, some of them are). But beware of people who are fronting – they keep posting how fabulous life is, every single day.

Usually life is fairly neutral, interspersed with peaks and troughs of good and bad times – it’s impossible to keep having peak moments 24/7 as peak moments are impossible to sustain. Because once something reaches it’s peak, it starts turning into it’s opposite – this is just cycles of nature. Like how a moon reaches it’s maximum brightness at full moon, then starts turning dark again.

Also beware of name droppers – it’s fun to tell everyone how cool it was to see some famous person – but people who are constantly doing that to show off, may not be there for you if you’re not famous. If you drop in status by just a little bit – they may no longer even give you the time of day!

You can use this principle to observe people and assess for life partners and business partners. A quick way to do this is observe how they treat the lowliest people in the place vs the highest status people in the place. Do they keep flattering and kissing up to the owners and leaders? And then treat the cleaners and waiters like garbage second rate citizens to be verbally abused?

Because how they treat the lowliest people who can do nothing for them – is how they would treat you if you were in the same position!

3. The Wise Advisor

  • Stops you from doing bad
  • Encourages you to do good

You go to a friend who will tell you tell you the truth! You want someone who will tell you straight! Whilst giving their perspective on things. Not be afraid to tell you things you need to hear, no matter how unpleasant – as long as it’s based in the truth and has legitimate evidence to back it up. So this will help you form a more complete picture of the situation.

You also want to seek advice from people who are more knowledgeable in an area or field of study than you – from the experts. In fact, listen to several experts on the same subject – not just one. This allows you to gain specialised knowledge from different perspectives that you can also piece together a more holistic part of the puzzle – without needing to reinvent the wheel by personally make mistakes to gain the same knowledge – it would waste too much time and effort.

So the Kalama Sutta isn’t about needing to mindlessly personally verify absolutely everything – cos that would be stupid! It’s about using your own wisdom, having your wits about you so that can know who to trust and who not to trust – and then personally verify the questionable information that needs to be verified.

There’s a great book about trust by Stephen Covey Jr – the main idea being if you can find trustworthy people (character) who know what they’re doing (competence) – they can save you a lot of time and effort because you can just trust them! You don’t have to worry about them cheating you – as they live by their own code of ethics. And they have more knowledge than you because they’ve had more real world training in their chosen field than you and they deal with this stuff everyday – so they know the ins and outs and nuances that might have taken you years of training and exams to acquire if you were to do it yourself. So trust is way more effective AND more efficient too!

  • Points out the path to heaven

This is basically doing the 10 good deeds – I vaguely remember having a post on this on this blog somewhere – try to search for it. Which is basically refraining from the 10 bad deeds:

  • 3 of the mind – the 3 poisons – greed, hatred, delusion
  • 4 of the mouth – false speech, harsh abusive speech, divisive speech and frivolous speech
  • 3 of the body – killing, stealing and sexual misconduct

4. The Loyal Compassionate Friend

Your fortune/misfortune:

  • Doesn’t rejoice at your misfortune – so they don’t laugh at you when you’re down
  • Rejoices in your good fortune – Are genuinely happy for you if something good happens to you

When others are saying good and bad things about you – they come to your defense:

  • Stops others when they are saying bad things about you
  • He praises people who say good things about you

So they are very loyal!

The wise behold these 4 types of friends and cherish them as a mother does her own child.

The Sigalovada Sutta

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