Following on from the previous post about the importance of who we spend our time with, in the sutta below the Buddha says that whatever good qualities we find in others, we can recognize and try to emulate. This is how “noble friendship” works. We see that a friend is particularly generous, and we’re inspired to deepen our own generosity. We notice someone’s scrupulous truthfulness and determine to attend to our own speech more closely. For me, faith means faith in the laws of kamma, that what we do matters. When I encounter others who have this understanding as well, it strengthens my faith to see the care they take with their actions and words.
And what is good friendship? Here, in whatever village or town a clansman lives, he associates with householders or their sons – whether young but of mature virtue, or old and of mature virtue – who are accomplished in faith, virtuous behavior, generosity, and wisdom; he converses with them and engages in discussions with them. Insofar as they are accomplished in faith, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in faith; insofar as they are accomplished in virtuous behavior, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in virtuous behavior; insofar as they are accomplished in generosity, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in generosity; insofar as they are accomplished in wisdom, he emulates them with respect to their accomplishment in wisdom. This is called good friendship. – from AN 8.54, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Please forgive the male-only pronouns. In the Buddha’s day, not much socializing occurred between the sexes. Today we can find good and bad role models everywhere, in every country, among women and men and children, strangers and people we know.
I’ll share one example. We have some friends, around our own age (old), who worked very hard to create a family vacation which included all their children and grandchildren. This was not easy because of geographical dispersion, differing schedules, commitments, and inclinations. However, they were creative and persistent, and a beautiful holiday eventuated, an important memory for their whole family. Just the thought of this event brings tears of joy to my eyes. It demonstrates generosity on a grand scale, as well as noble priorities. We feel lucky to have such friends, and we endeavor to emulate them.