The Virtue of Friendliness

The Virtue of Friendliness

“A monk is expected to be mindful of the feelings of friendliness towards all living things.  He is expected to cultivate assiduously this all embracing virtue of friendliness for the whole world, starting in the morning and continuing throughout the day. “Staying, walking or sitting, or lying down, till he falls asleep, he should remain in this state of mind.” (Sutta Nipata)

In order to achieve this the monk is expected to detach himself mentally from his own body and look upon himself and all the beings in the world with true friendliness and love. After spreading the feeling of love in all directions, he should practice the same with other three virtues, namely, compassion, joy and equanimity. It is believed that the practice of friendliness and unbound compassion contribute to universal peace and welfare of the world.

The practice of friendliness would  finally lead to gentleness of character, positive state of mind, inner peace, freedom from conceit, absence of anger, inner joy and eventually freedom from birth and death.

(From the Khuddakapatha, the Short Passages of Buddha)

About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

7 Responses to “The Virtue of Friendliness”

  1. You know, I have to be honest and say that it’s really rare that I come across “advice” or instruction online or in books that’s truly useful, and doesn’t just strike me as bland, slick “pop psychology” and “self-help” (of course, maybe that’s just me). I’ve even come across books on Buddhism that came across like that to me (NOT Thich Nhat-Hanh’s book), and yet I feel more closely aligned with Buddhism as a spiritual path than anything else! But what you’re telling me here has a lot of value for me. I do tend to “beat myself up” when I’m feeling that I’m “here” and not “there”, and yet you’re right–it’s just a gradual path that in and of itself is a wonderful part of the voyage. I get reminders of that quite often lately–told to take it slowly, and not to be impatient–but then my “drunken monkey mind” has a blackout, I guess, and I have to be reminded yet again.

    What you told me about the parakeet reminds me of Ziggy, a little Diamond Dove I hand-raised from the day she was born (her mother didn’t seem to be too into parenting at the time. She thought she was my child, and I thought she was too! She used to take naps in my hand, and sometimes when she wasn’t feeling well she’d sleep in my hand all night. When we brought our son home, she was confused at first. But soon she’d stand on the edge of his crib and stare at him, and when he’d cry she’d look at me as if to say, “Are you going to come over here and take care of this child, or do I have to do it?!!” I miss that little bird so much…

    Have a wonderful day, Steve.


    • Hey Nancy! So glad what I shared was helpful. I’m very reticent to offer “advice” as such, but when something resonates with me, I do like to share. But even then, I try to be mindful and listen. So I’m glad I was somewhat on target this time! 🙂

      Oh, my gosh, your dear Ziggy, and your sweet relationship with her are so moving to hear about! You really got me, especially the part about sleeping in your hand. What a dear, dear sweet being! Hearing what you say, I miss her for you, too! You are a bodhisattva of birds, I think, like I am.

      With all best wishes,


      • “Advice” was the wrong word. I knew it when I wrote it, but it was quite early this morning, and I simply couldn’t come up with something more suitable!

        “Bodhisattva of birds”!! That’s so wonderful! With that beautiful thought in mind, I’m going to bed (no doubt to have another one of those amazingly vivid dreams about flying that seem so “real” that when I wake up it takes me quite a while to remember that I actually can’t fly :)…

        (And, on your “P.S.”, I’m totally with you on sticking with the source as much as possible…no matter how good the intentions, every step away is bound to distort the original teachings to a greater or lesser degree.)



    • Oh, PS, and I forget to include: I have the same experience with a lot of online and book “dharma” (in quotes) stuff…..there’s a huge amount of “pop psychology” and shallow “self help” stuff out there, masquerading as real dharma and depth. And even a lot of books out there that come in Buddhist wrappers owe more to European romanticism, theosophy, and American transcendentalism than the Buddha.

      So, you really have to pick and choose, and follow you best heart’s leanings. Also, checking in with what the Buddha himself actually said isn’t a bad idea! 🙂

      Be safe!


  2. I don’t know, Steve–that parakeet looks a little…concerned 🙂 That’s a really sweet picture, though.

    Almost every day you’ve been addressing here things that have been on my mind, or that I’m struggling with. Equanimity…some days it’s all SO easy, and other days all I can do is sit back and watch my mundane mind frantically run through its old, useless routines, egging me on to lose my patience, make judgments, think critical thoughts, become anxious about all the things that I’ve come to see as meaning so little, and forget that it seems that no matter what happens, I’m in really good and loving hands that never let me fall too far in spite of myself. However, I do recognize the differences these days, at the very least–I KNOW where my mind and heart should be at all times, even if so far I can’t keep them there all the time.

    The cool thing is that being friendly is really fun, and seems to smooth the way for those other virtues, because there’s joy in it.

    Thanks, as always,


    • Hi Nancy! No worries about that parakeet…that’s just one of a whole series of pictures of those two together, and you can tell from all the shots that the bird absolutely loves that kitten, and is not afraid, and that the kitten is gentle with and loves the parakeet.

      One of the cute shots in the series is the parakeet preening the head of the kitten, and the kitten is in bliss! I always hoped that this sweetness, which young animals often seem to manifest toward other species, was able to be maintained as the kitten became a cat and other instincts kicked in. Somehow, I bet it did.

      I’m glad my post have been timely. Equanimity – yeah, that’s one I often have to work at. What you describe in your wrestles is so familiar!

      May I offer a suggestion? It has helped me to see that equanimity is not a goal or a place, but the result of a process. If we think of it as some place we “should” be or “ought” to be, we set up a dualism that will wear us down and discourage us. Equanimity will become an abstraction and any inherent perfectionism we have will use our always feeling not quite equanimous enough as a hammer to pound us.

      So, yes, gently nurture the aspiration to be equanimous, but don’t hold on to it too tightly. Don’t make it a “goal,” per se. Let equanimity appear naturally as the the result of the patient, compassionate process of working with all your “stuff.” In this way, the Buddha’s teaching on equanimity remains a skillful means to an end, but not an end in itself.

      So, again, may I suggest, even when you sit there, and all you can do is mindfully watch the drunken monkey mind do its antic, just smile at any thought that you “should” or “ought’ to be somewhere else than right there seeing what’s going on. That’s how genuine equanimity is born.

      If you catch the spirit of what I’m saying, then whatever is going on, it’s all good in the sense that it’s all practice. You can’t fail, because “failure” is just a concept, and success is not a goal, but a practice.

      Sometimes, when I see what I’m sharing here clearly myself, I feel so much joy and happiness, I can barely contain it, because everything feels doable, and I see a path I can walk, step by step, to freedom.

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